Saturday, May 31, 2008

Homeschoolers' Adjustment to College

Dana over at Principled Discovery has a fascinating post on the article by Dr. Laura about homeschoolers and socialization. In most respects, Dana agrees with Dr. Laura's article, but she takes issue with the claim that homeschoolers can have a hard time adjusting to college.

Here's the original quote from the article:

Obviously, home-schooled students have additional adjustments to make when leaving their homes and entering a university or college environment: social relationship, peer pressure, classroom structure, etc. They are being forced to adapt to a social environment decidedly different from their homes or home school support groups.

And here's just a small taste of Dana's response:

It may seem obvious, but is it true? Is there a qualitative difference between the homeschool and the traditional school which should favor the traditionally schooled student, thus making the homeschooler’s success that much more noteworthy? Are there social relationships, potential peer pressure and classroom structure factors which the homeschooler must overcome given their upbringing? Or are we focusing too narrowly on the external similarities between high school and college, and not enough on the qualitative differences?

I think Dana's point here is excellent, and I believe my own experience backs it up. I was homeschooled for high school (and several earlier years as well), and then went on to college. I did have a rough first week - it was a bit intimidating to be completely on my own in a strange place (it was California, after all!), with my parents over 500 miles away, no car, and very little money. But once I made it through that first week, I LOVED college. In fact, I think it was one of the highlights of my life, and I still have wonderful memories and lifelong friends as a result. I went to class regularly, learned because I wanted to learn, turned in papers on time, gained independence, got excellent grades, worked part time, and graduated with high honors.

I had many friends in college who had attended public school. Most of them had a much harder time adjusting to college life than I did. My dh, who had attended public school all his life, was thrilled when he got a C on his first exam ("I didn't fail!"). (Incidentally, his grades improved significantly after he married me halfway through, and I showed him what I knew about how to learn.) My best friend rebelled, dated young men her parents hated, and eventually dropped out. My first roommate struggled with friendships for several years, though she eventually got things figured out and I believe graduated reasonably happy. But their adjustments were far more difficult than my own.

I must respectfully disagree with Dr. Laura on this point, and agree with Dana. The adjustments homeschoolers have to make are, in many cases (though certainly not all), far more superficial than the deeper adjustments required of students who have learned to "skate through" what public school requires. And in the areas that matter most, homeschoolers often have the advantage.

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