Monday, November 17, 2014

Interview with Sarah Whitesel: Homeschool Graduate

I’d like to introduce the next participant in my interview series, Sarah Whitesel who is the same age as my daughter Suzanne. When the girls were young, Sarah’s mother and I teamed up to do testing, go on field trips, have play dates, and start a homeschool support group. I did Sarah’s evaluations all through elementary school and loved the results I saw. She was every homeschool mother’s dream child. read more

Now that I have thoroughly embarrassed you, Sarah, will you still answer some questions for me?

Sure, I'm still glad to help.

What did you think about being homeschooled when you were a child?

I didn't spend much time thinking about it when I was in elementary school. I had been home schooled since kindergarten, so it just felt normal. As I reached middle school, I sometimes was self-conscious if my mom and any of my many brothers would leave the house during regular school hours. I felt like people were staring at us and wondering what we were doing out of school.

I got over all that in high school, though. By then I realized the benefits of my home school education, so I didn't care if people happened to think we were strange.

Now that you have more of a distant perspective what do you think?

I'm very grateful for my home school education now that I can look back on it. In high school I became very interested in literature and writing, and with home schooling's flexibility my mom was able to shape my curriculum toward my interests.

I think that's one of the best things about home schooling -- the way the small teacher to student ratio allows the curriculum to be customized according to each student's learning needs and desires.

What would you consider unique about your home school experience?

During my sophomore year of high school the local school board voted to allow home schoolers to take part in extracurricular activities. That meant I was able to play softball and basketball, which was very important to me back then. So in that regard, I got to play on a team and meet a whole set of kids I otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to meet, but I still had the benefits of a very individualized education.

You've mentioned the flexibility of home schooling and your individualized education a few times. Can you be more specific in describing them?

I guess more specifically what I mean is that since my mom developed my lessons just for me rather than a class of 30 students, the lessons not only allowed me to develop my strengths, but they gave extra time for me to focus on my weaknesses. Math was my weakest subject, so when needed, I could spend extra time on it.

Also, I think home schooling makes it very easy to teach to each student's learning style. I'm a pretty visual learner, so I spent a lot of time reading. On the other hand, one of my brothers is very hands-on. While I was busy reading, he could often be found making posters, drawing pictures, or helping my dad with construction projects.

How did being homeschooled help you with college?

Like most college freshmen, I was kind of shocked by the amount of work I had to do in my first year. The good thing for me, though, was that I was a very self-directed learner thanks to my home school experiences. In my last year or so of high school, my mom would outline what she expected me to accomplish then I was responsible for when and how I got it done. I think that experience really helped me adjust to my college workload.

Tell us a little about your work experience and any future plans you may have.

Just like in high school and college, writing has played a large role in my professional life. Right after college, I worked for two years as a sports reporter for The Sentinel, based in Lewistown, Pa. From that experience, I learned it can be difficult money-wise to make a living as a writer, but it sure is a lot of fun.

More recently, I've started teaching GED prep courses for the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit. Although I occasionally teach social studies and science lessons, my primary responsibility is to help my students learn the skills to pass the writing section of the test. I really love my work there. Someday, I would like to go to graduate school to better understand the mechanics of how adults learn to write, but for the time being, I'm learning a lot just by being in the classroom.

What advice would you like to give homeschool mothers?

Help your kids identify and develop their interests. I can trace my jobs as a writer/writing teacher back to my home school experience, and the brother I already mentioned can probably trace the jobs he's had in construction back to his own home school experience as well. I don't think either of us knew at the time what we were going to do as adults (that all seems so far away when you're still in school), but we did know what we liked to do. I'm really grateful our mom helped us develop those skills.

I always enjoy reconnecting with you, Sarah. Thanks for being on my blog!

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