My family decided to take the leap from public school to homeschooling when I was about to enter the third grade. My two younger brothers and I each had individual circumstances which lead my parents to consider home- schooling. After spending three years in public school, my enthusiasm for learning had rapidly diminished. I had gone from being a six-year-old who was excited to go to school every day to an eight-year-old who hated homework, and was overly stressed about timed math tests and other class work. My brothers were much more interested in playing with action figures and Legos than learning to read, and this was a serious concern of the school. My parents hoped that through homeschooling they could create a more individualized and engaging learning environment for the three of us.
For our first homeschool day in August, 1999, my mom prepared a detailed lesson plan which included the four of us sitting in a circle and singing a song as we wrote the days of the week on a large erasable calendar- the exact way I had started each day in my second grade classroom! Thinking back on that structured first day is comical in retrospect, but it shows that even my parents weren’t comfortable embracing a homeschooling lifestyle right off the bat. Instead, the process was a transition for all of us. With time, the lesson plans disappeared as everyone became more comfortable with unstructured days. Our style of homeschooling always remained somewhere in-between unschooling and a curriculum-based education. In the early years we relied more heavily on workbooks and specific math and English programs, but the more traditional forms of education were heavily supplemented with homemade science experiments, trips to museums and countless afternoons spent listening to my mom read books aloud.
We soon became involved with the local homeschooling community, and our weeks were usually busy with field trips, play days, and (rain or shine) parkdays. When I was thirteen, I attended my first HSC conference, and shortly after became involved with the larger HSC community. Attending HSC campouts and the conferences was a huge part of my teen years, and by age 15, I was using Amtrak to visit friends I had made all over California. Today, many of my closest friends are still ones I met through homeschooling and HSC.
Over the years I took countless classes offered by our charter school, the park district, online and other homeschooling parents. The topics ranged from creative writing to interior design to pottery. When I was 16, I began taking classes at our local community college. The transition, for me, was not especially difficult. I only took one class my first semester, and started with topics that interested me. As with all new things, there was a learning curve. For ex- ample, I didn’t know how to take notes, and for the first time in my life I had to study for tests. Fortunately, I was able to take the time to learn which “school skill” methods worked best for me. By the time I was 18, I had transitioned to taking a full load.
In 2010, I applied to transfer, and was accepted into the landscape architecture program at UC Davis. Although I had at- tended community college for three years, living in Davis was the first time that I became strongly connected to a large community with no ties to the homeschooling world. I found that with my new friends, it usually took weeks, or even months, before the fact that I was homeschooled came up naturally. The strongest reaction I ever received from a peer was surprise.
In recent years, I’ve found I enjoy it when friends and coworkers learn that I was homeschooled. When asked if I liked it, I always smile and without hesitating say, “Yes!” I then tell them about learning at my own pace, taking field trips every week and never having to do homework after school. I mention that my PE “class” consisted of rock climbing, and how I learned history by going to Civil War reenactments. When asked about socialization, I talk about how busy I was with park days, game days, campouts, conferences and visiting friends across California. After hearing my description, many college friends tell me that they wish they had been homeschooled, too!
In most ways, my life as a grown homeschooler is similar to any other 24 year olds. Since graduating college,
I’ve been working full time as a technical landscape designer at an architecture firm in Sacramento. I recently signed the lease for my first apartment, and spend most of my free time hanging out with friends, pursuing a variety of interests and working on transitioning into my adult life. But, even now, I still feel strongly connected to the homeschool community and lifestyle. Last March, six other grown homeschoolers (including my brother) and I decided to have our own mini-reunion campout at Patrick’s Point. Being there together, reminiscing about epic foam sword battles, late nights around the campfire and all of the amazing people (parents included!) who we’ve known over the years was truly wonderful. I feel lucky to have grown up in such an amazing community. However, I would never presume that my homeschooling experience was better than that of my friends who went to school. It was simply different. But, if I had the chance to go back, I would choose to homeschool again without a second thought.
Hannah Levy grew up with her two brothers in Sacramento, California. She currently works in Sacramento where she also enjoys yoga, learning the ukelele, and taking trips to IKEA to furnish her apartment.