I once asked my parents if, had we lived in a wealthier area with better schools, they still would have chosen to homeschool my siblings and me from kindergarten through high school. My dad paused for a moment, nodded, and then said, “Yes, because I thought I could do a better job educating you than anyone else could.”
In the years since I graduated from homeschooling, I have often reflected on this statement, and considered how my unique educational experience affected my relationship with the world personally, academically, and professionally.
Independent learning and initiative
When I think back on my homeschooling days, “independence” is the first word that comes to mind. My mom frequently emphasized that lesson plans were written for the student, not the teacher; in other words, I should follow through with my work without her prompting. Of course, my mom’s involvement level differed depending on the subject. I was not gifted at mathematics, for instance, so her input (and eventually a tutor’s) was more necessary in this area.
In general, however, I learned to take ownership for my responsibilities from a young age, something which has benefited me through every phase of my life thus far. In college, I was proactive about selecting my schedule, keeping track of due dates, and ensuring that I could excel to the best of my abilities. As a professional, I am likewise forward-thinking with my tasks. I address problems head-on, without waiting for someone else to resolve an issue within my control.
Similarly, homeschooling equipped me to pursue knowledge rather than wait for knowledge to find me. When you’re consistently responsible for finding the answer, doing so becomes second nature. I became adept at scouring the internet for helpful tips, study guides, and videos that explain difficult concepts.
Whether I need help completing an academic, work, or personal task—such as how to best organize a small pantry or to bake a complicated dessert—I assume answers are out there and go looking for them. I have never been a passive consumer of information, and much of that I attribute to my homeschool education.
Transitioning to college
My transition from homeschooling to college (and later graduate school) was exceptionally easy due to the self-driven nature of my homeschool curriculum. Some assume that homeschoolers, who generally spend little of their day in formal classroom instruction, will find the transition to college challenging. At least for me, nothing could have been further from the truth.
For one thing, each of my college courses were framed around relatively small classroom-lecture time (usually around three hours a week), with homework and studying occupying the rest of a student’s schedule—exactly like my homeschooling experience. College classes were harder than my homeschool curriculum, of course, but the structure of my coursework felt entirely normal.
Homeschooling’s emphasis on my effort rather than the teacher’s expertise equipped me with the initiative and independence I needed for higher education.
“Never stop questioning!”—Albert Einstein
Being homeschooled made me comfortable asking questions in all areas of life. In a low-pressure, one-on-one learning setting with my mom, I could ask any question and receive an answer. My curiosity was bolstered by the student ownership that homeschooling encouraged.
This inquisitive mindset is also helpful in the workplace. I feel free to ask for clarification and further explanation without feeling nervous. The reason is quite simple: my education taught me that when I don’t understand something, I should inquire.
In many traditional school settings, questions are not encouraged (often due to time constraints). The professional world can be likewise impatient. But ultimately, a willingness to ask questions helps everyone involved in a project, and I am grateful my education helped me develop this skill.
Multifaceted social skills
Likewise, I was comfortable around adults from a young age, which I attribute to being homeschooled. Although naturally shy as a child, I was not nervous or flustered by “grown-ups” and could easily maintain a conversation with people my parents’ age. I spent my school day with various grades and age groups. I was not segmented with my direct peers, and my extracurricular activities often involved older and younger kids. I learned how to interact with adults from my parents rather than from those in my age group. This familiarity with adult mannerisms and conversations helped prevent me from being intimidated when engaging with adults on my own.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, homeschooling made me a critical thinker. I was removed from the worst forms of peer pressure, which allowed me to fully engage with ideas and wonder about anything and everything without fear of social ostracization.
Throughout my life, people have commented on my ability to cut through minutiae and arrive at the heart of a matter. I often find myself frustrated when one perspective is overrepresented, and almost reflexively take the opposing viewpoint to challenge the prevailing narrative. Some of this tendency is probably innate, but my education cultivated it further.
I am incredibly grateful for this ability and have found it invaluable more times than I can count.
Homeschooling: a worthwhile investment
My parents made many sacrifices so that we could be homeschooled, and I have witnessed the dividends in a variety of ways. Whatever the challenges, this educational approach enabled my siblings and me to thrive in a unique manner.
Fortunately, today there are more resources than ever available to parents. Online classes like those offered through HSLDA Online Academy, for example, were just beginning to pop up when I was in high school. My mom would have loved this option for subjects where we struggled more (they might have helped us avoid a few mathematics-related meltdowns!), especially since they encourage the independent, student-driven learning method she favored.
Wherever you are in your homeschooling journey, be encouraged: I’m living proof that the investment is worthwhile.
And yes, in case you are wondering, my dad thinks so too.