Elise is a fellow homeschool graduate who was also my best friend growing up. Sometimes, we try to figure out exactly how long we’ve known each other. By the time I started keeping my first diary at age 10, we were already “best friends forever.”
We think our moms met through our local homeschool group when we were in grades 1 and 2 (she’s a year older than me). Because we lived only three-quarters of a mile apart, we were soon hanging out every chance we got. We celebrated our homeschool graduation together in 2002 and were bridesmaids for each other when we each got married.
Today, I’m delighted to have Elise answering a few questions about being a homeschool graduate.
KBW: First, tell us a bit about yourself.
Elise: Well, I am from Stony Plain, Alberta, originally but now make my home in Lethbridge, AB. My husband and I met here about nine years ago doing youth ministry together in our parish, and now we have been married almost six years and have two children as well as one on the way!
My husband enjoys his job as a wildlife biologist. I pick up casual shifts in the local hospital’s lab as a Cytotechnologist. I plan to start my 4-year-old on a kindergarten homeschool program in the fall.
KBW: How many years (or what grades) were you homeschooled?
Elise: Like my three older sisters before me, I started out at a small Catholic elementary school. Towards the end of Grade 2, I overheard my mom approach all my older sisters about the option of homeschooling and ask them whether they’d be interested. Seeing my sisters’ obvious teenaged disgust at the idea and how they weren’t hiding the fact they thought homeschooling a ridiculous notion, I guess I felt sorry for my mother.
When she asked me if I wanted to try it and after she explained it a little, I said “sure!” We started together, the two of us, at home for Grade 3 and I was homeschooled fully until high school when I began taking all my science subjects and math at the local public high school where a homeschooled friend’s brother-in-law taught.
KBW: What was a typical homeschooling day like for you?
Elise: In the elementary and junior high grades, my experience of homeschooling wasn’t like most of my homeschooled friends. They were usually done around noon for lunch, or as soon as their tasks were finished. The quicker they worked, the faster they were able to go outside and play.
I, on the other hand, had one hour of religion, then an hour of Language arts, fifteen minute snack, then an hour of math, a break for lunch, etc. My day was very scheduled, with school done around three in the afternoon, at which point chores started, all thanks to my dad whose job as a teacher at a post secondary technical college had a direct impact on me.
Thankfully, my mom was not as structured by nature, so often things like running errands, extracurricular activities and such were not really planned well and sometimes afforded me leverage to ask mom for shortcuts with my subjects so I could go and play with friends (like Bonnie, my best friend up the road).
KBW: Did you like homeschooling or did you wish you could go to public school?
Elise: There was a very short time, with a vague memory of complaining that I had no one to play with (there were no little siblings to join me in my homeschool life on a day-to-day basis) where I asked mom if I could go back to school again, back to what was expected (like time with friends, because that is what school is about, right?). But after a few months of adjustment, my mom wisely signed me up for a number of weekly activities that allowed me to make new friends whom I still keep in touch with, and I easily slipped into life as a homeschooler.
Now in retrospect and even in my high school years, I saw how different my life would be had my parents not decided to try homeschooling. Who knows what trajectory I might have gone, but I liked the path my life has taken and wouldn’t change anything related to homeschooling.
KBW: Were you involved with other homeschoolers or a local homeschool group?
Elise: Yes—skating, swimming, art, music, aerobics, climbing, camps, field trips and more, were all done with the local homeschool group. We even did an athletics program that allowed us to have basketball and volleyball and badminton tournaments with private Christian schools. I took private piano lessons until my parents finally caved to my pleas and I stopped in grade ten. Also, my dad and I took five years of Kung Fu together, beginning when I was sixteen.
We were very busy but just remember, it was only me at home until my parents surprised us with our little sister, Gabrielle, when I was fifteen.
KBW: What did you do after Grade 12?
Elise: I felt that after Grade 12 I needed a year off school, so I worked at a garden centre for twelve months full time as a cashier. This was a good time for me to try and discern what I was being called to do, not an easy task with three older sisters giving advice and hooking me up with pamphlets on everything from architecture to electrical engineering. I had many areas of interest, but wasn’t exactly sure which one of my “likes” was strong enough to turn into a career.
At the point I decided that nursing was what I wanted to with my life, Grant McEwan’s program in Edmonton was already full but I still enrolled in sociology, psychology, physiology, anatomy, and microbiology (all requirements for first year nursing students). Then, towards the end of my first year at post-secondary a friend suggested I look into the two year Medical Laboratory Technologist program at NAIT which she was applying to.
When she took a trip to a nearby city to visit the hospital lab, I went with her and discovered the small, obscure area of medical labs called Cytopathology. At last I found something that was interesting enough for me to want to do for an unknown number of years, or until my Prince Charming arrived.
Ironically, my friend did not end up attending NAIT, but I did (carpooling with my dad who works there) and graduated with my Cytotechnologist diploma in 2006 after two jam-packed years of study. It was my work that led me to Lethbridge and ultimately, my husband.
KBW: Do you feel that being a homeschool graduate helped your post-high school goals?
Elise: I think a number of factors contributed to me reaching my goals and developing my character and homeschooling was definitely one of the big ones. As I mentioned before, I don’t think my life would’ve been worse had I gone to school, it just would’ve been much different and I do think being homeschooled was really good—okay, great!
KBW: If you could change something about your homeschooling experience, what would it be?
Elise: I would simply change those first two years where I went to school (well, three if you include kindergarten) and be homeschooled from babyhood onward; allowing me to meet all my homeschool friends right from the start. 🙂
KBW: What was your favourite part of homeschooling? Your least favourite part?
Elise: My favorite part about the whole thing was the freedom it allowed my parents to tailor my education to me. Perhaps a better way to describe it would be to say that they were given the ability to be creative with my education. Before you think of this in a negative way, let me explain.
I always knew my parents had high expectations, for me and for my older sisters who had gone through the Catholic school system. When I was struggling in Grade 5 with math (my mom had lots of gifts but teaching and doing math was not one of them), after she thought she had tried everything, we basically halted math altogether for about six months.
Although my mom was not formally teaching me any particular math curriculum, during this period my dad took me for about an hour and a half on Saturdays to his classroom and tutored me in math. At home during the day, whenever I wanted to bake something (which was often) my mom would say okay, as long as I doubled or halved the recipe to suit her liking. Voila! I learned fractions better than ever and gained confidence to overcome the “I’m just too dumb” mentality I had briefly sunk into…
I cannot say that I have a least favourite part about being homeschooled and that’s being totally honest!
KBW: Are you planning to homeschool your children? Why or why not?
Elise: Of course I am going to homeschool my kids. It occurred to me that it might be a little hypocritical if I didn’t give it a shot, especially since I sing the praises of my own homeschool experience. That being said, I am not “anti-school” by any stretch and I would consider the option of separate school if I thought that was the best for my child (children) after much thought, prayer and reflection.
What draws me to homeschool as a parent is the flexibility, creativity and control that I can have, and as everyone admits: “kids—they grow up so fast!” I can’t imagine not being the one to see my child write their first sentence alone, or see living things under a microscope for the first time. I already spend my day instructing, directing, cajoling, discovering, creating, reciting, etc. and I don’t see too much changing with the introduction of “school.” We just get to learn more new things together. And I can’t wait to see what my kids will teach me throughout the years.
Do you homeschool or have you thought about it? Do you have any questions for a successful homeschool graduate?