The Thinking Atheist had a podcast about homeschooling last Tuesday. I wish it had been a day that I could listen to the show live, because I might have called in if it was.
I was a home schooled kid during high school. I had been in the public schools from K to 8th grade. I strongly suspect my parents wanted to homeschool me since they had been listening to Focus on the Family shows about how horrible the public schools are. I jumped on the opportunity because I was having social trouble at school. My peers were a total enigma to me. I didn’t know how to deal with the middle school meanness except to run from it, I was totally ignorant when it came to the music and shows my peers liked, and I couldn’t get why anyone would care all about what clothes I wore or how I did my hair. So I was eager for the chance to stay at home to study and get to take walks at lunchtime when all the neighborhood kids were away at school. Sometimes I think having the socialization of high school would have been helpful to me, but it wasn’t being home schooled that made me an introvert. That’s just the way I was.
Most people whose stories I’ve heard about homeschooling reference a mother who was a housewife and who spent the whole day teaching the kids lessons. That is not how it was for me. I was more self-taught than parent-taught. Mom was the primary breadwinner in our family, and while Dad was the stay at home parent he wasn’t heavily involved in my studies. I would check the assignments on the curriculum list, do the work, and get Dad to supervise if I needed to take a test. I also required his assistance for spelling tests. I did well when it came to things like grammar and reading and book reports. When it came to things like Algebra I barely learned anything…I seriously needed a teacher who was trained to teach math. I didn’t catch up in Algebra until I took some remedial courses in college. But that did not stop me from scoring all A’s in High School, whether I’d truly learned the material or not. Somehow I still managed to score a 27 in the ACT exam, mostly riding on my advanced (for my grade level) reading and vocabulary skills.
My school curriculum was decidedly of the Christian fundamentalist sort…and I mean more fundamentalist than my parents or church. In subjects like math and physics, this mostly meant there were quotes in the introduction of each chapter about how things like math and logic and physics came from God, blah blah blah. The actual material on math and physics was still the same as I probably would have seen in a public school textbook. However, that was not the case for biology. I can’t remember if the curriculum was strictly six-day creationist, but it treated the idea of theistic evolution as a dangerous “compromise with the world.” Almost needless to say, I learned no good information on the theory of evolution but I did read a lot of creationist propaganda. In fact, there was a sizable section of my biology text that was all about how evolution is a lie. It’s a shame that I never had been exposed to much real scientific information about evolution at the time so I didn’t know any better than to buy into the propaganda.
The things I remember from my history lessons were about how George Washington was a devout Christian (highly in doubt) and included a film by David Barton called “America’s Godly Heritage”. What is really funny when I think back on it is that David Barton seriously had me convinced that all of America’s problems started in the 60′s with the sexual revolution and the liberal takeover. When I first saw the film Walk the Line about Johnny Cash, I was shocked to learn that drug abuse existed in the 50′s. This film came out in 2005, six years after I had graduated high school and 2 years after I realized I was an atheist. This is an example of just how sheltered and misinformed I had been. I also recall that my economics textbook was based in the Old Testament, mainly around the leadership strategies of Moses. However, even if it were truthful at all, it was so dense and boring to read that I never understood any of it. Economics was another subject I had to wait until college to learn.
So do I regret having homeschooled, and do I think I would have done better had I stayed in the public schools? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s hard to say what would have happened if we had made a different decision. I liked homeschooling in that I could work at my own pace and not have to sit around and wait for the slower learners in a classroom setting to catch up. In most subjects I am perfectly capable of reading and researching on my own. In others, such as Algebra, a good teacher would have helped greatly. Of course, it would have been much better if I had a real biology textbook rather than the Christian Fundamentalist propaganda textbook from the Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools program.
For anyone who is interested, here are some picture of my class ring from high school. The images were of my own choosing when I was 18 years old.