Last week, Kelu shared about her experiences repatriating to China after living in the U.S. If you missed that post, you can read it here.
This week we have not one, but two awesome teenagers sharing with us about their experiences homeschooling in Beijing. Joining us today are Wesley and Chloe!
So guys, just how long have you been homeschooling?
Chloe: I started last year in the middle of my 8th grade year.
Wesley: I have been homeschooling for 17 years (my whole life that is).
I’m sure there is a variety of reasons why people choose to homeschool. How did you and your family come to this decision?
Chloe: I was going through a tough time mentally and emotionally and it got to the point where I couldn’t stay in the school I was attending.
Wesley: The decision had already been made for me and my siblings because of an experience my oldest brother had in public school and my mom’s simple belief that homeschooling is better, haha!
Have you ever been to public school? If so, what do you miss about it? What do you not miss?
Chloe: I grew up going to private international schools but in third grade my family moved back to America for a year and I was put in a public Elementary school for my third-grade year. I homeschooled for half of my fourth-grade year and then in fifth-grade I began going to an international school in Beijing.
I personally do not remember much about public school besides having fun on the playground and my teacher’s coffee breath. If I had to choose something I miss, I would say being with people… but that also fits into the things I do not miss category.
Wesley: No, I have never been enrolled in a public school, but I’ve gone to Bring your Friend to School Day and gone to SAT test days where I can see the school life. I can’t really miss it because I’ve never been, but I guess I like the community of public school. I know it can be problematic and there is a lot of drama at school but just the chance to be together in whatever you are doing is appealing to me.
Drama in high school? I don’t know what you’re talking about, haha! I bet scheduling is very different from public schooling. What does a typical day in the homeschooling life look like?
Chloe: A normal day for me would be waking up at 7 in the morning to get ready for the day. At 8 I begin school and I finish at 3. Last year I had online school and teachers, but I wasn’t a huge fan of that so this year my mom is my teacher.
Wesley: My current school set up is very loose this semester. I have no online classes and no real teachers. My mother has adapted to let me do most of my work on my own, so I usually start the day with the hardest subjects and finish with the more enjoyable ones. After I finish reading books, watching lectures, and writing notes I have the rest of the day free.
The timing of this totally depends on how I’m feeling that day, so some days it will be earlier, around 3-4 p.m., but other days I take it slowly and work into the night. Once I finish, I have lots of hobbies and fun things to do to fill my free time.
It sounds like you have a lot of flexibility, which is awesome! So then how do you choose classes and curriculum?
Chloe: At the beginning of my freshman year my mom asked around for some good curricula. I ended up using a couple of different ones this year.
Wesley: My mother has been homeschooling for over 20 years, so she has accumulated most textbooks a person needs in a life time, haha! So usually the process is that she tells me a class I need to take, shows me the different curricula she has, and I can pick which one I like best.
The two of you have very different experiences here it seems. Chloe, you have been homeschooling for about a year, and Wesley, homeschooling is all you know! What do each of you like about homeschooling?
Chloe: I like not having to be around people all the time because I think that the pressure to be social all the time at school can be distracting for me.
Wesley: I enjoy feeling like I control my day and that if I’m tired, I can do my work slowly or if I have something I really want to do that day, I can power through my work. If I am disciplined and productive, I can have a lot of free time which allows me to do things I don’t think a public schooler would have time for.
No one can complain about having extra free time! What do you dislike about homeschooling?
Chloe: Something I dislike is having to be responsible, because while I have become very responsible, it is still hard.
Wesley: I don’t enjoy the pent-up feeling I get by the end of the week from sleeping, eating, reading, learning, and doing everything in the same house and usually alone.
Yes, that cabin fever would drive me crazy too! Homeschooling is definitely an experience that challenges students for the better though. How has homeschooling grown you as individuals?
Chloe: Homeschooling has definitely helped me become more independent, responsible and confident. When I started homeschooling, I hadn’t been doing well in school and I was insecure about everything.
Also, when I began homeschooling, I was able to deepen my relationship with God
Wesley: I think homeschooling is an education style that can be tailored much more to the individual, but still it does not fit all. Homeschooling can teach a person how to manage their own time, how to be productive even when no one is forcing them to be, and how to be a very independent individual.
But homeschooling can also make a person lonely, depressed, socially awkward, and they might trick and procrastinate their way out of school. I believe homeschooling has worked for me and helped develop my character in a very good way, preparing me to be on my own. But it just doesn’t work for some people and I think that’s fine.
Awesome! I imagine it can be lonely at times though. Has this been the case for you? What do you do to counter the loneliness?
Chloe: When I began homeschooling loneliness would come in extreme waves, but I knew when I started that it meant I would be lonely sometimes. Something that has helped me is joining youth group and homeschool co-op.
Wesley: Yes, it’s true it can be lonely. Especially being the youngest and all my siblings have gone to college, I am alone in the house most school days and I have had to adjust. I’m lucky to have parents who know homeschooling lacks a great amount of social activity so whenever there is an outing or a hangout with friends, they most usually will let me go regardless of school. But at home I will blast my music on flat screen speakers and sing and try to have a good time so as not to focus on being alone.
That’s so important to stay connected to people! What are some common misconceptions people have about kids who are homeschooled?
Chloe: I think a lot of the misconceptions are a little bit true to some degree, like how all homeschoolers are socially awkward, which isn’t true for all homeschoolers but there are some who are. When I was little, I thought that all homeschoolers were redheads and wore jean skirts, which obviously isn’t true. I think the toughest misconception if I’m being serious, is that we won’t be able to get into a good college.
Wesley: Yeah, I think that’s a hard question to answer because homeschooling has such a wide range of types. Sometimes people say homeschoolers have unending free time, and in some cases that is true, but in others it’s quite the opposite. Sometimes people will say homeschooling makes a kid unable to socialize normally, but other times it can help one become more self-confident and more of a leader. So, there are many different assumptions and misconceptions that are made but I say homeschooling varies too much between households for those ideas to be accurate.
When these misconceptions and stereotypes come your way, how do you respond?
Wesley: Personally, the most common misconception made towards me is about smarts. That because I am home-schooled, I am not really doing school and that I’m not really smart. These taunts and jokes can be frustrating at times, but I can find peace in the fact that I know what I am learning, I know how my day goes, I know how much school I am doing, and I know ME. It’s not my job to worry about them and even if I did, I can’t change what they think.
I’ve had to find out from experience, that yes homeschooling will always come with an outsider sort of feeling, but that can be the greatest strength in homeschooling. If we let that feeling of awkwardness and separation from school students take over, that is the road to becoming a depressed homeschooler, which many are. But since I am used to that feeling, I can balance my reliance, I know I have friends, I have a social life, and I am my own person. I believe homeschooling helps me be in the world but not of it, and it helped me to find great confidence in knowing who I am.
I’m sure that will inspire some homeschoolers who might be reading this! What other advice could you offer them? Especially, those who might be making the transition from public school to homeschooling?
Chloe: I think a good thing to remember when you make the switch is that you are never alone because it is easy to fall into the mindset of believing no one cares, which is never true.
Listen to your parents and respect their decisions.
Stay healthy because when you are sitting around all day at a computer, it is easy to get unhealthy very fast.
Stay in the Word daily because I know that without God, I wouldn’t be able to homeschool.
Wesley: Use your chance of being in a personalized school system to really find what you love. Don’t just pick the subjects that are easiest or the best time to be online but use your ability to influence your education to find where your talents and your gifts lie.
Homeschooling is one of the best places a teenager can find out who they are as an individual. It’s just sad that so many of them don’t take advantage of that because they think homeschooling is a handicap. So, my advice is school is school; public, private or home. But at home, with your help, it can be a means to discovering your future.
Amazing! Well guys, thank you both so much for sharing today, debunking some homeschooling myths, and providing practical advice for our readers. If you have a question or comment, leave it in the comments section below!