T2I: Breaking homeschool stereotypes

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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) -- As most public school students across Wisconsin made their way back to the classroom on Tuesday, Target 2 Investigates is looking at the students who won’t be heading back to a classroom.

For some 21,000 students around the state, homeschooling is the primary form of learning.

Target 2 Investigates looks at the harmful stereotype many homeschool students are stuck with, and why experts and university officials say it’s just not true.

“Every day was different. That's what so cool about homeschooling. You're not like, wake up, go to a desk,” says Hailey Barron of De Pere.

Hailey began homeschooling in fourth grade when her, older sister Maddie and mom Dawn were looking for a creative outlet and way to gain self-discipline.

Now a junior at St. Norbert College, Hailey says those formative years spent at home helped better prepare her for college.

“I think that's one of the major things that I learned is independence within my education,” she says.

And as for those “homeschool stereotypes,” Hailey says, “It’s harmful and it’s just not the truth.”

As it turns out, stereotypes that homeschoolers struggle with socialization comes up quite often.

While the Wisconsin Parents Association declined an interview with Action 2 News, president Pamela Roland says via email, “I’m not sure why this stereotype sticks so much, but it is definitely something that we hear both as a fear from new homeschooling families, or support system families starting out.”

She disagrees with the stereotype, saying homeschoolers have, “a world of opportunities.”

With that, Target 2 Investigates wanted to know: Are homeschool students less socialized than their public school peers?

“Absolutely not,” says Lisa Schubring, a licensed family therapist with Prevea Behavioral Health.

Schubring says homeschool brings many opportunities for students to branch out, and learn to flex their social muscles.

“To say that they're not socialized, I think, is false,” she tells Action 2 News. “Maybe they're not socialized in the public school setting or a larger school setting, but they're still socialized.”

For Hailey Barron, that meant more time at the community theater. “I really got to realize that I really loved theater through homeschooling, because I don't think I would have tried it if I was in public school,” she says.

Hobbies and extracurricular activities are common for homeschool students. Admissions officials at UW-Green Bay and St. Norbert College in De Pere say that helps homeschoolers get ready for the traditional classroom and the independence of college.

“They have an ability to either hone in on what they're really passionate about, or they're able to be more one-on-one with the set up that they have, that they can even be more successful than our students coming from public or private schools,” says Eric Wagner, Associate Director of Admission at St. Norbert College.

As for missing out on the “quintessential” high school experiences, experts, and the Barrons alike, say that’s not a problem.

“Those are things that are romanticized based on TV and movies and books,” Schubring tells Action 2 News. “Usually the reality of prom and homecoming and all that stuff is not at all what it's like in the movies.”

“I think you spend your whole high school career maybe trying to fit in, and maybe trying to be the same as other people, because you don't want to stand out too much in certain places,” says Dawn Barron, Hailey’s mother and homeschooling teacher.

Hailey tells Target 2 Investigates she doesn’t regret not going to prom, or participating in other public school “rites of passage.”

Instead, she firmly believes homeschooling helped her mature and prepare her for college.

“I think it's easier to, because you have more time to self-reflect and to know what you like, and you have those interests to pursue,” she says.

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