It was my first day of school. Real school, at least. At 15 years old and a freshman in high school, I had yet to go to, what other people called, real school. Up to this point, I had been homeschooled all my life. Two of my younger brothers had made the transition into public school that year and my parents offered me the same choice: go to public school or stay homeschooled. I decided to visit the local high school with the intention of seeing what it was like and then make my decision. As the bell rang to beckon students to their classrooms, I took a deep breath and began my first day of school. Everything that happened that day, from being ridiculed for answering an older teacher with “Yes, sir” to trying to ignore the brash boy who sat next to me at lunch, was completely new to me. After that one day, I not only had a better understanding of public school, but I also had a deeper appreciation for my parents for giving me the choice to stay home. After that one day, I chose homeschooling. Being homeschooled has affected my personality in many positive ways: I matured quickly, learned responsibility, and developed socially.
I have been homeschooled all of my life. From pre-school on up to high-school, I have learned at home, my mother for a teacher. I was my parents' first child, the first of a family that would grow to encompass eight children. When I say that I am homeschooled, many people dismiss me as a shy, socially-awkward, sock-darning homeschooler. Despite these misconceptions about homeschooling, the fact that I have been able to learn in my own home, with a schedule flexibility unique to homeschoolers, has made me different than I would have been if I had been immersed in public school from pre-school on up.
One effect of my being homeschooled was the rate at which I matured mentally as a child. I grew up quickly, always behaving older than I was. Always around adults, I learned to act like an adult from the time I was around eight years old. Having so many younger siblings taught me to behave like I was another “parent.” One of my brothers, the closest in age to me, has complained that he has, “Two moms telling me what to do.” Being at home for much of my time, I have also learned to help out with chores, meals, and the like. These activities have taught me skills that will be useful when I have a home of my own; planning and cooking a meal, multi-tasking, and caring for small children are examples. Also, the flexibility of being homeschooled has allowed me to take extra classes as I am ready for them, not necessarily as my grade-level gives them to me. At sixteen, I am able to enroll in college-level classes early, such as the composition class for which I am writing this paper.
Being homeschooled has also taught me responsibility. Since seventh grade, I have virtually taught myself all of my school subjects. I have learned early how to study and understand information on my own, a skill I know I will use in college and beyond. Not being fixed to a set schedule like a public school setting, homeschooling has allowed me the time to take part in extra activities such as part-time jobs and volunteer opportunities. I have also been able to do a large amount of babysitting for both my own family and for others. These jobs have allowed me to learn about responsibility in a way that I would normally have had to wait until after high school to learn.
Homeschooling has also affected my sociability. Not in a negative way, as some people would be quick to assume. Contrary to popular belief, I do leave my home and I do see people who are outside of my family. My family and I are members of Tri-County Enrichment Co-op, a local group of homeschool families that meets every week for classes where moms teach in their area of expertise. This co-op gives me the “social time” that I otherwise might lack as a homeschooler; it gives me a time period each week to be with other kids my age in a classroom setting. Also, since I am around adults just as much, if not more, than I am around other high school-age students, I have developed the ability to converse with adults. When I went to take my driver's licensing test, the behind-the-wheel driving exam, the woman who was giving me the test was extremely solemn and quiet. Nervous as I was, I started to chat. It could have possibly been more like rambling; I could not stand the silence of the car. About half-way through the test, the woman turned to me and said, “You must be homeschooled. I have met few kids who can talk to adults this easily.” Along the same vein, I am constantly around kids younger than I: my seven siblings. This fact has caused me to be used to kids; it makes it easy for me to be around younger people.
Being homeschooled from the time I was in pre-school to the present, as a sophomore in high school, has affected my life in many ways. Specifically, it has caused me to mature earlier than I otherwise would have, has taught me the value of responsibility, and has affected my sociability with people my own age, adults, and younger children. Even though my public school experience is limited to one day in a high school, I am very grateful to my parents for giving me the choice to learn at home. In the words of American author and educator John Holt, “What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all.”