The hidden hiccups and highlights of homeschooling

Sophomore Hannah Alm’s first day of fourth grade was analogous to those of many FHC students. 

Shiny folders, glossy notebooks, and a pencil case full of colorful writing utensils filled her pink, brand-new High Sierra backpack, which she had meticulously organized the night before. Akin to many other students, anticipation swirled in Alm’s stomach as she nervously entered her classroom.

Only a slight disparity set Alm apart from her classmates at her school: not only was it her first day of fourth grade, but it was also her very first day of public school.

Up until that point, Alm had been homeschooled by her mother. The beginning of her public school adventure was the mark of the start of all-new, all-frightening experiences.

“[The transition] was really tough,” Alm said. “It was the scariest first few months of school in my life. [It was] terrifying.’”

For Alm, the most difficult part of the transition from homeschool to elementary school was the sudden lack of freedom. Gone were the days spent outside in her pajamas, choosing the subject she wanted to learn and for how long she wanted to learn it.

“[Homeschool] was the best opportunity. I loved it so much.”

— Hannah Wordhouse

Although she missed her life leading up to fourth grade, Alm was ready for the change; her older siblings had already gone through the transition to public school, and Hannah was becoming lonely.

“My siblings were a lot older than me,” Alm said. “They were all homeschooled, but they were all in school by the time I was in third grade; it kind of sucked being by myself all the time.”

Junior Hannah Wordhouse was also homeschooled for a good part of her life. Up until the first day of eighth grade, Wordhouse and her siblings were taught by her mother, an elementary school teacher. 

Both Wordhouse and Alm believe that having siblings around made a positive impact on their homeschooling experiences. 

“When I was homeschooled, there were about six of [my siblings and me] around,” Wordhouse said. “I was so close with my siblings, and I still am. Just that bond that we formed—I could tell them everything. We were so close, and they could help me with school work. I definitely think that having siblings made a huge difference.”

Neither Wordhouse nor Alm think they missed out on anything they could have experienced with more years of public schooling. In fact, they each view homeschooling as an opportunity they were fortunate to have.

“Overall, I think homeschooling was a really good experience,” Alm said. “It’s a pretty positive experience for young kids [to have].”

Wordhouse, who was homeschooled for even longer than Alm, wholeheartedly agrees. 

“[Homeschooling] was the best opportunity,” Wordhouse said. “I loved it so much. I had a lot of opportunities that other kids didn’t because I spent a lot of my time outside running around and having fun with my siblings. I had so much flexibility that a lot of people didn’t have.”

Even though Wordhouse and Alm had great experiences with homeschooling, there are still downfalls that come with the benefits. For some homeschooled children, social skills do not come easy; without the constant presence of similarly-aged peers, it is difficult to learn how to interact.

Kelli Potts, an English teacher, believes this to be a major drawback of homeschooling. Collaboration and participation with others is not a requirement for homeschooled children, but for many in the school system, these same exact aspects are graded in the classroom.

“I think being in school is good for [students] socially,” Potts said. “I also know that they need to be able to interact with other adults and learn the respect that comes with that.”

One of the reasons that Alm’s transition from homeschool to public school was so challenging was because she was never able to strengthen her social skills at home. Homeschooling prevented Alm from forming lasting connections with people outside of her family.

I don’t think I’d ever want to go back [to homeschooling],” Alm said, “just because I’ve always been a very social person, and [homeschooling] just hindered my ability to hang out with people. I think I started [public school] at about the right time for me because any later I feel like I wouldn’t have been as socially acclimated for middle school. I was really socially unaware [in the beginning].”

Some other drawbacks to homeschooling include the fact that homeschool teachers, unlike public school teachers, aren’t always entirely credible. Students are also restrained from valuable opportunities such as extracurriculars and sports that connect students with one another.

“I think kids that are homeschooled lose so many opportunities,” Potts said. “They do get more one-on-one instruction which is nice, but they can’t be a part of normal clubs or sports or cool things like HOSA or DECA. My biggest issue is that the homeschool teachers aren’t held accountable like public or private school teachers are. They also don’t have to have any formal training. We [public school teachers] have to go through a bunch of schooling and student teaching and obtain a certificate.”

Wordhouse, however, disagrees. In her time as a homeschooler, she was an active part of her community, and she never felt behind socially or academically.  

“I had a lot of other really good friends,” Wordhouse said. “That’s one thing people think as a stereotype for homeschooled kids: we don’t have friends. That’s not true; we were involved a lot in our community. I don’t think I was ever actually behind, and I had no problems making friends or anything.”

Alm and Wordhouse are both extremely thankful for the opportunities they gained with homeschooling. They each believe that they spent a perfect amount of time as homeschoolers and are glad they could attend FHC for high school.

“My mom decided that we should go to public school for high school because it’s easier to do transcripts, and going into college [state schools] do a better job of keeping track of everything,” Wordhouse said. “I wouldn’t want to be homeschooled in high school because I think that you learn a lot more. My mom was was really good at teaching, but I think that it would have been hard for her to teach us high school stuff, so even though I loved being homeschooled, I think public high school was the right choice.”