Few people know Evangeline Han, but this young ex-homeschooler has quite a few achievements to her name for a person so young. Currently studying at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) majoring in English and minoring in TESOL, this voracious reader was also one of the most active Wikipedia editors filing up to 10,000 edits beginning in 2009 when she was at the ripe old age of 15 years. She admits to a “love-hate” relationship with homeschooling, and it is a testimony that does remind families, especially parents, that homeschooling is a journey that requires serious attention to a roadmap. Read Evangeline’s tale for yourself.
Navigating homeschooling’s ups and downs
By Evangeline Han
Homeschooling was a journey filled with ups and mostly downs. I only appreciated being homeschooled after I finished my first semester in Oklahoma Baptist University. Now, I’m at OBU, and I can confidently say that if I weren’t homeschooled, I would be struggling in college classes. Nevertheless, my homeschooling journey was very rocky, and this is a little glimpse into it.
For most of my high school years, I had a love-hate relationship with homeschooling. The negative part about being homeschooled with American curriculum was that it made me different from my peers. The positives were that I had to be independent, responsible, and able to think critically. However, in my teenage years, I thought that this negative outweighed the positives.
It was true that I was able to communicate better with people from all age groups. I regularly attended a church youth group, and for a long time, the church my dad pastors mainly consisted of older folks. However, all this didn’t mean that I had friends.
In fact, I barely had any friends, and I never felt like I was able to fit in with my peers. Whenever I attended youth group meetings, my peers would be talking about public-school related topics I was ignorant about. Their school experiences were way different from mine. Not only that, only seeing them once a week didn’t help matters. I was never able to form any true, close, lasting friendships outside of my family, and this made me hate homeschooling a lot when I was a teenager.
When I think back on my homeschooling journey, I remember days and days filled with my personal lack of motivation and boredom. Although school is a hazy past for me now, there is one milestone that sticks out in my memory.
When I was about 17 years old, my parents realized that if we continue using Sonlight Curriculum, we wouldn’t be able to get a transcript that is recognized by local universities and colleges. At that time, studying in the United States was not an option because of the costs.
So, it was decided that I would stop using Sonlight curriculum, the only homeschooling curriculum that I actually enjoyed using, and use the Alpha Omega curriculum. They made a deal with a learning centre, whereby I studied at home and took my LifePac exams at the centre.
I saw this change as detrimental for two reasons. Firstly, I cringed whenever I saw the bill we had to pay for me to take my LifePac exams at the learning centre. The fees were always increasing, and I knew how tight finances were for my parents. I didn’t feel that the exorbitant cost was worth it, as I was only going to the centre to take my exams, and all the teacher had to do was grade them. Secondly, I was suddenly placed on an accelerated schedule. Because we had to change curriculums, this set me back, and despite the accelerated schedule my mom put me on, the change still resulted in me graduating a year later than my peers.
To be honest, there were many times I didn’t think this change was worth the struggle. Any student who has been a year or more behind in school will understand my feelings. When those my age were already in college taking Foundation programs, I was still in high school. Then there was also the uncertainty about whether I was able to go to college or not. My parents hope that by getting an “official” transcript, I would have better chances when applying into universities and colleges.
I took the SAT on June 1, 2013 and officially graduated high school on June 30, 2014. By then, we had found out that the SAT was no longer officially recognized as an entrance exam by local universities and colleges. On one hand, the part of me that had always been reluctant to go to a local university or college rejoiced. On the other hand though, I despaired of ever being able to go to any college. After all, I had always been told that college was the only way to getting a good job. However, by a miracle, God opened doors, and I was able to consider studying in the United States as an option.
In the month that followed, I scoured the Internet everyday for universities and colleges. I finally applied to four colleges and was accepted by all four, which was another miracle considering that it was already late, and the Fall 2013 semester starts in August. I chose Oklahoma Baptist University, and after a month filled with a flurry of hurried preparations, arrived in the United States.
Looking back, I know that I would never repeat my homeschooling experience, not even if I was paid to do so. When I was a homeschooler, I was very sheltered and friendless. There were times when I didn’t feel Asian because my American education made me think differently from others my age in church and even my cousins. I craved friendships and a sense of belonging, and I never found them when I was a homeschooler.
Nevertheless, I would be doing my homeschooling journey an injustice if I don’t recognize the role it has played in my academic success here at OBU. Since I was already used to American education, it was easier for me to assimilate into the environment here. Although the first time I ever sat in a school class was my first day of school here at OBU, I didn’t feel the pains of adjustment that my international friends, who went to either public or private schools back in their home countries, felt.
Being homeschooled also taught me to work hard to get what I want. It has instilled in me an inherent sense of responsibility and initiative that comes along with the added independence of living so far away from home. Now, I prioritize my studies in a way I have never done before. The ability to think critically that I cultivated as a homeschooler has also greatly aided me. I finished Freshman Year with a 4.0 GPA and a place in the President’s Honor Roll. Now I’m in my Sophomore Year, and more comfortable with studying than I’ve ever been before.
Homeschooling is not for the fainthearted. It takes immense courage to pursue a journey that many are skeptical about. It takes even more perseverance to finish the journey. Throughout my homeschooling years, there was not one homeschooling family (homeschooling as in actually doing school at home) in Melaka who were our companions in the journey. We were pretty much by ourselves, and the constant questioning from well-meaning family friends did nothing to allay our worries.
Many times, I wondered if we were doing things the right way, and I’m sure my parents wondered the same thing too. However, now, I’m in a university in the United States, and one of my sisters is doing an online degree program with an American college. Two of my other sisters are still being homeschooled. I’d say we’re doing pretty well for people who didn’t really know what they were doing.
I am grateful I was homeschooled because it opened the door for me to gain new experiences. If I wasn’t homeschooled, I know that I wouldn’t be in the United States. I wouldn’t have the precious friendships I longed to have in my high school years, and I wouldn’t feel the sense of belonging I craved for when I was in Malaysia. In the end, all I can say about my homeschooling journey is that no matter how rocky and filled with obstacles it was, God worked it out for my good, to give me hope and a future.
About the writer: 21-year old Evangeline hails from Melaka and she has 3 other sisters . Her parents Pastor Samuel and Evelyn Han serve in a church. Currently at Oklahoma Baptist U, she is also the Uni’s Student Ambassador. You can follow Evangeline’s writings on her blog, Audacious Reader