As our son is completing his Associate degree at our local community college, we are taking the needed steps to transfer his educational studies to a state university for the completion of his Bachelor degree. A part of this process meant spending one day recently at Orientation Day at The Big U. Transferring students were occupied in one building with academic counseling and advising, registering for fall classes, getting ID pictures taken, and sampling the student union’s food court. Parents were whisked away to another building on the large campus and submitted to a bevy of speakers from the faculty and staff. (Our lunch will not be mentioned, except to admit that I snobbishly opted to drink my ice water from a coffee cup, rather than the dirty glasses that were offered.)
Since this is our second child to advance through college, we were already somewhat familiar with the routine. However, I did find quite a few differences from the small, private colleges our daughter attended. It seems that the stereotypes we have all heard attributed to homeschooling are true — in some respects. The stereotypes addressed were all things that have been actual problems at The University: the ultra-shy student who has no clue how to talk to people or make friends, the student who cannot get himself up in the morning and off to class on time, the student who is confused by the class material and cannot or will not ask questions of the professor, the student who has never taken notes in class, never studied for a test, never written a paper, never experienced “real” school. However, these stereotypes were not pointed at homeschooled students but at the public school students!
At first, I felt offended that these staff members would dare to assume that my student fell into any of these categories. As the question-and-answer sessions continued, I began to realize that most of the parents in the room had such children. The full scope of this was mind-boggling to me. These administrators are used to seeing students of this type. They expected only slightly better from our group of transfers students who have attended some college classes already, but since our students have only been to community college, they still do not really know what real college work is like. (Read with patronizing tone of voice, smirk, and head-bobbing wink.) Never mind the fact that our son has managed to survive classes from big-fish-in-a-small-pond professor-wannabe teachers who maniacally assigned graduate-level work to their freshmen and sophomores to “get you used to it.”
Two moms at our table nodded along with the speaker, agreeing that yes, in fact, their sons were painfully shy waifs who would never speak to a stranger or attempt in any way to establish a friendship with someone who was not already a lifelong acquaintance. Your child must be like that, too, they mistakenly presumed of us. As though perfectly timed and rehearsed, my husband and I laughed and responded in unison, “No. He’s not like that at all.” I continued, “If you see a crowd of people and hear a burst of laughter, our son will be at the center of it.” When we met up with our son later, he had indeed made several new friends in his field of study, shot a few games of pool with them over the lunch break, and signed up for a class with at least one of them. (Should I be feeling sorry for the poor public schooled introverts upon whom we are inflicting this homeschooled wonder?)
Among other important topics (such as meningitis can be spread through sharing a Chapstick), we were also informed of what must be a relatively new phenomenon in the world of higher education: Sudden Onset Reading Disability. I am not making this up. The woman stood at the front of the room and reported this with a straight face. Students are coming to the university who have gone all the way through high school, perhaps some community college, and then they suddenly develop an inability to read properly. I had to hold myself down in my chair to avoid jumping up and ripping the microphone away from her, proclaiming the freedom parents have to teach reading through phonics in homeschooling. Those kids never knew how to read! I wanted to scream. They were just passed through the system because identifying the problem would mean admitting the system’s failures!!! Through tremendous exertion of self-control and wrapping my legs around the chair’s legs, I managed to restrain myself in relative silence and not start a riot, because, after all, this particular university is known nation-wide for producing new public school teachers. (Am I allowed to pray to keep the computer-science-major boy far away from the education-major girls?)
Parents, if you are homeschooling your children now, be encouraged that you are doing the right thing. Explore all facets of learning and help your students develop a thirst for knowledge that will last a lifetime and the skills to satisfy that thirst on their own. Expand your home education to include more than just textbooks, more than just worksheets, more than just the four walls of your home. I am seeing more evidence every day that homeschooling truly provides the best opportunities for an excellent education and results in well-rounded students who know how to tackle the problems life presents. To any parents who are not currently homeschooling, but are beginning to consider it more seriously, it is my strongly held belief that you can do nothing better for your children than to teach them yourselves at home — and the latest crop of college entrants seems to prove it.