A Homeschool Exploration: Summary

Over the course of half a dozen interviews, there were several main focuses on the topic of homeschooling. Behind the scenes of each essay, I was asking questions about the social, educational, and personal aspects to various homeschoolers’ educational experiences—as well as the benefits/deficits of each person’s current situation.

In these essays, I heard many, many conflicting insights, perspectives, and views on the different aspects of homeschooling. For example, on the topic of the reactions to homeschooling—elicited from other people, a third of the interviewees exclaimed that they felt they received mostly negative reactions from people outside of the homeschool community, while the rest of those interviewed said they felt that it was positive. In addition to that, on the topic of socialization, Lucy examined her social life and explained that she felt it was harder to meet people who are differ from her, while Kyle said things like, “People say that homeschoolers are unsocialized, but I don’t feel like that’s the case. I feel like I definitely got a lot of socializing done in high-school. I feel like I’m very good at talking to people, and I’m very comfortable in social situations—and that’s partly due to the fact that I’ve had experience with so many different people.”

This isn’t to say that there aren’t aspects of homeschooling that are widely considered in the same way. In fact, without fail, every single homeschooler mentioned two things that they loved about homeschooling: learning what they’re interested in, and going at their own pace.

While these interviews were intended to provide information about the common practices of homeschooled students across St. Louis, as well as eradicate misconceptions and provide a very personal introduction to the lives of homeschoolers in our community, it is clear that by doing so, I have put excessive clarity to one important detail—one that should be remembered by everyone who interacted with this series: homeschooling, by nature, is different for everyone.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview VI

This last interview will cover an additional co-op in St. Louis by the name of the St. Louis Homeschool Network. In this interview, Kayla, a student attending Meramec Community College who was also previously a member of this group, will talk about the differences between things like Homelink and this smaller co-op, as as well as how this group has fit into her unique social experiences and hobbies.

The demographic of this group differs in many ways—particularly the parents of the group, who Kayla mentioned to be much more lax and personable. Kayla said, “I also went to SCCHE, which is basically like HomeLink, but in St. Peters. When I went there for my senior year, it was also very Christian and there were a lot of rules. Rules like, ‘You cannot hug a person for more than two seconds.’ Our group (SLHN) was more like the parents of the group—well, instead of being our teachers they were our parents. They would all talk to us about stuff and be like, ‘In the future you’re probably going to get in trouble and you can call me. At any time.’ They were always there if you needed them. They adopted you, pretty much.” In addition to that, Kayla was very explicit in how she felt about her social connections to the other members in the group. Many of these kids have known each other since a very young age. She said, “I mean, it was like a family. We were so much closer than public schooled people seem to be. We were everybody’s everything.” In this group, parents did teach many of the classes. Kayla said, “Basically we had the different classes we would sign up for—because different parents had different degrees: Biology, writing, whatever. We would all meet up, but it wouldn’t be like a class where we sit and write everything down the teacher says—it was very hands-on learning—more than, you know, I think we would’ve anywhere else. We would spend hours on projects until everyone understood it.” To build off of that, Kayla said being homeschooled in that way made Meramec significantly easier. She said, “If you go to HomeLink or SCCHE, it’s more like a college setting. By doing that, it prepared me for college and it just prepared me for life in general.” Kayla explained that by being homeschooled, she was done with high school English and honors chemistry before she started the 10th grade, but was able to spend time on math, which she struggles with.

In addition to the educational aspect of homeschooling, another area of concern for many oblivious public-schoolers is how homeschooling fits into various hobbies, such as sports. Kayla spent much of her high school career on a homeschool volleyball team, which is just one of the many ways you can become involved in sports. Kayla said, “I did it though The Panthers. It was like a private select team, where you had to be chosen and try out every year. You also had to be homeschooled to be on the team. We played some homeschool teams, but we played most of the public and private schools, and we played teams from Nebraska, Arkansas, Oregon, all-around Missouri, Texas, Florida.”

One of the things Kayla wants people to know about homeschooling, is that many homeschoolers are quite successful, despite the stereotype that they sometimes aren’t. She said, “They look at you like you’re somehow… stupider? I have a lot of relatives who question my education, like ‘Are you really learning?’ It was just a lot of doubt and judgment.” Kayla will be graduating from Meramec next May with a current GPA of 4.1. From there on, she will transfer to a bigger university and work her way towards becoming an occupational therapist for kids with disabilities and special needs.

Shortly, I will post a short summary and explanation of the ideas, insight, and information gathered on homeschooling practices in St. Louis.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview V

This week, One of HomeLink’s oldest members provides depth and insight into the group in a way that other members have not. He said, “HomeLink was really laid back years ago when I first started, and they only had about 40 kids. Once they got the current place, more and more kids started coming.” Over the past decade, HomeLink has acquired an average of 500 children—a stark contrast to the 40 kids that they began with. While HomeLink is by no means the only homeschooling support group/co-op, it is by far the largest. Logan started at HomeLink when he was in the fifth grade. He said, “Basically going through public school, my anxiety level was through the roof. When I was younger my energy level was very, very high, and I would have no way to get energy out. Every day I would come home, do homework, eat dinner, do homework, and then get ready for bed. The only downtime I had was on Sunday, and it wasn’t enough. By the time I reached fourth grade, I would cry at homework and school because it was stressing me out so much— it was really, really tough.”

Over the past five interviews the only thing that has been a common denominator throughout each and every interview, is the fact that students feel as if they can study what they want and at their own pace. Logan was one of these students as well. Logan said, “With homeschooling I can study the things I want to study. If I want to read about history, I can do that. If I want to go into physics, I can do that, too.” In addition to that, he mentioned that he could go at his own pace. Logan said, “Everything came quicker to me. I could take the time to slowly read through stuff and not rush through. In school you had a limited amount of time to finish things.”

While talking about misconceptions about homeschoolers, Logan took to a past interviewee’s approach of rhetoric, that of Liyu. He said, “People ask a lot, oh, do you go anywhere? How much do you actually learn? Do you have friends? They have no idea. They think it’s just this complete alienated world.” Logan wants people to understand that, “You do have opportunities. You can go take classes at multiple homeschool groups. You can meet people, you can have boyfriends and girlfriends, prom, and homecoming.” Homecoming, prom, and graduation—events that are considered nearly a right-of-passage for many high school aged students in America—are things that kids at HomeLink do not miss out on. In fact, due to the concentrated number of the teenagers at HomeLink being in varying grade levels, the co-op provides four homecomings and four proms, as well as a graduation ceremony. The dances are held at banquet centers complete with dinners, and the graduation ceremony is complete with robes, a commencement speaker, and a biography of each student’s achievements that accompany a slideshow of pictures—usually held at a local church. These are just some of the things that Logan used as examples of the vibrant social life he and his friends maintain as homeschoolers.

In the future, Logan hopes to go into voice acting. While he feels that he hasn’t had a whole lot of opportunities to do so as a homeschooler, he did say, “I can’t thank [homeschooling] enough for all the things it’s done for me.”

The next and final interview will be posted on May 5th—in which we will talk about one last organization for homeschoolers within St. Louis.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview IV

In recent essays, an organization known as HomeLink has been mentioned several times by local homeschoolers across St. Louis. To elaborate upon what has already been said, Home link is a homeschool co-op in St. Louis that offers classes ranging from yearbook, to physics, to art and music classes. The co-op includes certified teachers, a lunch room, and four years of both homecoming and prom—all of which are paid for by students and parents. However, this organization is not the only one of it’s kind residing in St. Louis. Today, Britney—a high-school junior from an organization known known as ARCHE—speaks out about her experiences as a homeschooler in St. Louis—especially ones differing from those who attend home link.

Although ARCHE is similar to HomeLink, it is a Christian organization that has a more intense focus on God. She said, “I’ve always been homeschooled – ever since preschool. It was basically because my mom wanted me to do Bible in school, because they don’t really teach the word of God in public schools.” Britney explains the way that homeschooling fit into some of her hobbies and classes that she is taking at arch. In reference to classes, she said, “I haven’t been there for as long as most people have been there, but I joined 2014. I took a couple musical theater classes, and speech & debate. I really enjoy the debate class,” she laughed, jokingly. “I like to argue.”

Like home link, ARCHE helps with the social aspect of homeschooling. Britney differs from some of the other homeschoolers in past interviews, in that, in addition to ARCHE she also gathers social experiences from several communities like church, dance, and kids around the neighborhood. She said, “‘How do you socialize?’ Is one of the top questions for homeschoolers. I don’t think was hard for me to make friends as a homeschooler, ever since I was four I’ve been in dance, so I have plenty of friends there—and I have church, so plenty of friends there.”

Throughout the past few interviews, a reigning characteristic is becoming increasingly clear. Despite all of the different organizations, ways of doing school, aspects of socializing, and benefits received from homeschooling, the only thing that has been said by each local homeschooler consistently is that they can go at there own pace and they can learn what they like. Britney said, “I like that I can kind of go at my own pace with things. I’ve never been to a public school, so I’m not really sure how that all works, but it seems like they go really fast.” Britney later added a statement that seems comical, but may be one of the most underrated components of homeschooling. She said, “I feel that the reactions are sometimes really positive, especially when you tell people your own age. They’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s good for you.’ You know, and, ‘I wish I could wake up at 9 o’clock for school every morning.'”

The next interview will be posted on April 21st, 2017.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview III

Over the past two interviews, girls who have participated in various homeschooling practices offered up their experiences as current homeschoolers. This week, a now-freshman in college, Kyle, talked about past experiences with homeschooling and how it has affected his success as of right now.

Kyle attends Hendrix college in Arkansas. He said, “My major is undeclared, but I’m kind of falling to chemistry. Maybe, biochemistry or molecular biology. I’m using that as a framework for the classes I’m taking.” He explained that the reason he chose Hendrix—which is a small liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas—is because it allows him the freedom of taking lots of different kinds of classes.

Before college, Kyle spent four years at HomeLink—a homeschool co-op that was mentioned in previous interviews. Kyle elaborates upon both the ‘before Homelink’ and ‘after HomeLink’ phases, as well as the opportunities those have provided him. He said, “There was a ‘before and after.’ Basically, before I went to HomeLink, [schooling] was very free form. As long as I got a certain amount of work done every year it was fine. There would be times where I would just be doing other stuff—for example I’d go to my friend Patrick’s farm and hang out there, do work, and explore this huge 300 acre farm. That was ideal, it was amazing. But then, of course, I’d get behind in schoolwork and I’d do school all day long. We went all year long for school, so we wouldn’t have, like, a summer break. The ‘after’ period was when I was at HomeLink, and now you’ve got homework and deadlines and grades—and I had had grades before, but they weren’t really as important, and now they were really important.” Kyle continues to explain how his particular experiences with homeschooling have helped him. He said, “It was really good because it helped me to get my time-management right—get that skill built up. Which, let me tell you, if you don’t have that skill in college, you’re going to suffer.”

Overall, Kyle feels as if homeschooling was very beneficial as far as opportunities go. He explains: “That, I think, is its primary benefit—the opportunities homeschooling has provided. Which is funny, because you would think that you’re going to have so many opportunities inside the system of public schooling.” Kyle lists some of the things he would not have without homeschooling. He said, “There’s little ones, like being in a circus, hanging out at my friend’s farm, but also bigger stuff like my internship at the science center and being here at Hendrix—which I probably wouldn’t have applied to or ever known about if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Tate (who helps runs HomeLink), because her son is here and she’s been a big fan of the school.”

In the end, Kyle had quite a few things to say about homeschoolers in general. He said, “People say that homeschoolers are unsocialized, but I don’t feel like that’s the case. I feel like I definitely got a lot of socializing done in high-school. I feel like I’m very good at talking to people, and I’m very comfortable in social situations—and that’s partly due to the fact that I’ve had experience with so many different people.” He built upon that statement by talking about the nature of homeschooling: “I think the thing about homeschooling is that by its nature, it’s different for everyone.”

The next interview will be posted on April 8, 2017.

 

 

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview II

In the last interview, Lucy—a home-schooled student in the St. Louis area—offered a significant amount of insight into the homeschooling community. However, a large aspect of homeschooling is that, typically, no two-homeschooling experiences are alike. This week, a student who has gone to St. Louis Community College since the age of 15 gave me an entirely different set of perspectives. Liyu, who is graduating this semester, will have 49 college credits by the time she graduates. She says, “Currently, I just go to Meramec, I do all my classes at Meramec, and it’s for both high school and college credit—I’ve been here for three years.”

During the interview, Liyu had a lot of things to say that were similar to those of Lucy. She talked about some benefits of homeschooling that she has noticed: “I have learned different ways to learn, I have learned to look at things in a different way, and I’ve learned to teach myself things.” In addition to that, Liyu also described the ways in which her experiences as a child influenced her education now. She explained to me that not only has she been home-schooled all her life, so have a few of her siblings, “[When I was a child] we did a lot of learning from textbooks, and we would do co-op classes. But another thing was—and this might be a bad example—but, say, I was learning about photosynthesis, plants, or biology. [My family and I] would go to the zoo, go to the science center, or grow a garden. At that time, you’re then really in the process of learning what it is and how it works, and you’re more in depth with it. It sticks with you more.”

Although Liyu shared some of the same insights to homeschooling as Lucy, their views on the social aspect of homeschooling really provide a contrast to the different homeschooling practices in St. Louis—as Lucy and Liyu attended very different “home-school groups.” While Lucy noted that sometimes it has been hard for her to find people who differ from herself, Liyu said the opposite: “Because of homeschooling, I’ve met people who are very different. I’ve never been in a room full of people that are all the same.” Liyu also notes that she feels that she has received many negative reactions from people who find out she’s home-schooled. She expresses her frustration with the assumptions she has been faced with in the past. She presents these assumptions with a series of questions that she might likely encounter. She said, “[people wonder] ‘Do you have social skills? Do you have friends? Are you dumb? Or are you really smart?’ There really isn’t an in between—you’re either assumed to be stupid or a genius.” Conversely, Liyu has many positive things to say about her social life as a home-schooler as well—she talks lovingly about some of the social aspects of homeschooling that she enjoys. She said, “Socially, I do think that my friends and I were allowed to do more things. If we wanted to go out during the day while other kids were at school, we can go do stuff. I have made closer friendships.”

In the end, Liyu talked briefly about the way that homeschooling has impacted her learning experiences. Liyu is planning to go to University of Kansas in the fall, and elaborated upon the process of applying to colleges. “Another thing is transcripts—because you have credits, and they are real credits—but colleges take it differently [than traditional transcripts]. You can totally go to college, but it’s going to take more effort.” She said this while also noting that a few colleges she applied to had different standards for home-schoolers—many of which were higher than those of public-schooled kids.

Ultimately, Liyu appeared to think very highly of her educational experiences—as well as her robust volunteer and work experience, both which have been more accessible thanks to homeschooling. Liyu says, “I’ve always liked school, and I’ve always been interested in it.” An undeniable love for learning is something that Liyu and Lucy both share, and while their social encounters might differ; their ideas about the learning aspect of homeschooling compliment each other heavily.

The next interview will be posted on March 24th, 2017.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview I

In the St. Louis area, there resides over one thousand home-schoolers. While one might think each of these students respectively learns within the walls of their own homes, around 500 of these students attend a local co-op known as HomeLink—which includes certified teachers, classrooms, curriculum, and social activities. One student, Lucy, explains to me the ups and downs of life as a home-schooler and attendee of this co-op.

Lucy says she is about the age of a junior or senior in high school, but credit-wise, is unsure. She said to me, “You know—homeschooling,” which is an exchange of mutual understanding that is common between many home-schooled students. We all understand the different paces each student maintains in their curriculum. Lucy continues: “Basically, I do a lot of my classes online, since my mom can’t really do all of them. I do pre-calculus online, I do physics at Homelink, literature at Homelink, and then I do some history classes online as well.” Lucy explained that her mom is British, and previously taught/worked at a homeschool-oriented educational organization. “It only made sense that I become home-schooled,” said Lucy. “It was a very intense kind of learning.”

As the conversation lengthened, Lucy began to elaborate upon her experiences as a home-schooled student. “I love homeschooling because I like to go deep into things. I like to research topics that interest me, and it goes with my learning style better. It has helped me get better grades.” Lucy mentions that homeschooling is hard in some ways, like keeping up with school and less opportunity to mingle with diverse students. She says, “You have to go out of your way sometimes to experience lots of different people and things when you’re homeschooling.” However, she mentions the benefit of personal development briefly, “It has made me more original and I love learning. It’s tailored more towards me, so I have learned who I am.”

Although the topic of high school is exciting, Lucy became very animated and passionate when she began talking about the future, as well as opportunities that homeschooling has provided her. She says, “I’m hoping to go to Princeton for an internship and I’m excited about that. I don’t know what I want to do exactly, but I want to do something in the humanities for sure.” Just then, the topic turned a different shade. Lucy explained that she wants to help people understand each other: “There are so many polar opinions. I was watching this documentary—The Talk—it was about the race relations and how so many African Americans have to tell their children, especially boys, what to do when police stop them. I was crying.” She mentioned the existence of both good police and bad police—police who want to help people. “There’s a history between race and police that people don’t often look at,” says Lucy. She wants to help better the understanding of how race, police officers, and other polar opinions you see in the media are interconnected.

In addition to Homelink, online classes, and uniquely paced curriculum, Lucy notes that there are other components of homeschooling that not everyone may know about. “I have a lot of friends in different places [distance wise], so that can be hard for home-schoolers as well.” She continues to note some reactions from people who lie outside of the home-school community. “Honestly, over the past few years I have gotten less questions, and I feel like that could mean it’s becoming more acceptable to be home-schooled. But, I have gotten a lot of questions like, ‘Do you do school at home?’ and ‘How do you make friends?’ in the past. One of my friends was actually really surprised that I went to prom.” Lucy said this with a mixture of amusement and exasperation.

In summary, Lucy’s experiences as a home-schooler are both incredibly unique and impressive, but also quite common in other respects. Lucy is gifted in lots of different things—such as musical ability, photography, writing, dance, and art—which she says her homeschooling schedule allows time for. For many home-schoolers, this rings true as well. Both flexible, tailored curriculum and unique social, extracurricular, and work opportunities allow many home-schoolers to be profoundly successful in today’s society.

Lucy is the first of six interviews to be conducted, and in the next interview, other home-school practices and organizations will be assessed.

 

 

2017 Project: A Homeschool Exploration

Starting next Friday and ending the 5th of May, I will be initiating a very special project. This project stems directly from my educational experiences, as well as the educational experiences of half a dozen others.

To elaborate, let me begin by explaining the inspiration and objectives of this project.

Inspiration: As a freshman in high school, I left the public school system in the spring semester to become homeschooled. While being homeschooled has been very beneficial to me, it has also allowed me to join the ranks of between 800-1,000+ homeschoolers in the St. Louis area. Despite there being so many of these students, I have met very few public-schooled individuals—specifically over the past three years—who also possess even general knowledge/experience of the homeschool community. I quite often get questions like, “Do you have friends?” and things like, “How do you go to college?”

These questions are very telling of the general public’s experience with homeschoolers—and perhaps some stereotypes they may hold as well.

Objectives: Over the next few months I will be using interviews in the form of descriptive essays to give insight to what the lives of different homeschoolers are like. Things such as homeschool co-ops, dual-credit classes at community colleges, and the alternative methods to “parent teachers” will all be explored and presented in a fun, interesting way.

By the end of the project, those who have read the series should have a better understanding of the sheer diversity of homeschooling students, practices, and methods. In addition to that, the project may convey some of the reasoning and benefits behind homeschooling in a way that challenges major stereotypes you see in the media.

My first essay will be posted next Friday. February 24, 2017.

Stay tuned!