Little truth to home-schooling stereotypes

By Noelle Westfall
November 19, 2009

We don’t wear pajamas all day. We have among the highest test scores in the country. We have social lives. If you’re ready to have your stereotypes shattered, then read on, because I am a proud home-schooled graduate.

Many negative stereotypes persist about the home-school image and that greatly irritates me. This image is both mass produced and inaccurate. I can just as easily say all public school students are stoners who get a “D” average in school. I won’t say that, because I know how ignorant it is to assume one person consumes an entire group of people.

Everyone to whom I’ve told I was home-schooled from kindergarten through grade 12 cannot believe it. “You’re so normal!” most say. I like to think I am, but I also want to explain what a home-schooler is so the rest of this negative image can be dispelled. I have met some odd ones for sure, but we’re not all jean skirt and sneaker wearers who think Harry Potter is evil.

My parents decided to home-school me because they were already home-schooling my older sister due to the fact she was not enjoying the private school she attended. We both took to home-schooling so much my parents stuck with it until we both graduated from high school.

Home-schooling is exactly what it sounds like: school at home. Parents choose the curriculum, which has to be approved by their school district, and teach their children 180 day’s worth of lessons. After that, a portfolio of every subject the student has learned during that year is submitted to the school district for review. In addition, a state-certified teacher interviews the student to make sure all Pennsylvania school standards are being upheld. Home-school students are also required to take standardized tests.

Both my sister and I moved more quickly with our work than the public school kids and so we were able to skip grades. I would not have been able to do that so easily in the traditional school system. My high school graduation ceremony was with several hundred other home-schooled kids at the Rotunda in Harrisburg. I wore a cap and gown and received a state-accredited diploma- just like a public school student.

I sometimes did envy the kids I knew who went to school dances, had lockers and took the bus. My parents drove me all the way to Pittsburgh to go to an official home-school prom my junior year (yes, we danced to mainstream music!) and to Chester Springs for my senior prom.

I kept myself involved with plenty of extracurricular activities too. I took three different types of dance classes, volunteered at my church, was part of the teen advisory board at my local library and played on a home-school baseball team. No one can say I didn’t have a social life!

I loved being home-schooled and would never trade it for a traditional school system. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed the personalization it gave me in my work. For example, my mom was able to pick from a huge array of science curricula and one year we studied the chemicals that make up different spices and made potpourri bags. I don’t know any public school student who has that much choice in their classroom.

When I talked to people about my home-school experience I hope they begin to see that it is not so different from the traditional school system. We have the same priorities and goals, but just take a different route to get there. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing I got the education that worked best for me and grew as a person while I achieved it.

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Noelle Westfall

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