When we decided to homeschool our kids, it was widely touted that homeschooling’s individualized attention would result in better grades, higher-than-average standardized test scores, and most importantly, lots of scholarships to elite universities who would recognize my children’s inherent intellectual potential. Though they sound like a typical mother’s high hopes, these claims are not unsubstantiated.
Research studies, such as one from 2009 mentioned by US News & World Report, reveal that homeschooled youth who go to college graduate at a higher rate (over 65 percent as opposed to a little over 55 percent for those publicly schooled), while holding higher than average GPAs.
The US News article goes on to tell the story of San Diego native Jesse Orlowski who was homeschooled and later accepted into a number of name universities, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton, and Vanderbilt, ultimately choosing MIT and double-majoring in physics and math.
Orlowski attributed his academic excellence to his homeschooling experience, praising its flexibility and extra opportunities to follow his curiosity. Stories like this one inspired me and fanned the flames of hope for full-ride scholarships.
I had also read that homeschooled children would be well-mannered, socially mature, and not prone to tantrums like other, well, normal children. Critics argue that public school provides the best venue for children to learn the social skills needed to get along in the real world, but homeschooling supporters point out that nowhere in the real world is a person placed within a group where everyone is the same age and doing the same tasks. In fact, some wonder if it’s really possible for children to have meaningful interactions when they’re immersed in such a large group of peers.
Though some homeschooling families pride themselves on shielding their children from any negative cultural influences, others, like professor and homeschooling parent Stephen D. Holtrop, say that guiding children’s exploration of culture is much more fruitful. Still, well-intended sheltering by some has given rise to the stereotype that homeschoolers are socially inept.
When my husband and I decided to jump on the homeschooling train, he had only one request: that our children wouldn’t grow up to be socially awkward or “weird.” So he took on the socialization and cultural studies portion of the homeschool curriculum. (I was stuck with English and algebra and it became clear who the “fun” parent was.)
My husband took our kids to movies, to play paintball, and made sure the way they dressed reflected their own unique style and taste. As a Rotarian, service opportunities like the United Way’s Day of Caring were plentiful, and he took them along to collect and sort canned goods.
One spring a nearby village was in danger of flooding, so my husband took our two boys, then ages nine and 10, to help other Rotarians and concerned community members fill sandbags to keep the flood waters at bay.
His socialization efforts were rewarded by the time our kids reached their teen years. They became involved in the local YMCA’s Teen Leaders group, an organization that connected with other YMCAs across the state and into neighboring states to plan service opportunities and fun leadership events for teens.
Several times a year, our kids would pile on a bus and travel three hours or so to sleep on the wooden gym floor at another Y. They raked leaves, painted, or played bingo with senior citizens at an assisted living home. There were some teen dances, too, and a few dress-up dinners. New acquaintances would ask where they went to school. After our kids shared that they were homeschooled, these new friends would gasp, “You’re homeschooled? But you seem so normal!”
Standing here now – 18 years, a few tantrums, and one 4:30 a.m. call from the sheriff later – I can say with confidence that all three of our kids are decidedly normal. Their bedrooms were always a mess and their standardized test scores were average. College has so far been a mixed bag with average or slightly above average grades and some failed or retaken classes.
I can testify that homeschooling will not create geniuses if they are not already geniuses. (Some have even argued that socio-economic status and a stable family probably contribute more to a child’s academic success than homeschooling does.) This observation doesn’t discredit the choice to homeschool. It simply removes homeschooling from a pedestal and places it on the same level as other educational options that parents have to choose from.
So perhaps the biggest difference is that a homeschooling parent has a front row seat to watching their children learn and grow. And then there’s the bond created among siblings who are homeschooled together. From the time we brought our daughter, the youngest, home, we taught our sons that they must always look out for each other and for their little sister. On one of their YMCA teen treks to serve at the Special Olympics in a bigger city, I charged them with staying by her side. “If she needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, you will escort her,” I said.
They did, and they even started including her when they invited friends over to play video games or watch movies, sparking a comment from one of their friends (whose stepsister would rival Cinderella’s), “Your sister is so cool.”
I loved every minute I spent homeschooling my children, but expecting grand outcomes – besides the joy that comes from a loving family bond – only creates unrealistic demands and pressures for both parent and child. Homeschooled children will be normal, with strengths and weaknesses, victories and mistakes, just like the parents who raised and educated them.
Oak Meadow partnered with Parent.co to sponsor this post because they believe that a homeschool curriculum can be joyfully and artfully integrated into your life.