Interview with a Homeschool Grad: Joelle

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I’ve gotten a really positive response to the interview series with homeschool graduates. I think we all like to know that there are people out there who have graduated from homeschool and gone on to lead successful lives as normal, well-adjusted people.

I think the most interesting thing that I’ve taken from the interviews is that, although each of the people we’ve heard from so far have seen things that they would have liked their parents to have done differently, all have seen their overall experience as having been a positive thing.

If you missed the previous interviews, you can click to read Ruth‘s or Laura‘s interview. Today, I’d like to welcome Joelle, who was homeschooled up until 10th grade. Joelle is married and works in public relations.

WUH: Joelle, how would you classify your parents’ homeschool style (i.e. school-at-home, relaxed, unschool, etc.)?

Joelle: My parents were pretty traditional in their homeschool approach. We used lots of work books and text books, but also incorporated lots of other extracurricular activities in the afternoons (sewing, quilting, gardening, cooking, swimming lessons, choir, bell choir, piano lessons, etc.).

In addition, I sold bread once a week (around 16 loaves) to a group of “subscribers” who bought my bread on a weekly basis. (I didn’t get an allowance. That was my source of money.) So I would say that we accomplished far more than I would have at a regular school! For my last year of school (9th grade), I did a correspondence school including ABeka video school for Algebra 1. That year was probably the most structured.

WUH: You mentioned that your 9th grade year was your last year of home school. Where did you attend school after that?

Joelle: After 9th grade, my parents and I decided that I should attend a small private school.

WUH: Was that a difficult adjustment for you after having always been homeschooled?

Joelle: It wasn’t a difficult adjustment at all. It was a very small school (only around 25 students that year) and had probably 10 or more staff members, so it was almost like a homeschool situation. Probably one of the more challenging things was learning to take notes, but fortunately I had taken a video course on “how to take notes” so that was helpful.

WUH: Do you feel that your homeschool experience left you academically prepared to begin private school?

Joelle: Yes, I did feel academically prepared. However, I should mention that one of the main reasons I went to the private schools was because algebra was a challenge for me, in spite of the A Beka video school. I felt that the teachers and tutoring were helpful with mathematics when I attended the private school. One of the benefits of the private school was that I could work out complex problems with fellow students and we would help each other, promoting a teamwork atmosphere.

When I got to college, I definitely felt prepared in spite of the fact that I had little or no background in many of my classes for my journalism major/ public relations minor (classes such as Communication Theory, Healthcare Communication, and Beginning and Advanced Media Writing). Yes, it was challenging, but because I had developed good study habits, I was able to study well and get good grades in the classes. Oh, and I earned an A in my College Algebra class!

WUH: Congratulations on the A in algebra! From my own experiences with math, I know that’s not an easy feat. Obviously your private school experience left you academically prepared for college. How about the social aspect of having been homeschooled and, later, private schooled? Do you feel that you were prepared, socially, for your subsequent schooling experiences?

Joelle: Because the private school was so small, it was easy to interact with students. They were very friendly. But I have to say that my parents had sheltered me in some ways that, although I am so glad I was sheltered in those ways, I found myself learning by experience. (Ahem, yes, this was a Christian school, but some of the kids came from different home lives than I did. Inevitably, kids learn things from each other…such as certain hand signs. Those, for example, were foreign to me since I hadn’t watched much TV or heard foul language and was quite sheltered.)

I can’t say I wouldn’t recommend sheltering my kid from stuff like that, if possible…but I’m not sure how I would advise preparing them for it either! Little social things like that were slightly challenging, but I quickly caught on and didn’t suffer at all.

By the time I got to college, I felt prepared socially. (Understand that I also went to a Christian university.) I lived at home, not in a dorm, and I didn’t eat at the cafeteria, so I didn’t have as much as a social life as could have had (oh – and I took anywhere from 13 to 19 credits, so I was super-busy), but I did get into a good group of friends in our campus ministry and I still keep in touch with many of them even though we’ve all gone our separate ways around the country.

During my college years, I also met a wonderful Christian young man at a national youth conference, and we began a long-distance courtship (which eventually became a local courtship). We’ve now been happily married for over a year and a half!

WUH: Do you feel that you would be a different person than you are now if you had been homeschooled (or private schooled) the entire time?

Joelle: I think that experiences shape who we are, so of course I would probably be a different person if I had been homeschooled or private schooled the entire time. I think that if I would have homeschooled the entire time, I would have missed out on some valuable friendships with quality Christian young people that I developed at the private school. And spiritually, it was good for me to take classes and hear chapel presentations from people who believed similarly to my family, yet it was from an “outside” source. I was able to get mentorship from some godly Christian adults who made a huge difference in my life.

In my case, the private school was a high school. I’m not sure that attending the school my freshman year would have made a huge difference, except there was a very godly senior class attending that year who graduated before I got to know them. I would have enjoyed that, but I’m not sure it was consequential to my well-being. 🙂 All in all, God has His perfect timing and He guided us to the private school at just the right time.

WUH: Is there anything that you would have liked your parents do different, either socially or academically, that you feel might have improved either your homeschool years, in general, or your preparedness for adult life?

Joelle: I think I would have liked more of an emphasis on creative arts (seeing that I do quite a bit of graphic art in my job now). Computers were still coming out when I was a kid, and graphic arts weren’t quite computerized when I was very young. I did take watercolor and cartooning lessons from my grandma and drawing lessons from my cousin, but that was pretty much the extent of my art lessons. I wished I could have done more with that. Perhaps my parents could have made time for me to take art lessons locally or something, but our schedule was already so jam-packed that I don’t know what would have been good to leave out!

WUH: Based on your own experiences, will you homeschool your children?

Joelle: Yes, when I have kids, I do plan to homeschool them. I want to be able to shape my kids’ character and be a part of all their “formative moments.” I want to be able to choose what kinds of material to have my kids learn from, and have more control over their sources for information. And I want to have fun and create memories with them!

WUH: Do you feel that your homeschool experience gave you the skill set you have needed to pursue your work-related interests as an adult?

Joelle: Definitely. Because I’ve been working in public relations and I graduated from college with a BA in journalism, my interests tend towards writing. And from the time I was really little, my mom had me dictate stories to her, which she typed and I illustrated. A few years later, I began “writing” my own stories, not only for English, but for fun. Later in my last couple homeschool years, I published a small newsletter or magazine for Christian girls my age. That gave me a tremendous experience in desktop publishing, writing, printing, and mailing.

WUH: What a fun way to get practical experience in writing! Overall, would you classify your homeschool experience as positive or negative?

Joelle: It was positive, for sure! I can never thank my parents enough for the time and effort they put into homeschooling. My brother and I were challenges, at times, but I am so glad that my parents persisted in shaping our lives by educating us at home.

WUH: Are there any books, curricula or other tools that you remember as being particularly effective or enjoyable?

Joelle: I remember a book I had one year called “Wordsmith.” I really enjoyed the writing activities that it had and I felt that it was a good choice. For math, I felt that Saxon math met my needs the best because it provided lots of review (for me, I had to use math every day or I’d forget it before the test!) And I enjoyed Rod & Staff spelling, because it had an activity for every day of the week to help me remember and learn my spelling words.

WUH: If you could impart one piece of advice to homeschooling parents, what would that be?

Joelle: One of the reasons I wanted to do this interview was because I know that parents may get discouraged from time to time with their homeschooling. Perhaps their kids aren’t getting it or are dilly-dallying all day with getting something done. (Ahem, speaking from experience here… I used to take FOR. EVER. getting some things done, until it finally “clicked” in my mind that I could either take all day to finish something, or get up early and be done with school earlier in the day.) Don’t give up! Sometimes it may seem like the days are just plodding along. But persist! It is all worth it in the end when your children “rise up and call you blessed.” (Proverbs 31:29)

Thanks, Joelle. I know that is advice that homechooling parents definitely need to hear from time to time. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with us. I think this kind of candid reflection from someone who can look back on their own homeschooling experience from an adult perspective gives current homeschooling families some wonderful insight and helps us to take an educated look at what we’re doing and why.

Do you have any questions that you’d love to have answered by a homeschool graduate? I’ve got some more interviews lined up, so I’d love to know what you want to know.

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  1. Kris,
    Thanks for providing these interviews. Sometimes it’s hard to take the long view and it is too easy to be discouraged by a perceived lack of progress.
    Keep up the wonderful work!


  2. Great idea! As a homeschool graduate myself (K-12), I often find that many homeschool parents bombard me with questions about my experience now that I’m grown and in college. It’s also nice to hear what other homeschool graduates have to say about their experiences.

  3. I really enjoyed the interviews. They were encouraging, and yet served as a reminder of how easy it is to be overprotective of your children. Thanks so much!

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