Monday, September 17, 2007

What Happens After Homeschooling?

This morning I was reading a blog post by someone who didn't know a lot about homeschooling, someone who had recently discovered that homeschooling is becoming increasingly popular among the African-American community. This person was beginning to ask some serious questions about homeschooling, questions met by their more liberal readers with scorn and critical comments.

Among the poster's questions were these:
How well does homeschooling work? Does the “product” - an educated person -
perform well afterwards, once they’ve rejoined educational settings with the
more traditional social environments (colleges and universities). Does the
reduced level of social interaction during those homeschooling years have an
adverse effect, or is it compensated for by social interaction that presumably
takes place after school? Perhaps there are arguments that the reduction in
social interaction even helps in some ways?

Given the powerful influences of peer pressure, stereotyping and the like which
skew a child’s perception of what sort of careers they can aspire to pursue (I’m
- of course - thinking of black kids and science, girls and science, but also a
broader spectrum as well), might homeschooling reduce some of that? (I say
“reduce” but not eliminate, given the same stereotype problems that exist in the
images in entertainment and the media at large) Do the numbers bear that out?
Are there numbers on that at all?

As might be expected, I had something to say about some of these things! :) Here are my answers to these questions.

The research shows conclusively that most homeschooled students do exceptionally well, both academically and socially, after they leave homeschooling. Take a look at www.nheri.org, especially the link there entitled "NHERI Research." The National Home Education Research Institute has found, for example, that "The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem. "

Not only that, but research is being done on adults who were homeschooled, and they have found that they: "1) participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population, 2) vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population, and 3) go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population."

OK, enough statistics - now for some personal anecdotal evidence. I was homeschooled myself for grades 1, 6, and 9-12. My years homeschooling provided me with some of my best memories and my strongest relationships. I slipped easily into college, which I greatly enjoyed, and graduated magna cum laude from one of the more challenging private colleges in the country. I actually made the transition into college much more successfully than my public-schooled husband, who made few real friends there and was thrilled when he got a C on his first test, because he had never learned to study.

I have homeschooled my daughters for their whole lives. My older daughter is 11, and is doing beautifully both academically and socially. My younger daughter is 7, and is still ironing out some rough edges and learning what friendship is all about (as are most 7-year-olds). I do make it a priority to ensure my girls gets significant social experiences, including some that are consistent enough to make real friends. Both girls are enrolled in a one-day-a-week enrichment program, where they take band, drama, art, Spanish, and other subjects that are hard to teach one-on-one.

I find most homeschooled kids are actually better socialized than most public-schooled kids. I think this is because social skills and cultural values are more effectively taught by adults than by large groups of children. When my daughters encounter difficult social situations, I am usually immediately or quickly available to help them process their feelings and their responses, and to provide a mature perspective on the situation. They don't have to wait all day, stewing on their feelings and maybe making the situation far worse. Not only that, I'm there with them to model mature, adult social behavior (which I hopefully exhibit most of the time!). They see how I deal with difficult social issues, and they learn to respond in a healthy way, rather than watching a bunch of other 7-year-olds (or junior-highers), and modeling their behavior after them.

I think you're right, too, that homeschooling can reduce the effects of peer pressure and stereotyping. My daughters don't learn that "girls can't do math," for example; in fact, my younger daughter is exceptionally good at math, and I would not be at all surprised to find she ends up in some math-oriented career. Because I'm with my daughters most of the time, I see their strengths; because I provide their primary input, I can encourage them in the directions in which their gifts lie. My older daughter is a great leader, and school interactions with peers and teachers don't squash that tendency.

I remember in college interacting with a professor about what I wanted to do with my life. That professor belittled me, saying, "Do you really think, in this day and age, you can actually do that?" I struggled with that question, because it was a person of some authority and someone I respected who had told me that. But my previous experiences, especially being homeschooled, gave me the courage. I decided I WOULD do that, no matter what this professor or anyone else thought; and I have done just that. I believe the foundation I'm giving my girls will help them, too, to accomplish whatever they set their minds to do.

It seems to me that homeschooling, when done thoughtfully and correctly, can provide extremely positive answers to the questions the original post asked. When done carelessly, of course, it can make adjusting to post-graduation life more difficult, socially and academically; it can extend stereotypes and limit a child's options. But the format of homeschooling, and the fact that most homeschooling parents are doing it because they want what's best for their child, mean that the average homeschooler is likely to do better in life after homeschooling than the average public-schooled student.

Just my 2 cents' worth, of course! :)

5 comments:

Susan said...

Wow, Marcy. You're a second generation homeschooler. I always told my mom that I wished I'd been homeschooled. When we weren't in school, we had a great time inventing things, exploring and playing at our farm.
I'm very glad my kids have all of those opportunities.
You made some great points concerning reasons to homeschool

Shawna said...

How did you know the questioner was a liberal?

I love the success stories of homeschoolers after homeschooling ends! In fact I love to hear all success stories of our young people, but for some reason these stories are especially heart warming.

Marcy Muser said...

Shawna,

I didn't know the questioner was a liberal; it was some of the readers (those who commented) who I said were "more liberal," and that was due to the biases evident in their responses. The questioner may well have been one of the more conservative African-Americans. At any rate, his questions were good and worth discussing.

Glad you enjoyed hearing the success stories. I don't think I recognized homeschooling, when I was being homeschooled, for the blessing it was - I didn't mind it, but it's only as an adult that I really experience its value. (Something to keep in mind on those days when our kids just don't seem to appreciate being homeschooled as much as we think they should!) :)

Marcy Muser said...

Susan,

Yep, second generation (and kind of proud of it, too)! I was in school enough to know how bad it could have been - I had a really miserable eighth-grade year, for example - but I was homeschooled enough to reap many of the benefits. (I've even gotten to participate in some of the research on adult homeschoolers.)

What benefits have I experienced? Ooh, now there's an idea for a new blog entry! ;)

Glad you enjoyed my post - thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Marcy,
I enjoyed your musings immensely. I am presently a mother of three girls, a homemaker, and a graduate student working toward my degree in community counseling. While I do not home school my daughters I am a supporter of home schooling and have witnessed its benefits time and time again. Part of my degree includes knowledge and ability to counsel anyone on career development.

In the town of Pagosa Springs where I reside I have observed a large population of home schooled individuals, many of which are close friends. As a result of an assignment last month I discovered a need by home school graduates for career counseling/development. I would be interested in hearing more of your perspective on this subject. As I have begun my research into the matter I am finding very little available for “after home schooling” and higher education or career plans. While I recognize many enter careers directly, I would like to offer a specific career development program for this population. Since you have experienced both sides, student and teacher, I would be interested in any insight you have on career paths for the home school population.

Thank you,
Darcy