A Chat with a Former Homeschooled Student

by Karen Schaefer Fecarotta

One of the advantages we have as homeschooling families in current times is that we have come after the trailblazers.  The mothers and fathers who have gone before us are a wealth of information and encouragement.  And, another huge advantage is, we now have homeschooled graduates who can share with us what it was like to be home educated and how it has affected their lives.

Caroline Dillon was home educated for nearly her entire education.  She spent one year in public school- the first grade. She won the “Terrific Kid Award” given by the local Kiwanis club, but her parents saw that she was losing the love of learning she had prior to her public school experience.  They felt it was best for Caroline to bring her back home to learn and she remained home educated through high school. Caroline graduated at 17 years old in 2004 from homeschool and went on to get a Bachelor of Arts-Criminal Justice from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in 2009.

During her home education, Caroline played cello in the Charlotte Junior Youth Orchestra, earned her third-degree black belt in Taekwondo where she was also an instructor and helped create a Taekwondo program for children aged 3-5, played baseball and AAU softball, and learned how to do basic car maintenance.  She and her family also travelled to the western US in their motorhome and visited the eastern part of Canada. Her adventures included a trip to the United Kingdom where she explored England and Ireland.  In college, she interned with the FBI on a scholastic honors internship program. There she worked in the Cyber Crime Unit in Washington, D.C., and then in Violent Crime Unit for a local field office.  During that time, she was also a Cadet intern with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. With CMPD, Caroline rode with patrol officers during their shift and experienced first-hand the life of a police officer.

Caroline hasn’t been a homeschool student for over a decade, so with that span of time, I thought she would have a smart perspective on her years of home education.  She has been away from it long enough to see the pros and cons, but not so far away that they daily experience has been forgotten.  I was able to revisit some of the questions I had for Caroline when I first began considering homeschooling and added a few new ones.

Karen:  What was the greatest advantage for you in terms of being homeschooled?
Caroline Dillard: I am able to manage my time easily because of the responsibility I had to complete all my schoolwork along with completing assignments for my extra curricular activities.

K:  What was the greatest disadvantage for you as a homeschooler?

CD:   Most people have a pre-conceived idea about homeschoolers that is usually negative.  I believe that this is still seen as a weird thing to do, but is gaining popularity.  When talking to others, they are usually surprised that I was homeschooled and reply with “Oh! You don’t seem like a homeschooler.”  To which I politely ask, “What does that mean to you?”  I believe when I was school age, I wasn’t taken seriously and, most likely, people probably thought I couldn’t “handle” school.  They were greatly surprised when I would speak to them in a mature manner, look them in the eye when I spoke, and could hold my own with any conversation whether it was an adult or a peer.

K:  What passions do you think you were able to pursue to a greater degree having been homeschooled?
CD:  I was also able to concentrate on my passions of music and sports because of the time not spent in a classroom.  I was able to pursue my love of music and learned five instruments.  I also played soccer, baseball, and became a black belt instructor in Taekwondo.  I began teaching Taekwondo when I was 12 years old and this taught me leadership, responsibility, and planning.  This would not have been possible if I had been in a classroom eight hours a day and then doing hours of work at home.  I was able to know myself and my passions in life at a young age and shape those in to a something I will be able to use my entire life.

KIf you could have changed something about your education, what would it be?
CD:  I would have put more of my time and attention to math and science so that I could have studied engineering.  I had all the resources (my father and genius younger brother) to excel in math and science but told myself that I couldn’t do it and I decided to “just get through it.”  I was fully capable and had all the support to do even better, but I chose not to.  That was my own decision and while I did do well in math, I know now that I could have done much better.

K:  What advice would you give a homeschool student who is feeling frustrated with homeschooling?
CD:  I’ve been there.  I wanted to go to high school and change classes, ride the bus, all of it. Stop looking at your world as if the present is all that there is.  This is a season of your life.  Enjoy your childhood.  Look ahead to the future and all that you will gain from truly knowing who you are.  You are not missing out on anything.  You are miles ahead of kids your age and will continue to be so when you reach adulthood.

K:  What are your thoughts on homeschoolers and socialization?
CD:  I believe that homeschoolers are “socialized” in a more rounded way than “school kids.”  As a homeschooler, you deal with people of all ages and learn how to communicate on different levels.  We play sports, we go to events, we play instruments.  Homeschoolers do everything public school kids do, but we are not only surrounded by our own age group.  This creates a well-rounded, well spoken, mature child or young adult.

K: Describe the transition from homeschool to college.
CD:  The transition from homeschool to college was very easy for me.  I was worried college would be intimidating since my classmates were used to changing classes and doing homework.  But, I found college to be nothing more than homeschool with different teachers.  In college you are expected to find information out on your own and manage your own time.  The professors expect you to be responsible and do not accept excuses.  This was how I was expected to act when I was homeschooled.  While some of the content of the classes was difficult, I did not find the college experience to be difficult at all.  I witnessed a bunch of kids who finally had freedom and could set their own schedule, but they did not know how.  They partied, they skipped class, they did not complete assignments, they were completely unprepared to handle adult responsibilities.  Yet, this is what I had done for many years already.

K:   Do you think homeschooling is the best educational choice for everyone?  Why or why not?
CD:  Not for everyone.  It truly depends on the parents and the child.  There are some great school alternatives out there such as half-day schools.  If the child really needs classroom structure, he will not thrive being a class of one.

K:  You now have a daughter, will you homeschool her?  Why or why not?
CD:  Yes!  I will homeschool her for many reasons including the reason of not wanting the government to tell my child what to think and who they are.  I do not want to be tied down to a school schedule.  I want to travel with my kids and introduce them to the world.  I want them to pursue their passions, who they are, and just be kids!  I want them to be independent thinkers, not one who follows whatever the government tells them they should think.  I want to instill solid values and morals in my children and I do not believe you can teach values and morals while combating the school system’s teaching of “everything is ok, there is no right or wrong.”

K:   How do you think homeschooling prepared you for “real life”?
CD:   Being homeschooled is real life.  I was out and about everyday grocery shopping, going to the mechanics shop, watching my parents pay the bills.  Anywhere my parents needed to go during the day, my brother and I went with them.  We learned a lot about real life by living it.  We didn’t spend our time cooped up in a room all day just to go home and do more homework.  We lived life.

K:   What advice would you give a parent who is just beginning to homeschool?
CD: Have fun!  This is just a season of your child’s life.  Focus on what they will need to do well in the world and in college, truly educate them, but remember that kids are only kids for a short time.  They are adults so much longer.

Today, Caroline is happily married and the proud new mother to Elizabeth. She worked as a Financial Services Consultant until recently becoming a stay-at-home mom.  She continues to practice Taekwondo, play music, and still loves to work on cars with her dad.  She and her husband enjoy travelling, going to baseball games, and cheering on Notre Dame Football.


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