Michelle Gaitan, San Angelo Standard-Times Published 5:00 a.m. CT May 31, 2018 | Updated 12:19 p.m. CT May 31, 2018
Emma Armstrong’s biggest challenge was remembering to sign her name to the top of her class and homework assignments when she entered public school.
From a young age Emma, who is now 21 and almost a junior at Angelo State University, was home-schooled along with her five younger siblings.
“I never had to do that because I was only person in my grade at home,” Emma said with a chuckle. “I never had to write my name on papers.”
Learning in a classroom setting was never more challenging than that, she said, but at times lessons were too slow or too fast for comfort.
As a home-schooler, she was taught by her parents, mostly her mom, and other people within the home-school network who volunteered to share their expertise on a subject.
Noting very few differences, she said her home-school experience was academically beneficial and socially the same as what any public school student would be exposed to.
Home-schooler Emma Armstrong, a ballet instructor at the San Angelo Broadway Academy, critiques dancers Faith Magee (right) and Holly Magee during practice Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (Photo: Michelle Gaitan / Standard-Times)
“A lot of people think that you grow up in a closet; you only interact with your family and you don’t get to meet other kids, but I got to do sports and library things and ballet,” Emma said. “And also, we had a home-school group when we lived back in New York and here in Texas.”
She defies the limits some people might imagine home-school students face outside the public education system.
For example, she danced her way into a one-year ballet program at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. Emma was among 20 selected after taking part in a six-week program in New York when she was 17.
Home-schooler Emma Armstrong, a ballet instructor at the San Angelo Broadway Academy, helps her student with her form during ballet class Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (Photo: Michelle Gaitan / Standard-Times)
“I did ballet growing up, and that was aided in my home-school schedule,” she said. “One of the big reasons I think my parents home-schooled me was so I had time to pursue what I wanted to. It was very flexible and it allowed me to reach my goals.”
Emma has excelled throughout her education and has big plans for the future. A book lover and history enthusiast, she is double major – English and history – with a minor in education.
She hopes to graduate from ASU with her master's degree before pursuing a Ph.D and becoming a teacher at a university.
Emma credits her mother for her dedication to her children's education, which was tailored to each sibling's learning abilities.
A normal school day for the Armstrong kids began by 9 a.m. and usually ended by noon, unless, like all students, they procrastinated.
Home-schooler Emma Armstrong, a ballet instructor at the San Angelo Broadway Academy, jokes with her ballet students during class Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (Photo: Michelle Gaitan / Standard-Times)
"I think home-school appeals to the fact that not everybody learns the same way," she said. “My mom would teach us at the same time that way we can work together, but hold us at different standards. And it’s been really cool looking at my younger siblings going through the same curriculum that we have but they are doing it again in a different way.”
Although she believes her education was pivotal to her academic success and leadership ability, Emma said deciding to home-school is an individual choice.
“I wouldn’t change my education for the world, and it breaks my heart when I hear people say bad things about home-schooling,” she said. “It’s not for everyone (but) I feel that it’s prepared me immensely for the adult challenges I am going to face in life.