(Family Magazine May 2012 4th Issue)
Like most kids, my first teachers were my parents. When I was little, they taught me how to walk, how to read, and how to ride a bike. Unlike most kids, however, my parents also decided to be my “official” teachers as well. They pulled me out of school in fifth grade, choosing to homeschool me instead. Together, my mom and dad have educated me in courses ranging from grammar to physics. If I had a subject they were not comfortable teaching, they found programs or online courses that fulfilled my requirements. Throughout the years, I grew to love the flexibility that homeschooling offered my family and me.
This all ended two years ago. I graduated from high school and moved to The King’s College in New York City to continue schooling. It was not easy at first adjusting to this new environment. But I adapted and began to thrive. I plugged into a church and made new friends at school. As I look back now, my homeschooling years shaped me profoundly not just to become a better student, but also a better person. Some people have asked whether I regretted homeschooling until college. To this I replied – and continue to reply – that this education equipped me well for life.
College presented a host of new challenges. For one, nobody forced students to learn the material. Each student took responsibility for his or her own education. But that wasn’t a problem for me. I learned to love learning at home. Mom and Dad encouraged me to read on my own, supplying me with books of every kind. We took a trip to the library every Wednesday, and I came home every time with a stack of books half my height. If a subject interested me, I borrowed all the books I could on the subject and read it. I loved it. In many ways, I was already responsible for my own education before I entered college.
Another challenge for me was time management. The King’s College gave a lot of responsibility to their students. They treated us like adults. For instance, I learned to shop on my own and cook for myself. I balanced time cooking with time studying and time with friends. I often had to choose between two activities I enjoyed doing. The big city offered a host of opportunities for students, and I couldn’t do them all. It was definitely difficult, but I adjusted. I had already learned this life skill in homeschooling. I sometimes started school in the living room and ended in the car.
At times, we joked that our car was a “mobile school”. It didn’t matter where I did my homework, as long as I did it. College simply added the increased responsibility of managing checkbooks, meals, and work.
Perhaps the greatest challenge about living alone in college was finding community, especially a church family. I spent the first two months visiting about a dozen churches in the area before settling on one. Finding a new church home was not an easy task. It is no wonder that many college students church hopped. Some didn’t go at all. But while I was at home, Mom and Dad taught me the importance of grounding myself in church community. They led me by example, praying with me every night, trusting God for his provision and training me to tithe every Sunday. They instilled these values that I have not forgotten. So, I eventually chose a church recommended by my pastors at home. Without the friendships at church and with fellow Christians, I doubt that I could thrive the way I have.
Some people thought that homeschoolers like me are sheltered from the difficulties of life. But I would beg to differ. I did not suffer from the perceived lack of social interaction or exposure to the world. During my years of homeschooling, I made friends all around the world through speech and debate tournament and online courses. People thought that homeschooling meant that I was at home all the time. Though I spent time at home studying, I participated in many national and international leadership camps that exposed me to different education settings. Instead of hindering me, my homeschooling prepared me better for future circumstances.
Speech and debate, for example, taught me plenty about life. Not only did I meet some of the hardest working students ever, I also learned how to fail. Though I prepared as hard as anyone, I didn’t win all the time. But I persevered, and with risk came reward. I also learned to talk to people of all ages, from younger siblings to grandparents. Speech and debate taught me much about persuasion and clear communication. I matured in many ways on the competitive circuit. I learned to travel alone and to adapt to unexpected delays. The experiences of homeschooling gave me confidence to enter college and continue to succeed.
I never expected to be homeschooled or to go to college under the bright lights of New York City. It was all a matter of God’s providence. I don’t think that my college experience has been perfect, but I had a solid foundation to grow and adapt. My parents themselves had no knowledge of homeschooling before starting with me in fifth grade. But they faithfully obeyed God’s direction and were richly rewarded. Finding a college was the same experience. I chose The King’s College because God nudged me there. My entire life has been a representation of faith in God’s provision.
In many ways, Mom and Dad are still teaching me life lessons. Education began at home, but it didn’t stop there. Homeschooling enabled them to teach me so much more than reading a book or riding a bike. When I came back for Christmas break my freshman year, they gave me driving practice, taught me new recipes, and helped me with my bank account. They had trained me to become a better student and a better person. They exposed me to truth and pushed me to excellence. Contrary to some presuppositions, I did not lack in my homeschooling experience. In fact, I greatly benefited from their instruction academically, socially, and spiritually. In the school of life, they have educated me well.