Homeschoolers: Not So Different After All

Graph created by Victoria Beckmann

Victoria Beckmann | Staff Writer

Many homeschooled students are followed throughout high school and college by the stereotype that labels them a socially awkward smarty-pants. It leads to a surprised reaction when they tell people where they went to school because the assumptions made about homeschoolers aren’t always correct. Most people’s perception of homeschooling and the students that use this education style is not accurate. There are many advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling that most people don’t realize.

Surprisingly enough, there are quite a large number of homeschoolers in the United States. According to Minnesota’s Homeschoolers’ Alliance, there are 1.9 to 2.5 million homeschooled students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade. In Minnesota during the 2010-2011 school year there were more than 15,000 students being educated at home. Katy Haupt, a homeschooled student here at Century College, said in an interview, “People, especially in Minnesota, seem to all know at least one homeschooler.”  In fact, 14% of the students in Century’s PSEO program are homeschooled. This group makes up the majority over the number of students from other high schools. For example, 10% of PSEO students are from Stillwater, 9.8% from Woodbury, and 9.5% from Mahtomedi.

There are many successful people who had an unconventional education. Whoopi Goldberg, the famous entertainer and author, and Rodin Lee Graham, the 16-year-old boy who circumnavigated the world alone, both did not graduate from public school. Levi Miller, a homeschooled Century College student, also achieved success in February of this year when he won the national Achieving the Dream t-shirt design competition, beating 93 entries from 19 other colleges.

The awkward homeschooler stereotype is something that many homeschool students and parents keep trying to defy. Haupt said, “[Being homeschooled] pushes me to … be more sociable and try to make friends more often during the opportunities that I can get because maybe I’m not presented with as many.” Emma Button, a student who attended Century and is now attending St. Thomas, said, “Although I will be the first to admit that there are many strange homeschoolers in the world, I will also be the first to defend them. …most of us are normal teenagers.”

Many homeschooled teens are not as completely socially inept as some people seem to believe. Homeschoolers get the chance to interact with many different kinds of people because of their education, unlike publicly schooled students who, while at school, only have their peers and teachers to interact with. Button stated very accurately, “…Although you interact with far less people as a homeschooler, the people you do interact with are consistently genuine, mature, creative, and kind.” Also, homeschooling often gives students the chance to be closer with their families because they are around them more often. Button commented on this saying, “…your family is a lot cooler than you think.”

Many people believe that homeschoolers are clueless about the world outside their front door; it is even suggested that homeschoolers know absolutely nothing about pop-culture. But, thanks to the internet, homeschooled teens have just as many opportunities to discover things like Gangnam Style or Twilight. Many homeschooled students participate in clubs, sports, or other activities that allow them to be less isolated. There are also homeschool groups and co-ops where students can learn with other homeschoolers and interact more.

Homeschooling gives students the ability to construct a curriculum specifically for them. “It allowed me to design four years of high school that fit my needs,” commented Button. Learning what they want how they want gives students the opportunity to explore and develop interests outside of the normal school spectrum like music, art, or athletics. “I could take what I was interested in rather than what I was provided with,” Haupt said about homeschooled students’ ability to take any courses that catches their attention. The flexibility of not having specific due dates allows some students to take more time to understand topics he or she doesn’t understand and skim over the topics that are clear to them. Public and private schools do not allow this type of flexibility.

“…Being homeschooled and not necessarily knowing immediately who to go to for help… prepared me for college in that I’m not afraid to ask any questions…” said Haupt. One complication of homeschooling is the lack of resources. Most families do not have a laboratory for the student’s science experiment or a complete library for their research paper. However, the flexibility of not having a concrete schedule lets these students take many all-day field trips to science museums or local libraries. Although not having as many resources can be problematic, it encourages students to find new ways to research and learn.

There are many homeschoolers all around Century College, Minnesota, and the United States. Most often, people can’t even tell that these students went to school a few strides away from where they slept, ate breakfast, or watched TV because homeschooled students really are not that different from “normal” students. Homeschool isn’t better or worse than public or private schools; it’s simply different.