Ask the Grad
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Ask the Grad – Alyse Scicluna Lehrke

I am pleased to introduce another second generation home educator and author, Alyse Scicluna Lehrke.  Alyse and I have some things in common; we both were home educated in Michigan while homeschoolers were fighting for freedom of education.  And we both play the violin! Alyse has the distinction of being home educated “all the way,” very rare for the pioneering generation.  You will find she was far from isolated in her lifestyle, however.  Be sure to read to the end; Alyse shares a special discount with “Ask the Grad” readers!

In my family, homeschooling wasn’t merely an educational choice, it was a lifestyle choice. My parents were originally introduced to the idea through John Holt’s book Teach Your Own when I was about three years old. (I am the oldest of four children.) The concept of teaching their own children made sense to them. As I reached school age, they opted to homeschool, at least for a year. At first they attempted to partner with the school district but soon realized the partnership was not effective. They didn’t use the “resources” the school provided, and the school just wanted to receive funding for me as a student.

After a successful first year, they decided to homeschool a second year. By the time I reached 3rd grade they realized they were in it for the long haul – or at least as long as they still thought it was the best option for their children and the family. Like most homeschool families, my mom did the majority of the daily teaching. She was a master at gauging our strengths and weaknesses and finding the curriculum, exercises, or resources we needed to learn. Her goal was to teach us academic knowledge while also developing strong character and a love for God.

Although homeschooling was still young in the early 1980s when we started, my parents began connecting with other homeschool families in the area. Homeschooling in Michigan at that time could be rather tenuous as school districts, superintendents, and school boards battled parents for power. My parents were cautious about sharing information, and during the school year, my siblings and I were not allowed to play outside before 3:00 p.m., even if our school work was completed, in case someone might misinterpret our free time as truancy. (Michigan legislation now protects a parent’s right to educate their children at home.)

Then, and even now, there was a common misconception that homeschool children stayed tucked away in their homes until they emerged one day as social misfits. This perception has always made me laugh because it is the exact opposite of my experience. First, we were actively involved in a variety of groups. A typical week for me looked something like this:

Monday – Homeschool gym class through the parks and recreation department

Tuesday – Ice skating taught by a professional figure skater who also happened to be a homeschool mom

Wednesday – Ballet class

Thursday – Homeschool Co-op/Soccer practice

Friday – Violin/Piano lessons

Saturday – Violin ensemble/Soccer games

Sunday – Church and family time

As I got older, I also participated in music festivals, orchestras, choir, theatre, science fairs, Toastmasters, Bible quizzing, and more academic co-ops. I was by no means isolated, and I had a rich array of experiences.

Second, I interacted with a diverse assortment of people from various cultures and age ranges. In my opinion, my social skills were not stunted by homeschooling; rather they were cultivated and expanded. In fact, my grandparents’ early skepticism about my parents’ decision to homeschool was laid to rest when I carried on a mature conversation with my grandfather, maintaining eye contact, respectfully and confidently, at the age of eight.

One of my brothers was once told that if he had been homeschooled, he wouldn’t be as outgoing as he is. The woman making the assessment didn’t know he had been homeschooled. My brother simply replied, “Actually, I was homeschooled, and I owe most of my current success to homeschooling.” As he tells the story, the woman’s reaction was priceless! I have heard the question of socialization raised many times in regard to homeschooling students; however, I believe the concern is largely unfounded. Homeschool students, as a general rule, develop excellent social skills, often superior to their public school counterparts.

During high school, when the classes were harder, my mom found a variety of ways to meet my academic needs. For example, a local Christian college offered a chemistry lab for homeschoolers, taught by the college’s chemistry professor. I took a year of Spanish at a community college, and once I surpassed my mom’s knowledge in math she found a tutor to work with me. I practiced my public speaking skills in a Toastmasters group at a local research company. At 15 I was giving speeches in front of a room full of Ph.D.’s and critiquing their presentations as well.

I played violin with a community orchestra that was a mix of local talent and professional musicians. I also had time for independent study and great discussions with my parents and others that expanded my knowledge and sharpened my understanding of the world. I learned to love good books, and I learned how to teach myself almost anything I want to know. My dad always told us, “Having a good teacher is nice, but remember that your education is your responsibility.”

The emphasis on personal responsibility has instilled a confidence and drive to learn in myself and my siblings. I don’t wait to be taught. Instead, I go out and find the knowledge I’m looking for. This isn’t to diminish the value of good teachers. I have had many excellent teachers who have added greatly to my life. The point is simply that my education and growth are ultimately up to me. I’m thankful I learned this lesson early.

Two things have always impressed me about homeschool parents (my own included): 1) their broad range of backgrounds and talents, and 2) their resourcefulness in meeting the educational needs of their children. I have benefitted many times from other homeschool parents who were willing to share their knowledge and expertise with a group of us. My parents don’t claim to know everything or be able to teach every subject equally well; however, they were always able to find tutors, classes, or experiences to teach me what I needed to know.

Perhaps the thing I appreciated most about homeschooling was the flexibility it afforded. For instance, I love American history and was able to spend extra time one year studying the American founders. Or, for example, the general manager of the restaurant I worked for asked if I would like to learn bookkeeping. As a homeschooler, I was able to arrange my schedule to work as a part-time bookkeeper at the age of 16. I learned an important skill and gained valuable experience.

Flexibility may have also been our homeschool’s greatest weakness. At times I would have preferred more structure. We were often on the go and working around several schedules at once. My mom sometimes laughed and called it “car schooling” instead of homeschooling! Although we had routines and requirements we had to complete, the loose structure of our homeschool accommodated new opportunities and napping babies.

My homeschool education was rich and diverse. It was a positive experience that taught me many life lessons beyond the realm of academics. I acquired the general knowledge a K-12 education requires while also learning to think analytically and developing good character. After graduation, I attended a community college to save money and live at home. When I transferred to Regent University, I received the Merit Scholarship for my superior work. Currently, I continue to study communication in a graduate program at Spring Arbor University.

I believe my home education uniquely prepared me for my future endeavors. My parents expected us to do everything with excellence. Plus, they knew when I was working below my ability and always encouraged me to stretch myself. I learned to work independently and to find the knowledge I lacked. As I have continued my studies and started a business, these skills have been invaluable.

After teaching writing at multiple homeschool co-ops, I decided to make my classes available in an online format. In 2008, I officially founded Write Foundations in order to provide comprehensive writing instruction and resources. These days you can find me emailing students, chatting with my professors, or reading with my children.

Homeschooling was a way of life for us. My parents saw every experience as a learning opportunity. As a result, my siblings and I do not view learning as an isolated classroom activity but rather an integrated part of life. Now that I have four children of my own, my husband and I have decided to continue the lifestyle of learning in our homeschool.

Ask Alyse your own questions about homeschooling, writing, and more when you contact her by email or on facebook.  Be certain to check out her website, featuring writing programs and guided journals. And for Whatever State readers: Save $50 on any class or 50% on any level Guided Journal when you mention “Ask the Grad.” This is an outstanding offer and cannot be combined with any other discounts.

1 Comment

  1. Sarah says

    As a “rookie” homeschooling mom in Michigan, I am SO thankful that we have freedom and ease to teach our children at home now! Bravo to your parents and those of their generation that sought to push for that freedom! I also enjoyed the mental picture of your being in Toastmasters at 15! I know several business owners that are in that program.
    Thank you for sharing!


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