J.B. Blackford

Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.

Homeschooled: Ready or Not for College

IMG_1912It’s easy to tell when the back-to-school-season hits Pittsburgh. There are people milling about everywhere, city neighborhoods choke on cars, and locals discuss long check-out lines until someone says, “Well, don’t forget, school is starting again.”

Oh, that’s right. Pitt, Duquesne, Carnegie Mellon, Chatham, Carlow, Point Park, and Robert Morris bring thousands of students to the Black and Gold City. Great for business, bad for parking.

As I try to reach the library in Oakland, surrounded by masses of freshman, I wonder how many of them — if any — were homeschoolers. I remember leaving home for college, albeit to attend a tiny Lutheran school in the middle of nowhere, and I didn’t think for a minute that I would be weird, or different, or anything other than completely prepared. Maybe other homeschooled kids do think about these things, but I didn’t. (Whether it was arrogance or naivete, I don’t know. Probably both.)

Within the first month of undergrad, I recognized that being homeschooled had given me three major skills that would help me survive and succeed:

1. A love of learning and self-edification. I didn’t see college as burden. Yes, it was the “next step” or simply “what you do,” but that was exciting for me, not disheartening.

2. Organized self-management. I don’t know how other families operate, but my mother’s homeschooling style taught us the concept of responsibility. Yes, she was our teacher and guide, but it was our education and we were responsible for it.

3. The desire and ability to synthesize information from different classes. Whether it was humanities, literature, philosophy, or institution-specific classes like “Scriptures” or “Global Heritage,” the history and themes related to one another. Being able to draw these connections across courses and semesters gave my education a sense that it was more full or complete (and helped me to write better papers, drawing on information from other subjects).

Within the first month of my freshman year, I also realized that our brand of homeschooling had left me ill-equipped in three major academic areas as well:

1. Homework was entirely foreign. (I elaborate on this and the next point in my post, “Consider the Con: Obstacles to Homeschooling.”)

2. I had taken only 14 timed tests prior to college. I was able to adapt because of having been taught the value of striving, that education as a blessing and a luxury, and that I was responsible for my success. But the concept of “studying” was also something that I had to learn in addition to testing.

3. I had no idea how to take effective notes. Again, I was able to adapt, not having realized that years of listening to pastors preaching sermons or homeschooling moms giving workshops had actually taught me how to follow a lecture’s structure and identify key points. But it was a slow process, and many of my notes from the first semester were useless, which meant that I spent most of finals week in study groups.

As the 2014-15 academic year begins, I think of all of the new students — homeschooled or not — pouring into institutions across the nation. I wonder if their schools or parents or online educations have prepared them. I hope that they view this part of their lives with eagerness, anticipating that they will have a chance to access the tools necessary to pursue their individual gifts throughout life.

Did you feel that you were prepared to attend college? What skills or bits of wisdom do you wish you had possessed?



2 comments on “Homeschooled: Ready or Not for College

  1. pamallcorn
    August 22, 2014

    Thank you for sharing. I am just beginning my homeschooling journey with my kids and I appreciate your candor. I am glad that though you may not have learned specific skills, your education gave you the tools to overcome.

    • JB Blackford
      August 22, 2014

      Thank you for commenting! I’m glad that my experience can be useful for you as a homeschooling parent; that was definitely my intention when I started to write about my education. Hindsight allows me to see how my personality and learning style benefited so greatly from being homeschooled and from my mom’s particular approach to home education. Now that I’m an adult, I can also see that she was learning along the way, too, and I know that if I were to homeschool my children, there would be things I would keep the same and things that I would adapt. But at the foundation I would certainly retain the concept that knowledge is a gift and a strength, which is what kept me motivated when college was overwhelming. I hope that your homeschooling experience is blessed, and I’m happy to offer any further insight that I can.

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