Saturday, April 02, 2011
Can home-schoolers get into university part 5- cbc viewpoint analysis
I was trying to find the link for the series I did for CBC Viewpoint Analysis with Bob Sudeyko back in 2006
but it appears that it is no longer there! So what I've done is compiled the articles here as a resource for those who wonder 'but does home education work?' Here is the series and if you scroll back you can read it from the beginning. Cheers!
Grown up without school
Kate Cayley is the director of a small Toronto theatre company known as Stranger Theatre. She’s also artistic director of the Cooking Fire Festival, a festival of new outdoor works which happens in Toronto city parks. On the side she does a bit of teaching (history and creative writing) with home educated kids.
The 28 year old was unschooled right up to university and describes the then common perception of what they were doing as being “lunatic fringe.”
Growing up in busy Toronto where the population of home educated kids though very small was vibrant and lively, Cayley was able to avoid the isolation that could have been an issue, at the same time becoming pretty independent about discovering the city at a younger age; “My reference point was not the school. I could ride around on my bike-do theatre stuff because since 13, I was pretty clear that this was my path.”
She also had time to work and save money for a trip around Europe at age 16. Having a broad ranger of people to be around, that included many interesting adults was another advantage of living and learning in community, outside of an institutional context.
Granted, loneliness featured in the picture- especially at 13 and 14 when many of her home educated peers were opting for high school while she chose “to see it through.” Still, being alone, was contemplation time which she used to “develop a specific intellectual life.”
When it came time to begin the application process for university, that it was quite an “up hill walk” was no surprise. With no school records and registered as a dropout Cayley had to convince admissions that she was educated.
“I had to explain the entire concept to universities. Luckily in the time from when I began to when I graduated (1999 to 2001), it became a little bit more normal.”
Perseverence and persistence paid off. On the basis of a 20 page essay about Shelley’s ‘Adonais, she ended up on a full scholarship at University of King's College, a small liberal arts school in Halifax who were “genuinely interested.”
Cayley fell in love with university life, finding the competition and being graded “new and exciting” By the time she graduated though, she was really ready to be out of school- “I had a feeling that this had been a wonderful exp but I didn’t want to be in that context again.”
Summing up her reflections on growing up home educated, Cayley finds “the definitive difference was not being bored. Everybody I know seems to think of sessions of their adolescence as a really long period of intense boredom.”
She refers to a quote by Plato, that knowledge is only possible through the love of a particular thing that you pursue- admittedly sometimes at the sacrifice of other things; “my math is not up to scratch,” she divulges -“and I thought that home education gave me at a young age, the opportunity to learn that- that you learn something because you love it not because you are obligated to.”
For many home educated youth, getting into a post secondary institution, like for schooled youth is often the goal, as we have seen with Cayley’s story. Happily, with every passing year, “it becomes easier and easier,” assures Bruce Arai, acting Dean for the Brantford campus of Wilfrid Laurier. Referring to the Brantford campus, Arai says that they have admitted every single homeschooler who has applied.
In Ontario groups like the Ontario Federation for Teaching Parents (OFTP) have received a commitment from every registrar in the province to develop an admissions policy if they haven’t already done so.
Spokeswoman Katie Toksoy reports “they have various ways of looking at that -considering each home educated applicant individually, a portfolio or their work, entrance exam specially tailored to them, interview process, SAT II scores, letters of reference and essays, letters of intent to name the options.”
Home educated youth can also prepare for entrance into the university of their choice by fulfilling the admissions requirements; doing some high school courses through correspondence and distance education or reintegrating into the system at that point. Other students may enter post secondaries as mature students.
Not all home educated students will want to take the post secondary route. Having had the experience of being self directed and learning independently all their lives, their attitude is one that can be described as ‘do it yourself.’
32 year old Andrew Gilpin of Alliston Ontario, who is a successful jazz pianist says there was no point in going to a post secondary. “I would have been able to go if I had wanted to, but the further along I went, the less purpose there seemed to be to it, because I was doing what I wanted to do, and I was able to do it, and I didn't seem to need anything, except maybe jobs, or opportunities, but you can't get that in university.”
Composing and performing with his partner Juillard trained clarinetist Jacoboski, they form the duo Ebony and Ivory. They travel around the world performing original pieces and well known pieces too.
Completely self taught, Gilpin, says he doesn’t have any pieces of paper at all, that prove that he can do any of this. “It felt strange at the beginning, until I just started performing more and more. And what you find out is that nobody in the audience ever asks for your certificates. They don't know, and they don't care.”
Adam Lim in another home educated grown up who has by passed post secondary education for the time being, working instead full time in a calling centre in Toronto. The 27 year old poet is head coach of a football team for boys ages 11 to 13 in his spare time. He is married and plans to have a family one day. If he decides to go to university Lim says he would go for psychology.
The young man who started home education at 12 found that for a Black youth as himself, home education made sense. “I wanted a broader education, and to learn more about my own culture. The constrictive school system couldn’t supply it.”
He cautions, “there is a lot of freedom in homeschooling. But you can be complacent and lazy in your work. I didn’t take advantage of it.”
To the question of alienation and socialization Lim responds, “I think you get more alienated in school then when you are homeschooled because in school you have to go along with the stereotypes, what with pop culture, peer pressure etc. Homeschooling enabled me to avoid becoming what you hear in the media.”
Wrapping it up;
Despite difficulties they might face, home educated children often get the kind of education and work they aspire to, researcher Gary Knowles of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) reports. “A strong sense of self and self directedness help them enter post secondaries and get jobs because they develop strengths not necessarily based on scholastics.”
The 2004 Van Pelt preliminary data on young adults confirms this claim; responsible citizenship ranked high with home educated adults; 72 percent had voted in the last 5 years, less than 7 percent had ever collected employment insurance benefits and none had ever received any social security assistance. Over 80 percent volunteered in one or more capacity.
“There’s lots of evidence that home educate children grow up to be reasonable adults, not terribly influenced by their peers, and are entrpreneurial and resourceful,” concludes Knowles.