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Features Headline Opinions — 05 December 2014

By Clare Kolenda

Recently I read an article titled “Homeschooled and Illiterate.” The title caught my attention and intrigued me because I myself grew up homeschooled all the way up until my college career.

As I read the article, I was saddened to see that it, though admittedly makes a few good points, only gives its audience what it wants: a confirmation that the stereotype that they have about homeschooling is true.

I have grown up fighting this stereotype all my life. You know, the one that says homeschoolers can’t carry on a conversation, only wear long skirts or round rimmed glasses, and their education is lacking.

Before I go on, I preface this by saying that everyone’s experience is different. Having growing up homeschooled though, and knowing several others who have been too, I feel the need to shed some light on the stereotype listed above.

It’s wrong.

Being homeschooled was one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever had to accomplish. Not having the structure of a normal classroom environment helped me be able to understand learning a very different way.

Learning never was looked upon as a chore. It was a way of life. This is the culture I was raised in. Not, as the article points out, as one that hides children from the realities of the world, and shelters them from academic expectations. I loved growing up homeschooled and it wasn’t raised to believe that school system is the tool of society, wanting to brainwash individuals.

I believe what most people judge homeschooling for is the lack of structure. And I must admit, the flexibility that I was afforded  was both a blessing and a curse. I had the freedom to learn at my own pace, but also had a set date when I needed to have so many projects done. If that meant that I didn’t do science homework for a few days, well, I just had to double up the following week. If I was able to finish my literature homework before the due date, then I could take a few weeks of break before I needed to start a new book.

The flexibility that I had in my life helped me become smarter in my time management, self-driven, and aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. All of these things have helped me in my time in college.

What made my experience unique is that I not only had books as a resource, but real life experiences that taught me how to become a functioning member of society.There were days that instead of studying biology, my mother would take us out to our garden in the back and we would learn how to grow zucchini, tomatoes and green beans. We’d learn about the different stages and what happens deep down in the soil. We’d make pizza dough, and while I’d watch the puffy dough rise and fill the room with the heady scent of yeast, I would learn about the process of fermentation while it literally happened before my eyes. Those lessons stuck with me to this very day, so not only can I tell you about it, I can also make you a mean pizza while I’m doing it.

Because of my flexible schedule, my life didn’t just revolve around school.  There were times when my sisters and I would go ride our bikes in the neighborhood before starting school during the spring. Once every year, we’d spend the day wandering the campus of Aquinas College, identifying the different trees we’d see.

School shouldn’t be about making learning a requirement. It should be an outlet, to foster a love of learning beyond four walls of a classroom or the pages of book. It should be an opportunity to explore the world and making learning a way of life, not something that is done for a few hours of the day. Homeschooling offered this advantage to me, as there was no separation from school and home. It established a culture of discovery that I still hold on to today.

Because of my homeschooling background, I feel that I am more prepared for college today than I would have been had I been in the traditional school system. And I know I’m not the only one. Countless studies have shown consistently that homeschoolers are more well-rounded individuals and excel in academia.

I know homeschooling is not for everyone. However, I do think that homeschooling is a more relatable way of life than most people think. Next time someone tells you they were homeschool, take a second to ask them about their experience. You just might be surprised at what they say.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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About Author

Clare Kolenda is a Grand Rapids, Mich., senior, a lover of words and all things coffee. She's passionate about writing stories that feature the everyday heroes of the community.

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