Don’t underestimate a home schooler
Homeschoolers aren’t social.
Homeschoolers only study what they want to learn.
Homeschoolers don’t learn structure.
You’ve probably heard someone say such things.
I overheard a group discussing the topic, but couldn’t find a nice way to correct them without admitting I was eavesdropping.
There are statistics I could quote, but my experience comes from working with public, private, and home school students in 4-H.
I see as many “non-social” kids in public school as home school.
I didn’t learn to make friends and work as a team in school; I learned it in 4-H, and these youth learn social skills elsewhere as well.
Home school students play recreational sports, take dance classes, join church youth groups, belong to scouting groups, serve in internships, and take part in community organizations.
We have two 4-H home school clubs, as well as home school members in the horse club, on the BB team, on the livestock show team, and in County 4-H Council.
They’re on judging teams, at competitions, and at summer camp.
Of course, all home school families are not created equal, no more than every school is the same.
The thing that strikes me about home school from the educator’s perspective is the ability to tailor a child’s learning.
In the same way 4-H’ers wade through a creek to study stream ecology, or focus on a single project area for an entire year, home school students have the ability to adapt their curriculum to focus on strengths and interests.
Public school students must fit studying for horse quiz bowl in after bus rides, school days, and homework.
Many of my home school students work our educational materials right into science or language arts lessons.
A new 4-H’er came in to work on a portfolio just before Christmas and wondered if he wouldn’t have enough information to fill the two pages of writing.
I’m pretty good at helping kids think outside the box to find a little portfolio credit, but even I was a little worried when the 8th grader told me he wanted to do his project on nuclear physics.
I gave him a few ideas (“maybe you can list some Discovery Channel shows you watched about it?”) and a worksheet to get started, then left him at the table with two other home school 4-H’ers.
Working down the hall, I realized something was indeed different — it was quiet.
I peeked back in to find each of the 4-H’ers busily writing on their portfolios, with no one staring into space or distracting each other.
I asked if they wanted a break, or to play a game for a while, but they all informed me they were still working.
Really? They turned me down for a game of Life or Jenga?
After each finished his or her portfolio they had just as much fun as the other 4-H’ers, but before it was complete they were focused on finishing the task at hand.
My experience in public school was that I spent a lot of time waiting — waiting for the bus, waiting for the assignment while the teacher explained something I already understood, or waiting for the next class after finishing my assignment early.
These home school students knew that doing the work quickly and correctly meant getting more time to do what they wanted to do.
Oh, and the 4-H’er writing his list of nuclear physics activities?
He easily typed an entire page of bulleted items, including three or four Boy Scout merit badges with related work, meeting with and talking to a nuclear physicist, and doing several demonstrations for family and friends.
If his portfolio doesn’t blow away the judges, I’d love to see who he’s up against.
Sure, outside of classes they may take with an outside teacher or online, they’re used to a little more flexibility than other students.
They can wear pajamas to class every day, and they don’t have to pack a lunch.
Home school students may be different, but I sure wouldn’t underestimate them.
Just come check out my 4-H’er in nuclear physics, who also created his own language this year!