Notes From a Homeschooler: Michelle Hill’s Story, Part Two
My Homeschooling Story
I often wonder how homeschooling has shaped me, and who I would be if I didn’t have such an unusual upbringing. My roommate, Natasha, and I are very similar, almost creepy similar, and we’ve often wondered if this was due to us both being home-schooled in a very similar fashion. So in today’s post, I’ll go over my homeschool experience. In a later post, I will break it down and examine how I think it has shaped me. As a disclaimer, I would like to note that every family’s and every individual’s experience is unique and should be considered as that. My experience is unique to me, though you may have noticed homeschoolers, or even yourself, have had some similar experiences.
In my previous post I described the origins my family beginning homeschooling and why my mother had continued to teach us at home. I think that my parents had a different reason for each of their children. My older brother, Mark, was taken out of public school in fifth grade. Like many boys, he was extremely intelligent, but didn’t feel the need to apply himself. He also was falling into the wrong crowd and my mother was worried that he would end up in some sort of trouble.
So she took him out of school to take him away from the negative influences that are so prominent in today’s school system.
Her hopes were that she could get Mark to apply himself to his studies and eventually into a collage of some sort. It ended up well for Mark. He is now 24, has graduated from a tech school with a degree in Heavy-Diesel Mechanics. After a few job switches, he has now found a work place he enjoys where he is the shop foreman for a large trucking company.
My experience was a little bit different from Mark’s. I was taken out of school because I was failing English and writing. My mother was worried that if I stayed in school, I would fall even farther behind than I already was. As a side note, I would like to say that I am now an avid reader, like many homeschoolers, and place well ahead of my peers when it comes to reading comprehension (home-school.com).
Mark’s and my elementary days were dotted with school, playing outside together (we live in the country on 50 acres), and riding on the school bus that my mom drove every school morning and afternoon. I don’t remember much of the school work we did. My mother said I had hated spelling so much that I would cry after every test, so she stopped teaching me spelling. I know that my favorite subject was reading and I would spend hours in my room reading my favorite books at the time, Little House on the Prairie. My parents said I used to talk about her like she was one of my friends. Once a week, we would go to a local co-op of homeschoolers and take extracurricular classes, such as home ec. (Keepers of the Home), art, science experiments, and chess. That was our main form of socialization besides spending time with the other kids who rode on the bus my mom drove.
There was this type of social isolation that comes with homeschooling in a small town.
The town we lived in had one private school for elementary through middle school, and one public school for preschool through high school. My family was the only family in the town who homeschooled, and my parents’ decision to homeschool was frowned upon. One of our neighbors who lived a mile away was a retired school teacher. She would tell my mother that she was worried about our socialization and how we would function after we got out of high school. The point I’m trying to make is that living in a small town and home-schooling in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE felt more than a little isolating.
Middle school followed the same pattern of elementary school. The difference was that my mother no longer worked for the school and drove the bus, and now my little brother, Jason, had joined us in homeschooling. There was a brief span in 6th grade that I was convinced I would like to go to public school. So my mother enrolled me in the fall and I attended for two months. It was different for me than other school kids because my father was always complaining about the public school; how we wasted time switching from class to class; how they gave us busy work….
He had a very negative view of the school system which affected the way I felt about attending public school.
I would also come home from school to find out all the cool stuff my family was doing without me while I was gone. So when the opportunity came up for me to join a Christian homeschool basketball team, I took it. It was my excuse for giving up on the public school idea.
During 6th grade, I was on the basketball team and had twice a week early morning practices that took an hour to drive to. My brother was also on the boy’s basketball team, so his practices were after mine. I could say that I enjoyed being on the team, but I didn’t really. I enjoyed socializing with the other girls and families, but basketball was not my thing. Not to mention that we only won one game in the entire season. So it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I didn’t return to basketball the next year.
During 7th and 8th grade, Mark stayed on the basketball team, so we continued the early morning practices twice a week. The founder of the team had also created a separate co-op that had weekly classes taught by certified instructors. We joined the co-op and I spent hours there after my one class, sign language. It was a big day for us because we would drive an hour away to go into the city for co-op classes, basketball practice, Elizabeth’s therapy, and the public library.
Then for the rest of the week, we mostly stayed at home only to emerge to make a trip into town for groceries.
I didn’t go to friends’ houses often because all of my friends lived in the city and it was a big ordeal to have to drive two hours there and back. If I did go, it was normally for an overnight sleepover.
For me, high school was full of turmoil. During my sophomore year, my mother had to pick up a part time job at a group home for residents with intellectual and physical disabilities. My mom started out working weekends, Friday 5pm – Sunday 5pm, and would be away for the entire weekend. Being the oldest daughter, it was up to me to cook dinner for the family because we always ate together at the family dinner table. I also had to make sure the house didn’t fall apart and become a disaster zone. I would spend my weekends washing dishes, mopping, and cleaning the bathroom. My father is not much of the parenting type, so I had to make sure that Elizabeth was taken care of, got baths, and had her teeth brushed before bed. During Winter break of my junior year, my mom’s work was short staffed and had asked her to work during the week in another house. She worked Sunday – Friday, 5pm – 9 am. However, she had already signed up for her weekends, so she also had to work the entire weekend too. For three weeks, I ran the house. I helped make the meal plans, cooked dinners, cleaned, and took care of my younger brother and sister. I didn’t go out very much because there would be nobody to watch Jason who was 10, and Elizabeth who was 5. It was a lonely time for me.
Looking back, I think I had become depressed, but didn’t know that there was a label for what I felt.
I had my times of restricting food, now I know it was because I craved control. I also had a two month time period when I felt so sad, lonely, and forgotten, that I would self-injure myself. It was not a happy time for me.
On top of this was my dad’s wild scheme that we could raise organic, free range chickens and sale the eggs to Whole Foods. Honestly, I try to block out the memories of having to feed and take care over a thousand birds using only manual (unpaid) labor. Not to mention cleaning the eggs every single night which would take hours and hours. I had no free time to visit friends because I had to run house and help with all those God Damn chickens. If you can’t tell, yes, I am very bitter about this, and never want to see another live chicken. Thankfully, after over a year of the chickens, my dad sold them and reduced the number to a more reasonable amount of twenty chickens for Jason to take care of.
Senior year was when I was my happiest during high-school. I had a part time job working at the same place as my mom, only in the money-raising greenhouse portion of it. I worked 4 days a week for roughly 5 – 8 hours a day. Then I would come home and do homework for my online dual credit college classes. I also attended a once a week co-op to learn Chemistry and Spanish. During my second semester as a senior, I took remedial math classes at the local junior college because I had huge holes in my math education. I had failed the placement test for math classes, and needed to get my score up before I would be attending any four year college. (I am glad to say that my math is now average and I can keep up with my peers at college.) For the first time, I had also had an actual boyfriend who I had met at my weekly classes.
I think senior year is the most socialization I ever had.
I had a part time job, dual credit classes, weekly home-school class, and a boyfriend who I could go on dates with. I thought things couldn’t get any better than that.