Community colleges are an amazing resource for students of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you’re straight out of high school and looking to save money, a single parent returning school to continue education for a new career, or just someone who isn’t quite sure what they want to do, the value of these schools can’t be understated. While the types of students named above are some typical examples of community college students, there is one group of students that I’ve been talking a lot about lately – homeschoolers. Elijah Dufour is no exception, however he is also not a rule. Elijah is a homeschooler who attended QVCC, but he has been standing out since he first began taking classes at the age of 14. That’s right – fourteen.
Elijah is the second youngest of four children, and says that it was his dad who really pushed for them to be homeschooled. They’ve been going to church for Elijah’s whole life, and “obviously, even at a Christian school, no matter where you go there are influences that probably aren’t the best on a kid growing up.” Elijah and his sisters were homeschooled to avoid some of the unnecessary social pressures found in school systems, but he wasn’t ever deprived. He and his sisters were involved in co-ops, which helped hone their math, history, and English skills. Elijah was often thrown into the fire with his older sisters, and was always working ahead of where he would have been in a public school setting. His oldest sister is 5 years older than he is, and yet he was often placed in the same group.
When I asked Elijah about how he made friends when he was homeschooled, he told me that he was never lacking for socialization. “Yes we were sheltered from a great deal of stuff, which is important, but we also.. We weren’t like antisocial homeschoolers as the stigma might go.” Elijah found the majority of his socialization through sports and church. He was involved with music and youth groups through his church, and was played soccer for many years. “Every single night, even though it might have seemed like I was sitting at home, doing school all day, not seeing anybody.. Every single night I either had youth group or music practice or sports practice, so I wasn’t exactly deprived.”
Elijah really enjoyed having been homeschooled. He told me that “if I said I didn’t feel like I missed anything I would be a liar,” but he felt like he gained a lot from having been a homeschooler. He found that the benefits of homeschooling extended beyond just his studies. He was able to spend time at home and foster a better relationship with his siblings and parents. “With homeschooling you can work at your own pace, and it was more one on one – it was just my mom and me.” He was able to do school from 8:00-12:00 and get just as much done as other people would in a whole school day.
By the time Elijah was 14, he was already working at the college level in math and English, so he felt as though he was already ahead at home. He wanted to start earning college credits at an early age, so he started with math 137 at the Willimantic branch of QVCC. This class was challenging for him, and he only began with one class. This helped him ease into the college scene, and after he got an A, he realized that he could do whatever he set his mind to. Originally, he enjoyed the small size of the Willimantic campus, but after switching to the Danielson campus (which offers many more courses), he has grown to love the facility and resources that it has. Elijah is very involved with campus life – as he is involved with the pool and basketball clubs, the Student Governing Association, and PTK (an honors society). Elijah found the classes at QVCC to be enjoyable, and said that all of his math classes after Calculus II were very challenging.
These days Elijah has graduated with one associates from QVCC and is finishing a second. He isn’t sure what he wants to do with his future career, but he knows that he doesn’t want to get stuck behind a desk. He wants to be involved, going out into the community and perhaps owning his own company one day. Right now he’s looking into Mechanical or Acoustical engineering. He might go to UConn and commute, because he will help save more money. No matter what Elijah does from here, it’s obvious that he’s had a remarkable educational history so far. He ended up being 4 grade levels beyond his peers, and “by the time my friends were graduating high school, I’ve had an associates degree for almost a year.” While this path might not work for everyone, Elijah clearly thrived in the challenging educational environment and will do amazing things wherever he goes.