SPOTLIGHT: Home-schooled students adapt at college

By Rhys Saunders

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

Published: Monday, Feb. 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

"I wasn't fazed at all," said Sanchez, who is studying political science at UIS in hopes of a career in law.

Lawless, too, says it wasn't tough moving from her parents' house on Glenwood Avenue to Thomas Aquinas College, a small liberal arts school in California.

"Having a roommate was not a big deal," she said. "I would say that it was simply . more people, a bigger contingent, which was exciting."

Sanchez grew up in Streamwood, a northwest suburb of Chicago, before moving to Lake in the Hills when she was 16.

"I was the first in my family to go from K to 12, home-schooled," she said.

"It was pretty normal, that's what I thought. I would get up in the morning at about 7, and from 7 until 1 or 2 . I would do all of the standardized subjects that they teach you in public school."

But others didn't always see it that way, especially adults who would walk past Sanchez with her mother in public on school days.

"I can't tell you how many times I was lectured as a 7-year-old, you know, 'Are you sure your parents are teaching you? Do you need help? Is it weird?'" she said.

Both women agree that what helped them become well-rounded was involvement in group activities as children.

"My parents did a really good job of having us involved in other activities, so my brothers did baseball, the girls did Irish dance and piano, and one of my brothers took bagpipe lessons for a while," Lawless said. "Then we were involved with the youth group at church."

Sanchez's family also was part of a large home-school group that collectively took field trips, had trips to the gym and picnics.

"With us, my family individually, we were in different sports and art classes within the park district," Sanchez said. "I was definitely not anti-social or kept apart from everyone."

In Illinois, home-schooled students aren't required to take standardized tests, but they do have to take classes in language arts, mathematics, biological and physical sciences, social sciences, fine art and physical development and health, according to the State Board of Education.

At college, that all changes. Students often learn in lecture halls and have required reading lists, midterms and finals.

Lawless went small in picking Thomas Aquinas College, which enrolls about 360 students every year and offers a single, integrated program in the liberal arts, which means all students get the same degree.

"Finals was a new experience, but I enjoyed it," she said.

Sanchez said she attended Elgin Community College for two years before coming to UIS.

"A lot of us actually go to community colleges first, for our first year before college, just kind of transition into it," Sanchez said. "When I went to Elgin Community College, it wasn't hard. That was my first experience with it, having so many people and cultures and backgrounds."

Learning at home made Sanchez a more self-reliant learner, which helps at college, she added.

"Because I was so used to studying on my own . I'm surprised how some people have to have someone there to study with," she said. "They're not used to going at it on their own. I'm perfectly fine with that."

Home-schooled and public school students don't abide by the same rules in Illinois.

There are no requirements for the number of hours per day or days of instruction per year for private school students, which include home-schoolers, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

They also aren't required to take standardized tests or register with the state, an issue that gained attention last year when state Sen. Edward Maloney, D-Chicago, introduced a bill that would have required registration of all students in non-public schools.

After an outcry of protest from home-school proponents, Maloney eventually tabled the bill and said he had no intention of reintroducing any measure requiring home-school registration.

Students taught at home are required by the state board to take classes in language arts, mathematics, biological and physical sciences, social sciences, fine art and physical development and health.

Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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