BAM Family

BAM Family

Monday, May 28, 2012

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: K-8th grade academic and emotional experiences

Welcome (or welcome back!) to this series about the experiences of Adults who were homeschooled! Today we will look at what former homeschoolers thought about their schooling experience from Kindergarten through 8th grade and how they remember feeling emotionally (liked it, didn't like it, etc). 

I thought this post was going to be pretty simple to write. I had read through all the surveys once and was thinking, "Oh, everyone had such a good experience in these grades and they all loved it!"

Photo courtesy of this website

However, after reading through the surveys for a second time and crunching some numbers, I realized that my first impression was a little (too) rosy.

Here's the short version: 
91% or 39 adults said their Academic experience was good ("Great!" "Awesome!" etc). 
Only 9% (or 4 participants) said that it "could have been better."

Emotionally, the numbers were a little different. 
65% of adults (or 28 people) said that their emotional memories were good ("I loved it!" "I really enjoyed it." etc) or that they had no memory of how they felt (2 participants or 4%). 

30% (13 participants) of adult homeschoolers said that they struggled with negative emotions concerning this time in their lives. (To see survey demographics, click here). 

Here are some of the Academic testimonies from the survey: 

Kelly C.; 29 from VA: I have really pleasant memories of my homeschooling experience as a child. My mom only has a high school education and I feel like with the curriculum she had and the homeschool community we were a part of that I was not slighted in the least from receiving a good education.

Elizabeth J., 24 from VA: I loved it! . . . We only had three formal classes: Math, Spelling, and Grammar. And the rule was, once you finished the set assignments for the day, you were finished from school. So most days we would start around eight in the morning and be finished by 9:30 or 10. There were other things that we did sometimes: Handwriting, phonetics, field trips (we visited probably every important or historical site in Virginia). Also my siblings and I read like crazy. We would go to the library every Friday and get as many books as we could carry and my sister and I would read each other's books. But we all had to get one science and one history book and write a report on it.
Nara N., 30 from NC: Academically: my Mom always chose curriculum from all kinds of places and at whatever grade level was appropriate for us in each subject. My brother and sister (twins) did not even always do the same curriculum for each subject. I was basically always above grade level and never knew what “grade” I was in.

Matthew W., 30 from OH: For the most part everything was good. I enjoyed the benefits of homeschooling and we had a lot of friends that were also homeschooled. We were in some pretty good homeschool groups and took some cool field trips. 

Christine M., 31 from  KSIt was a good, very positive experience. There were times I wanted to try out public school, but I loved knowing I could be done with my schoolwork before lunch and spend the rest of the day creating, exploring, playing, and just enjoying being a kid instead of dreading the homework that would follow me home. I had lots of time with friends at church, co-op, and in my neighborhood. I also had lots of time to foster my interest in piano.

Stuart G., 29 from VA: Academically: Admittedly, in these first years of home-schooling there was some frustration because my mother was trying to navigate the new waters of schooling at home, and being teacher for all eight of her children. On the positive side, I was given the freedom to more seriously pursue subjects I was personally interested in. My curriculum therefore, was tailored to my needs and natural inclinations, which in turn, made learning more enjoyable for myself, and (I believe) all of my siblings.

Corinna R., 35 from VA: Academically I did much better than I would have otherwise as my parents were able to cater to areas where I had a harder time (like math) and also push me and provide extra opportunities where I was gifted (like music).
Kellan A., 23 from KS:  I really enjoyed it. I feel like I learned a lot and got an extremely good groundwork for the future.

O. G., 29 from KS: I thoroughly enjoyed being homeschooled. I think we had a great support group and I had a great relationship with my mom and sister. Academically I probably could have been challenged a bit more...

Emotionally, no one had a completely "bad" emotional experience. However, the ones whom I placed in this category indicated that they had struggled with negative emotions for about 2 years, usually starting around 5th grade. Others noted that Jr. High was a hard time emotionally (which is often a hard time for kids whether they are homeschooled or not).

Reasons cited for negative emotions:
Wanted to go to public school
Felt like he or she was missing something
Felt different
Didn’t feel “normal”
May have lengthened struggle with shyness
Was angry about being taken out of school
Felt like parents had too much going on to help
Lack of social activities 

Interestingly, many participants tied their emotional experience to the availability of social experiences. (A note concerning interpretation: I had to use my personal judgement in determining the emotions behind the words/experiences in some of the surveys. For example, see academic results above where many just said, "I really enjoyed it.").

I have included both positive and negative testimonials below: 

Kelly C., 29 from VA:  [T]he community that we were a part of was wonderful for me as far as socializing. I think there is a big misconception (among the non-homeschooled) that homeschoolers do not socliaze and for me that was not true. We were involved in many activities with other homeschoolers; I participated in 4-H, we had weekly get-togethers at the park or skating rink as well as field trips to various historical/educational facilities.

However, while Kelly noted feeling "wonderful" about these experiences, M.V. relates more negative feelings toward very similar experiences. This just shows that different students had different emotional needs.

M.V., 27 from KS: Emotionally, I had friends and social opportunities . . . I don't feel like I was deprived of social events. At the same time, I don't think I had much in the way of developmental activities. Sometimes kids this age get involved in a sport or a musical instrument: I had choir, 4-H and long walks through the pastures around our house, none of which were really conducive to developing my future skills and personality as an adult. I think the lack of developmental activities here contributed to more problems in high school.

Here is another contrast between experiences, this one concerning personalty: 

Nara N., 30 from NC: Emotionally: I think I did just fine. I’m naturally quiet/introvert. Sometimes I wonder if public/group private school might have brought me “out” more, but I think it probably would actually not have been good for me as a young child, and would have created a lot of extra stress in my early life.

E. H., 21 from DE: Emotionally, it may have lengthened my struggle with shyness, but it meant I was able to unfold in my own time and with invaluable personal/family/spiritual growth in the mean time.

S. M., 29 from WV shows a good contrast between someone who had a good academic experience but who struggled emotionally:

 I was full of anxiety because I felt I was getting less of an education that my peers. I always felt educationally and intellectually inferior the entire time. Academically, I did well.

M.L., 26 from NE and M.D., 19 from KS both had positive experiences in earlier grades but struggled emotionally as they got older:

M.L., 26 from NEThe younger years I really enjoyed it, I loved being with my brothers while doing school, I felt challenged to always keep up with them . . . However with life changes, baby, sicknesses/health conditions in the family I felt that my education wasn’t as important as other things going on. Whenever I had questions about school, I felt like my mom had too much going on to help me. In 5th grade I really struggled with school, I felt like all of a sudden it was really hard, I didn’t understand it, it took me forever, I didn’t feel challenged to do well because my brother who had always been a year ahead of me was now behind me and the others were too far ahead so I had no motivation to do well it school. It was the first time I begged to go to public school, I thought, “even if I hate school, at least I would be with my friends. 

M.D., 19 from KS: My view of homeschooling up to [5th grade] was fairly accepting. I remember a few moments of jealousy toward other kids my age who got to spend their days with their friends in public school, but for the most part homeschooling was normal for me, and I didn't question it.
I remember middle school being the time when I really started questioning whether I wanted to be home schooled. I was becoming more involved in my church youth group and less involved in the home school group and because of this I was surrounded by kids who attended public school. 

On the other hand, other adults recorded strong, positive emotions in looking back on these years: 

Stuart G., 29 from VA: Emotionally: I was happy and enjoyed strong relationships with my siblings due to the fact that we were schooling together. Furthermore, my bond with my parents became stronger because of the increased time we were spending together. Especially effective was my father’s involvement in my education, which had not existed prior to home-schooling.

There was also a noted lack of turmoil that many of my peers in public/private atmospheres experienced. Because we missed out on much of the “drama” middle-school and high-school atmospheres cultivate, we were more at peace with ourselves (choosing things we were truly interested in without regards to what was “popular” at school, etc), and amongst ourselves.

Overall, homeschoolers looking back at their elementary and Jr. High years remember being satisfied academically and happy emotionally (though I think some of the responses concerning emotional satisfaction are very thought provoking).

What about you? 

If you were homeschooled, what do you think about your academic and emotional experiences looking back at K-8th grade?

If you homeschool your children, what thoughts or concerns do you have about their academic and emotional lives?

Please feel free to comment and ask questions!

Also, feel free to share these posts on Facebook or other social networking sites if you feel that others would benefit from or be interested in this series!

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