As I mentioned in a previous post, I first learned about home education when I found out that my top students at Ball State University were graduates of homeschooling. After taking a long hiatus from academic life to write textbooks designed for homeschoolers, I am once again “dabbling” in academia as an adjunct professor of chemistry and physics at Anderson University. I am once again teaching homeschool graduates in my university classes, and I continue to be impressed by them.
As a part of a new series on this blog, I decided to interview one of my current students, Tori Miller, who is in a physics class I am co-teaching. Entitled “Teaching STEM in the Elementary Classroom,” it gives future teachers specific tools that they can use to incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into their lesson plans. While you might find it odd that a homeschool graduate is studying to be a school teacher, I think it is awesome!
Tori was homeschooled K-12, and although she has only been at Anderson University for two years, she is technically near the end of her junior year because of all the college credits she has earned. Initially, she was thinking about studying accounting so she could help her father in a family business, but she decided she wanted to work more directly with people. If you meet Tori in person, you will see why. She is friendly, outgoing, and always willing to lend a helping hand.
Once she decided that she wanted to work with people, she gravitated towards professions where she could help make the world a better place. She considered nursing, but says that science is not her strong suit, although you wouldn’t know that from her performance in my class. She settled on education because she thinks that she can do a lot of good there, and she hopes that she can bring the values that she learned through homeschooling to the classroom.
I asked Tori about how she thinks homeschooling prepared her for university life. She says it produced a good work ethic in her, and it also taught her about taking responsibilities seriously and having respect for authority figures. She also says that homeschooling gave her a desire to pursue a higher education, since she was taught to appreciate learning and was also encouraged to make life better for those around her.
While she thinks homeschooling prepared her well for university, she did say that she was a bit unprepared for the social and spiritual diversity she found on the university campus. She didn’t have much experience working with people from lots of different backgrounds. While she was able to adapt, she says the transition to university would have been smoother if she had prior experience in such situations. This brings me to Tori’s first bit of advice to homeschooling parents:
Find the balance for your children so that they have a strong faith in Jesus while at the same time having exposure to others besides just homeschoolers. They need to be able to converse with unbelievers and other people outside of their realm. It helps mature your children and prepare them for life outside of school.
She thinks it is important for parents to prepare their children for the unChristian ideas they will encounter as they go on to university or the real world. I think she sums up the reason for this pretty well:
You might not be useful for Jesus if you continue to be shocked about what’s going on.
Yes, a lot of the ideas you will encounter, even at a Christian university, will be shocking. However, being shocked doesn’t further the cause of Christ. Teach your children about these ideas now so that when they encounter them later on, they can love those who espouse such ideas and gently tell them why those ideas are not only counter to Christ, but are also detrimental to being happy and fulfilled.
To the students who are near the end of their homeschooling years, she also has some important advice:
Make sure your faith is strong. If you are secure in Him and what He has done in you, you won’t have problems when you encounter shocking ideas.
Of course, since we talked about all these new ideas she has encountered at university, I asked if her spiritual beliefs had changed much as a result. She says that being exposed to so many new ideas made her think about things she probably wouldn’t have otherwise considered, but she doesn’t see any real changes in her beliefs.
This brings me to my favorite thing that Tori shared with me during our time together. From the first day she was in my class, I sensed that there was something special about her, and what she said to me near the end of our interview confirmed it:
Make sure that you don’t think your ways are always right. Sometimes, we can get so focused on our walk with God that we forget to be open minded in a healthy way.
This is true on so many levels. We can miss many theological truths if we think that our theology is always right. We can miss many social truths if we think our politics are always right. And while Tori claims that science is not her strong suit, her statement is one of the most important things a scientist must learn. If we continue to think that the science we believe is always right, we might miss the opportunity to change science for the better!