Beliefs challenged: Students find university environment conflicts with personal experience when home-schooled

Sheri Kotzum

What do the Duggars, Lindsay Lohan’s character in “Mean Girls,” Tim Tebow and I have in common?
No, I’m not some big star and not all of us always wear pink on Wednesdays, but we all have home schooling in our backgrounds.
Some who are home-schooled can be more extreme, but the majority of us are pretty normal. Of course, normal for us means waking up at 10 a.m. and walking to the couch to do our schoolwork as fast as possible.
While our friends were stuck in classrooms from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, we were going to the zoo, shopping, going on vacation or doing other things that our “normal” friends didn’t get to do.
Mom wanted to go shopping? You did your schoolwork in the car. You wanted a three-day weekend? You’d finish Friday’s work on Thursday. It was both a blessing and a curse to be able to take school with you wherever you wanted. There were no sick days — unless you were literally dying — and no holidays except for summer and Christmas.
For the most part, the freedom that being home-schooled provided was awesome and benefited me greatly. I was able to travel a lot, and I graduated when I was 16.
But for all the benefits there are, many home-schooled kids struggle with transitioning into the structured and set schedule of college, and I was no exception.
Now, I have to be up at a set time each morning, and I actually have to get dressed to go to school. My teacher isn’t my mom or some professor on the television screen. I can’t always leave class whenever I am done with my own work, and I have deadlines that aren’t flexible. And don’t even get me started on group projects.
“There’s definitely more structure, but it’s a good kind of structure,” said Whitney Hartselle, a junior broadcast journalism major from Montevallo, who was home-schooled until third grade and then again in high school. “I never had group projects when I was home-schooled, so I struggle with those a lot.
“And, when you’re home-schooled, the quality of your work is held to a higher standard, so I often feel like I have a higher standard for myself than others because of that.”
“I was much more comfortable in small classes,” said Beth Burdette, a former home-schooler from Palm Bay, Florida, who is currently home-schooling her child. “I also struggled with group projects. I was used to doing it all myself, and I didn’t like my grade being reliant on other people.”
No matter how socialized you were while you were home-schooled, there’s always some kind of culture shock with respect to college.
When you’ve been at home all your life and your friends are mostly from church, you’re not used to being challenged on your beliefs. If you are, it’s coming from your pastor or someone who already has the same views as you.
College changes that completely.
I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. My parents instilled in me strong family values, and we were constantly involved in church. When I started community college, it was strange that my professors and classmates didn’t have the same views as I. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t naive, and I knew that people had different beliefs and values, but I never realized that some people would challenge and ridicule me for mine.
All of a sudden, I was in the minority because of my beliefs. Because of this, it forced me to examine what I believe and why I believe it. It’s made me stronger in my faith and my convictions. I’m better at discussing my beliefs and, at times, defending them. Now I love being challenged because I know it helps me grow and learn.
Most of the time, I am challenged about my religious beliefs and personal convictions. I have chosen not to drink until I’m 21, and I am constantly being questioned and tested on that. My friends are always trying to persuade me to have at least a sip.
I am confronted with types of people and circumstances I never thought I would encounter. It is not enough to just say “I’m a Christian”anymore. I have to be able to explain why and really believe it.
I had to take a biology class my freshman year, and my professor was a strong atheist. There were a few times he and I got into some heated debates over evolution and the theories he was teaching.
While some people may see home schooling as a disadvantage, I wouldn’t change anything about the way I was educated. It taught me the importance of hard work and to think outside the box, and it helped me form tight bonds with my parents.
And, seriously, who wouldn’t want to do schoolwork while on a road trip around New England?
Sheri Kotzum is a junior broadcast journalism major from Melbourne, Florida.

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