BAM Family

BAM Family

Monday, June 4, 2012

Adult Homeschoolers Speak Out: College? Prepared or not?

When my 33 year old sister, Amberley, graduated from (home) high school, most people were very skeptical about whether homeshoolers could succeed academically in college.

Yet as first generation homeschoolers (families who started homeschooling right after it became legal in their states) started going to college, research was conducted that proved that homeschoolers, indeed, do very well in college!

Photo courtesy of this site
My research for this segment of the survey supports this idea. I am very proud of the statistics for this portion of the survey as it shows that many homeschoolers pursue higher education and succeed!

As you will see from the testimonies though, not everyone felt prepared academically, even if they eventually did very well in the college classroom. I will share My Story about feeling academically prepared after I present the data from the survey.

(A brief note: I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in English and currently teach at a University. That being said, many of my friends/ former classmates/ friends of friends who participated in this survey also have advanced degrees. Though I do know that many homeschooled students pursue higher education, the numbers may be slightly greater here due to my personal connections).

Survey Question: Did you pursue higher education after high school? If so, what is the highest level of education you have earned?

Associates: 4
Bachelors: 18
Masters: 9 (one has 2 masters!; one in Med school)
PhD: 1
Attended college but didn’t finish: 3
Currently in college: 6
Other (Cosmetology; ministry certificate): 3 
Didn’t go to college: 2 

The next question on the survey asked whether the adult felt prepared for college academically by his or her homeschool experience. Here are the results:

76% (32 participants) said YES!

Samantha C. 24 from MO: Yes, yes, yes. The night before I left for college, I was terrified that the classroom experience would be too much for me. However, when I got to college, I realized that I had spent the last 10 years educating myself, stretching myself, and had developed a natural curiosity and a desire and eagerness to learn. Freshman year was actually frustrating because I felt that I was being “spoonfed” my education. I was on the Dean’s or the President’s list every semester.

Marybeth M. 29 from CA: I think the only way it helped prepare me was in writing papers and the variety of those papers. I was really afraid of being "secular-shocked" after being Christian sheltered for my entire life. And that I would be behind academically. I don't remember being behind, and only one class was very anti-Christian.

Renee P. 30 from MS: I was very scared about starting community college. I had myself convinced that I wouldn’t know what to do in a classroom and I would fail school. However after I walked in sat down I never had another problem. I was very prepared academically and did very well in all my classes in college. I felt I had adequate background and I also knew how to learn.

Nara N. 30 from NC: Homeschooling was superior preparation for college because I already knew how to work on my own; lectures by professors were gravy to my college education because I could basically teach myself most material from a book already. I was also used to mastering material on my own so it was natural for me to do this in college. Working independently was an even bigger part of grad school.

Many, many adults noted that they were prepared for college because they already knew how to be  independent learners and take initiative for their education. 

14% (or 6 participants) said that homeschooling "Sort of" prepared them for college: 

Grady S. 26 from FL: Yes, but not prepared for the classroom atmosphere. I did take a couple classes at the community college before; that helped but [it was] still different.

Megan V. 27 from IA: Mostly. I am relatively smart anyway, and I am also naturally good with words. So although there probably were gaps in my education, I didn't sense the gaps incredibly well; I picked stuff up. I think the biggest lack was actually in writing. In high school, my mom and I had re-read papers to see if they were "awkward." I went into college revising papers by checking to see if they sounded "awkward" and then discovered that was a really horrible way to write. I spent a semester getting Bs and Cs before I figured out how to actually revise papers.

That said, I think I got lucky because I have smart parents who made me do school and read the books and take tests . . . The testing and results culture in the public school may be difficult and ill-advised for many respects, but by and large, teachers there know how to train students to meet expectations and follow directions. This is not something I believe is taught in homeschooling, or even in Christian schools. A homeschooling family is, by their very nature, the maverick of the educational world. And although kids need to be taught to think for themselves, it is equally important to guarantee that they do in fact think - something that not every homeschooling family is prepared to teach their kids.

M. L. 26 from NE: No and yes. I struggled a lot, but I still managed to graduate with a 3.8. I felt like I wasn’t prepared to juggle all the classes and assignments, I struggled with writing papers, which was something we rarely did.

Once I was in college, I felt like I missed out on so much!! There were classes I just loved like my literature class. I took it with a friend who was also homeschooled and we both felt like we were cheated and there were so many classic books and writers we had never heard of. I did awesome in most of the class, but when it came to our test it was all essay questions and I froze, because I had never done anything like that. My teacher was so great and so encouraging; she thought what I wrote was great but I gave up on the test. I really wish I had more guidance in writing, to pursue that interest and I would have loved to developed those skills….

Another participant said: Most definitely; the only aspect that was negative was that I didn’t have to study in college which led to a bit of undisciplined learning in post-graduate work.

My note: So many people said they struggled with writing because they received NO instruction in it while homeschooled! Sadly, this was also my own experience. However, as I am now an English teacher, I strongly encourage parents to help their homeschool students learn how to write (or find someone to teach them!). If you are in Lynchburg VA, please email me (

9% (4 participants) said that they felt that homeschooling did not prepare them for college: 

M. W. 27 from GA: I didn't feel very prepared. I had never been in a formal education setting in my life. I had never written a paper until I was in college. My family and I would discuss things, so I was very good at communicating but unprepared for all the writing.

M. W. 30 from OH: I had a hard time adjusting to college. By the end of my freshman year I had it figured out . . . I had some serious disadvantages in high school and college starting out. I have been able to get past most of them now.

S. M. 29 from WV: Not necessarily. I think I would have excelled in any academic environment. I was more prepared for the independent study of college, but that just have been the way my parents chose to homeschool me.

E. M. 26 from FL: I felt I was behind in some areas, not to put my Mom under the bus but areas where she was weaker tend to still be my weak points. It's difficult to teach someone when you get just as frustrated as them due to not fully understanding the topic.

I think it is wonderful that 95% of the adults who took this survey pursed some sort of higher education. 60% have earned a Bachelors degree or higher! I think current homeschool students and parents can take comfort and heart in these numbers. 

My Story: I do not think I was prepared academically for college but....

I was the 3rd of 5 children. My oldest sister (Amberley, mentioned at the beginning of this post) completed high school through a correspondence program, so her diploma is from an accredited private school. My second oldest sister, Chelsea, had no desire to pursue a degree from a college or University (her love was Cosmetology, which she trained for; she is now working in a salon as a stylist). 

Neither Chelsea nor I used the correspondence school that Amberley used (I am not sure why). I remember picking my own curriculum and being in charge of my own schooling from 8th grade-12th grade. I took traditional high school math and science courses (Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry).There was no high school co-op offered when I was in high school, though we did get together with a few homeschool families for science labs.  I don't remember taking history (although my elementary/Jr. High history studies were excellent). We did Rosetta Stone for French (It didn't stick) and continued in our Bible curriculum (always excellent). 

I never took a literature course in high school, though I did read books (there was no discussion or papers). The only writing instruction I received was when I took Composition I at a local college my Senior year. Ironically, I wanted to be an English major because I loved to read and write "stories." 

Once I got to college, I did well, although I had a lot of academic anxiety about what it meant to "do well." ( Ultimately, I graduated with a 3.7 GPA in undergraduate and a 3.9 in my MA).

College was my first experience with taking tests (we didn't take any beyond Math tests), taking notes, writing papers, working in groups (hated and still hate this!), and getting grades (we didn't get grades in our homeschool either. My mom would just assess where we were and had us repeat the work if we didn't know it yet). 

The only time I felt like college was "hard" was in a Spanish class. It was my second semester (first semester I got a B and didn't learn a thing--very "absent minded" professor!) with a very strict and rather uncompassionate professor. This class required a lot of speaking out loud in front of others. I was morbidly embarrassed of doing this, of making mistakes in front of others--which I did frequently because I was so self-consience. I cried multiple times in class. 

After seeking tutoring, going to the professor for help, and spending 4-5 hours on homework assignments, I ultimately dropped the class. In reality, I just couldn't handle the fact that I wasn't good at something (homeschooling often encourages students to pursue the subjects they are good at and to just "get by" in the others) and I was socially embarrassed in front of my peers. 

Perhaps being involved in more group learning during my homeschooing years, such as a co-op (or being in a traditional school setting) would have helped me in this situation. I'd like to blame the teacher (he was pretty harsh) but I know my own insecurities and lack of preparation also contributed to this failure. 

In my English classes I actually blossomed. I finally had an outlet for all my thoughts (but was reminded by several professors in several classes to "let others have a turn to talk" Socially awkward homeschooler, right there!). I did well on my papers (I only recall one C on an English paper in my whole undergraduate career)--though not due to my writing skills. (I had good ideas. I feel like I really learned to write when I got to grad school). 

Honestly, I don't believe I was prepared academically for college, especially in my chosen field (woefully unprepared in writing and critical thinking!) but I got by because homeschooling taught me to be an independent learner and I was extremely self-motivated. These were the gifts that homeschooling gave me (though I feel that my "real" education began when I went to college and when I pursued my masters degree).

What about you? 
After being homeschooled did you pursue higher education? Did you feel like you were prepared academically? 

If you homeschool your child, how are you preparing him or her academically for college?

Please feel free to comment below or ask any questions! Also, please share this post on Facebook or other social networking sites if you think that this series would be beneficial to others!

The next post will be about whether homeschoolers felt socially prepared for "the real world"--yes, I am going to tackle that huge question, "What about socialization?!" The survey results are extremely enlightening and thought provoking! Please keep reading!

Missed a post? Catch up here!


NN said...

On the subject of writing - I actually have more complaints about college than my homeschool years. My Mom definitely had me write quite a bit, and when I got to college I had little trouble getting high grades on any papers. I feel like my writing skill only improved minimally during college. I could basically meet the standard, so rarely did any professors scrutinize my writing much. I was in my 2nd year of grad school before I felt like someone intensely scrutinized my writing - and this was a major factor in my choice of that professor as my thesis advisor. Then a got a "real job", at a university, more writing was required, and a mentor really helped me tighten up my writing. I suppose if I would have been in a more writing focused degree program (I majored in music performance) in college or if I'd sought out tutoring/ a writing lab that might have been different. But then, I was receiving high A's and often informally edited classmates' papers, so I never thought to seek out help on improving.

I think pretty much any education you get is bound to leave you with some gaps somewhere. The key is that you have the tools to fill those in as needed later.

Brittany said...

I'm glad you had such a good experience and felt prepared for the writing aspects of college! I think it is true any education (public, private, home) can or may leave a child with educational gaps. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue! It is good to know that many homeschool students feel very prepared for college writing. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this - I can see you are working hard to try to be fair and balanced which is a hard thing to do with such a hot-button issue! It seems like anything having to do with choices about one's childhood (or one's own children) throws people for an emotional loop.

You do mention that your sample is skewed by your own experience (as indeed anyone's would be). My sample of home-schooled friends would certainly yield different results, and I don't know that anyone's got a big enough circle to do a truly scientific study on their own. That said, I have always been disappointed and hurt by how few of my friends -- very smart, self-motivated people -- were able to go to college. For some of them it was a choice, and they weren't interested, but for more of them I think it has been something they WERE interested in but chose not to pursue out of fear of failure or feeling overwhelmed/unprepared.

My homeschooling environment was pretty rigorous compared to my friends' and that is almost certainly a big part of why I succeeded in college and graduate school while very few of them went on past the high school. Many of my closest homeschooled friends had parents who embraced the mentality of "I've never used ____x-subject____ in my adult life so you won't need to either!" which I believe set them back in their feelings of preparedness for secondary education. Also many parents seemed to take a "hands off" approach to the more advanced topics ("If you are interested in that, you can explore it on your own!") which isn't always the best way to learn difficult material. I'm grateful that my mother was a rigorous educator and had me tested frequently to be sure I was doing well compared to the general public school population. Things did fall apart somewhat in high school as her expertise lessened (even basic high-school level chemistry was beyond either of us, and I still feel bad about that). I was not encouraged to go to college (actively discouraged in fact), but she did make sure I had taken the ACT and SAT exams and put together a high school transcript for me so I could apply on my own, and I'm very grateful for that.

When I got to college the biggest eye-opener was that it was someone else's job to help me understand things. I remember taking a genetics course with a particularly good instructor and having tears fill my eyes when his lecture suddenly illuminated things I had had a difficult time with in the reading. It sounds so simple now, but I was really amazed by the experience that we as students could ask questions (even "stupid" questions) and he would find different ways to explain it until it "clicked" for us. It was okay if I couldn't quite grasp it on my own from the reading. That was something I hadn't experienced with homeschooling. It was also really interesting for me to see other people's learning processes. Teaching college now I try to bring that to my classroom as much as possible.

I concur completely that for me, homeschooling gave an advantage in processing material on my own and being self-motivated, but I also had some of the awkward transitions you describe as well, mostly on a social level (speaking too much in class, etc, which is probably evident from how long the comment has become). Overall, there are perks and drawbacks to anything, but it's so worth thinking about our own and others' experiences so that whatever we choose we are doing our best with it.

Brittany said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I think it is very interesting that in your homeschool circle, not many people were encouraged to pursue higher education. I feel like this was the opposite in my homeschool community. There was very much the sense that "we have something to prove" as homeschoolers (among parents and peers) so I think this idea played into the encouragement to go to college.

Thank you also for illuminating your academic and social experiences in college. I think many homeschoolers feel that the homeschool education will prepare the child for everything life/college throws at them, but this is not true (of course, this is not true either for others who are not homeschooled). Thankfully most homeschoolers prevail through difficulties and come out better people, academically and socially, on the other side. Illuminating these challenges is one of reasons that I wanted to do this series, in an honest and sincere fashion so that current homeschoolers can be aware of these challenges, and past homeschoolers can know they were/are not alone in their experiences.

Thanks again for sharing! :) Please keep reading! :)

Lauren said...

Well I'm in my senior year of college, and overall, I felt prepared. We live in a college town and I decided to commute, so still living at home helped the transition.

Freshmen year I was scared stiff (but aren't all freshmen?), but also felt I had something to prove. I believe I was the first homeschooled student as the college, and I could tell the professors didn't know what to expect. I'm also an English major, and I have always enjoyed writing. I wrote several long papers in high school, but not a lot of essays. I picked up on that quickly though. Like others, I hadn't had a huge exposure to some of the literature other students had read, but then, I was also the only one who'd ever read Canterbury Tales before, so it was all about choices I guess.

The biggest struggle I've had is putting forth the effort when I think the class is honestly not challenging me, or is just stupid (explains the B in "First Year Experience").

I adjusted quickly to the classroom setting, although I still forget to raise my hand before speaking, most of the professors don't mind. I'm really pretty quiet though, so talking too much in class wasn't a problem. One of my English professors took special interest in making me come out of my shell, though, and now I talk quite a lot sometimes.

Foreign Language was also an area I struggled with, but I really do place part of that blame on the professor. He had a deep personal dislike to myself and one of my friends, as well as mental issues that later caused the school to fire him.

Brittany said...

Wow Lauren! Sounds like we have had a lot of similar experiences. Yea for English majors! What school are you at? Congrats on your Senior year. :)

Anonymous said...

I was very prepared for college! Even though my Mom wasn't able to attend and my dad only has an associates. My father recieved his associates while I was in middle school, so alot of my preparation came from watching and talking with my dad. But of course on that first day of school I was a little nervous about what to expect. Like some of the above comments, I too was also so self taught, that my college studing and priorities came every easily to me.

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