Site Update: New Website

For those who are newer visitors to Probstinista.com, you may not know the story behind the name. I created this blog when I was 13. At the time, I wanted to be a fashion blogger—which largely stemmed from my interest in drawing clothing designs. Never in my grandest dreams would I have guessed that I’d grow up to occupy the most eclectic fashion taste out of anyone I know, or that people would gasp in exasperation on the rare occasions that I would have a full face of makeup (ah yes, the inimitable, natural progression of a teenager such as myself). At this point, you may have guessed that I combined the words “fashionista” and my last name, Probst, to create a vaguely clever blog name that was relevant to my theme (e.g fashion). At this time, the domain name I have now no longer makes sense given the content I create, and I am excited to announce that I will be switching over to another site with a new domain name!

The site I am switching over to will still have a portfolio complete with my art, photography, and writing, as well as all future blog posts. To see future book hauls, frequent political musings, information about my upcoming online art shop, and other nerd manifestations, please visit kyahprobst.com, and take advantage of the free e-mail subscription option!

Thanks!

– Kyah

3 important things learned before my 18th birthday:

In a few months, I will be turning 18—and I think it’s safe to say that I’ve lived my life as quite an “atypical” child. Of course, I mean that in the most self-lovingly way possible. A lot of this is, in part, due to the things that I’ve overcome—various diagnoses, my eclectic educational experiences (i.e a combination of public schooling, homeschooling, and community college), as well as internal struggles that are not uncommon, but affect me in a unique way. On all of my social media (which, not gonna lie, I’m a huge social media junkie), I typically don’t discuss my diagnoses, especially not in-depth. The reason for this is mainly because so many of these diagnoses are not inherently apparent to others, and also because I feel that I have learned to deal with them in a way that both myself and others find acceptable (well, it might also be because I am so easily annoyed when people can’t shut up about their struggles on the internet. Bear with me, this is going somewhere positive). However, when I do mention these things, people are surprised—and in the past, some people have been so surprised that they stopped being my friend (I couldn’t possibly deal with my diagnoses in a different way than you! How dare I!)

When I lived in California with my parents, I was misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and medicated with lithium (which I promptly overdosed on—but obviously that’s another story). After that, I moved to St. Louis, where I began working with an amazing—and I mean, UH-MAZING—group of psychiatrists at Washington University. Over the next few years I was diagnosed with PDDNOS, ADHD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You have most likely heard of ADHD and anxiety—which are quite common—but very few people have heard of PDDNOS, which is essentially Asperger’s. Yep. I was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism. Many struggles arose from this situation, the most prominent being a very significant lack of social skills that led me to take seven years of pragmatics class when I was in the public school system, as well as hyperactivity, trouble focusing, astronomical amounts of hyper-fixation on things (art, photography, to name a few—which largely explains why I am so skilled in those areas), sensory processing disorder—attributable to my astonishingly low-level of spatial awareness and all the times that I got bruises on my stomach from wearing belts too tight as a child. All this, as well as executive dysfunction (resulting in the 2.5 times that I took algebra I), and an incredibly high amount of anxiety which causes me to tear my fingers to shreds and consequentially assume the absolute worst of every situation. Here is a nice example for you.

Last semester, it was the night prior to the final set of lectures before I would take finals, and I couldn’t find the fidget cube that had been helping me focus in class. I sat panicked on the floor (maybe I cried, but that’s not important), because of a thought process that went like this: If I can’t find my fidget cube, I won’t be able to get notes as well as I have been, and then I won’t be able to do well on the last chapter of my political science final. If I don’t do well on the final, I could get a B, and if I get a B, my GPA won’t be a 4.0 anymore. If it’s no longer a 4.0, I won’t get the scholarships I want for out-of-state schools that I really, really want to go to. If that happens, then I’ll have to go to a cheaper school in St. Louis, and I won’t get my scholarships. And THEN, I’ll have a hard time moving -, and I’ll spend the next ten years in a city that I really dislike with thousands of dollars in debt, and I’ll be MISERABLE.

For ten years.

You heard that correctly. I attributed not being able to find my fidget cube to living in my most potent idea of misery…for the next ten years. Of course, I found it, like, not even, 5 minutes later. But here’s the thing about my anxiety: I have had so much therapy, and I’ve been told by so many people that my anxiety is a “big, fat liar” (which, in this case, it demonstrably was), that there are a few times in my life that I’ve experienced something similar to the fidget-cube-fiasco and actually realized that I was being ridiculous. After the fact, of course.

In my life, I am lucky enough to have been blessed with parents (I mean, I’m not kidding, my parents are objectively phenomenal parents), who have tapped into resources that would eventually help me do things like begin college at the age of 16, traipse across the world nearly by myself, and even little things like participate in the talent show when I was in the 4th grade—which, lemme tell you, I made myself so nervous that day, I almost peed. But I did it. All my life, I have been not just given opportunities to do things, but have in many cases, forced to do those things that make me nervous, and force me to create coping mechanisms that, in turn, provide more opportunities. The things that I have been nervous about may not always go perfectly, but they certainly haven’t resulted in 10 years of misery, or even, ya know, death.

I can see why many people might not believe me, even angered by the idea that I claim to have these diagnoses, but what they don’t see behind the scenes is that I have had a village of help, and also many, many, many, many years of therapy, IEP meetings, various medications, doctors, and specific coping mechanisms put in place. No big deal.

All of these things combined have made me who I am, and also taught me invaluable lessons.

1. It’s OK to go against the flow

Awhile back, my mom, who has worked with Missouri-Families for Effective Autism treatment for many years, was asked to do a presentation at a local middle school for disability awareness. The whole idea behind this presentation stemmed from the fact that many kids, like myself, were deemed the “weird kid” in the wake of an Autism diagnosis. We raised awareness for what Autism was, the characteristics of it, and also used me as an example to explain that Autism does not present in everyone the same (as people typically do not initially realize that I am on the spectrum. Although, some people eventually realize when I completely misunderstand larger social concepts. Oops.) Here’s a screenshot of one of the slides:

 

Actually, uh, this was probably in reference to when I wore colorful knee-high socks to school everyday in the seventh grade. Know your audience (a.k.a, a room full of seventh graders).

But this reigns true even then. I have found in my life that there are people who will, without fail, judge me for wearing something they would never wear, or listening to music that isn’t mainstream, or even, god forbid, something they would never enjoy. But I also, almost 100% of the time, realize that those people have less to be envied. Many of the kids that I felt so excluded and judged by, try so, so hard to be cool—to fit in—that they wouldn’t even know who they are, or who they would be, if they had given themselves the chance to stray from the norm. I have found that people who obsessively try to fit in and be cool, are consistently less successful, less intelligent, and less kind. No person is ever the same, but apparently their appearance is, if you introduce beanies and black leggings to a group of teenage girls. (No hate to beanies or black leggings).

I have found in my time as a teenager and child, that if you are most yourself, the right friends will follow. And those friends will be everything like you, and nothing like you at all. If we as humans all collectively learned to let our freak flags fly, and at the same time accept other people’s freak flags, then I truly believe that the world would be a funnier, happier place. Not that would ever happen. HA.

1. Be kind, always.

I know that this is terribly cliché. However, I am much more aware of my actions after my experiences with other kids in school. I have this theory that people who are mean, judgmental, or exclusive of others, either don’t have enough mean people in their life, or have had too many. As an example, I know a group of homeschoolers who, when I knew them, had hardly befriended people, ever, who were not like them— up until that point in their life. As a result, the homeschool group ceased to exist—but I noticed that many of these kids had been born together, and very likely had never experienced the judgement that comes from being in a place like public school. I very explicitly remember this one girl in the homeschool group bringing a friend to a summer meeting. In this meeting, what usually happens is that everyone hangs out and has a good time, but because a majority of this group didn’t like the girl who was already in the group as much as they liked each other (she was not “like them,” nor had she been born into the group), both the girl and her friend were ignored for so long that the girl, who was thinking about becoming homeschooled, left crying. Needless to say this girl did not end up being homeschooled. And the other girl left. And I left.

On the other hand, I know things now about people who have said hurtful things to me that I was definitely too young to realize then. There was a girl in elementary school who, at one point, called me “dirt,” and then promptly told her friends to ignore me, all of whom naturally listened. This group of girls rode my bus every morning, and everyday they tried their very best to exclude me from even so much as talking—in the clearest, most obvious way possible. I certainly had trouble with social skills as a kid—things like not looking people in the eye when I was talking, invading other people’s spaces, not being able to sit down in class, changing the subject in the middle of the conversation, talking excessively about things that I enjoyed, being hyper and excited. All the time. About everything. (etc. etc). were true markings of Autism and ADHD. Kids in elementary school don’t understand that, though. Of course they don’t! I realize now how bizarre it is for a child as young as eight or nine, to use the word “dirt” as a hateful comment—typically eight year-olds have no concept of what that would mean. All these years later, I realize now how that girl was not blessed with the kind, caring family that I was, and I forgive her. I can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to have grown up in her situation, and I think it’s of the utmost importance that I forgive.

What this all basically means, is that, yes, I had a hard time with friends when I was younger. I understand feeling terribly about yourself by the hands of someone else. But the greatest gift that ever came of that, was growing my level of kindness and compassion (which is a whole blessing in itself. My specific diagnosis is interesting in that I notice very high levels of compassion in both myself, and the kids who I babysit with the same case of Asperger’s).

Be kind, always.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others

Oh, boy. This is a good one. I cannot tell you, just how much time I’ve spent comparing myself to other people, and coming up with all the ways that I’m inferior, a disappointment, or less-worthy than them. I am still working on this—but the best advice I can give to successive teenagers, is that comparing yourself to other people, especially those with a different story, and a different life, will almost always go against your best interest—whether you are trying to find the good in yourself, or the bad.

Essentially, I have learned to go against the flow whenever and however I desire, I have learned to be kind to people regardless of what they look like, how they act, or what they’re interested in, but most of all—I have learned that any comparison against someone else will always be an unfair comparison. Weird is relative. We’re all weird—and that’s okay.

– Kyah

 

 

 

 

Brief Political Musings: The “Hidden Curriculum” of America

This month for brief political musings, I am going to talk about something that I think is vital for Americans to understand when discussing things such as race—especially the perceived sucesses of racial minorities. In order for me to do that, I have to make an analogy between concepts I have read about in books this summer and American society.

I am currently halfway through a book entitled The Poverty and Education Reader, edited by Gorksi & Landsman. This book is an anthology of writings by educators and students who have grown up in poverty—and who have seen the kinds of astronomically poor education kids in poverty-stricken communities receive, as well as how that unequal distribution of opportunities keeps so many people stuck in the cycle of poverty. One of the widely discussed concepts in this book is called, “the hidden curriculum” of public education, and part of this hidden curriculum includes the expectation that in order to build “cultural and social capital” in school, or basically, in order for minority children to become successful, those kids need to adopt middle-class, white values and deny their own diverse culture. In one of the stories, a now-adult talks about growing up as a poor, Appalachian child in school. She said, “They thought the best thing they could possibly do for me was to teach me to be like them—or as one teacher actually suggested in her kindest teacher voice, I needed to ‘learn to act White.’ I knew what that meant. If I wanted success, I’d have to adopt their language and culture and deny my own. I did what they asked; I learned to pass. Passing is a treacherous road to travel.”

An analogy can be made between the hidden curriculum in schools, and the “hidden curriculum” in American society. A comparison I hear quite often in political discourse, is between the perceived success of Asian Americans in society and the perceived success of African Americans in society—both of which have been oppressed throughout history (oppression in this case being specifically Asian internment camps and the enslavement in black people). The thing that people who make this comparison fail to note is the fact that post-internment camps, Asian Americans slowly began to adopt the “white, middle-class culture.” This means that Asian Americans currently adopt the fashion, language, music tastes, traditions, and even things as seemingly trivial as baby names and slang of white Americans (ex: My new neighbors are Asian American—their son’s name is Kevin). This idea can be adopted to articulate that even descendants of those with white skin who have historically been oppressed in various ways, such as Irish indentured servants in the 17th & 18th centuries, have 100% assimilated into the dominant culture of America as well, which means that not only are there no marked differences between white people of Irish descendants and white people descended from other cultures, but also that we don’t perceive them to be less successful, professional, or intelligent because of the culture they retain—which is an idea that is certainly not applicable to African Americans and the Hispanic population of America.

You see, African Americans and the Hispanic populations in our country do retain many of their own mannerisms, languages, fashion, art, music, food, names, traditions etc. etc. that are completely separate from something that you would see where I live—predominately white suburbs, which, especially adopt the “dominant culture” in America. I think what is important to gather here, is that African Americans are not only perceived to be so much less successful than Asian Americans, but that the dominant culture in America has taken certain measures to make it much harder for black people to do things like get a job, assuming they have not gone considerable lengths to “act white.” The fact is, if a black person has a name that “sounds black,” then they are less likely to get called in for a job interview than someone whose name sounds white, and if a black person is called into an interview, they are also less likely to get the job if they don’t speak “like a white person” or if they wear their hair naturally.

This, and the fact education in poverty stricken schools is disgustingly unequal from the schools you might find in a middle-class area (to the point where teachers don’t show up for school, substitutes are scarce, textbooks are from decades ago, there’s little to no technology, science & sports equipment, or art supplies, and the building may be in disrepair—0r other horribly desolate circumstances), make the idea that everyone in this country can achieve what they want simply by working hard a shoddy one at best, and an illogical one objectively. This unequal education not only has devastating effects on children’s ability to go into higher education (a feat that has been proven to require preparation starting in the middle schools years—preparation that is scarcely provided in low-income communities), but also hinders these children’s ability to do well in other opportunities that they receive in life, depending on what those opportunities may be or if they present themselves.

Quality of education and economic class are closely related—so is, however, the “hidden curriculum” that our schools have adopted, and the “hidden curriculum” that our society has adopted. Understanding the nature of socioeconomic class (especially ones other than your own), is the first step in being able to accurately vote on things such as economic and social legislation, and I implore anyone who reads this to do their best to do so.

-Kyah

 

Brief Political Musings: For-Profit Industries in America

This past week, my parents returned from their trip to Europe. Yes, they emerged from their two-week adventure with smiles and sore feet after having visited Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and London. If the word “London” catches your attention, you have probably been paying attention to the news, and you know that London has fallen victim to a series of attacks. The day after my parents came home, they sat on the couch and gushed about their trip—from the ubiquitous, urine-smell emitted by the city of Paris, to musicians on street corners, food, art, and yes, the attack on the London Bridge during their visit. They explained the logistics of the attack, involving trucks and knives, but also, more importantly, noted the drastic difference between the news coverage of the incident during their time in Europe and that of which they saw streaming from America. My mother, a fellow politics junkie and media literacy extraordinaire, said that Britain did not mention names, politics, religion, or any specifics associated to the attack—in others words, there was absolutely no speculation in the news coverage for days, until those specifics were known. I watched on my twitter feed as people like J.K Rowling retweeted posts that said: “Tweets I’m seeing from the UK 0n terror attacks much less panicked/political than from US.”

The reason I bring this up is not to speak ill of America’s news industry. Well, actually, wait, yes it is. But I’m not going to complain about the industry and not address the issue that seem to be at the heart of many of America’s most pressing issues—the issue here being simply ‘corporate bias’ in the media, but more specifically, the fact that America’s top for-profit industries include higher education, healthcare, and the news. I’d like to break down some key basics to these industries, and also tie them into how they’re affecting a large portion of the population in America.

The News:

In previous paragraphs, I mentioned something called “corporate bias” – which is basically a phrase people use when they’re trying to say that news companies, especially those involving politics and current events, cover incidents and provide political analysis over things that will benefit the corporation. Basically, things that will please their bosses, acquire higher ratings, and accumulate large amounts of wealth. This causes news channels to cover the same shocking event for weeks, even after it’s relevance has up and disappeared, as well as things such as murders and accidents that are of no use to the American people—and that’s not even the half of it. I don’t need to bring in statistics or anecdotal evidence to convince someone that this is a pressing issue with our news, but I may never be able to convince some people that privatizing the news is something that, in my opinion, we should never have let become as omni-present as it is—that is, to the point where tuning into privatized, for-profit news coverage is exclusively how many Americans get their news. At this point, someone could say that Americans have plenty of options in which to get their news, but in fact, the opposite is true. In America, 5 media conglomerates control 90% of the media we view, which was outlined in my political science class, and in this PBS article:

“The trend of media conglomeration has been steady. In 1983, 50 corporations controlled most of the American media, including magazines, books, music, news feeds, newspapers, movies, radio and television. By 1992 that number had dropped by half. By 2000, six corporations had ownership of most media, and today five dominate the industry: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom. With markets branching rapidly into international territories, these few companies are increasingly responsible for deciding what information is shared around the world.”

What happens to these media corporations, is that they buy each other out—they suck each other up like a Pacman game. Largely, this is due to deregulation of governmental barriers that protect the American people from “commercial exploitation of the media.” Either way, the for-profit nature of American news coverage and the lack of options to access various news sources is one of the facets that’s creating Americans who are not completely ignorant, but who are ignorant about the wrong things.

Education:

Awhile ago, a friend of mine and I were having a discussion about college while out with some friends. I said something along the lines of, “a lot of stupid people graduate college every year.” Immediately, a person sitting next to me who is not my friend, but a friend of the people I was with, said, and I quote, “That’s interesting, coming from you, a liberal.” (disclaimer: I am trying my best to make political ideology completely unrelated to the way in which I write and analyze.) I was immediately confused about the logic of this person, but more so, I now want to use this as an opportunity to explain my own logic for such a statement.

A few decades ago, a bunch of educators and scientists, or people who should have known better, if you will, looked at the correlation between high self-esteem and good grades and said, “That’s great! Now we just have to raise their self-esteem so that their grades will also rise!” These people, of course, did not take into account the fact that correlation does not, in any way, imply causation. What they failed to realize is that maybe, perhaps, it’s the other way around, and good grades beget high self-esteem—which is something I can certainly vouch for. What happened next, well, it was the pits. Educators looked at this correlation and began to tell students that they’re doing great, and they’re learning the material so well—even if they weren’t. Come president Bush, you have school funding riding heavily on how well students do on standardized achievement tests—the same students who think they’re doing really great (or, if you will, achieving), but aren’t, and have no idea! Not only did this create an even more unequal distribution of educational opportunities in poverty-stricken communities (book recommendation: “Savage Inequalities” by Jonathon Kozol, explains this phenomenon very well), but it also churned out a bunch of students who may have gotten good grades, but had never learned the things they were supposed to. If you take this into account, as well as the fact that our education system values discipline rather than intelligence, college is relatively easy to get into assuming you can pay for it, and also the fact that college leaves the average person with 37,172 dollars in student debt, then viola! You have only the percentage of the population that can afford to either pay tens of thousands of dollars or live the rest of their life with overwhelming amounts of debt attending colleges meant to educate, broaden horizons, and strengthen critical thinking skills. Of this percentage, many of the people attending college are a disproportionate representation of intelligence, skills, and interests in America—with many of the top colleges admitting only above average intelligence and wealth, and many of the other colleges admitting average intelligence, skill, and interests en masse into their environment (average being the supposed, middle-class “default” in American society). I’m not saying this is objective, or that there aren’t hundreds of anomalies, but I am saying that, along with the media, these two extreme for-profit industries are leaving many Americans ignorant about the wrong things, stuck in the cycle of poverty, and more broadly, largely uneducated past compulsory learning, which nobody likes as much anyway.

Healthcare:

Okay, now we can get into the pinnacle—the pièce de résistance—of for-profit industries in America: healthcare. For me to explain how this is affecting the American people, I have to explain the difference between the “risk pool” and the notorious ‘high-risk pool’. The most basic explanation of how healthcare works goes something like this: everyone pays a lot of money every month, and this money goes into a ‘risk pool’. Eventually, when someone gets sick, money gets taken out of this giant pool of cash, and goes towards doctors appointments, medications, treatments etc. etc. per request of the sick customer. Before the ACA, there were two ‘risk pools’—a risk pool for people who were generally healthy, and a ‘high-risk’ pool for people who have things like cancer, disabilities, mental illnesses, and the list goes on, and includes much more trivial things like c-sections. That, however, is not the only difference between these groups. The high-risk folks have historically been charged at rates tenfold of those who were healthy, that way, the insurance companies can accumulate large amounts of wealth right out of the pockets of sick people. Think about it. In this way, Americans who are already sick, or who recently became sick, were sometimes either kept that way for a very long time, forced to face a premature death, or reduced to making extreme financial sacrifices in order avoid doing the latter. With the ACA, high risk pools were eliminated and individual mandates were put in place to keep costs down as much as possible, and to make sure sick people could avoid financial disasters—among other things. However, many people are now angry because their insurance costs have risen, which is not because of some imaginary law that requires the costs of insurance to rise, but because they are no longer enjoying the facade that includes relatively cheap insurance. And also, because everything health or doctor-related in the United States costs a whopping, crap-ton more than any other country in existence. Well, and also, healthcare is a for-profit industry.

I cannot pretend to understand how anyone could possibly question why the American political system, as well as the constituents residing underneath it, are in such distress and dysfunction, if the top for-profit industries in the U.S include higher education, healthcare, and the news. By this analysis, I hope people find more sense in understanding corporate bias, media conglomerations, the relationship between achievement tests in American schools, decisions of educators in the U.S decades ago, and how it pertains to higher education as a for-profit industry, as well as the basic functions of healthcare and it’s possible effects on Americans across the country.

Now, a few days ago I promoted this blog post through Instagram, and I know the general consensus among humans is that they aren’t ever as interested in politics as they are pictures of the sky, of cute animals, and oddly enough, pictures of physically attractive humans? So, without further adieu, here are your promised pictures:

Pictures of the sky:

Pictures of cute animals:

Cat: Miss Kitty
Horse: Cloudy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin Trudeau, Canadian politician.

Oh, what? You thought that all politicians were old white guys with receding hairlines? What’s that? You also thought that I wouldn’t sneak politics into this somehow? You make me laugh!

– Kyah

Brief Political Musings & Book Hauls

Starting this summer, I’d like to add two new segments of blog posts. The first, called ‘brief political musings’, will include a string of writings in which I provide commentary on certain aspects of U.S politics that range from unbearable to, well, unbearable. I will post a simple paragraph or two that draws attention to things all over the political spectrum—once a month.

The second branch, called “Book hauls” are very similar to clothing hauls—hauls that all the cool people do—where they buy a bunch of stuff from a particular clothing brand, try them on, and create a video or blog post about how much they love their new outfits. But, naturally, I’m far too nerd-like and definitely not fashionable enough to make one of those (note: currently wearing ten dollar, basic blue jeans from Old Navy and a “Venturing” t-shirt. I’m so nerd-like that I’m a girl and I’m in an organization directly affiliated with Boy Scouts. You may also imagine my very notable bi-weekly boy scouts uniform that I get to wear. Can you see it? Absolutely glamorous). These posts will be similar, but instead I will talk about the books I’ve read, and I will talk about how much I absolutely love, love, love them. I will, of course, provide loose analyses and reviews of each one as well. These will be seasonal, that is, per semester, when I read lots of books.

I know that the title of this site is Kyah Probst: Multi-disciplinary Artist, so I’m prepared to pepper in some new work, or, if you want me to be more detailed, sporadically add large blocks of artistic content and other creative junk because I’ve neglected to consistently create things. (Ah, yes, the action that defines my worth. Or doesn’t, if you’ll wait for my next book haul.)

If you’re new to this site, feel free to look around and visit some art, photography, and my latest series of essays involving interviews with local home-schoolers across St. Louis (See: A Homeschool Exploration). If you’re feeling truly interested, you can subscribe to this blog, and stay tuned, in order to be the first to view and purchase products with my art on it in the very near future (there may even be special discounts involved!)

Best,

Kyah

 

A Homeschool Exploration: Summary

Over the course of half a dozen interviews, there were several main focuses on the topic of homeschooling. Behind the scenes of each essay, I was asking questions about the social, educational, and personal aspects to various homeschoolers’ educational experiences—as well as the benefits/deficits of each person’s current situation.

In these essays, I heard many, many conflicting insights, perspectives, and views on the different aspects of homeschooling. For example, on the topic of the reactions to homeschooling—elicited from other people, a third of the interviewees exclaimed that they felt they received mostly negative reactions from people outside of the homeschool community, while the rest of those interviewed said they felt that it was positive. In addition to that, on the topic of socialization, Lucy examined her social life and explained that she felt it was harder to meet people who are differ from her, while Kyle said things like, “People say that homeschoolers are unsocialized, but I don’t feel like that’s the case. I feel like I definitely got a lot of socializing done in high-school. I feel like I’m very good at talking to people, and I’m very comfortable in social situations—and that’s partly due to the fact that I’ve had experience with so many different people.”

This isn’t to say that there aren’t aspects of homeschooling that are widely considered in the same way. In fact, without fail, every single homeschooler mentioned two things that they loved about homeschooling: learning what they’re interested in, and going at their own pace.

While these interviews were intended to provide information about the common practices of homeschooled students across St. Louis, as well as eradicate misconceptions and provide a very personal introduction to the lives of homeschoolers in our community, it is clear that by doing so, I have put excessive clarity to one important detail—one that should be remembered by everyone who interacted with this series: homeschooling, by nature, is different for everyone.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview VI

This last interview will cover an additional co-op in St. Louis by the name of the St. Louis Homeschool Network. In this interview, Kayla, a student attending Meramec Community College who was also previously a member of this group, will talk about the differences between things like Homelink and this smaller co-op, as as well as how this group has fit into her unique social experiences and hobbies.

The demographic of this group differs in many ways—particularly the parents of the group, who Kayla mentioned to be much more lax and personable. Kayla said, “I also went to SCCHE, which is basically like HomeLink, but in St. Peters. When I went there for my senior year, it was also very Christian and there were a lot of rules. Rules like, ‘You cannot hug a person for more than two seconds.’ Our group (SLHN) was more like the parents of the group—well, instead of being our teachers they were our parents. They would all talk to us about stuff and be like, ‘In the future you’re probably going to get in trouble and you can call me. At any time.’ They were always there if you needed them. They adopted you, pretty much.” In addition to that, Kayla was very explicit in how she felt about her social connections to the other members in the group. Many of these kids have known each other since a very young age. She said, “I mean, it was like a family. We were so much closer than public schooled people seem to be. We were everybody’s everything.” In this group, parents did teach many of the classes. Kayla said, “Basically we had the different classes we would sign up for—because different parents had different degrees: Biology, writing, whatever. We would all meet up, but it wouldn’t be like a class where we sit and write everything down the teacher says—it was very hands-on learning—more than, you know, I think we would’ve anywhere else. We would spend hours on projects until everyone understood it.” To build off of that, Kayla said being homeschooled in that way made Meramec significantly easier. She said, “If you go to HomeLink or SCCHE, it’s more like a college setting. By doing that, it prepared me for college and it just prepared me for life in general.” Kayla explained that by being homeschooled, she was done with high school English and honors chemistry before she started the 10th grade, but was able to spend time on math, which she struggles with.

In addition to the educational aspect of homeschooling, another area of concern for many oblivious public-schoolers is how homeschooling fits into various hobbies, such as sports. Kayla spent much of her high school career on a homeschool volleyball team, which is just one of the many ways you can become involved in sports. Kayla said, “I did it though The Panthers. It was like a private select team, where you had to be chosen and try out every year. You also had to be homeschooled to be on the team. We played some homeschool teams, but we played most of the public and private schools, and we played teams from Nebraska, Arkansas, Oregon, all-around Missouri, Texas, Florida.”

One of the things Kayla wants people to know about homeschooling, is that many homeschoolers are quite successful, despite the stereotype that they sometimes aren’t. She said, “They look at you like you’re somehow… stupider? I have a lot of relatives who question my education, like ‘Are you really learning?’ It was just a lot of doubt and judgment.” Kayla will be graduating from Meramec next May with a current GPA of 4.1. From there on, she will transfer to a bigger university and work her way towards becoming an occupational therapist for kids with disabilities and special needs.

Shortly, I will post a short summary and explanation of the ideas, insight, and information gathered on homeschooling practices in St. Louis.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview V

This week, One of HomeLink’s oldest members provides depth and insight into the group in a way that other members have not. He said, “HomeLink was really laid back years ago when I first started, and they only had about 40 kids. Once they got the current place, more and more kids started coming.” Over the past decade, HomeLink has acquired an average of 500 children—a stark contrast to the 40 kids that they began with. While HomeLink is by no means the only homeschooling support group/co-op, it is by far the largest. Logan started at HomeLink when he was in the fifth grade. He said, “Basically going through public school, my anxiety level was through the roof. When I was younger my energy level was very, very high, and I would have no way to get energy out. Every day I would come home, do homework, eat dinner, do homework, and then get ready for bed. The only downtime I had was on Sunday, and it wasn’t enough. By the time I reached fourth grade, I would cry at homework and school because it was stressing me out so much— it was really, really tough.”

Over the past five interviews the only thing that has been a common denominator throughout each and every interview, is the fact that students feel as if they can study what they want and at their own pace. Logan was one of these students as well. Logan said, “With homeschooling I can study the things I want to study. If I want to read about history, I can do that. If I want to go into physics, I can do that, too.” In addition to that, he mentioned that he could go at his own pace. Logan said, “Everything came quicker to me. I could take the time to slowly read through stuff and not rush through. In school you had a limited amount of time to finish things.”

While talking about misconceptions about homeschoolers, Logan took to a past interviewee’s approach of rhetoric, that of Liyu. He said, “People ask a lot, oh, do you go anywhere? How much do you actually learn? Do you have friends? They have no idea. They think it’s just this complete alienated world.” Logan wants people to understand that, “You do have opportunities. You can go take classes at multiple homeschool groups. You can meet people, you can have boyfriends and girlfriends, prom, and homecoming.” Homecoming, prom, and graduation—events that are considered nearly a right-of-passage for many high school aged students in America—are things that kids at HomeLink do not miss out on. In fact, due to the concentrated number of the teenagers at HomeLink being in varying grade levels, the co-op provides four homecomings and four proms, as well as a graduation ceremony. The dances are held at banquet centers complete with dinners, and the graduation ceremony is complete with robes, a commencement speaker, and a biography of each student’s achievements that accompany a slideshow of pictures—usually held at a local church. These are just some of the things that Logan used as examples of the vibrant social life he and his friends maintain as homeschoolers.

In the future, Logan hopes to go into voice acting. While he feels that he hasn’t had a whole lot of opportunities to do so as a homeschooler, he did say, “I can’t thank [homeschooling] enough for all the things it’s done for me.”

The next and final interview will be posted on May 5th—in which we will talk about one last organization for homeschoolers within St. Louis.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview IV

In recent essays, an organization known as HomeLink has been mentioned several times by local homeschoolers across St. Louis. To elaborate upon what has already been said, Home link is a homeschool co-op in St. Louis that offers classes ranging from yearbook, to physics, to art and music classes. The co-op includes certified teachers, a lunch room, and four years of both homecoming and prom—all of which are paid for by students and parents. However, this organization is not the only one of it’s kind residing in St. Louis. Today, Britney—a high-school junior from an organization known known as ARCHE—speaks out about her experiences as a homeschooler in St. Louis—especially ones differing from those who attend home link.

Although ARCHE is similar to HomeLink, it is a Christian organization that has a more intense focus on God. She said, “I’ve always been homeschooled – ever since preschool. It was basically because my mom wanted me to do Bible in school, because they don’t really teach the word of God in public schools.” Britney explains the way that homeschooling fit into some of her hobbies and classes that she is taking at arch. In reference to classes, she said, “I haven’t been there for as long as most people have been there, but I joined 2014. I took a couple musical theater classes, and speech & debate. I really enjoy the debate class,” she laughed, jokingly. “I like to argue.”

Like home link, ARCHE helps with the social aspect of homeschooling. Britney differs from some of the other homeschoolers in past interviews, in that, in addition to ARCHE she also gathers social experiences from several communities like church, dance, and kids around the neighborhood. She said, “‘How do you socialize?’ Is one of the top questions for homeschoolers. I don’t think was hard for me to make friends as a homeschooler, ever since I was four I’ve been in dance, so I have plenty of friends there—and I have church, so plenty of friends there.”

Throughout the past few interviews, a reigning characteristic is becoming increasingly clear. Despite all of the different organizations, ways of doing school, aspects of socializing, and benefits received from homeschooling, the only thing that has been said by each local homeschooler consistently is that they can go at there own pace and they can learn what they like. Britney said, “I like that I can kind of go at my own pace with things. I’ve never been to a public school, so I’m not really sure how that all works, but it seems like they go really fast.” Britney later added a statement that seems comical, but may be one of the most underrated components of homeschooling. She said, “I feel that the reactions are sometimes really positive, especially when you tell people your own age. They’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s good for you.’ You know, and, ‘I wish I could wake up at 9 o’clock for school every morning.'”

The next interview will be posted on April 21st, 2017.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview III

Over the past two interviews, girls who have participated in various homeschooling practices offered up their experiences as current homeschoolers. This week, a now-freshman in college, Kyle, talked about past experiences with homeschooling and how it has affected his success as of right now.

Kyle attends Hendrix college in Arkansas. He said, “My major is undeclared, but I’m kind of falling to chemistry. Maybe, biochemistry or molecular biology. I’m using that as a framework for the classes I’m taking.” He explained that the reason he chose Hendrix—which is a small liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas—is because it allows him the freedom of taking lots of different kinds of classes.

Before college, Kyle spent four years at HomeLink—a homeschool co-op that was mentioned in previous interviews. Kyle elaborates upon both the ‘before Homelink’ and ‘after HomeLink’ phases, as well as the opportunities those have provided him. He said, “There was a ‘before and after.’ Basically, before I went to HomeLink, [schooling] was very free form. As long as I got a certain amount of work done every year it was fine. There would be times where I would just be doing other stuff—for example I’d go to my friend Patrick’s farm and hang out there, do work, and explore this huge 300 acre farm. That was ideal, it was amazing. But then, of course, I’d get behind in schoolwork and I’d do school all day long. We went all year long for school, so we wouldn’t have, like, a summer break. The ‘after’ period was when I was at HomeLink, and now you’ve got homework and deadlines and grades—and I had had grades before, but they weren’t really as important, and now they were really important.” Kyle continues to explain how his particular experiences with homeschooling have helped him. He said, “It was really good because it helped me to get my time-management right—get that skill built up. Which, let me tell you, if you don’t have that skill in college, you’re going to suffer.”

Overall, Kyle feels as if homeschooling was very beneficial as far as opportunities go. He explains: “That, I think, is its primary benefit—the opportunities homeschooling has provided. Which is funny, because you would think that you’re going to have so many opportunities inside the system of public schooling.” Kyle lists some of the things he would not have without homeschooling. He said, “There’s little ones, like being in a circus, hanging out at my friend’s farm, but also bigger stuff like my internship at the science center and being here at Hendrix—which I probably wouldn’t have applied to or ever known about if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Tate (who helps runs HomeLink), because her son is here and she’s been a big fan of the school.”

In the end, Kyle had quite a few things to say about homeschoolers in general. He said, “People say that homeschoolers are unsocialized, but I don’t feel like that’s the case. I feel like I definitely got a lot of socializing done in high-school. I feel like I’m very good at talking to people, and I’m very comfortable in social situations—and that’s partly due to the fact that I’ve had experience with so many different people.” He built upon that statement by talking about the nature of homeschooling: “I think the thing about homeschooling is that by its nature, it’s different for everyone.”

The next interview will be posted on April 8, 2017.