Getting a Higher Education: LJ Lamb’s Story

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “LJ Lamb” is a pseudonym.

Nothing prepared me for the shock that my homeschooling experience was woefully inadequate.

Despite getting an extremely high score on the test that asked about my ability to read and do basic maths, I quickly discovered that I didn’t know what I needed to know to survive in the classroom.

My only saving grace was that I needed to speak to someone about course load and disability, and once they heard the magic word disability everyone sent me on to the next person they thought could help me – which meant that I got signed up for scholarships and grants, got loads of advice and academic support, and managed to pull off decent grades. Nothing flashy, but solid grades that said I had studied.

During counselling I realised my experience was normal for a homeschooler, and I actually was coping extremely well, all things considered. Honestly, I’m not sure how I survived the first year. Often I felt completely overwhelmed and several times I freaked out that I didn’t have what it took, and I had no idea how to complete the assessment work.

At some stage after my first year I realised that I had not been given anything like an education from my mother, and it was a miracle that I was as good as I was with what I did know. My mother NEVER made me write assignments.

I did a total of 10 tests in my academia, and almost all of these were music related.

The only writing I had done that was essay-like, was 3 things I initiated because I wanted to write. I was never taught how to structure an essay, I had no idea, I simply wrote from my heart, which wasn’t very consistent when it came to getting grades. I can’t do math past my timetables. I know what a square root is, but please don’t ever make me use it because I don’t know that I would get it right.

My mother thought it was completely appropriate to give me 3rd grade science in high school, and then complained when I chewed through books in a few weeks. I still can’t spell, and especially not under pressure. Again, finished 3rd grade in high school. Mother didn’t care.

The only anything I did at a high school level was some of Jay Wile’s year 12 science. Somehow I was able to pick the books up and learn while only really having a 3rd grade science level.

Apparently I didn’t need chemistry either, being a girl and all you know.

I badly wanted to be a doctor. I had thought for a long time about what career in the science and medical field I wanted and it was perfect. Mother told me I was too stupid to be a doctor. My piano teacher on the other hand, believed I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t trust my piano teacher enough at that age to open up about why I thought I couldn’t be a doctor, which summed up to, Mother thinks I’m stupid, and has completely freaked me out about having to see cadavers as part of my study because she hates medicine. She is the only teacher I have ever had. Of course her opinion goes.

Apparently she was trying to live my life for me. Never mind that I actually do love medicine. Never mind that the cadavers don’t bother me. I respect their sacrifice, and what that means for me and the world of medical science, and I learn from them.

 

Following is my advice to homeschool alumni wanting to obtain a higher education.

  • Do a bridging course. I didn’t, and I wish I had.
  • Find out what the course requirements, prerequisites and assumed knowledge are prior to applying, and start preparing for them.
  • Find your academic gaps and look for ways to get them filled early in the piece.
  • Don’t be ashamed of your past. It’s not your fault. Be honest with your academic staff and support staff in asking for help. They can be very compassionate and understanding.
  • Tap into every resource that there is available to you.
  • Learn how to write a basic assignment and brush up on your maths.
  • Find out what resources you have at your particular institution. Mine had transition staff, English writing staff, maths help, counselling, disability support and social workers as main points of assistance. I used every single one of them in my first year.
  • Be realistic and kind to yourself. You have big gaps. They will not be bridged overnight. Don’t overload on subjects at first.
  • Find people who will support you.
  • Make friends with people. It’s okay if they are different and/or not Christian.
  • I made friends with the nerds. It helped me, because we were all a bit crazy and they could help my study style.
  • You do have a right to an education, and being a woman doesn’t make you ineligible. Don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise.
  • People who believe in you and your dreams and goals are essential. This goes double if you aren’t supported by your parents and family.
  • Get internet at home if at all possible.
  • Buy second hand textbooks online, or check notice boards. If you are in a hurry, finding a second year student for the same course may mean they will be happy to sell you the lot for a bundle price. Easy for you, easy for them. (But do shop around prior to purchasing!)
  • Look at getting a new job prior to starting if you are in full time work.
  • There are accommodation options within institutions if you need help or subsidized accommodation.
  • Take advantage of any extra tutorial groups, study sessions, etc. Trust me on this. They help a lot!
  • Don’t forget to apply for all the scholarships and grants you may be eligible for. You would be amazed how much money people will give you sometimes for being female, or disabled, or poor, and it can be extremely helpful. I had several things paid for by grants, including a new laptop when mine died, equipment to help with my physical and medical problems, and other money towards books, necessary one-off purchases, other useful things such as an iPad, etc. Sometimes there are large scholarships for persons who overcome several difficulties and extenuating circumstances to study, so ensure that you are aware, as that may mean you have a much easier transition.

2 comments

  • What would you suggest for a parent who is trying to give her children the best education possible and finds the public schools to not meet academic standards (they have too low standards for my taste) and private schools to be unaffordable? I was homeschooled some years myself, but not on a consistent basis. My eldest daughter is 6 years old, but reading around 3rd or 4th grade level. I’m trying not to leave things out of her and her younger sister’s education. What would you have found valuable to learn in your younger years that I could give my children?

  • I cannot tell you how happy this makes me feel. Not just for you, but for my own kid, who I am homeschooling by default since the district refused to deal with his special needs. I am certainly not a great candidate for a homeschooling parent. Despite my best efforts, I can’t get him to write essays or reports. This has been true since his public school days and may be out of anxiety. He has only now learned his multiplication tables, which he was supposed to have learned in school in third grade. He is brilliant, but lopsided, incredibly verbal, charming and kind–and anxious. He could probably lecture right now at a university on several subjects. The thought that he may be able to get support in college, and handle it despite his weak spots is so reassuring to me. I am saving your suggestions so I can make better use of them when college years approach.

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