I started homeschooling my sophomore year of high school at the prompting of my parents.
I had just gotten back from a year of boarding at a Waldorf High School in New Hampshire, where I was suspended for buying Adderall in my first few months there, and just spiraled downward for the rest of the year. It was a haze of tongues, crushed-up codeine in peanut butter, cloves and pot smoke. (Ridiculous, I know).
In June, when I moved back home, it was very clear that I loved drugs too much and going back for another year wasn't an option.
The public school in my area was a skill-high school. I didn't have friends in that school district (most of my friends lived in Connecticut), and I was used to the freedom of going to an arts boarding school secluded in the woods, so the traditional school route made me want to eat myself.
My father was the one who had the idea to homeschool, which initially repulsed me because of the stereotypes I held and believed about homeschooled kids. I didn't want to be anti-social or sit down at a desk with my mom all day learning algebra.
But as I looked into it, I learned that homeschooling can be whatever you want it to be, and it offers students a great amount of freedom to pursue their interests and passions.
What pushed me to commit 100 percent and begin homeschooling was a book called "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education." I highly suggest reading this book if you are considering homeschooling (or "unschooling, as the books refers to it) yourself or your teen.
I was convinced I would be wildly miserable in day-to-day high school life like my friends seemed to be. This book showed me that there were other options and that high school could be fucking awesome if I wanted to put in the work to make it so.
My visions of being bored alone in my house with my mom and never seeing any of my friends ever again all vanished when I started to visualize the possibilities.
I don't recommend homeschooling for everyone, and can only speak from my experience, which was for high school. It takes a certain type of person to want to do it and be able to do it successfully. Parents don’t have to be home all day with the student as long as the student is committed to learning.
The perfect candidate for homeschooling is someone who is self-motivated, passionate, organized and has a clear sense of what they want to learn. Parents need to be on board or at least have a foot in the door, but if the student is invested in getting the education they want, the time commitment from parents isn’t as much as one would think. Besides helping with technical things like filling out paperwork, applications and checking in to make sure I was staying on track, my parents did very little.
Homeschooling is different for everyone but this is how I did it with a few tips on how to make it work if you’re interested in trying it out yourself.
First my father helped me enroll in a school that helps homeschoolers. I did mine through the North Atlantic Regional High School, and it worked very well for what I wanted to do. You stay in communication with your advisor throughout the semester, and at the end send them proof of the classes you designed and then they grade you accordingly to the work you present. When you finish all your required credits, they give you a diploma.
To prove my work, I wrote down every day how long I did tasks and assignments in a time log, and also took photos. As far as providing proof at the end of the semester, I would send in a log of my time in different classes (80 hours = 1 credit, 40 hours = 1/2 credit), as well as photos, documents, papers, community college transcipts etc. Anything that highlights how you've been studying.
At the beginning of the semester, I would fill out different forms designing the classes I wanted to create, what resources I would be using, how I planned on executing the classes and what I hoped to learn and achieve. The freedom in this was great -- for example, you could turn listening to music in your room for a few hours a day and going to concerts on the weekend into a Music Studies class. For my P.E class, I would go on 30-60 minute bike rides (which I mentioned briefly in my previous story about being queer).
My main projects were writing a novel and learning about the publishing industry and attempting to get published. Both of these classes I expanded over the year-and-a-half that I homeschooled into multiple classes (ex. Intro to English, Intermediate English, Poetry).
So, by the time I graduated, instead of having felt like I wasted my time slaving and memorizing and forgetting a bunch of facts, I had finished writing and editing a 150-page satirical sci-fi novel and had two poems and an essay published in three different (small) literary journals.
Since it was up to me to get my work done, I would usually wake up around 10 a.m. and do work until about 3 p.m., depending on how much I needed to get done that day. I would usually start the day with a bike ride and then do the reading and writing I needed to do that day.
My parents quickly realized they didn’t need to nag me and I would get my shit done on my own accord. My fear of becoming a weird anti-social homeschooled hermit was totally wrong, because I almost always had time to see friends and go out when I wanted to. I was motivated to get my work done quickly and efficiently so I could.
For the classes that were more difficult or complicated for me to do at home, I enrolled in a Community College of Rhode Island and took them there. Community colleges accept homeschoolers and accelerated high school students into low-level classes. For science credit, I took Human Sexuality (which provided additional research for the novel). I also took history, philosophy, sociology and graphic design classes. This gave me independence (and ensured I'd get out of the freakin' house).
Traveling and working can also be designed into credit. I worked at a barbeque restaurant while I homeschooled and got school credit for it. Also, my parents are a bit on the hippie side (in case you didn’t guess that already). Both are yoga teachers and my mom's a nature photographer, so I was extremely privileged to be able to travel during the time I lived at home.
For example, we spent a month traveling in Kenya. I kept a diary every day of what we did, what I saw, and what I learned, and took photos as document. When I got home, I compiled the photos all into a book, and typed up my journal along with essays about the Maasai. This counted towards a photography credit and a history/social studies credit. This is an extreme example/circumstance though, and by no means is the ability to travel a requirement for homeschooling.
Other ways to earn credit (and get out of the house) are volunteering and taking free classes, if you don't mind a lot of the classes being with adults. I took an awesome creative writing class in Mystic, Connecticut, with a bunch of 20 to 30 somethings. They were all incredibly encouraging and the teacher ended up mentoring me for a bit even after the class ended.
As far as volunteering went, I was interested in teaching and Waldorf education so I worked Wednesdays in a kindergarten class at the Waldorf school my brother and I went to. The next year when the class moved up to first grade, I continued with them.
The last great thing I found about homeschooling was that since it was easy to take on a lot of classes at once, earning credits became fun and moved quickly. Because of that (combined with the base of credits I had earned from boarding school), I was able to graduate high school within three years all together, putting me with a diploma at 17!
One of the best decisions I've ever made was approaching my education unconventionally. And it never would have happened if I hadn't gotten over my ridiculous (and totally wrong) fear of what this kind of schooling actually means for students -- and what it looks like, day to day.
So have any of you xoJaners homeschooled? Did you have a similarly liberating experience or was it terrible? Do you homeschool your kids, are you totally against homeschooling? Discuss in the comments, and talk to me about it on Twitter!