Homeschoolers in the “Real World”

So, here is the 10 page essay I wrote for my writing class! It took me forever, but I am actually very proud of the outcome… It has taken me a while to post it because I didn’t want to even look at it for a couple of weeks after spending so much time working on it. And so, without further ado… Here it is!!!!

Homeschoolers in the Real World:
We are Ready
The modern world is at times a complicated and dangerous place to live. It is full of challenges, including strict teachers, homework, business ads, get ‘er done bosses, two-faced politicians and many other things that every single person deals with on a daily basis without so much as a second thought. We all know how to deal with these challenges so well that they are little more than a bump in our road to greatness. When someone tells us that they are homeschooled, the first thought to enter our minds is “Whoa buddy, are you sure you are ready for this?” But contrary to modern belief, research has shown time and again that the average homeschooler is just as, or sometimes even more prepared than the average public schooled person to enter the “Real World.” A growing number of parents are withdrawing their children from public schools and beginning to homeschool them; still, there are many people that worry about the social and academic well being of the children being homeschooled. What they don’t realize is that their worries are un-grounded and that there are many ethical, cultural and even social benefits to homeschooling that public schooled children never get to experience.
What Defines a Homeschooler?
I have personally been homeschooled almost my entire life. I went to about a month of kindergarten, but my parents soon pulled me out because I was bored and academically far above the levels they were teaching. My parents have homeschooled me and the rest of my 5 siblings since then. Now, nearly 15 years later, I am attending college to get a nursing degree and preparing to enter the work world. I must admit, I was a little frightened at first, because it was all new to me and I didn’t know what to expect, but I soon realized that it was really no different than anything I had done before, in fact, sometimes it was easier because there were people waiting to help me at every turn, instead of me having to research everything on my own. I have now been going to school a year, and I am still a straight A student, and I intend to keep it that way.
Over the years I have become aware of the fact, through various comments and/or questions made to me, that it has become a commonly held belief in our day and age that most homeschoolers are socially ignorant, Bible thumping, hippie goat herders. While that may be true for a very small fraction of homeschoolers, it is untrue for most of us. Most of the time a person can look right at a homeschooler and not even know that they are different than the rest of the kids out there. In the Merriam Webster dictionary (2012), the definition of homeschool is “To instruct (a pupil, for example) in an educational program outside of established schools, especially in the home.” As we can see, religion has no part in that definition. In response to this theory that all homeschoolers are all Bible thumpers, Dr. Brian D. Ray (2003) President of The National Home Education Research Institute, states in his article “Homeschoolers to College: What Research Shows Us,” that although the current majority of homeschoolers are Christians, there is a rapidly growing number of homeschoolers from all walks of life, including agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and New Agers (p.6). So even though religious reasons are statistically the second most common reason for parents to pull their children out of public school, it is not only the Christian religion that is making this choice.
Religious issues are not the only reason parents are pulling their children out of public schools and choosing to homeschool them. There have been various studies conducted on this issue. In 2003 the U.S. Department of Education (ED) did a survey of homeschooling parents in the U.S. asking them why they have chosen to homeschool their children. 31% of them said that they are worried about the environment of public schools with safety, drugs, negative peer pressure etc. 30% of them did it for religious reasons. And 16% were dissatisfied with the academic instruction available at public schools (p. 2). My parents pulled me out of school because of the academic quality provided in public schools. When I entered kindergarten I was already an avid reader and was doing 1st grade math. Because of this I found the classes unchallenging and boring. It is because we were homeschooled that my brother was able to get his GED at 15, and I was able to study extracurricular subjects such as herbology and writing fiction.
What About Socialization?
As a Homeschooler, the most common questions I hear from people when I tell them about my educational background is “What about socialization?” It has become one of the commonly accepted myths that homeschoolers are somehow deprived of social contact because we don’t go to public school. Sylvia Biu (2009) even went so far as to say that “homeschooling is tantamount to retarding a child by isolating him from the outside world” (p. 2). To reveal the fallacy of this, we must first define what true socialization is. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines socialization as “A continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” Christopher Klicka (2007) puts forward the opinion that it is actually the public school children that have no opportunity to get true social experience as mentioned above because in the public school environment they are confined to a classroom for at least 180 days each year with little opportunity to be exposed to the workplace, go on field trips, or even hang out with groups of people other than their peers (p. 1). If we actually stop to think about it, Klicka’s position makes a lot of sense. The children are trapped with a group of children their own age with little chance to relate to children of other ages or adults. After seven hours of school, then they have to go home and complete hours and hours of homework before they can have any time to socialize with family and friends outside of the public school environment. The opportunity to pursue their interests and to apply their unique talents is stifled. The students are not really prepared to operate in the home, family or the workplace, which comprise a major part of the “real world” after graduation. In this environment, the children are actually getting less real socialization and are instead getting a fake and possibly even damaging sense of “real life” and are therefore unprepared for life in the “real world”.
Homeschoolers, on the other hand, do not have the above problems. They are much more prepared for the “real world” of the workplace and the home. They relate regularly with adults and follow their examples rather than the examples of peers, which often turns out to be foolish. They have daily chores and responsibilities and have to learn to work in unison with the rest of their family to help the home run smoothly. They learn based on “hands on” experiences and early apprenticeship training. In fact, the only “socialization” or aspect of the “real world” which they miss out on by not attending the public school is unhealthy peer pressure, crime, drug abuse and immorality. Of course, the average homeschooler wisely learns about these things from afar instead of being personally involved in crime or immorality or perhaps from being a victim of things such as harassment, bullying and abuse.
It all sounds great all worked out on paper, but how does homeschooling effect kids in real life? Kate McReynolds (2007) is a child psychologist and a homeschool mother of 3. She has done a lot of research on this topic and has actually interviewed homeschool parents and homeschooled children. She uses her skills as a psychologist to see whether the children are maturing socially as well as public and private schooled children. She has found that “homeschool children are not socially isolated, that their self-concept, a barometer of socialization, tends to be better than traditionally schooled children, and that homeschooling fosters leadership skills at least as well as traditional schooling” (p. 40). As a homeschooler myself, I have never felt socially hindered. My family has always been a part of a large homeschool group, and have always gone to community events and even attended classes whenever possible. In fact, it has often been because I was homeschooled that I was able to participate in these events. When I was 11 I got my CPR Certificate because I attended a class at my dad’s work and when I was 13 I got a verbal judo certificate also from my dad’s work. When I was 12 I attended a weather class that was full of adults and learned how to predict the weather and tell one type of cloud from the other and what each one of them meant. Between the ages of 11 and 15 I had the opportunity to work with my dad doing landscaping for state parks. I worked along with the adults and learned how to work hard, solve problems, read instructions, and use a large amount of skills that I would find very useful in my later life. When I was 16 I worked on a horse ranch for a year in exchange for riding horses. I learned to cook from my mom, I learned to preserve food by canning from a close friend, I learned to sew by taking lessons, I learned how to make homemade soap from a lady in our church, I can garden and raise animals from experience, my dad taught me how to heal with herbs and how to survive in the woods, and I was able to take writing lessons from my grandma. Because I was homeschooled I was able to move my school schedule around to accommodate for these opportunities. I am ready to survive in the real world because I have had the opportunity to prepare for the skills I would need later in life.
I have only provided a few examples here in this paper because I lack the space, but if you were to simply look on Google, you would see that the research on the subject of socialization has been extensive because it is such a common concern. It has been determined by most all of the people that have chosen to homeschool their children, that socialization is not really the big problem people make it out to be, but simply a myth that has been proven wrong repeatedly.
Higher Education and the “Real World”
The second most common concern many people have is that homeschoolers are not prepared for the academic challenges of college and then the “Real world” that comes after graduation. But once again, research exposes the myth. Many people worry that because homeschooled children are taught at home by their parents, without the supervision of somebody with professional teaching qualifications, that their academic levels are not as good as traditionally schooled children and therefore homeschoolers will struggle if and when they enter college. To put these fears to rest, Dr. Brian Ray (1997) tested 16,000 homeschooled students, comparing their standardized test results to those of public schooled kids. He found the nationwide grand mean in reading for homeschoolers was at the 79th percentile and for language and math, the 73rd percentile. This ranking means home-educated students performed better than approximately 77% of the sample population on whom the test was normed. Nearly 80% of homeschooled children achieved individual scores above the national average and 54.7% of the 16,000 homeschoolers achieved individual scores in the top quarter of the population, more than double the number of conventional school students who score in the top quarter (p. 11). These rates are astonishing and should do a lot to relieve the fear that homeschoolers suffer academically.
Contrary to popular expectation, not only are homeschooled students excelling academically, but they are gaining quite the positive reputation from college officials and teachers. Christopher Klicka (2006) has surveyed and interviewed admissions officers of many of the larger colleges, and has found that in general, homeschoolers are exceeding everyone’s expectations in higher education. A Harvard University admissions officer said most of their home-educated students “have done very well. They usually are very motivated in what they do.” University of Montana states, “The homeschoolers in this state seem to be up-to-date and well-organized. We even have homeschoolers in our honors programs. I know of one student for sure. She is one of our top students.” The Dartmouth College admissions officer explained, “The applications I’ve come across are outstanding. Homeschoolers have a distinct advantage because of the individualized instruction they have received.” Boston University welcomes applications from homeschooled students with open arms, “We believe students educated at home possess the passion for knowledge, the independence, and the self-reliance that enable them to excel in our intellectually challenging programs of study” (p. 3-6 of Klicka’s report). Motivation, organization, passion for knowledge, independence of thought, and self reliance are characteristics that are attributed to homeschoolers wherever they go.
Another aspect of the “Real World” that people have questions about is homeschoolers involvement in their communities, current affairs and politics. Dr. Brian D. Ray’s (2004) research goes to show us that homeschoolers are often found to be actively involved in entrepreneurial and professional occupations, their local communities, keeping abreast of current affairs, highly civically engaged, going to college at a higher rate than the national average, tolerant of others expressing their viewpoints and though they are often religiously active, they are very wide-ranged in their worldview beliefs. They can often be found volunteering in the community or being a part of political campaigns etc. (p. 9). Homeschoolers are just as involved if not more so in civic affairs. Alex and Brett Harris (2008), homeschooled twins here in Oregon, were only 16 when they got involved in politics and were invited to an internship at the Alabama Supreme Court which, of course, they accepted. The next year they were moved to the campaign headquarters where they became the grass-roots directors at age 17 (p.18). They are only one example of homeschoolers involvement in community and politics. My brother is volunteering at the public library, I have volunteered at the community kitchen, the community garden and HOPS, a non-profit organization that collected damaged food products from the local stores and gave it away for free to any family who couldn’t afford food. As homeschoolers we have spent far more time out in the community than public schooled kids because we have more time and a lot more flexibility. This time out in the community helps us to prepare for the real world, and we get to know a lot of people, not only our peers, but adults, elders, babies, and young children. We get to experience all kinds of different types of relationships, from fellow workers and the team aspect, to helping people out and providing what they need.
I have personally conducted my own survey on the topic of homeschoolers and the real world, and although it was somewhat inconclusive because of the lack of response, it still allowed me to see how people viewed homeschoolers after they had gotten to know some. Without fail, every single person who answered my survey said that the homeschoolers they knew were just as normal as anyone else they knew, and also that in their opinion, the homeschoolers are just as prepared as we are for the world. One person even claimed that they thought that the homeschoolers they knew were way more prepared skill-wise for the world than most of the public schooled people the answerer knew, including themselves.
All of this research goes to prove that homeschoolers are not only just like any other normal person, but in most cases even more well adjusted and ready for the challenges of the real world. They are not an abnormal occurrence, but regular people that you interact with every day and don’t even know it.
Proof that homeschoolers can prosper
Many of the people and names that we have learned to look up to and respect for their brilliance, courage, independence and individuality were homeschooled.
Some of the smartest people in the world, those considered geniuses, were homeschooled. Erik Demaine, assistant professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the leading theoretician in the emerging field of origami mathematics. He was home-schooled by his father, traveled around the United States, settling somewhere new every 6 to 12 months; he started college courses at 12, and received his doctorate at 20 and at the same age became the youngest professor ever at M.I.T. In 2003 he was granted a MacArthur “genius” fellowship (K.). Another genius whose name is familiar to everyone as one of the most acclaimed geniuses of the world, is Albert Einstein (Abell). He was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. Few people know that this intellectual giant had humble roots as a homeschooler.
George S. Patton, a well known hero of World War II was homeschooled until he was 11 because he had terrible dyslexia (Nosotoro). He had a reputation for eccentricity and for sometimes-controversial gruff outspokenness, and under his command the U.S. Third Army advanced farther, captured more enemy prisoners, and liberated more territory in less time than any other army in history.
A more modern example is Elijah Wood, actor from Lord of the Rings. He was homeschooled and tutored on-set, because he started acting at such a young age and was not able to attend a school. “I’m grateful,” he says in his interview with one of his fans, Patty Adams (2010). “I’ve heard enough from my friends to know that I didn’t miss out. High school is a pretty brutal battleground.” He is a very popular actor and, I must point out, he is not socially hindered.
My favorite modern example is Christopher Paolini because he is my personal role model. He is a young homeschooled kid who has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest author of a bestselling series for his four book series “The Inheritance Cycle” which include the books “Eragon” “Eldest” “Brisingr” and “Inheritance”. Christopher was homeschooled by his parents. As a child, he often wrote short stories and poems, made frequent trips to the library, and read widely. The idea of Eragon began as the daydreams of a young boy. Christopher’s love for the magic of stories led him to craft a novel that he would enjoy reading. The project began as a hobby, a personal challenge; he never intended it to be published, but it was. He was 15 years old at the time. All the characters in Eragon are from Christopher’s imagination except Angela the herbalist, who is loosely based on his sister. Christopher quotes “Everything I did was only possible because my parents were dedicated and loving enough to homeschool my sister and me. My mother, a former Montessori teacher and author of several children’s books, took the time to instruct us every day. Aside from textbook lessons, she had us perform many exercises designed to stimulate our creativity.” (Paolini)
These are just a few of examples of people who were homeschooled; homeschoolers who changed the world, and are a testament to the effectiveness of homeschooling.
Homeschooling provides the opportunity to tailor the student’s education according to interest, talent, and life situations. It allows the student to get more real life skills and experiences, and it teaches the student qualities such as self discipline, intuition, problem solving, self reliance and many other qualities that are going to prepare the student to survive in the real world, where life isn’t handed to them on a silver platter. There is a growing amount of research out there that would prove wrong the belief that homeschoolers are some ragtag group of backwoods kids who are unprepared for the challenges the world has to offer. It is our job to spread the word, and speak against the myths that we now know to be founded in simple ignorance.