Students make transition from home schooling to college
February 18, 2016
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A normal school day for freshman Allison Hawbaker looks a lot different this year than it did in high school.
She puts her books in her backpack, drives to school, and sits in class like any other student as she moves toward getting her degree in music. When she gets home, she does her homework. This is a pretty average experience for a young person: the mundane task of doing what most kids have done from 5 years old to the day they graduate college. For Hawbaker, however, her first day at IVCC last August was the first time she had done that task since second grade. Through most of her education, she was home-schooled.
Delle Peterson is an IVCC alumna currently on faculty as an Applied Music instructor, who grew up home-schooled. Early Childhood Education major Rebekah Meyers also comes from a homeschool background. They are just a sample of the 52 current students who claim home schooling as their high school education.
While they represent less than 2 percent of the general IVCC population, chances are you have met one. They are not only here, they are thriving.
Professor Michael Pecherek, head of the IVCC music department, stated, “I’ve been teaching here for 19 years, and I’ve had home-schooled students in my classroom every one of those years,” Pecherek also said, “Home schooling is a lot different now than when I first started teaching.” He explained how his earlier ideas of home-schooled students were that they would be somewhat socially awkward. He later learned that IVCC students with a home-school background immediately began surpassing his expectations. While it may be surprising that Pecherek has had home-schooled students in his classes for so long a time, he would point out that home schooling is a long-standing educational option: “It was just reserved for the wealthy; it is only recently it became something average American families could do.”
Peterson feels that her time as a home-schooled student actually prepared her for IVCC.
“My previous high school education as a home-schooled student taught me self-motivation and discipline,” she says, “so that I found the responsibility of completing college level coursework easy.”
While Hawbaker is still a student, she feels like homeschooling hasn’t had any particular effect on her time at IVCC: “While there are some things I wish could have been different then, now I wouldn’t change it. I haven’t felt like it has affected anything.”
She says that even the things she was worried about entering college did not turn out to be issues.
“My mom didn’t always grade my essays, but I didn’t have a problem doing well in my English class.”
Meyers also feels that her background in home schooling doesn’t significantly affect her IVCC experience negatively, but that it has made it easier in some ways.
“I think speaking is easier; because of home schooling, I was able to go out in the community more, and I do well interacting with a lot of different kinds of people.”
IVCC counselor Jane Sack believes that home-schoolers do well at IVCC. She points out that it’s difficult to generalize home-schoolers as well as traditionally-educated students: I asked a couple of other counselors what they thought about college readiness among home-schoolers. The responses were all the same: “it depends.”
Through Sack’s personal interactions as a counselor, she theorizes that home-schooled students could be set up to have an even better experience than others just because of the new surroundings.
“It’s a fresh start, something new,” she says, “I have found home-schooled students to be generally more engaged and responsive. Home-schoolers really run the gamut; some of the issues they face are the same as general students. I just really couldn’t generalize.”
Pecherek has noticed that the home-schooled students he has worked with admit to facing difficulties in the STEM subjects, despite excelling in liberal arts and it could be because they are more inclined in that direction. There’s also an adjustment period where students figure the class setting out.
Hawbaker feels orientating herself to the formalized structure of college has been difficult: “I do still struggle a little with knowing how to research things and manage my schoolwork but I’m learning. When I started at IV it did take a little time to get used to the classroom and homework time being separate.”
After a successful semester into her time at IVCC, however, she is becoming accustomed to everything. Hawbaker is also starting to get involved in more than just classes on campus.
Meyers also went through some adjustment, but doesn’t feel like it affected her at all: “I’d say the first semester was a little hard, but I don’t think it really had anything to do with being home-schooled. Part of it did, but really it was just because I had been out of school for three years.” She said the only other thing that took her some time to get used to was the amount of people. Meyers said she has great relationships with her professors because of her connection with her parents during her time at home. Peterson said her challenges came from having to do group projects with people who weren’t as concerned about their grades as she was.
Home-school involvement at IVCC is a difficult thing to pin down, but Pecherek believes that they definitely have things to offer. He points out that their unique background contributes to the diversity of the college, presenting different perspectives to the benefit of their classmates and professors. Sack said, as a counselor, while she doesn’t usually keep tabs on the specific things they do, she does sometimes have to push the students a little to access the on-campus resources, suggesting an initial uncertainty in that respect.
Professors and counselors like Pecherek and Sack’s perceptions about home schooling has a significant weight at the IVCC level. Thankfully for the 52 students with a home-school background attending IVCC, the broad attitude towards home-schoolers seems to be one that is at least neutral.
Hawbaker said only one student at IVCC expressed negativity about her background. “Everyone else doesn’t seem to think that it makes a difference or is impressed and thinks it’s cool.”
Though home-schoolers may be harder to find, they are here, contributing and benefiting from the learning atmosphere of the institution. Peterson feels IVCC was a perfect step between a home-school and university environment. Hawbaker would encourage anyone to come here.
Meyers believes it’s particularly good for the home-schooled student, saying “I think IVCC is such a great school, especially for home-schoolers. It’s just a nice school to come to.”