Sarah Henderson: “We did not wish to be home schooled”
“If my parents were required to show some sort of portfolio, they would have needed to make sure that there were books, and show progression through grades (even if the progression was at an individual pace). They would have also needed to obtain and evaluate school work from us.”
My name is Sarah Henderson. Between 1994 and approximately 2002, I was homeschooled in Nova Scotia and Ontario. Where my family lived, supervision and oversight by the local schools was available, but it was optional, not mandatory. I was given an approximation of an 8th grade education by my parents, although my math education ended at grade 6, when I became frustrated and confused with intersections on a graph and my mother did not know how to teach me any further. I did not receive much instruction from my parents past the age of 10, and none at all past the age of 14, although I continued to read Bob Jones University textbooks and some psychological journals on my own for another year or two. I helped my younger siblings learn to read and do basic math after I turned 12, when my mother became too ill and preoccupied to continue with homeschooling the younger children.
I left and went to high school when I was 17, and earned a high school diploma, but I found this difficult due to the high number of significant gaps in my education, including not knowing how electricity works, not understanding the periodic table, and not understanding the relationship between decimals and fractions. I also did not know how to write essays, descriptive paragraphs, or persuasive paragraphs. I also had significant gaps in the knowledge of history; I did not know about the residential schools for Aboriginal people in North America, and I did not know how recently the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage had occurred. I received no instruction in the arts or technology.
When I was 18, our circumstances resulted in all my younger siblings attending school. One close in age brother attempted high school, but dropped out after one year, because his education gaps and learning disability were too difficult to overcome. One other sister graduated high school. So far, three more siblings obtained some high school credits but dropped out due a combination of factors, including lack of support for education at home, the extreme lack of educational background to support a high school education, and difficulty stemming from having to learn how to learn, in addition to the remedial work that was required to catch up to their grade level. Out of 9 homeschooled children, only 2 have already received high school diplomas, 4 have dropped out, and one more sibling is expected to successfully complete high school (for a total of 3 high school graduates, and 6 drop outs).
I believe that having some form of oversight could have improved the educational outcomes in my family. Because we did not wish to be home schooled, being interviewed by an outside party may have allowed us to express our wishes to attend school; although a safe platform to say this would have been needed, since we would have been severely punished if we had expressed that wish to someone who was in a position to help provide that outcome. Perhaps having a superintendent oversee the homeschooling process would have motivated my parents to be more organized, and to create lesson plans and follow through on them.
If my parents were required to show some sort of portfolio, they would have needed to make sure that there were books, and show progression through grades (even if the progression was at an individual pace). They would have also needed to obtain and evaluate school work from us. Because there was no one to show the work too, and there was no measurement of failure as homeschoolers, my parents were not motivated enough on their own to provide a good education, and there was no one to step in and ensure that a good education was provided between when my oldest brother started being homeschooled in 1992 and 2006 when everyone was finally given the opportunity to go to school. That is 14 years of unsuccessful homeschooling, which could have been avoided with some form of homeschooling oversight.
Sarah Henderson was homeschooled from 1994 to 2002 in Nova Scotia and Ontario. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.