An Often Overlooked Avenue of School Choice: Homeschooling

When discussing school choice, the debate tends to revolve around physical places which children go to 5 days a week. But that doesn’t include another choice that some parents make for their children: homeschooling. The reason for this is partly mathematical – only about 3% of kids are homeschooled – and partly because it’s at home. If a parent can afford to spend time with the kids and have the desire, they can homeschool without worrying about scholarships, districts, or any of the other concerns that parents who send their kids out of the house face.

But homeschooling is definitely a form of educational choice and one many people have misconceptions about. Moreover, as Germany showed us, it’s best for proponents of choice go on offense rather than just hoping for the best. As I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to homeschooling, I interviewed a young coworker who was homeschooled from kindergarten through graduation. Thanks to this, I’ve now learned a very shocking truth: homeschooling isn’t that different. But you don’t have to believe me. Read and learn for yourself.

Let’s start with the number one misconception people have about homeschooled kids – the assumption that you don’t get socialized. What’s your take on that? 

We traveled constantly, both as a family or sometimes just one on one with my dad. We went to New York and San Francisco. I would sit in meetings with my dad and learned how to socialize with adults. Back at home, we participated in co-ops. Maybe we’d go to this house because the mom was formerly a science teacher. But there’s also a whole community of homeschooling families and we socialized with them. The other big thing was my dad made sure we volunteered in the community, so we socialized that way.

It is an annoying question, but that’s why it’s important to answer it well. I always wonder how kids in regular school handle it after sitting in a school for 8 hours, doing after school activities. How do they meet a wide variety of people?

You graduated early, which seems to be the norm, and went on to get your associate’s degree. 

Yeah, I skipped a year and finished all my requirements by 17 and went ahead and went to college. Some people wait to start even though they’ve graduated.

Did you face any challenges?

It can be difficult. In some ways you feel inadequate and people do judge you. Professors with a bias against homeschooling have a way of asking you questions that makes you question your education, especially since everything in college is so focused on tests. We weren’t taught to pass tests, but to remember forever. Before going to the community college, I had difficulty with the ACT because of this. Tests just aren’t the focus in homeschool curriculum.

What was it like for your parents? 

My mom has a teaching degree, so her background was perfect. Initially she was against the idea, but my dad really believed in it and was persistent. She ended up agreeing with him. For my dad, the big thing was the 3 R’s. He always said if you’ve got reading, writing, and arithmetic down, you’ll be fine. He always wanted us to read, to have a book we were working on. We also wrote a lot of papers and gave presentations. We might go on a trip to D.C. and go to the museums. Then we’d get home and have to write a paper and give a presentation on those museums.

For parents, the biggest thing is they’re worried that they’ll be seen as failures.

I can relate. My middle daughter only wants to play soccer and is fine being illiterate. She has to test for kindergarten soon and it’s making my wife nervous because of how she thinks it will reflect on her. Now let me ask a dumb question…

There are no dumb questions!

Heh. Do homeschoolers have grades? 

We do have grades and those are turned into the state. I’m sure there are some people who take advantage of the system, but I definitely wasn’t making straight A’s.

Do you follow the same calendar and progression as traditional students? 

A joke that goes around the homeschooling community is “you never know what grade you’re in.” No, we did things as we were ready. You might be on 4th grade reading and 6th grade math. And sometimes we took summers off and other times we focused on math during the summer.

My younger brother and sister are now using Classical Conversations – classical education for homeschool students. They have Latin and things like that. I wish they’d had that when I was a kid.

My kids’ school uses classical education. It’s great. With regard to school choice and homeschooling, what’s the biggest message you want to get out? 

Everyone learns differently and everyone deserves to learn their way.