As she closes in on the completion of her studies at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to become a Clinical Pediatric Geneticist, Catherine Gooch is one homeschooler of whom we all can be proud. She does not wear a banner of homeschooler on her sleeve. Catherine rather considers herself a “lifelong learner,” which was fueled by her homeschool education and has been the key to her academic success.
“My mother (Mary Gluszek) was my primary teacher, but from sixth grade on, I started doing a lot of outside studies, all still homeschool,” said Catherine who graduated from HomeLife Academy in 2008. “A lot of the stuff my mom thought she could teach me, but she felt my experience would be so much better if I did it somewhere else.”
Catherine had the maturity level to begin becoming more involved in directing her educational experience. Along with a literature course taught in Memphis by Terry Brown that she fondly remembers, she participated in co-op classes, took AP courses, did one-on-one tutoring and took dual enrollment classes her junior and senior year of high school.
“I took a dual enrollment chemistry class for allied health and discovered I absolutely adored chemistry and was actually good at it too. It was definitely one of my favorite classes in high school and was the impetus for my interest in medicine,” said Catherine. “I did 26 credits during high school at Southwest Tennessee Community College and was in its honors program.”
Catherine continued to Christian Brothers University (CBU) in Memphis with a plan to study biochemistry. During her sophomore year, she realized that direction was not for her and she made a change to pre-med. While in her junior year, Catherine also learned she did not love biochemistry as much as she thought, but stayed on course, because she knew the major would help her get into medical school.“I absolutely hated biochemistry research and I knew I would need a people component,” said Catherine, who is very extroverted. “I did 19 months of research in college and sitting at a table isolating virus particles is not as glamorous as it sounds. I barely talked to anyone all day.”
Although she made changes to her post-CBU career goals, Catherine felt well prepared academically moving into the college environment after being homeschooled. She made good grades in high school and earned a 32 on the ACT. Catherine noted there were a number of homeschoolers at CBU who were also members with her in the National Homeschool Honor Society while she was in middle school and high school. One of them being her husband, Austin, whom she first met as a senior in high school and later began dating her sophomore year at CBU and married in October 2014.
“I did better than most public school kids and about the same as private school kids while a student at CBU,” said Catherine, who is very self-driven and received her B.S. in biochemistry from CBU in 2012. “College was the best experience of my life academically.”
Catherine was quick to quell one of the fears some homeschoolers have when considering attending college.
“I was kind of convinced if you didn’t believe in evolution, you were going to be so persecuted in college and you needed to learn how to defend your faith,” said Catherine. “Well, guess what? No one cares in college. I majored in a very scientific field and I’ve never had anyone say ‘let’s debate evolution versus creation.’ The closest I came to that type of conversation was with close friends of mine and it was very calm.”
Where she saw more homeschool students struggle was in the area of exposure to different cultures, people, ideas and their actions.
“I saw some homeschoolers who struggled to find common ground with other people,” said Catherine, who is a Christian and credits her parents for allowing her to be exposed to more than her home environment and their Christian beliefs. “My parents allowed me to learn about different cultures and languages. I grew up in Florida, Singapore, Georgia, Connecticut and Tennessee. I also traveled even beyond mission trips and saw how other people lived. For some, hearing the occasional curse word was shocking as well as seeing some things other people did. I may not always agree with everything, but I was prepared to handle the difference between college and homeschool life.”
As a homeschool graduate, Catherine really wants to see other homeschoolers accomplish their goals. Because of her love of medicine, she has become an advocate for encouraging more homeschoolers to consider a career in medicine.
“It is really sad, because homeschoolers are so smart and we wonder why more of them aren’t in medicine,” said Catherine, who started an organization with some of her peers who are also homeschool graduates. “We were talking one day and wondering what we could do for homeschoolers to get some sort of interest in science. We all kind of realized that none of us had good resources in the community of homechoolers to show us what it takes to be a doctor, dentist or other medical professional.”
In response to the need, Chattanooga Healthcare Inter-professional Society (C.H.I.P.S.) was created.
“We reach out to homeschoolers in the Chattanooga and north Georgia areas,” said Catherine. “We went to a curriculum fair in Chattanooga to give kids and their parents’ brochures about what their child needs to do if they want to become a doctor, a nurse practitioner or another health professional. I would love if there are homeschool kids who are thinking about going into medicine through HomeLife for them to contact me. I would love to help them figure out what to do, because I didn’t have any guidance. I really had to figure it out on my own and it was tough. It is still tough.”
“C.H.I.P.S. is a volunteer-run organization sponsored by UT College of Medicine Chattanooga and Erlanger Health System designed to provide students interested in healthcare as a profession with information and direction.”
Catherine appreciates her homeschool experience and leaves an encouraging message for parents who homeschool their children and are concerned about their child succeeding in college.
“I feel like, even for my generation of homeschoolers, getting into a good college has never been a problem with anyone I’ve known,” said Catherine. “Get your kids involved heavily. If you’re concerned about their social skills, put them in a co-op. When they’re in high school, definitely get them in dual enrollment courses. It is great and not that expensive. Your kid gets college credit, gets to try out college and see what it’s like, gets a feel for the academic rigors and will be able to see what their peers are doing socially.”
Catherine shared her philosophy on being successful and getting the best out of life.
“Unless you’re born like a queen, you have to work your tail off, read as much as you can on whatever subject(s) that interest you and not be afraid to put in long hours,” said Catherine. “Eight to five, who on earth works from eight to five that I know? No one.”
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