I have been interviewing homeschool graduates to learn what they are doing these days, how homeschooling helped or harmed them in their post-high-school endeavors, and what advice they might give to homeschooling parents and students. As part of that project, I was happy to interview a former student of mine, Hayley Bower. At the same time, I interviewed her boyfriend who is also a homeschool graduate, and I will write about him in a separate article.
I met Hayley in 2014 when she was a student in the general chemistry course I taught at Anderson University. A faculty member had informed me that she was a homeschool graduate and had used my biology, chemistry, and physics courses in high school, but I probably would have guessed it anyway. As is typical for homeschool graduates, she was in the honors program, actively engaged in class, and confident with the material. In addition, she always had a wonderful smile on her face when she spoke with me.
Hayley graduated from Anderson University four years later with a degree in engineering physics. She earned the Outstanding Student of the Year award in the School of Physical Sciences and Engineering for the 2015-2016 school year. When that was announced publicly, I joked with my colleagues that since she was my student as a freshman, I was taking all the credit for her earning the award. Honestly, however, I had nothing to do with it. She was an outstanding student from the moment she walked into my class.
Hayley went to a private Christian school from pre-school to eighth grade, and her parents started homeschooling her in high school. Initially, she hated it! She jokingly said:
You go from being with your best friends all day, every day, to being at home with your brothers.
She did get involved in a co-op where she met with other homeschooled students once a week, and beginning the second year, she came to appreciate homeschooling and the co-op. She loved the flexibility that came with homeschooling, and realized that she had a lot more time to do the things she wanted to do because she could learn much more efficiently at home.
Since she lived in Anderson, she took some university-level courses at Anderson University. By the time she graduated from high school, she had earned 13 credits toward her university degree. Since the credits applied to both her high school and university education, they are often referred to as “dual credits.” This brings me to some advice Hayley has for homeschoolers:
Start dual credits earlier, maybe even as a sophomore. It gets you used to the environment and makes the transition to college easier.
What does she think about how homeschooling prepared her for university?
I thought it made the classes easier, because you already know how to teach yourself, and that’s what you have to do at college. You also have to do it once you leave the classroom and no longer have access to the expertise of professors.
In addition, in some of her higher-level courses, she was the only student. She felt right at home in those classes.
While at university and work, she didn’t “advertise” the fact that she was homeschooled, but if it came up in conversation, she would let her fellow students and colleagues know. She said the typical reaction she got was:
Oh, you were homeschooled? But you seem so normal!
Once she earned her degree she got a position as a Success Agent at Salesforce, a leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) services, assisting customers with the Marketing Cloud platform. That’s not exactly engineering physics, but it does use the programming skills that she learned at university. She is also currently working on a Master’s degree in systems engineering at Purdue University so that she can continue to advance her education and career.
She thinks that her experience in homeschooling, as well as her time at a small university, has been very helpful for her current position. She told me:
The interaction you get as a homeschooler is helpful. I am the youngest person in my department and one of only two women. Homeschooling gets you used to talking with people who are older and different than you, and that has helped me a lot in my current position within the department and communicating with customers.
I think this comment is very insightful. In most school settings, students tend to interact with others of similar age. In homeschooling, you spend a lot of time interacting with your parents and other people who aren’t in school during the day (typically adults). Even in a homeschool co-op setting, there is a low student-to-adult ratio, and the age range of the students with whom you interact is wider than what you see in a traditional school. As a result, homeschoolers are much more comfortable in groups made up of many different ages. This is something C.S. Lewis’s stepson noticed about homeschooled children.
Not surprisingly, Hayley is glad that she was homeschooled. Based on her success at such an early stage in her career, I think it is safe to say that it prepared her well for life as an adult. More importantly, it helped to mold her into the wonderful Christian woman she is today.