In the St. Louis area, there resides over one thousand home-schoolers. While one might think each of these students respectively learns within the walls of their own homes, around 500 of these students attend a local co-op known as HomeLink—which includes certified teachers, classrooms, curriculum, and social activities. One student, Lucy, explains to me the ups and downs of life as a home-schooler and attendee of this co-op.
Lucy says she is about the age of a junior or senior in high school, but credit-wise, is unsure. She said to me, “You know—homeschooling,” which is an exchange of mutual understanding that is common between many home-schooled students. We all understand the different paces each student maintains in their curriculum. Lucy continues: “Basically, I do a lot of my classes online, since my mom can’t really do all of them. I do pre-calculus online, I do physics at Homelink, literature at Homelink, and then I do some history classes online as well.” Lucy explained that her mom is British, and previously taught/worked at a homeschool-oriented educational organization. “It only made sense that I become home-schooled,” said Lucy. “It was a very intense kind of learning.”
As the conversation lengthened, Lucy began to elaborate upon her experiences as a home-schooled student. “I love homeschooling because I like to go deep into things. I like to research topics that interest me, and it goes with my learning style better. It has helped me get better grades.” Lucy mentions that homeschooling is hard in some ways, like keeping up with school and less opportunity to mingle with diverse students. She says, “You have to go out of your way sometimes to experience lots of different people and things when you’re homeschooling.” However, she mentions the benefit of personal development briefly, “It has made me more original and I love learning. It’s tailored more towards me, so I have learned who I am.”
Although the topic of high school is exciting, Lucy became very animated and passionate when she began talking about the future, as well as opportunities that homeschooling has provided her. She says, “I’m hoping to go to Princeton for an internship and I’m excited about that. I don’t know what I want to do exactly, but I want to do something in the humanities for sure.” Just then, the topic turned a different shade. Lucy explained that she wants to help people understand each other: “There are so many polar opinions. I was watching this documentary—The Talk—it was about the race relations and how so many African Americans have to tell their children, especially boys, what to do when police stop them. I was crying.” She mentioned the existence of both good police and bad police—police who want to help people. “There’s a history between race and police that people don’t often look at,” says Lucy. She wants to help better the understanding of how race, police officers, and other polar opinions you see in the media are interconnected.
In addition to Homelink, online classes, and uniquely paced curriculum, Lucy notes that there are other components of homeschooling that not everyone may know about. “I have a lot of friends in different places [distance wise], so that can be hard for home-schoolers as well.” She continues to note some reactions from people who lie outside of the home-school community. “Honestly, over the past few years I have gotten less questions, and I feel like that could mean it’s becoming more acceptable to be home-schooled. But, I have gotten a lot of questions like, ‘Do you do school at home?’ and ‘How do you make friends?’ in the past. One of my friends was actually really surprised that I went to prom.” Lucy said this with a mixture of amusement and exasperation.
In summary, Lucy’s experiences as a home-schooler are both incredibly unique and impressive, but also quite common in other respects. Lucy is gifted in lots of different things—such as musical ability, photography, writing, dance, and art—which she says her homeschooling schedule allows time for. For many home-schoolers, this rings true as well. Both flexible, tailored curriculum and unique social, extracurricular, and work opportunities allow many home-schoolers to be profoundly successful in today’s society.
Lucy is the first of six interviews to be conducted, and in the next interview, other home-school practices and organizations will be assessed.