As a homeschooler, sometimes people would look at me like I am from another planet because I grew up differently. But what they do not realize is that there are many ways to accomplish something.
So I caught up with three former homeschoolers, now thriving UVic students, to discuss the stigmas, transitions, and benefits that can come out of doing things a little differently than the status quo.
Homeschooling is the education of a child at home by their parents. For most people that seems odd, but it’s more common than you’d think; the Fraser Institute conducted a study that confirmed over 21 000 homeschoolers registered in Canada in 2012. Now, the number of homeschoolers is estimated to be 60 000.
Like anything, the experience of homeschooling is different for everyone. Casey Matson-deKay is a computer science and physics student at UVic. He went to public school until grade five and then joined his parents on a sailboat; he was homeschooled for five years before attending school in Mexico and Costa Rica.
When asked about his experience being homeschooled on a boat, Matson-deKay said that they could focus on math, history, “all that stuff you learn in school,” while following a curriculum, “but then there are dolphins outside. So it’s like, where is the education here, really?”
From personal experience, homeschooling taught me that I can choose the best path for my needs. For example, my transition to UVic was exciting and meaningful because I had no feeling of obligation to attend university to fulfill the ‘proper’ next step in my education; instead the idea genuinely interested me.
Which points out one of the best parts of homeschooling: that learning can be found anywhere and done at anytime. That is not to say that all homeschoolers love school. I asked Dalton Braun, an electrical engineering student, about his motivation while home schooled, and he said, “I was a hardcore procrastinator.”
Currently on a co-op job placement, Braun said, “I still hate school, but I love the work.” He said that homeschooling let him devote more time to what he was curious about, such as taking small machines apart to see how they worked. Having the time to explore what he was interested in let Braun find a career that he is passionate about, something that may not have happened if he had attended public school.
Braun is not the only one who felt he benefitted from having a more flexible schedule. Carlee Bouillon, currently in the UVic Writing program, said that homeschooling let her take part in many unique experiences, including a two-month-long trip to Mexico, and getting to work during school hours at a museum and a veterinary clinic in order to explore the things that interested her.
Even though many homeschoolers go on to be successful, happy, and perfectly functioning human beings, some people still have these stigmas about a lack in education and social skills around homeschooling.
While not all of these stigmas are untrue, Bouillon said “[they] can be true sometimes.” She agreed that there are shy homeschoolers, but pointed out there are shy people that go to public or private school as well. “I was a pretty shy kid but I think that was just me.”
Homeschoolers are often ‘seen’ as kids who are kept away from their peers and are not taught properly. However, homeschooling is gaining popularity because it offers children a unique opportunity to learn at their own pace and explore subjects that appeal to them. And yes, we do have friends.
Bouillon and I agreed that our social lives at UVic had not been damaged at all from homeschooling. I have been told that I seem much older than I am because of my comfort in conversation with adults. Homeschooling allowed me to associate with people of all ages in my workplace and community organizations, as opposed to only people in my grade.
“I really knew how to converse with adults without issue,” says Matson-deKay. “It was kind of strange sort of having to learn how to do this whole social game again because it was really like, ‘okay now we’ve got this school and there are cliques.’”
Which again demonstrates that just because you are going about something differently does not mean you get worse results. In fact, sometimes doing something differently gives you a superior outcome.
The academic transition to UVic varies by the person as well. “I don’t feel like I struggled any more than someone coming out of high school [would have],” says Bouillon. “I feel like I’m just homeschooling at university.”
I agree with Carlee. Homeschooling was an ideal way to build a strong work ethic — which is exactly what I have found that university tries to inspire. Even though I get surprised looks at my good study habits, homeschooling actually improved, not weakened, my mind.
The stigmas around the social and academic abilities of homeschoolers speaks to a problem we seem to have in our society concerning learning — or rather the inability to think outside the box.
Now of course, homeschooling does not work for everyone, just as public or private school or even post-secondary does not work for everyone. But hopefully the more people learn about alternative ways of doing things, the more we can be inspired to tackle our own challenges in the way that works best for us — not just the way everyone else is doing it.