Homeschool: don’t dog it until you’ve tried it

There are several conventional questions you ask a fellow student when you meet them for the first time. Usually, they consist of what rank they are, what their major and minor are and what high school they went to. For some students, however, the high school question does not apply to them. Unlike the majority of students out there, they were homeschooled.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an estimated 1.1 million children nationwide were homeschooled last year. This is a surprising rise since the last government survey in 1999.

Ever since homeschooling became legal in all states during the 1980’s, it has appealed to families nationwide for a number of reasons. Based on information from the National Center for Education Statistics, parents choose to homeschool mainly because they are concerned with the school environment, such as drugs and peer pressure or because they want to teach moral or religious lessons more freely. Some parents are also dissatisfied with the academic curriculum at public schools.

For whatever reason parents choose to homeschool their children, the practice of teaching at home rather than in public school is foreign to most traditional students. Homeschooling is probably one of the most misunderstood forms of education because of this. There are so many negative stigmas that surround the children who are products of this type of education, but according to students who were actually homeschooled, these beliefs are exaggerated.

Sam Houston State University hosts an abundance of students who are products of homeschooling, and for most of them, homeschooling was the best type of education they could ever hope to receive.

“I received a far greater education being homeschooled than I could have anywhere else,” said Jennifer Westerman, former editor in chief of “The Houstonian” and honors graduate of SHSU.

Westerman was homeschooled most of her life by her mother and feels that homeschooling is better than public education because the student receives an education tailored to his or her specific needs.

“I had a very hard time understanding science,” said Westerman, “but my mother was able to go over and over it with me until I got it. You can’t do that in public school.”

Fellow student Alaina Grimm, a 19-year-old Victim Studies major, was also homeschooled most of her life. She was primarily taught by her mother but received her mathematics education from her father who was an accountant. Grimm has slightly different view of homeschooling.

“Is homeschooling better than the public school system? Yes and no. I can’t fully judge something I was, for all accounts and purposes, never a part of,” said Grimm. “However, when friends ask me, my standard response, which I truly believe, is that not every child/teen should be homeschooled, some just are not cut out for it and not every parent should homeschool their child/teen. There has to be the right chemistry for homeschooling to succeed as a life style. It also takes a healthy dose of respect between the adult and the student.”

Although homeschooling remains to be productive way of educating, there are still several stigmas that surround children and teens who receive this type of education. One of the most popular beliefs is that homeschooled students lack the social skills to succeed in the real world because they were part of a public institution. Grimm disagrees and believes that a lack of social skills is not a product of a homeschool education.

“I personally believe that stories about homeschoolers and their lack of social skills are primarily a myth,” said Grimm. “I admit, some people do not have great social skills but I know just as many students who went to school who have no social skills as do homeschoolers.”

Both Westerman and Grimm believe that homeschooled students simply socialize in a different way than students who attend public school. While traditional students are surrounded by peers, homeschooled students have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities and support groups.

“There are several opportunities where you are able to socialize with other homeschooled children your own age. There are leagues where you can sign up to play sports just like in public school or you can join a homeschool co-op, where you go over to other students’ houses for different subjects. And there is always the church route,” said Westerman.

“People are everywhere, in neighborhoods, homeschooling support groups, extra curricular activities that it is hard to not be socialized to some extent,” Grimm added.

Another popular belief is that homeschooled children and teens do not receive superior education’s, therefore, they are not a competent as students who attend public school.

“Big supporters of the public school often believe that I’ve gotten an inferior education. I’m an honors student, scholarship recipient and pursuing a career which interests me. I would say that my education suited me just fine,” said Grimm.

Kelly Westerman, Jennifer’s mother, also feels that the criticisms made about homeschool are not factual

“People think homeschooled children will not be able to succeed with the real world,” said Mrs. Westerman. “They also say homeschooled children are too sheltered. I don’t agree with that.”

While the most distinctive difference between public school and homeschool is the environment the students are taught in, the greatest diversity remains to be the methods by which the students are educated.

“My class size was smaller – I was able to get more one-on-one attention from my teacher (mother) than students do in school,” said Grimm. “And instead of just learning about American history from text books, we took trips to historic places, battle fields, buildings, documents, monuments, etc It really opened up the world to me. I went on historic walks in Boston, took a train across the country seeing different civil war monuments and battle fields and got to see Williamsburg, Virginia twice.”

Although Westerman and Grimm were taught by their parents, there are several large homeschool associations worldwide that offer their services to families that homeschool, such as the AHA or American Homeschool Association. AHA was created in 1995 to network homeschooling families on a national level. The Texas Homeschool Coalition is also a major organization which, “helps new homeschoolers across the state maintain a network of information and communication between and among the leadership of regional homeschool organizations, local support groups and individual homeschooling families.”

The point of these organizations is to establish that homeschool students are not alone. They also help homeschool students meet all the state requirements and assist in the college application process. Most nationwide colleges accept students who were homeschooled and require most of the same criterion, such as ACT and SAT scores.

“Applying for college was weird,” said Grimm. “They had me to take all those tests, THEA, SAT and ACT. I have no patience for them. I still don’t understand how they’re supposed to tell a university that someone’s smart or that they will do well in a learning environment. Because of this belief, I set myself up so that I wouldn’t have to and I didn’t.”

Jennifer Westerman and Alaina Grimm are just two students who received their education from home, but they are not alone. With the number of smart and successful homeschooled students steadily rising, the institution continues to defy the myth that homeschooling is an inferior method of education.

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