He hoped to land a spot in the engineering program at a prestigious University. Yet as the date of the test approached, he feared he would not score high enough in math to qualify. The others seeking entry into the same program, who had attended regular school, appeared confident, prepared. Some had even taken “advanced placement” courses in high school. A few days before the test, he told his mother, Jill, she had “ruined his life,” by choosing to homeschool him.
Jill Billings felt devastated. Jill pulled Dan out of school years before, after the classroom dampened his love of learning. She wanted her creative Danny back. And she got him. After a period of de-toxing, they finally shed the dead skin of schoolish thinking and found a mode of homeschooling that restored Dan’s enthusiasm and creativity.
Until now. Suddenly, faced with this challenge, Dan felt overwhelmed and under prepared. Had he been attending school, he could have blamed his teachers. In homeschool, that meant Mom and Dad. A tearful Jill related these facts to me, looking for guidance. At that time, I had none.
In an internet homeschooling newsgroup, I encountered "the Admiral." One day we read an angry post from a young man, certain that his parents had done him a grave injustice by homeschooling him. They had not, he declared, prepared him for dealing with the pressures of the classroom. This, he decided, had ruined his life.
One day in the public library, a bright young man flagged me down. “Are you Ed Dickerson?” he asked. I nodded, my arched eyebrows communicating puzzlement. “I’m Will Hedges,” he said. His parents had been pioneers in homeschooling in this part of the state. They knew me, as many people did, through my lobbying efforts on behalf of homeschooling. Delighted to meet him, we exchanged pleasantries. “What are you doing now?” I asked, quickly calculating he must be college age. “Oh, I’m going to school some,” he said. “You know, homeschooling really ruined my life,” he said, with little anger. “When it came time for me to go to work, I had to adjust to working with people,” he said. “All the other kids knew what to do from their experience in school.”
How did he know this, I wondered? “I can just tell. I know that if I’d gone to high school the transition to work would have been easier.” We talked a little, and I gave him my e-mail address, asking him to keep in touch.
These three represent somewhere from 20-40% of the high school homeschoolers I meet. Although it expresses itself in different ways, Homeschool Regret can be easily diagnosed. First, it rarely caught by any homeschooler before the age of 12. Usual age of initial onset is 15-18. The incubation period can be anywhere from weeks to years, but the symptoms emerge after exposure to some traumatic aspect of the outside world. It may express itself as a demand to go to school in order to “have friends,” or a need not to be “left behind,” or, like our opening story, the need to be “prepared for college.” Like so many teenage maladies, it strikes when the parents’ immune systems have been compromised.
After all the years of fighting with neighbors and in-laws over these very concerns, hearing them from your teenagers can have catastrophic effect on your own confidence. Every doubt which ever assailed you in your darkest moments homeschooling, now thunders at you in the voice of your own child. More?