College Preparation in the Homeschool Setting
ST. EMMELIA WEST CONFERENCE, APRIL 2018
MARRIED 30 YEARS, MOTHER OF 3 CHILDREN
3 COLLEGE GRADS (BERKELEY, DAVIS); 1 AT HOLY CROSS SEMINARY
HOMESCHOOLED FOR 15 YEARS
Interviewer: Can you tell us a little more about your family?
M: We have three children, one girl, two boys. We thought public school would be just fine. But I feel like education and academics have changed dramatically over the past 30 to 50 years. I saw my mother’s first and second grade primers and they were like what is taught in 5th grade right now. I mean, it's incredibly different, how the education system has been dumbed down. So one of ours was learning three-syllable words and they were only teaching one-syllable words, and now it’s February and I’m thinking they should run out one-syllable words soon and move on, but they didn't. So I just was very discouraged, and pulled them out.
[Other Panelist]: That’s where it is today.
M: It really is, and for me it was a matter of time. They get up in the morning, you have to dress them, feed them, get them out the door, put them on the bus, spend this time getting them to class where Johnny can’t behave so no one can pay attention to actually teaching, and then, oh wow, we had five minutes of learning.
Interviewer: So basically you started with public education and then the academics made you decide to homeschool?
M: Yes. I didn't decide to homeschool for spiritual reasons. Our spiritual life was separate from our academic life. Then I realized our academic life just had to come home, and home was all about the spiritual life, so that was a natural order for us.
Interviewer: And how did you approach high school?
In high school our oldest was bored, and started studying on her own. She was a National Merit scholar. She guided herself through; she did not go to junior college except for Spanish one summer. She also took some online classes with Northwestern University. I just found a picture of her and my neighbor’s daughter cutting a cow’s heart open on the dining room table with the eyeballs and everything next to them. That girl, our neighbor, is a nurse now, flying on emergency helicopters.
Interviewer: So, your oldest went straight into Berkeley from homeschooling, without junior college, but your boys went to junior college?
M: Yes, I didn’t know anything about this "junior college into college" business. We happened to live near a junior college. One of my sons was in love with astronomy, so I said, "they have astronomy classes, let’s see if we can get you in there." So, we enrolled him in junior college astronomy in high school – but we didn't think he would do that great, so we enrolled him pass/fail. He ended up with an A, and the teacher was so upset because he couldn't give him the A, but could only give him a "pass." So that experience gave me the idea of sending my boys more and more to the junior college for the things I don’t do and don’t know. Because I know my gifts, and math isn’t one of them. So they went into junior college during high school.
Interviewer: And your boys ended up doing their their first two years of college at the junior college while they were in high school, and then transferred to the 4 year university as juniors?
M: Yes, both of them transferred in as juniors before they were 18. The local junior college was practically in our back yard. It was very convenient to send them there for classes. We started off with just one class, added more, and pretty soon they were full time. Basically, they did junior college for high school. One transferred into Berkeley and was there for 2 years. He just got accepted to MIT Sloan for a master’s. My second son graduated from junior college with an AA by the end of highschool, and then transferred to UC Davis. He then went to Holy Cross and is graduating from seminary next year.
Interviewer: Is there anything you learned or would do differently?
M: Something we faced, which was a homeschooling surprise – we thought we had this thing together – was that when he transferred to Berkeley, my A student got a D in Calculus. Sigh. That was a fun Thanksgiving. You got a D?? There are things called “weeder classes.” They are weeding out the people who don’t belong in medicine. Don’t ever let your children take a weeder class in college. Then they come home with a D. It ruined his GPA for the whole time at Berkeley. That’s the homeschooling disadvantage – you don’t know these things.
[Other Panelist]: Nowadays some people are starting to know that. A friend whose son went to Berkeley for biomedical engineering knew that ahead of time, so she had him do all of those classes at junior college and then re-take them at Berkeley where they are much more difficult. He had a class where they were so impacted that he had the lab one semester but there was no room in the lecture, and he had to take the lab without the lecture. The following semester he did the lecture.
M: That’s why they have the weeder classes, all the classes are so impacted. However, during the junior college experience, my children learned how to get into a class. You sign up but the class is full. They learned to go and sit in the class and wait until everybody else dropped out, and then they would get added. It was a good lesson, even though it doesn’t always work. They got into more classes just by showing up for 3 weeks. Go be persistent, that’s what life’s about.