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Monday, January 22, 2018

Public School Was the Worst — Luckily I Had Options

No one way of schooling is going to fit everyone. Kids are all different.

Having the choice of where and how to get my education has been a fantastic journey for me so far. Even though I’ve never been technically homeschooled, I started schooling at home when I was in 6th grade. My experience in traditional public school taught me that overall, my natural curiosity and desire to learn was deteriorating due to many reasons, including early start times and a lack of sleep, lack of free time due to excess busy work, negative peer influences, and other environmental factors not conducive to learning.

Like most kids, I used to be excited about many topics but, with time, I came to dread going to school. My mom would help me with my math until late into the night. I remember crying most nights because I was so tired. I only seemed to truly understand my homework when mom would help me and, as a result, we saw no point in going to school when I was doing most of my learning at home.

Options Lead to More Options

I started taking online classes through a virtual public charter school. This was not an easy transition: it took a year to really get used to this new way of learning and my mom was helping me a lot with academics both inside and outside our house. We went on tons of field trips. We toured museums, dairy farms, did glass blowing, saw shows at the theater, toured radio and tv stations, and attended many other events with other homeschoolers. The best part was that this new way of schooling opened up so much free time for me to explore new ideas, sports, and activities.

People don’t realize that the “one size fits all” public school track isn’t the only option. I started swimming and riding horses competitively and played tennis several times a week. Once a week, I attended a co-op and took classes with other homeschoolers. I learned how to camp, and our group went on trekking excursions on the Appalachian Trail. I also took a biology class that allowed me to participate in messy experiments (like dissections) that mom wouldn’t let me do at home.

When I was 14, it was time to enroll in high school-level classes. I had many options to consider. Do I attend my local high school or continue online schooling? While I did enjoy my freedom with online schooling, I missed the social aspect of seeing people every day. I considered doing a high school co-op (a small private school that met 3 days per week) which would allow me to keep my freedom while taking classes with kids my age but ultimately decided against it.

People don’t realize that the “one size fits all” public school track isn’t the only option. There are many smaller hybrid schools that meet a few days per week with options to go full days or half days. There are combination schools, both public and private, that combine in-person classes with online classes. I don’t think there is a perfect school out there, but having options and flexibility was a very important factor for me.

More Options Lead to More Opportunity

I remember contemplating my choices one day when my mom told me about the dual enrollment program which allows high school students to take college-level classes while simultaneously receiving high school and college credit. This was a little intimidating because I would be taking classes with people much older than me. I was still concerned whether or not I would have friends, but what I learned was that age didn’t matter. This was a technical college that allowed 9th and 10th graders to take classes (like most technical schools do) with the choice to take classes online, in-person on campus, or both. After two semesters, I decided to transfer to Georgia State University as it was closer and offered a larger variety of classes.

No one way of schooling is going to fit everyone. I was so relieved when I turned 16 and could finally drive myself to school without my mom. Now I’m 17 and in my junior year in high school (my third year in college). I will have approximately 80 semester hours by the time I graduate next year, and it’s all free-of-charge through Georgia’s Dual Enrollment program (which I believe exists in other states as well).

I’ve been invited to and am currently enrolled in the honors program at the university, and I’m also the Senator of Academic Affairs for the Student Government Association. I don’t think I’m a genius, but I do think that people should make the best of what they have. I’ve created my own path and have successfully found a way to receive an education while making friends, joining clubs, and engaging in leadership roles.

No one way of schooling is going to fit everyone. Kids are different and have different strengths, preferences, capabilities, and learning styles. As Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.”  

I can’t imagine going down the traditional path. I probably would have dropped out from sheer boredom. It’s like being on the outside looking in and observing the effects of other educational alternatives that my friends are going through. They all have their positives and negatives, but what I do know for sure is that I’m very grateful for all the options and opportunities I’ve discovered along the way. I think it’s also a good life lesson; having choices is a good thing.

  • Clara is a Licensed Real Estate Agent in the states of Florida and Georgia and is a two-time FEE Alumna. She is completing her Bachelor's Degree in Finance at Kennesaw State University and is a Junior Analyst for the KSU Student Managed Investment Fund. Connect on Linkedin