To start of the New Year of “Ask the Grad,” we will begin with homeschool graduate Jordan Link. Today he shares with us some of the most important lessons home education taught him, and how homeschooling parents can ensure their children are well-prepared for college.
My Home Education Experience and Life Afterwards.
My name is Jordan. I’m 24 years old and I’m a Senior at Cedarville University. I’m the oldest of six kids (boy-girl-girl-boy-girl-girl). I was homeschooled from kindergarten through 10th grade, and then I went to a small, Christian school my Junior and Senior years of high school, as well as took classes from the local community college.
In retrospect, I’m glad that my parents decided to homeschool me, but I’m also glad that I got to have the experience of a traditional school setting before going to college.
I think one of the advantages to homeschooling is that parents can tailor their children’s education to fit their strengths and to intentionally prepare them for the future. For example, I always knew that I wanted to go into digital media so my parents, my Dad especially, worked to get me involved in church and events where I could observe the tech guys and learn from them. One of my sisters had always been interested in acting, so while she was in high school, she was able to be involved week-long drama camps, and she acted in, directed and wrote many homeschool and church dramas. When you’re homeschooled, you’re not limited to the structure and inefficiency of a classroom: you can take more time to learn interesting things purely for the enjoyment of learning; not because it’s part of the syllabus. That’s probably my favorite part about homeschooling.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom and she did the majority of the teaching, but Dad would help us when he came home from work. Also, when I was in 9th and 10th grade, Dad taught Biology and Chemistry to the high schoolers in the homeschool group. Every week they would all come over to our house, and Dad would teach science, assign homework, and administer tests he made. In college, he majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry so we really were able to learn a lot, and I thought it was cool to have my Dad for a teacher.
I don’t think I appreciated it then, but now I can see that both of my parents worked extremely hard to always be available to answer my questions, and they pushed me towards academic excellence, which I really appreciate now.
I think that the experience of homeschooling has helped me in college in three main ways: it taught me to me self-paced, to have a love for learning, and to manage my time well.
When you’re homeschooled, you don’t have to wait for everybody else before you go to the next class: you get to decide what you work on and when. I’ve met many people, granted they are not the norm but still, who got to college and just expected to be spoon-fed by the profs. They couldn’t set their own schedules, and struggled with taking initiative, which is a big problem when you’re responsible for your own education.
Also, homeschooling allowed me to explore my own areas of interest. In a more traditional school setting, you can’t take a whole Tuesday to go over to a friend’s house and film a movie and learn about filming and lighting and sound editing, which is what I had the freedom to do. Through this flexibility and encouragement from my parents, I developed a love of learning: I thrive on figuring out new things, and I hope that stays with me the rest of my life.
And finally, from my experience, college is essentially homeschooling. When you’re in college, you don’t have nice teachers who go out of their way to make sure you turn-in assignments on time and remind you about homework. In college, you have to manage all that yourself. Many of my friends had trouble adjusting to college because they weren’t used to managing their own time, but for me, the transition was seamless because that style of learning was what I had been doing my whole life. I was used to looking ahead at my assignments, estimating how long each would take, making up a weekly schedule, and following it.
So being taught at home definitely helped me prepare for college. However, there are some disadvantages to homeschooling. You don’t get to constantly be around your friends every day. Many times it’s more difficult to get involved in sports. And there are fewer opportunities for theatre and drama. But just because it’s more difficult, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And if you get involved in a good homeschool group, you can do group activities, which also means hanging out with friends.
If I were to talk to parents who were trying to figure out where to send their kids to school, I would be less concerned with where and more concerned with addressing the attitude the parents have towards their kids’ education.
If I were to give advice to parents it would be this:
1. Stay involved no matter where your child goes to school.
Just because they go to public school or private school doesn’t mean the parents don’t have to do anything. From what I have observed, when the parents don’t become involved in their kids’ education, the kid will settle down into the system and become apathetic about their grades and their learning. That apathy can come back to haunt them in college and can damage their enthusiasm towards learning in general.
2. Teach your kids to write.
I know from experience that many/most homeschool curriculums push math and science. “Your students need to take Advanced Calculus and Physics III!!!” but I’m telling you that unless you are going to major in math education or microeconomics or engineering, you hardly use math at all. I took five math classes in my 3.5 years of high school and got all A’s and loved it, and I also enjoyed and excelled in science, but in college, out of the 45 total classes I have to take for my degree, three are math and science.
However, every single class I have taken in college has required me to write papers. On my first day of college, every one of my profs assigned papers to us and I couldn’t believe it. But that’s how college works: you listen to the prof in class, you go back to your room and do the assigned reading, and then you write a paper about what you’ve learned. If you can’t write, you can’t do college. That’s just the bottom line. Now I’m not at all downplaying the importance of the stretching of your brain and the expanding of your mind that comes from math, because those things really do matter. But good writing skills should not be sacrificed on the altar of math.
Writing is an art: it’s a skill that can be taught and must be practiced. (If you get to college and you can’t write, it’s not the end of the world because you’ll take writing classes and they’ll teach you, but you’ll be starting college behind, almost with a disadvantage).
So. If you’re not the best writing teacher, sign your 10th graders up for Writing 101 at the local community college: they’ll get college credit and get good practice (and it’s super cheap, compared to a 4-year university!). If you go on a homeschool field trip to the firehouse, have your middle-schoolers write a 1-page paper on what they learned. If one of your kids has a good question, like “How does the electoral college work in the presidential election?” or “How do they grow coffee beans to be different flavors?” then the next day for a writing assignment, have them go look it up and write you a 2-page paper that answers their question. Right there, that is a mini-research paper. At first, if writing is new to them, your kids might complain, and need help, and take forever, but eventually, it will get easier because they will learn to see the generic structure of a paper, and they will be able assemble their thoughts in an organized and efficient way.
So that’s a whole lot on writing. But I really do think being a good writer is important, vital even, for being successful in college. I wish I had concentrated more in high school on learning to be a better writer.
3. Read out loud to your kids.
All of my family loved it when Mom read books out loud. She read to us almost every day our whole lives, and it really was a cool bonding/learning experience for us. We begged her to read more every day: I think because not only were we listening to a story, but we loved spending time with Mom, and she was making a point to spend time with us. Also, my Dad read out loud to us, not as often, but we loved to listen to him. He is not a great reader, as he would tell you, but that didn’t matter because he was our Dad, and he was taking time to tell us a story. So it’s a really cool experience to have your parents read to you.
So would I homeschool my kids?
I’m honestly not sure (and I have several years before I have to decide, cause I’m not even married yet). There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling. But I know that I think it’s very important to stay directly involved in their daily education, and I hope that one day I can pass on my love for learning to my own kids.
And now for our reader-submitted “Ask the Grad” question! This week, Karla asks:
What things do homeschooling parents need to do to prepare their children for college? What were some of the difficulties you feel you faced in college coming from a homeschooling background?
Well, Karla, the main thing homeschooling parents need to teach their children to prepare them for college is how to write well. If a student can put a question into a thesis statement and write a concise paper about it, they will go far in college.
There are some great creative and formal writing programs out there. I went through several, including Andrew Pudewa’s Excellence in Writing program (http://www.excellenceinwriting.com/) and that really helped me a lot. He breaks writing down from some abstract, artsy, vague concept into an almost scientific approach, with checklists for sentence dress-ups, etc. This changed my perception of writing and now I really enjoy the process of creating a paper, instead of dreading it like I used to.
I honestly haven’t faced a single difficulty in college coming from a homeschooling background. People always stereotype homeschoolers as being anti-social (and certainly there are a minority who fit that stereotype), but homeschooling doesn’t put you at an academic or social or emotional disadvantage at all. In fact, I think the opposite is true: when you are homeschooled, you regularly hang out with parents and younger kids and older kids, so you are used to interacting with people who aren’t your exact age, which is a much closer simulation to real life than the traditional school setting. From what I’ve seen, my homeschooling friends have always had a much easier time talking with professors.