Introducing The Next Generation Of Leaders And Thinkers

Private, Public, and Homeschool: An Inside Look Into Their Diverging Social Structures

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and you’re not about to bother with your stacks of homework, so you turn on the TV. Your eyes are met with a scene from High School Musical, one of Disney Channel’s most successful movie series ever created.  For many teenagers, High School Musical was exactly how they expected their high school experience to be. But what about those who attend a small private school? Or those who are home schooled for the majority of their educational career?

For a proper clarification on how the idea social status and structure is incorporated in private and homeschooling, I talked to five of my friends: Ian, Emma, and Vince who attend the small private school along with Grace and AJ who were home-schooled up until they graduated high school, and now attend a public community college.

Those who attend a private school quickly become accustomed to relatively small class sizes, which ultimately means a small school population. For some, this means more pressure to reach the top of the food chain. For others, this small size is a positive and equates to a more comfortable high school experience.

Vince: There is and isn’t pressure to maintain a social status at school. Overall, it doesn’t matter what your social status is because we are all so close to each other that it’s more of a family environment rather than just a class. But there are definitely different parts of the family [of peers], for example, there’s the weird cousins and the cool older brothers. We all want to be the cool older brother, not the weird cousin.

Ian: I don’t feel much pressure to be one way or another. Compared to years at a public school, I feel almost no pressure.

Emma: In our [Ian and Vince, and Emma’s] class, I’d say there are two definitive groups. Not that one group is more popular than the other, it’s just that our school is so small that there are really only two friend groups. So there is a small amount of pressure, but considering the size of the school it really doesn’t matter.

The idea of going to a school with only a hundred students could seem daunting to someone who’s used to a student body of a thousand. That scenario alone seems like a recipe for a claustrophobic disaster. But bigger doesn’t always mean better, and just because a school is small, doesn’t mean everyone knows everything about each other.

Vince: Even though our school is small, I feel like I know a middle ground. I don’t know everything about everyone, but I know at least one thing about all of my classmates. I feel like I have a stronger relationship with my class at my school compared to if I went to a public school. When I attended public school, my graduating class was 900 kids, meaning you could walk into class on the first day and see a new face, and then walk into class on the last day and still see a new face. Here, we all know each other on a friendly basis, but there’s still so much to learn about one another. For example, today one of my closest friends [Vitkin] told me something about his family that I hadn’t known during the four years that we have been friends. It’s fun learning more about each other as the days go on.

Ian: This school is 101% more welcoming and trusting compared to the to other schools I’ve attended.

Emma: Since you’ve known your friends for your entire high school career, they know pretty much everything about you. Even simple white lies are impossible to tell without being caught.”

The biggest difference between and private and public? The consensus within the group was that going to private school definitely allowed them to have a closer relationship with their peers. Whether that’s a positive or negative is up to them individually to decide.

The gears were switched when I talked to Grace and AJ about their experiences in homeschooling. A common stereotype towards homeschooling kids is that they have no friends, or are extremely limited socially. Grace and AJ rightfully debunk that stereotype as well as offer insight as to how social groups are formed, and how some students do feel pressure to excel in different areas, despite not being in a big school environment.

1) So for those who are born into homeschooling, is there difficulty to find peers at first or is it something that comes naturally, similar to being forced into a building with hundreds of other kids?

Grace: I don’t think it was hard as long as you put in the effort. There were home-school groups everywhere, and oftentimes parks and skating rinks would have ‘homeschool days.’ Those were a great opportunity to meet other homeschoolers and socialize.

AJ: It was definitely harder to socialize when I was younger; I want really involved in any homeschool groups, so they weren’t many opportunities for that sort of thing early on.

2) Is it common among homeschoolers to desire the switch to public/private setting just to be in a more social environment?

Grace: I definitely went through a phase where I was desperate to go to school. The majority of my friends went, and I felt isolated most of the time (at least until I got a little older and had more freedom to see people).

AJ: I almost never thought about joining a school. Once I had been home schooled for a while I realized I probably wouldn’t have been a good fit for most schools in the first place. After that realization, I pretty much stopped thinking about it.

3) Does that mean that homeschooling groups and classes create a pressure free atmosphere? Not necessarily.

Grace: As a homeschooler, I felt pressure to be smart, to excel at something (to set myself apart from others), and to not live up to the homeschooler stereotypes (by which I mean, I needed to be social, friendly and outgoing).

AJ: Not really. The homeschool circles I got into were pretty relaxed, so I never really felt any major social pressures.

4) What about their friends who attended private or public schooling? Is there a differentiation between the life experiences of those who are homeschooled and those who are not? And if so, just how big is it?

Grace: Yes I think our [friends who attended public/private] experiences were vastly different. I think there would’ve been an even greater difference if I had been homeschooled from the beginning, but in terms of school experiences, I don’t feel that I have that much in common with say, my public school friends.

AJ: Absolutely-the obvious difference to me was that I just knew fewer people. I never saw that as a problem, it just meant my group of friends was pretty small and tightly-knit. I was always pretty ok with that result.

5) And for those who go from homeschooling to say, a public college, is the transition particularly daunting? Or is it much easier than one might assume?

Grace: I transitioned gradually from full-time homeschooling to attending community college so the adjustments were easy and very gradual. Later into my “high school” career, I definitely preferred community college to learning from home. As an elementary/middle school aged kid though, learning from home was a great choice for me, and I think that I wouldn’t have been able to move from one to the other so easily otherwise.

AJ: Not especially. Of course, there was some immediate culture shock, but it went away pretty fast. After about a year, most of the novelty wore off. It’s a pretty big difference in educational styles, but again, I acclimated to it fairly quickly.

There were approximately 1.8 million homeschooled students and 4.5 million private school students during the year of 2012 in the U.S alone.

Learn more about homeschooling and private school in the U.S. here.

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