Nontraditional group is a small but potent force on Cambridge campus
By Adam Holte
Updated: Dec. 1, 2012
Andrea Sandeen, a student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, grew up in an educational environment that was quite different from what most students are used to.
She was home-schooled.
Recess, lockers, and classrooms were things that other kids had to deal with. When she became a student at ARCC, Sandeen was introduced to several new experiences:
“As silly as it sounds, to receive letter grades was very novel at first,” she said.
Home-schoolers are a small but potent group of students at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Many home-schoolers come through the PSEO program. Normally catering to high-school students, the PSEO program is open to home-schoolers as well.
For the Cambridge campus, the data that the school has for students who self-identified as home-schooled have been between 40 and 45 students per semester. However, these numbers just reflect the students who were coming to ARCC as home-schoolers only and not through the PSEO program. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the actual home-schooling population at the Cambridge campus is significantly higher.
“It is not unusual for students to change status from term to term,” said Nora Morris, Anoka-Ramsey’s dean of Research and Evaluation.
“They move between high schools or from home school to high school,” she said. PSEO students make up about 10 to 12 percent of the enrollment at Cambridge campus, which is closer to 200 students a semester.
Bill Breen, an English professor at ARCC, said he sees the highest number of home-schooled students in his College Writing and Critical Reading classes.
“They’re more likely to take initiative and be self-directed and take responsibility for their work,” he said. “But, there’s also as much variety among home-schooling students as there are among the general population. I have seen home-schooled students who are very well prepared, who are some of my best students. I’ve also seen some home-schooled students who are underprepared. I think it depends entirely on their parents.”
Adviser Abbie Huttenburg said many home-schooled students usually have a clear program in mind when they arrive at ARCC, whether that’s a specific associate’s degree or the credits to transfer for a specific school.
“From my experience, the students have had a plan for their coursework rather than just picking random general classes each semester,” she said.
When asked about how many homeschooled students come to ARCC through the PSEO program, she said:
“[A] majority of the students I see that are homeschoolers come through the PSEO program first (75% or so). Often times, they stay with us to complete a degree after they are done with their home school graduation requirements if they haven’t fully completed an AA degree during their time as a PSEO student.”
Adviser Maria Barlage, who has been at the college for 10 years, said home-schooled students are “some of our best prepared students.
“College asks the student to be a more independent learner, less time with instructor and more time on their own learning,” she said. “Homeschool students have already been doing this, so they are ready and comfortable for the college format.”
Barlage said that math is the biggest area where home-schooled students struggle.
“I would say that not all [homeschoolers] are up to college level math standards, as many of our PSEO and traditional students are not either. Homeschoolers may be lower in math as their parents may not have had as much math in their own educational history,” Barlage said.
Huttenburg’s and Barlage’s experiences with homeschoolers show that while these students may have weaknesses, they utilize their strengths in order to achieve success at ARCC.
Reina Meinhardt attended PACT charter school in Ramsey for a year. Then her family moved and they began home-schooling her.
Her parents didn’t like the quality of the public education system, but homeschooling also allowed the family to travel, she said.
“We would go away to California, Florida, and Texas every winter for three months and we couldn’t do that in public school, and that was a big reason,” for home-schooling, she said.
She said she didn’t know what to expect when she began college classes, but found she’s found she likes it more than home-schooling. “The transition was easy,” she said. And the classes are less work.
Sandeen said her parents chose to home-school her and her sister because they wanted an education tailored to their abilities as students.
She said her education at home prepared her for college level courses by encouraging her to be self-motivated.
“Learning was never treated by my parents as a chore, but as a way to grow and mature as a person that did not stop when someone turned 18 or got a diploma, but rather as a life-long pursuit. Growing up that way made me very driven to know things.”
Sandeen worried about whether she was prepared enough for college coursework at ARCC. But she said although the workload was high, it didn’t reach the “50 papers a class” she thought she would be writing.
However, not everything lived up to her expectations:
“I think I might have also expected to have at least one professor who was also an archaeologist who traveled to exotic places to stop Nazis from obtaining Biblical artifacts,” she said.
So far Indiana Jones has not appeared on the faculty roster. But Sandeen is happy to be at ARCC.
“I love it though. That’s one of the best surprises; I didn’t expect to enjoy taking college classes this much.”