Recently, I received this question from Hip Homeschool Moms Community: “Did it make a difference to your employers that you were homeschooled?” That is an interesting question. I suppose my brief answer would be “Yes, though never in the way you might fear.”
I can think of a few small professional fields where having a public school background may make a difference. I do not think it should, but sometimes it does. However, I find that in most fields, especially at the entry levels, having been homeschooled only makes a difference in a very positive way.
As the book of Proverbs says: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (22:29). In my experience, and in the experience of my homeschooled peers, employers are much more interested in “what you can do” than in “where you learned it.”
Homeschoolers often “can do” more than their public schooled peers, simply by virtue of their opportunities.
Because of the flexibility and extra hours that one receives in a homeschooling schedule (ave you ever counted up how many hours homeschooled children spend commuting to and from school?), enterprising homeschooled students are likely to have a much more impressive “” and skill set than their public school peers.
Learning How to Learn
They are also often better at critical thinking and at “learning how to learn.” They are less likely to become paralyzed in the face of a messy problem, perhaps because they are less likely to have been allowed to give up on messy problems while working closely with their parents on school at home. These attributes, I have often observed, are great advantages in adulthood.
For example, during the Y2K crisis of 1999, my two teenaged older brothers were employed a great deal for a few months in fixing computers. They could do this because their flexible homeschooling schedules had allowed time to take courses and become certified to work on computers. As a result, they had marketable skills. They also had time to use those skills in the adult marketplace because homeschooling allows more room for extracurricular activities.
I will note, however, that my brothers did not shortchange their education. Even while studying for computer certification, their flexible schedules allowed them to undergo a rigorous course of academics that later gained them scholarships to study-abroad programs both in the U.S. and in Europe as well as admission to two different prestigious colleges.
Creative Problem Solving and Time Management
My mother also made very sure that my brothers were trained in creative problem-solving, time management, and the skill of figuring out how teach themselves in order to accomplish the task at hand. My parents imparted a general attitude that one can learn anything if one tries hard enough, which led us as students to take a much more enthusiastically exploratory attitude toward life. All of us now work in the fields of our choice with satisfactory salaries, and several of us make more money than we need or even want.
I myself attended a college on the outskirts of D.C., where most of the students came from homeschooling backgrounds. Ten years later, it is a saying in our area that you “can’t throw a rock on Capitol Hill without hitting a graduate” from my college. I daresay I could name half a dozen classmates who are now working in positions of influence in one of the world’s most powerful cities.
Homeschooling may offer you not only extra time to learn skills, but also an example of cheerful service. In my life as a homeschooled child, I gradually adopted from my parents the attitude that, “serving is an honorable calling.” I was content to be a servant, and I took great pleasure in serving with excellence. It was a bit of a shock to me to discover, when I first began to regularly interact with public-schooled and private-schooled teenage peers in the workplace, that this is not normal.
I heard recently of an extremely wealthy and powerful (and self-absorbed) man in England who, on being asked what it was that drove him into the world of business, replied that his father had drummed into him this saying: “There is no greater shame than to work for another man.” I think most of my generational peers in America, now in their teens to early thirties, would agree. I do not.
Though I didn’t become a Christian until my later teens, my parents were Christians since before I was born. They considered their whole lives to be at the service of Jesus Christ, and they took great delight in this. My father would come home from a long, tiring day at work (he was a Harvard-educated lawyer). He came in whistling. First a kiss for my mother, then his full attention for six active children who were eager to talk to Daddy, and then it was: “What can I do to help, Honey?”
He did dishes. He tackled chores while my mother finished making dinner. He took his children to do family grocery shopping on Saturday mornings so that my mother could plan school. He brought her coffee in bed every single morning (and still does) so that she could start the day right. He served in our church. But more than simply doing all these things, he enjoyed them. That was the key.
By nature, my father says, he is lazy and selfish. I know that what he chose to do didn’t come easily to him, but I would never have known that unless he told me so. He gave his six children the distinct impression that service is his idea of a dignified and happy calling. Nor was this an act, a matter of “setting a good example” despite hidden personal misery. Quite the reverse: my father is one of the happiest men I have ever met.
He says (and I believe him) that it was a matter of being transformed by God as he chose to imitate Christ and take pleasure in service as Christ does. My mother, no less than he, and for much the same reasons, took delight in serving her husband, children, friends, and church. My parents made serving look like fun, like a pleasure and a privilege.
Now, a value for service is not exclusive to Christianity: there are Christians who do not care about service, and non-Christian folks who do (my beloved grandparents leap to mind). However, it is an extremely important value in the Bible, and so Christians – in my experience – are on the whole more likely to have it and to transmit it to their (frequently homeschooled) children.
Whatever you may think of Christianity, I’m sure you can see how much of a difference such an attitude would make in a person’s professional life. If I were to write one of those “what is wrong with America from my perspective” books, I would probably entitle one chapter “A Nation Without Servants,” in large measure because of what I have observed about how a value for giving good service (or lack thereof) affects people in their professional lives.
For example, as a teenager entering the part-time workforce, I took the attitude that I have already described, absorbed from my parents, that serving is an excellent, fun, and honorable calling. My non-religious, non-homeschooling bosses were universally delighted with this. My older adult coworkers, particularly if they were my superiors, were also pleased. Public-schooled coworkers of my own age, few of whom shared my attitude, were rarely pleased. You see, without any will to do so, I made them look bad.
When I was seventeen, I went to work in a local restaurant as a waitress. Several of my coworkers (public-schooled teenagers) quickly came to dislike me. As far as I have ever been able to discern, their dislike had nothing to do with homeschooling per se. It had to do with attitudes, like mine about service, that one is more likely to inherit in the homeschooling world.
I was ethical and hardworking and delighted to serve; they were not. They soon began to tell lies about me to our mutual boss. At the time, having taken the job for life experience and not because I needed the money, I preferred to leave my position rather than respond to their accusations. I thought, “How do you fight shadows? I don’t need this.” I regret that sometimes. I wonder whether I might have won them over by patient goodwill. My older self would have liked to try.
Let’s fast-forward a few years to post-college. In my mid-twenties I was already employed in the career that still fascinates me… but it is a career in the homeschooling world, so it doesn’t count as an example for the purposes of this article. However, at that time I was also recovering from major unexpected abdominal surgery and felt that I would rather be gaining strength outdoors than in a gym. I had always liked barn work, having been an equestrian as a child. I found a stable where the boss was willing to exchange lessons for hours, and the hours I spent with a pitchfork in my hands counted (for me) as pleasant exercise. I signed up to spend several hours a week in this fashion, outside of my regular job.
Now, this place was what they call a “serious stable”; some of the horses there were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. My boss was correspondingly concerned about the quality of her employees’ work. Many people came and went during my time there; few were ever good enough to please her. I was. She said I was smart and learned fast. I’m not sure she was right, but I do know that I cared to serve with excellence. At that stable I had no problems with coworkers, largely because they were few and transitory. The one with whom I worked most closely, whom I came to know and love, was a kind person. I miss her. But when I left, she was on the fast track to being fired, partly because she lacked a value for giving good service that would have allowed her to excel.
Taken altogether, no, I do not think my bosses minded that I was homeschooled. In fact, it has been my general observation that bosses who have previously hired homeschooled employees are eager to hire more of them. Having now been a boss myself, I can easily see why. Homeschooled students are overwhelmingly more likely to take personal responsibility seriously, to have better work ethics, to tackle problems on their own more intelligently, and to have a value for excellent service. Pair these things with their often-superior resumés , and you have an attractive applicant indeed for any professional position.
Christina Somerville holds a Bachelor of Arts in Literature. For the last ten years, she has specialized in classical education and is the author of a high school Literature program for Tapestry of Grace. Christina has also authored “Poetics,” an independent textbook on the history of literature and on systematic literary analysis. She has taught for both co-ops and an online school and provides teacher training in her area of expertise for homeschoolers. You can read more from Christina at Lampstand Press.