Family X has always homeschooled, and always will. Their son graduated at 18 from his homeschool and got a job at International Power Connectors. His father has worked there for years. The son was employed there for a while and had an exemplary track record. Earlier, he even earned a bachelor's degree from a four-year college-the college had no problem with his homeschool diploma.
Out of the blue, an executive for the company announced that the homeschooled son had to get a GED or be fired because his homeschool high school diploma was not recognized. The homeschool family found out that the diploma requirement was not a company policy, but a personal policy of the executive.
The son really liked the job and wanted to keep it. But he would not take the GED because it carries a stigma of being a dropout and it is against his religious beliefs.
In my role as Senior Counsel at HSLDA, I am working to resolve this discrimination as this article is being written.
Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is repeated all too often - discrimination against homeschoolers in the workplace. The good news is that it happens less and less and when it does happen, we can usually resolve the conflict quickly without the homeschooler needing to get a GED or losing his job.
Pepsi-America Rejects, Then Hires Homeschool Graduates
In December, 2004, two homeschool graduates' applications for employment at PepsiAmerica, Inc.-Pepsi-Cola's bottler-were rejected because their diplomas were issued by their parents.
The families, both of whom were HSLDA members, immediately called for help.
HSLDA attorneys Scott Woodruff and I called PepsiAmerica's Corporate Staffing Manager and their corporate lawyer. While acknowledging the applicants would make excellent employees, they had difficulty giving any credence to a diploma issued by a mere parent. The call ended with "an open door" as the PepsiAmerica representatives were willing to continue considering our proposal for a resolution.
As promised, we sent PepsiAmerica a wide range of homeschool achievement studies and subsequently a letter making recommendations for a new policy. We followed up with numerous phone calls.
In June 2005, our members' patience was rewarded. PepsiAmerica announced they would fully accept a parent-issued diploma accompanied by a parent-issued transcript, so long as at least one of the grades on the transcript was verified by a third party. PepsiAmericas, Inc. has already hired at least one homeschool graduate under this policy and they have reported to us they would like to hire more.
State Agency Acknowledges Homeschool Diploma
Homeschool graduate "Jasmine Armstrong" (not her real name) was well known by the owners of a daycare center. When an opening arose for a teacher, the daycare operators were eager for Jasmine to take that position.
Jasmine applied for the position and her paperwork was forwarded to the Kansas agency which regulates day care centers. The agency's regional administrator reviewed the paperwork and decided Jasmine could not get the job because her high school diploma was signed by her parents.
We wrote and called the administrator to convince her to recognize the homeschool diploma but she refused to relent. The administrator forwarded our letter to the agency's legal staff. They agreed with HSLDA. They told the administrator that Jasmine's diploma was valid and her employment application should move forward.
With the end of the agency's obstruction, Jasmine's application for the teacher position was quickly accepted. She is now joyfully teaching young children in the Wichita area.
Homeschoolers Excel in the Workplace
Homeschoolers have caught the attention of the Society for Human Resource Management, which publishes HR Magazine. They report that employers who have hired homeschoolers are generally enthusiastic about them. Chick-fil-A, a nationwide fast food chain, is so happy with its homeschool hires that it actively recruits homeschoolers. According to Andy Lorenzen, who helps recruit Chick-fil-A's 30,000 front-line workers, homeschoolers are a unique source of talent. "They're smart, ambitious, and very driven," Lorenzen reports. "They have a high level of loyalty to the business, are diligent and have a good work ethic."
Many businesses have tapped in to the homeschool community to fill slots. Homeschoolers are perfect for many entry level jobs: they view work as an extension of their education, are available part time, at odd hours, and during busy seasons. They aren't just perfect for entry level jobs, however: according to Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschoolers are "self-starters, reliable and creative, intellectually prepared, better than average, read voraciously, [and] watch TV less."
HSLDA recently released a study of 5247 homeschool graduates conducted by Dr. Brian Ray. The study found that 49 percent were in college and the rest were employed in a broad range of jobs. Over 10 percent were doctors, ministers, accountants, nurses, teachers, college teachers, and other professionals. Nearly 3 percent were owners of small businesses or contractors and 6 percent were office workers. Almost 10 percent were salesman, computer programmers, draftsmen, service workers, hairstylists and the like.
Two percent were in the military or police force and 4 percent were in trades such as carpenters, mechanics, bakers, and managers. 7.3 percent were homemakers and the rest were farmers and blue collar laborers.
Homeschoolers are succeeding and whatever they put their hand to! As they "seek first the kingdom of God" He is "adding all these other things unto them!" (Matt. 6:33).
Some even run their own businesses.
While most new businesses fail, many do succeed-especially among homeschool graduates.
J. Gary Knowles, University of Michigan Assistant Professor of Education, released a study done at the University of Michigan in 1993 which found homeschool graduates thrive in the workplace. Knowles surveyed 53 adults who were taught at home because of ideology or geographical isolation. He found that two-thirds were married, which is the norm for adults their age. None were unemployed or on welfare. He found more than 40 percent attended college and 15 percent of those had completed a graduate degree.
One profound discovery was nearly two-thirds were self-employed! He stated, "That so many of those surveyed were self-employed supports the contention that homeschooling tends to enhance a person's self-reliance and independence." He stated, "Many mentioned a strong relationship engendered with their parents while others talked about self-directed curriculum and individualized pace that a flexible program of homeschooling permitted." This gave them time to apprentice and start their own businesses.
Scott Somerville of HSLDA tells of some young homeschool entrepreneurs. "Nathan, Mike, Ben, Nick, and Ian opened Ceratile.com in 2000, with the expert advice and financial help of a homeschooling family with an existing ceramic tile business. Ceratile's mission was to provide high quality ceramic tile over the Internet for doing home improvements. The result? A ton of work, a lot of fun, a few sales, and invaluable business experience. When the bottom fell out of the dot-com market, these homeschool entrepreneurs moved on with their lives (which included a full business scholarship for one of them)."
Aaron Fessler started his own mail order business in his teens, helped his parents with computer projects for their state homeschool organization, and worked at Homeschool Legal Defense (HSLDA) as a network administrator. He founded Allegro in 1995 with $5000, built it up to $7 million in sales by 1999, and sold it for many times that amount later that year. Aaron is now Chief Executive Officer of MediaForce, Inc., a firm that fights software piracy.
What Can Homeschoolers Do?
Don't quit the first time a mid-level manager refuses to take the chance of hiring a homeschool graduate. Ask why you weren't hired. If some policy requires an accredited diploma or GED, ask for a copy of that policy. Get the name of a supervisor or the president of the company and take the time to write a courteous letter asking for a chance to explain why the policy should be changed. If they still say no, pass the word to the local support group or state organization. If you are a member, send HSLDA a copy of their hiring policy and we will contact them. We will make sure somebody keeps the pressure on this business until it sees the light.
If a decent job becomes available where you work, pass the word within the homeschool community. If they hired one homeschooler, they may be willing to hire others. It's much easier to start your career in a friendly company than to try force your way into a hostile office. Once you're in, other companies will hire you because of your proven success.
One good entry-level job can launch a career. In finding a job, it has long been recognized that it is not always "what you know, but who you know." The tightly knit homeschool community can be very effective at finding jobs. Homeschoolers stick together, and with approximately two million homeschooled students across the country, there are more and more friends in high places every day.
Homeschoolers are Growing Up
As more get into the workforce, their reputation will grow too-and the demand will increase. Homeschoolers are taught how to read well, write well, do math well, and are self-disciplined. These are the "tools of learning" that they will apply their life-long and will enable them to succeed at whatever they put their hand to.
Homeschoolers have the discipline, honorable character, and ingenuity to make it in the workplace. They have embraced the biblical work ethic "he who does not work does not eat."
Most importantly, Christian homeschool graduates strive "to do ALL to the glory of God" and "whatever you do, do it with all your might as unto the Lord."
That truly is the recipe for success!