The reasons to homeschool are as varied as the students who do it. Some want a more experiential learning environment; others wish to customize their subjects. Still others choose to homeschool based on family dynamics. Sometimes it’s a matter of convenience.
The students who come to Harvard by way of homeschooling exemplify all these reasons and more. The three profiled here share a spirit of curiosity and independence that continues to shape their education.
Claire Dickson ’19
Claire Dickson’s path to Harvard Yard began on Harvard Avenue. That’s the street she lives on in Medford, and where she studied math, read Melville, and played piano as a homeschooler.
“My family’s motivation was mostly from wanting to have a lot of experiential learning and my mom’s general dissatisfaction with the public school system,” Dickson said. “Why would you go to the same building every day and do the same thing every day? Whatever I was interested in, I just went for.”
Dickson, a psychology concentrator who lives at Lowell House, said every “school” day was different. Some were filled with classical and jazz lessons. There was endless reading. And she saw “Hamlet” for the first time when she was 9.
“There were so many cool things going on around Boston, and my parents supported whatever I wanted to do,” she said. “You have to be intrinsically motivated to do the things you want to do. Homeschooling really pushed me to do that. We saw a lot of live theater and music, tagging along with my parents to whatever they were doing.”
Her education became slightly more structured in middle school, when she would meet with a small group of homeschooled students for sessions in math, biology, and history. In eighth grade, she began to take classes at Harvard Extension School and Bunker Hill Community College.
“If I was interested in something, there was nothing stopping me from making it happen for myself,” Dickson said. “I became interested in psychology so I started going to free lectures at Mass. General Hospital. I ended up doing research for a doctor there.”
Dickson said parallels between homeschooling and college — a given class a couple of times a week, combined with lots of independent study — made the academic transition easy. The social scene was a new experience, but she made connections volunteering through the Phillips Brooks House and singing in band.
“I’ve picked an alternative way of being at the School,” she said. “Lots of students are in suits, interviewing for jobs. I’m not doing any of that recruiting. Reflecting on that, it might be a result of being homeschooled. I kind of want to make my own way.”