“In the state of Colorado, homeschooled students are required to take placement tests every couple of years. There’s an exemption for parents who are certified teachers. My dad had a bachelor’s degree in English, and had taught it briefly, so we never took any tests.”
I was homeschooled from 1996-2000 in Minnesota, and from 2000-2011 in Colorado. I wasn’t really taught anything after I was ten years old. I could read and do basic math by then, and I was luckier than most of my siblings, who still struggled with reading aloud into their teens. My mom would read aloud to my siblings and me, and do crafts and teach around the dinner table. Each year, most of this was repeated information for the younger children, and I outgrew it.
For most of my K-12 education, I studied three subjects: homemaking, business, and competitive forensics. I had more than a dozen younger brothers and sisters, who I was expected to babysit and care for whenever my parents were busy. I kept the house clean, bathed children, and I cooked and baked. I learned business because my dad gave me a microloan at age 9, and failure to pay him back was not an option. At age thirteen, I became the main administrative assistant for the family business. Every spring semester, speech and debate competition was my top priority, so I spent that time researching, practicing, traveling, and performing.
I learned only very basic math and science, and when I got to college, I couldn’t make it through a basic chemistry class because I couldn’t do the algebraic equations. At this point, I’m taking a break from college so I can teach myself middle-school level math, science, and history from Internet resources and books.
In the state of Colorado, homeschooled students are required to take placement tests every couple of years. There’s an exemption for parents who are certified teachers. My dad had a bachelor’s degree in English, and had taught it briefly, so we never took any tests. The first tests I ever took were my driver’s permit test and the SAT. As such, when I got to college, I struggled with scoring well on tests I’d studied for, because I’d never been trained for the pressure of the test layout and format. My homeschooled friends who did take the tests didn’t have such a difficult time with the organization of college when they graduated.
I’m not convinced that standardized testing reflects intelligence or learning. You know what would have helped? Prioritizing my education, instead of filling my time with so many other things. I was expected to put everything else before school—the family business, keeping the house in order and watching my siblings, staying competitive in speech and debate. I often got in trouble for trying to study while I was supposed to be doing something else. If someone had just told me it was okay to want to read all the time, instead of feeling like educating myself was a waste of time and a distraction, that would have been fantastic.
There was also the problem of religious stigma, and I was afraid to read about evolution, other religions, and atheistic philosophy. If someone had just told me, “You can read about science and philosophy without fear of betraying your family’s faith and reputation,” I would have done so much better.
Cynthia Jeub was homeschooled form 1996 to 2011 in Minnesota and Colorado. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.