Jennifer I.: “All that was required was a note every year”

Most of my homeschooled peers were much like me, in that they were handed a textbook and then expected to essentially teach themselves from grade eight on.”

I was homeschooled from K-12 alongside my siblings by my mother, initially due to concerns about the quality of the local school district, and then due to religious reasons. We tried many different versions of homeschooling, from unschooling, to support groups, and pre-packaged curriculums like Sonlight. While my parents chose to homeschool out of a desire for the best for us, the experience left me essentially playing catch-up to this day, even as I pursue my masters degree after successfully obtaining my bachelor’s from an accredited university.

Rhode Island state law is extremely lax when it comes to regulating homeschooling, and leaves much of it up to individual school superintendents. This led to the superintendent in my district being pressured into not providing more than minimal oversight due to the small size of the town, and the homeschooling community essentially threatening to block the school budget vote from going through. All that was required was a note every year confirming that you were homeschooling, and a “transcript” of what the child had done the last year, which was rarely accurate and was never challenged by the school.

These lax regulations lead to the first standardized test I ever took being the SATs at 18, and my learning disabilities being undiagnosed and unaddressed until college. Gaps in oversight led to a great deal of “freedom” in my self design of my entire high school curriculum, namely I primarily “studied” what I pleased unless my mother felt up to fighting with me to get me to try and learn algebra.

While it sounds impressive that I completed a western civilizations course focused on unifying trends in mythological narratives around the world and completed two national novel writing challenges before the age of 18, what that description hides was my complete lack of scientifically based science classes, my minimal mathematics abilities, inability to diagram a sentence or define an adverb, and complete lack of study skills.

My first year of college was a struggle because of these gaps in my base education, and to this day I find myself attempting to self educate to hide these gaps as they affect my ability to complete higher level education. Any level of oversight may have helped prevent that, and I feel fortunate that my parents were prosperous enough and invested enough to help give me the resources I had growing up, since my education was still miles ahead of some of my homeschooled peers in terms of content and instruction. Most of my homeschooled peers were much like me, in that they were handed a textbook and then expected to essentially teach themselves from grade eight on.

My father has a Master’s degree and my mother is a brilliant computer programmer, but their intelligence and education did not adequately prepare them to teach mathematics, biology, chemistry, or even basic grammar for the most part.

Standardized mandatory testing once a year and yearly physicals would provide a level of accountability for homeschooling parents that would ensure that students are not deprived of their right to a education, while still allowing parents the freedom to choose the method and location of that education.

Jennifer I. was homeschooled in Rhode Island from 2001 to 2013. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

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