What types of educational backgrounds do Vigets have?

Cindy Caldwell, Vice President of Operations

Article Category: #News & Culture

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Recently, I overheard a couple folks here talking about being homeschooled when they were younger.  I was surprised because I wasn’t aware that these Vigets had been homeschooled.  The experience made me curious.  Just how many people at Viget had homeschooling backgrounds?  Had folks been homeschooled in just their primary years or during their high school years as well?  Do those with homeschooling backgrounds make up a large portion of our workforce?  Additionally, how many Vigets were products of private schools vs. public schools?

I decided to send a short survey to staff.  I received an 80% response rate (a response rate bested only by surveys that concern food).  And, the responses reflected a passion for the topic that intrigued me.

As it turns out, nine percent (9%) of Viget staff were homeschooled for at least a portion of their elementary school years (grade 1-8).  That figure dropped to four percent (4%) for high school years (grades 9-12).  According to the U.S. Department of Education’s most recent data (which covers the 2011-2012 school year), approximately three percent (3%) of the nation’s school-age population is homeschooled and that number continues to grow.  During the 1980’s (the average time frame in which our staff was in elementary school), homeschooling was just beginning to gain traction in the U.S. -- so it seems we have a higher-than-expected portion of our workforce with a homeschooling background.  When asked whether staff are homeschooling (or will homeschool) their children, however, only 4% of the staff said they planned to homeschool their kids in their elementary years and only 1% said they planned to homeschool their kids in their high school years.  Interestingly, none of those who plan to homeschool/are homeschooling their children were homeschooled themselves.

Elementary vs. Secondary Education

By a large margin, most Vigets are products of public school systems:  70% of us were educated exclusively in public schools during our primary years and 73% of us went to public high schools.  An additional 4-11% of us had some combination of private and public school education.  Ten percent (10%) of us went to private elementary schools, which is consistent with the national average.  The percentage of Vigets who went to private high schools, however, is approximately twice the national average at 19%.

Although we now work at one of three offices (in VA, NC, or CO), we grew up and were educated in school systems across the nation.  Some of us were military brats who moved from state-to-state.  Some of us were lucky enough to grow up in Northern Virginia and attend the top-ranked public high school in the nation.  Regardless of the type of education we’ve had, people here are passionate about the positive aspects of each type of schooling.

From homeschoolers:

  • “I look back on my education very fondly and am very appreciative of the incredible time and energy my parents put into giving me (and my siblings) a first-class elementary education.” 
  • “I was homeschooled for just 2 years and had a positive experience.  Met once or twice a week with other homeschooling kids.  Played baseball and soccer through a league.”
  • “I was homeschooled for 9 years and it was a decision with a lot of tradeoffs. Homeschooling provides children with a more efficient education and gives them much more time to pursue their own interests, which can be very valuable if a child is well-motivated. I was able to spend a lot more time reading, working with computers, and traveling as a homeschooler than I would have in public school. On the other hand, homeschoolers have difficult social hurdles to overcome, and they risk learning from lopsided curriculum that overfocuses on their — or their parents' — priorities.”

From those who attended private schools:

  • “I can probably thank private school for the fact that I got into the university that I did [Carnegie Mellon].” 
  • “[attended small private school] … small, was like a family and functioned like a support system.  Ability to participate in many extracurriculars since sports, theater, school government, etc. all needed people.”
  • “[attended small private school] … Whatever the teachers felt inspired to teach WAS taught.  There was a general atmosphere of Love -- teachers, students, the admin all worked to bring out the best in everyone.  I thrived in this environment.  Undoubtedly, these things have shaped who I am today.”
  • “The best thing I think Montessori gave me was a love for learning, confidence to know I can learn anything, and a foundation that set me up for life.  I don't recall grades or tests playing a large role in my experience with Montessori, but I left well-equipped to successfully complete years of education, including an international masters of business administration.” 
  • “We had super small classes (between 8-12 kids).  We were also worked pretty hard -- lots of homework, slightly longer days, BUT we had Fridays off!” 

From those who attended public schools:

  • “I loved my public school.  I feel like being able to interact on a daily basis with people of all incomes, backgrounds, races, etc. really helped prepare me for life after school.  I learned my background/my history/my baggage were different from everyone else’s, which helped me in my ability to connect with others and forge relationships.” 
  • “I was able to attend a public magnet school for HS which was just an incredible experience.” 
  • “Public school:  less pressure, felt like a healthy balance for a kid.  Could be a big fish in a smaller pond.  Was exposed to a pretty diverse range of people and backgrounds.” 
  • “I think public school helped socialize me, as well as become comfortable with authority figures other than my parents.  It also helped me develop a thicker skin.” 
  • “I thrived in my public school namely because my town had the resources to provide a great school experience.  The schools weren’t new, but the teachers were great and we had access to all the resources we needed.” 
  • “I met -- and generally befriended -- some rough kids in public school from a variety of different economic backgrounds.  This has helped me enjoy communicating with all kinds of adults.  I don’t think I would have met such a wide variety of people early in life had I not gone to public school.” 
  • “I’m thankful that I attended public school.  It’s crucial to interact with people of all different backgrounds -- race, economic level, home situations.  Public school gives you a better sense of others’ perspectives, lets you know why other people approach the world in a certain way, and allows you to empathize with others more.” 
  • “I enjoyed public school, but I was definitely fortunate to live in an area with a strong public school system that had a number of advanced offerings and unique study programs.  In high school, I was able to make a number of decisions about the classes and activities I pursued … it encouraged me to take responsibility for my education and decisions that I made.”  

In addition, people volunteered opinions on a multitude of education-related topics:

  • The merits of school uniforms
  • Curiosity about unschooling 
  • The dichotomy with excelling academically in private school and socially in public school 
  • The debate about Ivy League colleges being overrated
  • The idea that home environment may be more influential than school environment in terms of shaping one’s future
  • The idea that a strong public education system is the foundation for a free and successful society
  • The critical role that sports play in socialization and in teaching hard work, suffering, overcoming obstacles, and setting goals
  • The intention to encourage children to pursue additional learning options outside of school (e.g., Khan Academy, various code academies)
  • A passionate belief that private schooling perpetuates advantages to the advantaged and disadvantages to the disadvantaged 
  • The key role scouting can play in character development.

Despite the differences in our educational backgrounds, I think we all agree that education is just one of many factors that have prepared us for success later in life.  Curiosity, intelligence, wit, and determination are characteristics that can be fostered within any learning environment -- and are traits shared by all of the Vigets I’m proud to call my colleagues.

Cindy Caldwell

Cindy helped start Viget and now serves as our Vice President of Operations. She remains fascinated and challenged by an industry that never stops evolving.

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