Staying home for school: Solid learning, strong family and a wish to try “normal” school


After math I hit the next subject, language arts, to be followed by any foreign language that I am studying. Next would be history/geography, etc. This is the usual school morning for me and more than a million K-12 students who are being home-schooled across the nation.

My routine has been the same since I was five and joined my older brothers – who are now taking college classes – at school in the dining room. When I was little, my mom would guide me through my lessons and work with me as a teacher would. Now, most of the time, I am on my own, working with an accredited, independent-study high school program. So far so good. It’s just not the same as being in a classroom with the teacher right there to answer my questions.

Most of the time, I can work through the curriculum myself. But in math especially, I sometimes have questions that neither my mom nor the book can answer.

Home schooling has been a good experience – I have great relations with my family, and have had some pretty cool and exciting adventures such as working on a farm for a week, or impromptu field trips to museums. But now I am considering other options for my education.

Meanwhile, I do have to deal with the stereotypes.

High schoolers, coaches, college kids, they all ask the same question: “Why don’t you go to a normal school?” Maybe they think I’m home schooled because I’m trying to stay sheltered from swearing and trashy talk, or bullies and bad teachers. Maybe they think I’m either super religious or anti government.

That’s true for some home-school families. According to National Center for Education Statistics, 31 percent of home-schoolers choose education at home due to the environment of other schools, and 30 percent do so for religious/moral reasons. And 16 percent home school because of dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools.

When I learned this, I wondered why we had started home schooling. So I interviewed my mom and she said that she started home schooling because relatives were doing it. In addition, “I liked the idea of being there when you read your first book or read your first sentence,” she said.

One of the most common stereotypes for home-schooled kids is that they are socially handicapped. I have to admit that there are some home schoolers who fit the stereotype. But there are socially-challenged students everywhere.

The question I hear the most is, “So, do you get out?” As in, “Are you in the house all day? Do you go anywhere?”

Yes, I get out. A lot.

During the first years of home schooling we would go on nature walks through a park and try to identify trees with a handbook, or we would tour a bakery – always with cookies at the end – or various factories and stores. We have volunteered at homeless shelters and food shelves such as “Feed My Starving Children.”

But if you think that home schooling means I can pretty much do what I want throughout the day, do not be deceived. My teacher, also known as my mother, is kind of strict. She wants me to know structure and discipline. I can’t mess around during school or spend hours on my favorite subject. We have a core curriculum that we need to push through in order to meet the state law requirements for Minnesota home schools. I hardly ever get snow days.

My mother also wants me to learn to be taught by others.

For this reason she has enrolled me in classes and activities outside my home ever since kindergarten. I have also been active in two home school co-ops. Each of these co-ops consisted of approximately 25 families and met about twice a month, except for electives which met on a weekly basis. We have rented out Rec Centers and churches as meeting places.

A memorable co-op moment was when we dissected cow’s eyes and turned them inside out. What a sight! Even more memorable was when my science class dissected a fetal pig. I’ll never forget how the intestines reminded me of spaghetti. Then when I got home we had spaghetti for supper! I was really hungry so I tried to forget about the intestines when I chewed.

Not only have I enjoyed those classes but I have made some awesome friends. In addition to the standard academic subjects, I have been able to study theatre and perform in a few productions. I have studied Japanese print making, Chinese watercolor techniques, how to prepare traditional foods from around the world, and Shakespeare. Through our co-op I was able to earn the National Physical Fitness Award for the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge.

In addition to all of these, I have participated in sports on a year round basis. According to recent studies, 90 percent of home-schooled kids participate in at least two social/community activities, including such things as 4-H, Bible clubs, Scouts, ballet classes, music lessons, sports, field trips and Sunday school.

You may be wondering, if this is such a great thing, why would I want to leave it?

I’m the kind of person who likes trying new things. I’ve been doing this all the way through the first year of high school. I would like to try out something else and see how I do in it. Now that I’m getting more into sports I would like to get on a school’s team and experience the school spirit. Plus, would like to meet new people and make new friends.

Last December I had the opportunity to tour Cretin Durham Hall, a Catholic high school in St. Paul that I hope to attend next year. The tour was after school hours so the huge building had a slightly creepy silence to it. As I moved down the long, winding halls, I thought, “This place is huge!”

My mom was more positive. “I think you’d love it here,” she said. “Think of all the people you’ll meet.”

As I began to take it all in, I started to think how fun it would be to play on those big basketball courts and to make my way through a bustling hallway.

And boy, would it be nice to be able to raise my hand and have someone come over and answer my question. Especially when it comes to math.

ThreeSixty Journalism is nonprofit youth journalism program based at the University of St Thomas in St. Paul. It is committed to bringing diverse voices into journalism and related professions and to using intense, personal instruction in the craft and principles of journalism to strengthen the civic literacy, writing skills and college-readiness of Minnesota teens.