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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview II

In the last interview, Lucy—a home-schooled student in the St. Louis area—offered a significant amount of insight into the homeschooling community. However, a large aspect of homeschooling is that, typically, no two-homeschooling experiences are alike. This week, a student who has gone to St. Louis Community College since the age of 15 gave me an entirely different set of perspectives. Liyu, who is graduating this semester, will have 49 college credits by the time she graduates. She says, “Currently, I just go to Meramec, I do all my classes at Meramec, and it’s for both high school and college credit—I’ve been here for three years.”

During the interview, Liyu had a lot of things to say that were similar to those of Lucy. She talked about some benefits of homeschooling that she has noticed: “I have learned different ways to learn, I have learned to look at things in a different way, and I’ve learned to teach myself things.” In addition to that, Liyu also described the ways in which her experiences as a child influenced her education now. She explained to me that not only has she been home-schooled all her life, so have a few of her siblings, “[When I was a child] we did a lot of learning from textbooks, and we would do co-op classes. But another thing was—and this might be a bad example—but, say, I was learning about photosynthesis, plants, or biology. [My family and I] would go to the zoo, go to the science center, or grow a garden. At that time, you’re then really in the process of learning what it is and how it works, and you’re more in depth with it. It sticks with you more.”

Although Liyu shared some of the same insights to homeschooling as Lucy, their views on the social aspect of homeschooling really provide a contrast to the different homeschooling practices in St. Louis—as Lucy and Liyu attended very different “home-school groups.” While Lucy noted that sometimes it has been hard for her to find people who differ from herself, Liyu said the opposite: “Because of homeschooling, I’ve met people who are very different. I’ve never been in a room full of people that are all the same.” Liyu also notes that she feels that she has received many negative reactions from people who find out she’s home-schooled. She expresses her frustration with the assumptions she has been faced with in the past. She presents these assumptions with a series of questions that she might likely encounter. She said, “[people wonder] ‘Do you have social skills? Do you have friends? Are you dumb? Or are you really smart?’ There really isn’t an in between—you’re either assumed to be stupid or a genius.” Conversely, Liyu has many positive things to say about her social life as a home-schooler as well—she talks lovingly about some of the social aspects of homeschooling that she enjoys. She said, “Socially, I do think that my friends and I were allowed to do more things. If we wanted to go out during the day while other kids were at school, we can go do stuff. I have made closer friendships.”

In the end, Liyu talked briefly about the way that homeschooling has impacted her learning experiences. Liyu is planning to go to University of Kansas in the fall, and elaborated upon the process of applying to colleges. “Another thing is transcripts—because you have credits, and they are real credits—but colleges take it differently [than traditional transcripts]. You can totally go to college, but it’s going to take more effort.” She said this while also noting that a few colleges she applied to had different standards for home-schoolers—many of which were higher than those of public-schooled kids.

Ultimately, Liyu appeared to think very highly of her educational experiences—as well as her robust volunteer and work experience, both which have been more accessible thanks to homeschooling. Liyu says, “I’ve always liked school, and I’ve always been interested in it.” An undeniable love for learning is something that Liyu and Lucy both share, and while their social encounters might differ; their ideas about the learning aspect of homeschooling compliment each other heavily.

The next interview will be posted on March 24th, 2017.

A Homeschool Exploration: Interview I

In the St. Louis area, there resides over one thousand home-schoolers. While one might think each of these students respectively learns within the walls of their own homes, around 500 of these students attend a local co-op known as HomeLink—which includes certified teachers, classrooms, curriculum, and social activities. One student, Lucy, explains to me the ups and downs of life as a home-schooler and attendee of this co-op.

Lucy says she is about the age of a junior or senior in high school, but credit-wise, is unsure. She said to me, “You know—homeschooling,” which is an exchange of mutual understanding that is common between many home-schooled students. We all understand the different paces each student maintains in their curriculum. Lucy continues: “Basically, I do a lot of my classes online, since my mom can’t really do all of them. I do pre-calculus online, I do physics at Homelink, literature at Homelink, and then I do some history classes online as well.” Lucy explained that her mom is British, and previously taught/worked at a homeschool-oriented educational organization. “It only made sense that I become home-schooled,” said Lucy. “It was a very intense kind of learning.”

As the conversation lengthened, Lucy began to elaborate upon her experiences as a home-schooled student. “I love homeschooling because I like to go deep into things. I like to research topics that interest me, and it goes with my learning style better. It has helped me get better grades.” Lucy mentions that homeschooling is hard in some ways, like keeping up with school and less opportunity to mingle with diverse students. She says, “You have to go out of your way sometimes to experience lots of different people and things when you’re homeschooling.” However, she mentions the benefit of personal development briefly, “It has made me more original and I love learning. It’s tailored more towards me, so I have learned who I am.”

Although the topic of high school is exciting, Lucy became very animated and passionate when she began talking about the future, as well as opportunities that homeschooling has provided her. She says, “I’m hoping to go to Princeton for an internship and I’m excited about that. I don’t know what I want to do exactly, but I want to do something in the humanities for sure.” Just then, the topic turned a different shade. Lucy explained that she wants to help people understand each other: “There are so many polar opinions. I was watching this documentary—The Talk—it was about the race relations and how so many African Americans have to tell their children, especially boys, what to do when police stop them. I was crying.” She mentioned the existence of both good police and bad police—police who want to help people. “There’s a history between race and police that people don’t often look at,” says Lucy. She wants to help better the understanding of how race, police officers, and other polar opinions you see in the media are interconnected.

In addition to Homelink, online classes, and uniquely paced curriculum, Lucy notes that there are other components of homeschooling that not everyone may know about. “I have a lot of friends in different places [distance wise], so that can be hard for home-schoolers as well.” She continues to note some reactions from people who lie outside of the home-school community. “Honestly, over the past few years I have gotten less questions, and I feel like that could mean it’s becoming more acceptable to be home-schooled. But, I have gotten a lot of questions like, ‘Do you do school at home?’ and ‘How do you make friends?’ in the past. One of my friends was actually really surprised that I went to prom.” Lucy said this with a mixture of amusement and exasperation.

In summary, Lucy’s experiences as a home-schooler are both incredibly unique and impressive, but also quite common in other respects. Lucy is gifted in lots of different things—such as musical ability, photography, writing, dance, and art—which she says her homeschooling schedule allows time for. For many home-schoolers, this rings true as well. Both flexible, tailored curriculum and unique social, extracurricular, and work opportunities allow many home-schoolers to be profoundly successful in today’s society.

Lucy is the first of six interviews to be conducted, and in the next interview, other home-school practices and organizations will be assessed.

 

 

2017 Project: A Homeschool Exploration

Starting next Friday and ending the 5th of May, I will be initiating a very special project. This project stems directly from my educational experiences, as well as the educational experiences of half a dozen others.

To elaborate, let me begin by explaining the inspiration and objectives of this project.

Inspiration: As a freshman in high school, I left the public school system in the spring semester to become homeschooled. While being homeschooled has been very beneficial to me, it has also allowed me to join the ranks of between 800-1,000+ homeschoolers in the St. Louis area. Despite there being so many of these students, I have met very few public-schooled individuals—specifically over the past three years—who also possess even general knowledge/experience of the homeschool community. I quite often get questions like, “Do you have friends?” and things like, “How do you go to college?”

These questions are very telling of the general public’s experience with homeschoolers—and perhaps some stereotypes they may hold as well.

Objectives: Over the next few months I will be using interviews in the form of descriptive essays to give insight to what the lives of different homeschoolers are like. Things such as homeschool co-ops, dual-credit classes at community colleges, and the alternative methods to “parent teachers” will all be explored and presented in a fun, interesting way.

By the end of the project, those who have read the series should have a better understanding of the sheer diversity of homeschooling students, practices, and methods. In addition to that, the project may convey some of the reasoning and benefits behind homeschooling in a way that challenges major stereotypes you see in the media.

My first essay will be posted next Friday. February 24, 2017.

Stay tuned!