“If you had asked me what people take in high school, I would have said science, English, history, and math. But what exact courses were required, how many years of this and that, I did not know (still don’t). This meant that I literally never had a plan. I took one year of high school science, pretended to do two years of fundamental history curriculum, did a ton of music, and put in my time with math.”
I’ve read a lot of stories, stories of great homeschool educations and stories of educational neglect. I was homeschooled in Texas from kindergarten through 12th grade, from 1992 to 2005. My education falls in the middle of these stories. My education was far from non-existent (and I did learn a good deal), but I had unnecessary gaps.
I still believe that simple homeschool regulations would have helped kids like me.
I know a bit of the history of homeschooling in Texas. I remember the Leeper case, a case that Texans will tell you was the ultimate victory for homeschooling, assuring there was no regulation (keep in mind, everything is bigger and better in Texas). In addition to the HSLDA subscriptions, my parents also get TEA (Texas version of HSLDA), and my parents were among those who called up our representatives in 2003 and urged Texas not to pass a bill that would have required homeschool families to register with the state. I was required to write a personal letter as part of my homeschool writing assignment. And so, as one who was homeschooled straight through, I thought I would comment on how no homeschool regulations hurt me.
What did no regulations get me?
First of all, I never knew how my grade level compared to other people my age. No clue. We did not take any standardized tests in high school, but back when we did (in elementary school), my mother never let me see the scores anyway. She said it was none of my business. So I believed mom who said I had learning problem. I had no way to compare my level to anyone else my age. I did the wisdom booklets (and some other fundamental books), a one age fits all program, and I guess, without ever checking up with anyone else, I really never realized how well I was doing. It crushed me for years, always believing I was stupid. I might add that my mom also thought I was stupid because she never checked to see how I compared to others my age.
The second problem was that I had little clue what other people studied. If you had asked me what people take in high school, I would have said science, English, history, and math. But what exact courses were required, how many years of this and that, I did not know (still don’t). This meant that I literally never had a plan. I took one year of high school science, pretended to do two years of fundamental history curriculum, did a ton of music, and put in my time with math. I did nothing else. By the time I entered high school, I had mastered the technical end of grammar (I could already diagram complex sentences in my sleep), so I didn’t really need to study that. I never read classics because I never cared for fiction. I never took a foreign language. At the end of high school I did take some classes at the community college (though mostly music).
Third, we made up my transcript when I graduated from high school. This is a true story. My dad said Texas required so many years of English, so we just wrote down that I did it. And did every subject like so. And then I gave myself a 4.0. Up until that point, we had never checked into high school requirements. They made absolutely no difference to us because we were our own school.
Public schoolers might call us liars, but in a homeschool world, it’s not that we were lying. We believed that there was no division between, say, history and English. They sort of both merged together (I still can somewhat argue this). We did not say that I had done a foreign language. I had not, and we knew it.
In college I fared well. I graduated in my honors program with straight As, and although I didn’t take my teachers up for it, they thought I could go straight into a PhD program in my field or enter a competitive masters program, either way. Despite the gaps in my high school education, they never showed, and I never felt that I was behind (more like this; “oh, you read Shakespeare in high school. This is my first time,” and then going on with life.)
I think there are a couple of reasons I fared well in college. For one, my parents did teach me to think critically and encouraged me to really study. My dad supported me when I became a Calvinist, for example. In a real sense they did the most important part of education; they taught me how to teach myself to learn. Second, I’m just naturally gifted in humanities and thinking. This is not to my parents credit per se. After all, my mother did tell me I had a reading comprehension problem (never mind that I later excelled in philosophy, one of the hardest subjects to read). In other words, I excelled in humanities despite my gaps, not because of homeschooling. I use to get so mad when homeschool moms would tell me I excelled in college because of homeschooling. They had no idea that my mom told me I couldn’t read well, and that I worked hard to break out of that. When I was in 8th and 9th grade, I read books on dispensationalism and postmillennialism. When I was in 8th grade, I wrote a 36-page essay on the book of Revelation (for fun) and why I believed my Sunday school teacher was a bunch of bogus. The idea of thinking and bulking the system was always in me. Still I believed I was stupid because my mom reminded me of my learning problems everyday. Honestly I’m lucky. If I had been a passive learner, my gaps would have been a lot worse. Or I easily could have shut down. I didn’t because, well, I love to study.
I think a tiny bit of support and regulation would have helped our family. First of all, if we had been required to submit a plan, my parents would have made us follow it. It wasn’t that we were trying to do badly. We were out of touch. It’s worth noting that even my sister two grades younger doesn’t have as many gaps because they woke up when I graduated and saw what was required. Second, I would have known that I wasn’t stupid or behind, and so would my mother (or maybe she wouldn’t have, but I would have known it). Third, with better homeschool laws between the state and homeschool family, I could have just taken science and a foreign language at the high school. Or perhaps we could have gotten a tax refund to pay for me to take the course at a private school or at The Potters School, an online school for homeschoolers.
Homeschool families need to realize that some accountability between the homeschool family and state could actually help homeschool families. Why can’t homeschool families take one or two courses at a high school if they want? Or why shouldn’t they meet with the schools (or someone else in touch), so they know how other kids are doing their kids’ ages? It doesn’t have to be strict guidelines or to telling homeschool parents to specifically study Texas history in the 8th grade (I’m so mobile, I really don’t think state history is that important). I admit it. HSLDA had us duped.
When I mentioned homeschool regulations to my mom the other day, she said, “Oh, that’s a bad idea. You all had learning problems, and they wouldn’t have understood.” That is exactly why we needed some kind of accountability. I was ahead of my class, and I never knew it.