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Can Homeschooling Be a Handicap?

Homeschooling a handicap? Yes, if it prejudices a university selection committee against your acceptance. The homeschooled student may have had a better education, but in today’s cultural climate, that may not be the selling point that one would expect.

Homeschooling’s performance

Generally, homeschooling is associated with higher academic achievement. There’s no magic in that. A family that will forego earnings, sacrifice adult time, and work with a homeschooling community to ensure that their children get the best education is less likely to be disappointed than one that simply drops the child off at kindergarten on registration day and hopes for the best, not the worst.

Homeschooling’s reputation is another matter

The reputation among some academics is that homeschooling is a threat because dangerous, fundamentalist parents are indoctrinating their socially deprived offspring into theocracy. At the same time, they say, homeschooling weakens the public school system by depriving it of capable pupils and their resourceful parents …

This reaction is pure prejudice, if not paranoia. Many are unaware that homeschooling was originally started by educated, left-leaning parents, but increasingly taken up by others who could not find adequate schools for their children, especially in districts bedeviled by financially or ideologically driven interest groups, political gridlock that prevents reform, or state budget cuts.

There is anecdotal evidence of rejection of homeschooling professors as well as homeschooled students. One academic recounts (on condition of anonymity),

A bias [in the academy], and one only beginning to be recognized, is the homeschooling bias. That is, professors who home school are treated as suspicious by faculty hiring.

I was rejected for a tenure-track position … . Nevertheless, as a visiting prof, I was permitted in the faculty deliberations on the next five (!) candidates they interviewed, and was astonished that one candidate was rejected out-of-hand for having 5 kids and homeschooling.

If you are homeschooled, is all lost? No.

Here are some ways to get around the problem:

Don’t gratuitously advertise the fact you were homeschooled, and certainly don’t say that homeschooling is better or that your local public school is rotten (even if a big media exposé features it). In a neutral way, stress the practical reasons for your family’s choice. This strategy will not prevent prejudice, but may avoid providing a trigger for it.

Proactively, write international aptitude tests, where possible and relevant, as well as any recognized tests suggested by your administration. Be sure to sign up for some non-political, non-religious clubs, to undermine the prejudice that you are undersocialized or driven by ideological causes. Team sports are a good choice, where practicable. Above all, stress your career goals, and how you think you and the institution would be a good fit. And if a given institution still does not want you, there will certainly be one that does.

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