Eleanor Skelton: “I saw no balance”

“My homeschooling put me on the dean’s list in college. But I didn’t know anything about life beyond academics. … My parents focused so much on academics, shunning extracurricular activities, that I had no idea how to do anything else.”

Eleanor SkeltonMy homeschooling put me on the dean’s list in college. But I didn’t know anything about life beyond academics.

I was homeschooled K-12 from 1994-1999 in southeast Texas, from 1999-2003 in rural southwestern Colorado, from 2003 to 2005 in the Dallas metroplex, and from 2006 to 2008 in Colorado Springs. Preschool began by age 2, and I could read Nancy Drew books by the end of first grade.

My parents chose homeschooling for me and my two younger siblings because they had been bullied in public school, and they wanted to shelter us from ungodly influences. The school shootings in the 1990s, especially Columbine, seemed to justify their decision.

We had standardized Iowa testing every odd numbered grade year, and both my sister and I took the ACT and SAT in our junior year of high school. My brother started high school this year. Because my family used the A Beka Academy video distance education program, my sister and I graduated with an accredited high school diploma that colleges recognized.

Texas did not require standardized testing, but my mom did it anyway since she feared she wasn’t prepared to teach us, even with a structured program. But Colorado required both the testing and that my parents send a letter of intent to home-educate to our local school district, describing our curriculum.

Homeschooling prepared me for the university in a strictly academic sense. I maintained a 3.9 GPA while I completed 119 credits during my first three years through courses like calculus and organic chemistry. My parents weren’t surprised, because I had scored in the 90th percentile throughout middle and high school.

English professors praised my critical reading skills, and I tutored general chemistry at the Science Center on campus.

But I knew I was lucky.

I met two sisters through Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine pen pal program in high school. Both of them were homeschooled. They told me they weren’t going to college because they were in training to be mothers. The 20-year-old sister read and wrote short stories at a middle school level. But the younger one’s letters had only first grade vocabulary, and she often confused basic spelling rules. She was 17 years old, and her parents were about to graduate her. Neither one knew mathematics beyond basic algebra.

My study buddy in college was homeschooled and later graduated from her Apostolic Pentecostal church school. Her mother created a high school transcript for her, but our university required she take the GED to earn her bachelor’s although she already had an associate’s degree from the local community college.

She graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology despite constant struggles with spelling and grammar. My friends and I often proofread her papers so she could make it through an assignment. Her mother wrote papers for her associate’s degree. But she felt guilty and inadequate. After community college, she did not allow her mother to interfere again.

But while I could ace courses, I was not prepared to live as an independent adult when my parents told me I could either transfer to Bob Jones University or move out of their house over two years ago. I’d read Harry Potter and asked for a curfew later than 7:30 p.m.

My parents focused so much on academics, shunning extracurricular activities, that I had no idea how to do anything else.

And after I left, I found out that if corporal punishment left marks, it was abusive. I realized my parents made me wear long sleeves and didn’t let me wear bathing suits after spankings with the belt to hide what they had done. Not because government agencies were against the divine plan for discipline of children.

Homeschooling gave me a head start in academics, but I’ve had to catch up culturally and socially the last two years. Figure out how to interact with people. And isolation made my pain invisible.

And although my friends and I were homeschooled to fulfill religious agendas, I saw no balance in the community between undereducation because the world is evil on the one hand and an overemphasis on academia without socialization on the other. 

This is how I came to support homeschool oversight.

Eleanor Skelton was homeschooled from 1994 to 2008 in Texas and Colorado. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

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