Home sweet school: Home-schoolers at Pierce College Puyallup

Home-schooled students share their college experience.

Suzanne BuchholzReporter

For many students, attending Pierce College Puyallup is their first time experiencing college life, with many of them coming to Pierce directly after graduating high school. For other students who’ve been educated at home their whole life, this might be their first experience in public school.

About 3 percent of children from the kindergarten to 12th grade age range were home-schooled in 2011-2012, according to a study by the National Study for Education Statistics. This is about a 61 percent increase from 2003 when only about 2 percent were home-schooled.

Home-schooled students tend to be just as prepared for college life as students who were educated through public school systems, and in some cases more prepared, according to an article from The Huffington Post. This is because home-schoolers are able to study in the way that fits them best and are able to devote more time to pursuing their passions or continuing studying in their fields of interest. They’re also able to socialize with adults as well as other children more often through clubs and sports teams, meaning that they aren’t uninvolved in society simply because they don’t attend public school.

There are currently about 123 home-schooled students enrolled at Pierce through Running Start, Running Start Manager Valerie Frey said. This isn’t the total number of home-schoolers at Pierce, which can be estimated by observing how many students are coded to a school district rather than a specific high school.

Previously home-schooled students may adjust to college life more easily by starting with a part-time work load for their first quarter instead of the 15-credit load most students take, Frey said. She suggested that a class combination of  COLLG101 and ENGL101 would help the student ease into the college lifestyle and become comfortable with the workload that’d be expected of them. The transition into college life is different for each student, Frey said.

“I’ve seen home-based Running Start students make the transition to college relatively easily,” Frey said. “I’ve known many home-school (students) who take a full-time load their first quarter and they do really well. I think it just depends on the students’ educational experiences and background.”

Student Emily Ashcraft said that her home-school experience was challenging as well as rewarding. She said her parents set high academic standards in order for her to succeed, and were encouraging in all that she did. She was also involved in a home-school co-op.

“On Mondays, I attended a co-op at my church with some amazing teachers who stretched my brain by teaching things like pre-calculus and chemistry to me in high school,” Ashcraft said. “I feel that these things prepared me well for college because I learned valuable life lessons, such as (to) not procrastinate in writing six-page papers, and (that) math teachers are usually very understanding and happy to take your many questions.”

Ashcraft enrolled in Pierce as a Running Start student to earn an associate degree faster and accelerate her college career. She initially wanted to go into nursing, but after one quarter she changed her mind and decided to major in education. She said that the process of coming to college for the first time and deciding on a major was fairly easy.

“For me, the transition of coming to Pierce after home schooling was pretty smooth,” Ashcraft said. “Because of the high academic standards given to me while home-schooled, I was ready for the assignments, readings and projects that were assigned by Pierce professors. Also, I have always been a really social person, so I almost always had classmates to do homework and work through tough projects with.”

Another benefit when entering college, Ashcraft said, was having an older sister who’d gone through the same experience and could give advice such as for which teachers to sign-up for and the best places to study.

She also gained support from friends who were attending Pierce for the first time as she, so they were able to make the adjustment together.

Ashcraft will graduate spring quarter and plans on attending Central Washington University in winter 2017. Her goal is to be in the Elementary Education/English as a Second Language program so she can get a job in the school system or generally work with bilingual children.

Ashcraft said she wants other home-school students to know that they shouldn’t panic about going to college for the first time.

She said that they should develop their interests and look for new ones by joining clubs or taking different classes. People shouldn’t think all home-schoolers are the same or different from public school students just because they were educated differently, she said.

“Every home-schooler is different, just like every public school student,” Ashcraft said. “Some are more introverted while others are more extroverted. Some are crazy smart and are pursuing fields of medicine and upper level math, while others like me know that I could never do that and am content to learn how to teach little kiddos. There really isn’t anything weird about home-schoolers and no need for there to be stigmas.”   

Student Ashyr Clairé said their home-school experience was also positive. Clairé said they’ve always been close to their mother, and appreciated staying home with her every day. Even after their mother took up a full-time job, Clairé didn’t have a desire to go to a public school. They said that this benefitted them due to an experience they had that would’ve made going to public school difficult.

“When I was about 14 I had to go to inpatient therapy, and if I was public-schooled I would have had to drop out and would have gotten terribly behind in my studies,” Clairé said. “I’m so grateful that my mom was willing to work with me to tailor my education to my life so I could be successful.”

Clairé decided to attend Pierce through Running Start to obtain their associate degree without generating student debt. They said that when first starting at Pierce, the experience was a culture shock because they weren’t used to so many people in one place and keeping up with a busier schedule.

Clairé said that talking with other home-schoolers at Pierce, making sure to never miss class and continuing to keep communication with their mom helped with the transition.

“My mom has been my biggest cheerleader in finishing out school even when it’s hard, and I’m so grateful for everything she does,” Clairé said.

After graduating from Pierce in the spring, Clairé will start working at Starbucks while completing online courses through Arizona State University.

Following this, they plan to take an accelerated program through North Central University and obtain their Masters in Psychology and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy certification by age 22. Clairé’s ultimate goal is to teach adolescents DBT skills in high-risk areas such as inner city schools.

Clairé said their advice to other home-school students coming to Pierce for the first time is to make sure to take plenty of notes, never skip class and to enjoy socializing but not too much so that grades become affected.

They said that home-schoolers aren’t as similar to each other as people might think. Clairé said they don’t want others to get the wrong impression of them.

“We don’t wear pajamas to school,” Clairé said. “We aren’t all socially awkward, and we aren’t all one demographic of religion, culture, family size or socioeconomic status.”

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Suzanne Buchholz

Home sweet school: Home-schoolers at Pierce College Puyallup

by Suzanne Buchholz time to read: 5 min