Posted by jlwile on December 6, 2010
I got an E-MAIL from a parent asking if I could recommend any physics books to her. It seems that her son, who is currently majoring in physics and piano performance at a state university, asked for physics books for Christmas. In the E-MAIL she noted:
[My son] has said that your [books] have more than prepared him for his science courses at college, and he has done extremely well in the chemistry and physics classes. He has said many times how thankful he was to have used your programs.
While I am always happy to know how well my books have prepared students for studying science at the university level, what struck me about the E-MAIL was how I wasn’t at all surprised by the fact that her son was majoring in physics and piano performance. I would think most people would do a double-take at that duo of majors. However, it didn’t surprise me at all, since homeschool graduates are amazingly well-rounded.
I first noticed this many years ago, when I employed a homeschool graduate to help me with certain research projects. At that time, she was studying genetics at the college she was attending. Despite being a “science geek,” I found that I could have serious, in-depth discussion with her on topics like science, philosophy, Greek literature, opera, classical music, and politics. While I had gained knowledge of those areas over the course of a (then) 40-year lifespan, she was able to challenge me on all those topics (and more) despite being less than half my age.
As my experience with homeschool graduates continued, my appreciation for their diversity increased. I have met an amazing array of college students over the years, and the homeschool graduates stand out as being significantly more well-rounded. This is demonstrated not only in the broad spectrum of their knowledge, but also in what they choose to do once they finish their homeschooling.
Many homeschool graduates go on to college as soon as they are done with their homeschooling. Indeed, an in-depth study of homeschool graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 found that they were significantly more likely to be in college or already have a college degree than the general population of the same age. While at university, many homeschool graduates demonstrate how well-rounded they are by merging degrees that don’t seem to be all that related, such as the physics/piano performance student mentioned above. One homeschool graduate I know ended up getting an M.D. as well as a masters in philosophy. Another got B.A. degrees in both chemistry and art history. Another double-majored in biology and theology. I could go on and on.
Those homeschoolers who are content to have just one major in college often demonstrate how well-rounded they are in other ways. For example, one homeschool graduate I know took a year off in the middle of her college career because she really wanted to serve missionaries in some way. She found a missionary couple who wanted to serve in a region that required an intensive language training program. The intensity of the program would keep them from being able to homeschool their own children. In order to help them, this homeschool graduate took a year off of college, traveled to the country in which these missionaries were serving, and homeschooled their children for them. That way, the couple could complete their necessary training, and this young homeschool graduate could get practical experience in her chosen field: elementary education.
Other homeschool graduates demonstrate their well-roundedness before heading off to college. One of the most inspiring discussions I ever had was with a young lady who had just returned from Monrovia, Liberia. She had graduated homeschool at the age of 17, and she decided that the Lord was calling her to work at a Monrovian orphanage that specialized in arranging adoptions with parents in the Western world. She didn’t have friends who worked there. This wasn’t part of some group trip. In fact, she didn’t know anyone at the orphanage and had no one to arrange her travel. She had learned about it while doing a research paper on foreign adoptions, and she felt called to serve there.
Even though Westerners were warned against traveling to Monrovia at that time, she convinced her parents to let her do what the Lord was leading her to do. So at the ripe old age of 17, she traveled alone to Monrovia and started working at the orphanage. This young lady had truly amazing stories to tell, but the most amazing thing to me about her was the fact that she was willing to follow the call of the Lord, regardless of the danger.
Now these stories are all just anecdotes, and they certainly don’t offer any statistical evidence for the concept that homeschool graduates are more well-rounded than the graduates of public and private schools. My personal experience with graduates from all three educational models, however, tells me that these stories are part of a general trend. In general, I find that homeschoolers are significantly more well-rounded than their peers.
The obvious question, of course, is “Why?” The answer, I think, is that homeschooling encourages students to be very well-rounded. One of the main reasons is simply this: The love of learning is not socialized out of homeschooled students. In most public and private schools, the social pressure pushes students away from learning. The most popular kids are not the ones who study hard and achieve academically. Instead, the good students are usually “rewarded” by their peers by being put on one of the lowest rungs of the social ladder. In homeschooling, it’s quite the opposite. Learning is encouraged not only by your daily contacts (parents and siblings), but also by the other homeschoolers you tend to work with. As a result, homeschooled students retain a love for learning, and that allows them to explore everything that interests them.
Another reason is that homeschooling is incredibly flexible. Because most homeschoolers are not tied to a syllabus, if a homeschooled student is studying history and finds the Hundred Years’ War interesting, he or she can take the time to learn about it in-depth. As the student does this, he or she will learn about all sorts of interesting things from the physics of war machines to the medicine of the day to the politics that drove the war. So what started out as a history assignment might develop into a physics lesson, a biology lesson, or a political science lesson. This kind of student-directed learning tends to emphasize the relatedness of the academic disciplines, which ends up leading to the kinds of students who major in physics and piano performance.
The data have always shown that homeschoolers are academically superior to their peers. My experiences indicate to me that they are also more well-rounded than their peers. Put those two things together, and you have the makings of some amazing future leaders!