Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Life of One Home-Schooled Teenager

This blog might be a good place to answer at least a few of the many questions I get about being home-schooled. What, it seems many people wish to know, is it like to be home-schooled?

Good. Bad. And many things in between.

I can't, of course, speak for every home-schooler out there. I know one home-schooling family who travel and enjoy themselves at leisure and learn about random things and involve very little paper; I know another whose children write reports and solve math problems throughout the entire week, including Saturday and Sunday. So I speak from my own experiences as a person who was in school for a while, and then was taught at home.

Upon hearing I'm home-schooled, many people ask questions. Some people are mildly curious about how much I enjoy it, and then let the subject drop; and others practically grab me by the arm and sit down to interview me about it.

I'll try to answer some of the questions I am most frequently asked.

Why are you home-schooled?

In February of fourth grade, my mother took me out of my elementary school, which, like most of the schools in my town at that time, was in certain turmoil. As a nine-year-old, I didn't observe nearly as much as she did, but I did know, from listening to reports on television, that many of the schools were overcrowded; and I deduced, from the mere fact that it was on the news, that my having to pick up the cafeteria floor by hand along with a handful of other students before going out to play as punishment for the high noise level during lunchtime, was not right.

One of my brothers, Benjamin, was in second grade at the time, and Jack was in kindergarten. William, who is now almost seven, has never been in school.

Home-schooling my mother felt she should at least try.

Is it hard to make friends?

Have you ever thought about how many ways there are to make friends? Camps, clubs, sports, events. Activity in the religious community. Talking to people on the beach or at the grocery store. No matter where you are in the schooling system, the amount of yourself that goes into society is your choice.

Many home-schoolers like the get-together sort of events that are sponsored by home-schooling associations (like Rhode Island's RIGHT and SOS) or home-schooling parents. These allow home-schooled kids and parents to meet somewhere and make friends with one another, or to catch up with old friends.

Don't forget that there are children and teens who are in school five days a week and find it difficult to make friends due to shyness.

Do you have a set curriculum?

My mother might be in the Top One Hundred Most Organized People on the Planet (no, there isn't really any such thing). It's not that she's a neat freak but that she really knows what she's doing when she puts things together for school work. So yes -- my brothers and I have schedules referring to what should be completed that week; mine tends to be organized by subject: which pages ought to be done in my math, language arts, and science books; what pages I should read in World History, etc.

Some people want to know whether I have assigned, or required, reading. No, not usually. I do so much reading on my own.

Don't you get sick of being around your family all the time?

Yes. The trick is to focus on whatever work needs to be done; and no, I am not very good at it. In fact, I have an astonishingly low tolerance for fingers drumming on the tabletop or feet kicking a chair leg.

Sometimes I take my work to the library (which can also be distracting since I know pretty much every single librarian, and we end up chatting).

Do you have homework?

No -- if we don't finish all of our work, we'll have to do it later. Occasionally we work well into the evening. Everything has to be completed eventually.

Again, people home-school for different reasons and in different ways. I know I must have missed some crucial topics on here, and if you have any questions about home-schooling, please ask in the comments -- I will happily respond!



Fabulous Lorraine said...

Emily, what a wonderful essay! You are one together teenager, I learned a lot from that, and liked your honesty....Thanks for sharing!

EmilyLady said...

You are so welcome, Lorraine, and thank you for reading!


Jess said...

I'd add-- having hopped over from the thread on Lorraine's blog just now-- that you have a very elegant writing style. It's a pleasure to read! I may have to sneak back for another visit sometime soon. ;)

EmilyLady said...

That means a lot to me, Jess! Thank you so much!


spacedlaw said...

Interesting, Emily and well articulated.

What subject did you learn (i.e. maths, chemistry, biology, history, etc.)?
How does one get graduations or other academic certificates which you - I assume - would need to get into University?

pantagruel said...

Hi Emily -- sounds like home-schooling is pretty ideal for you. :) I have an employee who home schools his kids, and they get together regularly with a bunch of other home-schooling families and do all sorts of field trips and cool things; sounds pretty similar to your experience.

Thanks for writing the post!

EmilyLady said...

Hello everyone -- I am having an incredibly busy week with play rehearsals, and must run, but Pantagruel and Spacedlaw, I'll have your questions answered in a few days!


EmilyLady said...

Okay then. Back from a long day of rehearsing for "Snow White" and ready to answer questions ....

Spacedlaw, thank you! I tend to have most of the typical subjects for high schoolers. My main subjects last year, in the tenth grade, were math (maths), which centered on algebra with some geometry on the side; science, which tended to focus on biology and chemistry, for which I used mainly books and rarely -- probably never -- conducted an experiment; language arts/English, which was all really studying from books and doing sentence exercises (which, as much as I love language, I found incredibly tedious), and world history, for which I have a fat book that I read and use to take notes.

Sometimes we'll discuss politics during school, most often because we're curious about certain elements of government, but occasionally because something particularly exciting is happening. We've had a lot to talk about lately!

I also conduct certain studies for personal enjoyment. Outside of school you can often find me immersed in books teaching Finnish/Japanese/Icelandic/Swahili/Dutch etc., or books actually written in those or other languages.

As for University, I have to admit that I really don't know what home-schoolers do about diplomas and all that. I'm sorry I can't offer a better answer, but I think I'll know in a few years or so!

Pantagruel, you are welcome! I'm sorry it took so long. Yes, your employee's experiences do indeed sound similar to mine, but mainly those of my early years of home-schooling. My brothers and I used to go on field trips with other home-schoolers (I remember visiting a bird sanctuary, a Krispy Kreme factory, and a farm amongst other places), but found, after a few years, that we didn't like it very much. A lot of families do, and it seems to me that many of those who most enjoy the get-togethers are those who have been home-schooling since day one. I can't be sure that that's fact, of course, and I remember that there were some kids who just loved the trips who had begun home-schooling recently.

Thank you both so much for reading and commenting! I'll see you on Lorraine's blog!


Yoga Gal said...

Judging from how well you write and compose your thoughts on paper home schooling has done wonders for you! A lot of teenagers can barley string two sentences together. May I ask one question; where do you plan to attend college. It's never too early to start thinking about your S.A.T.s and what college you want to enter. Good luck!

EmilyLady said...

Yoga Gal, I'm not sure yet, but I like the idea of attending Emerson College in Boston (since I've heard about how they're keen on travel and writing), and I am interested in Brown University, which is local. I have yet to go terribly far with my research. I really want to major in foreign languages, but I don't know how many universities offer that. At some point, I'd like to study in abroad (partly so that I can put my foreign language studies to good use!).

I tend to get shivers when I think of the SATs, only because I'm terrified of making some horrid mistake on algebra. But I know that not all universities require mathematical knowledge; and that certain others don't even require their students to take SATs.