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Perspectives on ‘Am I an academic weapon or was I just homeschooled?’ – The Orion


“Homeschoolers just won’t do well. You aren’t getting the same quality education” were the words that followed me most of my childhood.

I was homeschooled from Kindergarten to 12th grade and for most of my childhood, I was told I would never do as well in university as a traditional public schooler. 

Americans, especially in recent years, have become increasingly passionate in regards to the homeschool vs. traditional public school debate. 

When I was younger, homeschooling was a rare choice but as the years have gone on homeschooling and independent study programs have become a new normal.

Many local schools now offer independent study options including Oak Bridge Academy, Chico High School and Pleasant Valley High School. 

Since starting college, I have done exceedingly well in academic work and social spaces to the extent that many professors have commented on my work ethic, responsibility, management and professionalism. 

My classmates have said that I am an “academic weapon,” yet I can’t help but wonder if that’s true or if I just was homeschooled.

My mother homeschooled my two sisters and me from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Contrary to popular belief, this wasn’t done by grabbing random books from the library and learning how to sew.

Instead, through the help of independent study and charter programs, she was able to guide us through college prep curriculum and continually meet the state standards of education. 

I remember loving school from a very young age. Being homeschooled allowed me to create a schedule that matched my academic learning style. 

While traditional public schools have students wake up early and work for eight hours at a time, with work being sent home, homeschoolers have no such constraints. 

I often would work for three hours at a time before taking a break to play outside, talk with friends, or be with family prior to continuing another two hours of schoolwork. 

When I was in the middle of a project, or doing well with one particular subject, it was commonplace for me to finish a week’s worth of schooling in one day. 

In high school especially, I often would do math for five hours and use the next day for English or science. This would be impossible in a traditional environment. 

Beyond responsible scheduling, early on I learned how to teach myself skills from the textbooks without direct instruction. 

My mom was always there for me if I had any questions, but by the fourth grade I had learned that by reading examples in the math textbook, I could teach myself the lessons. I continued this all through middle school and high school with a few bumps along the way. 

Due to the snide comments that were often made about homeschooling, I assumed other university students would be more prepared than I was as I entered freshman year. 

What I actually found was that many students had no idea how to organize their work week, teach themselves material or self-motivate. Without the help of a teacher who was with them every day, guiding them through each step, I saw that many students struggled to keep up with coursework. 

My confidence continued to grow as my professors encouraged me in my writing and public speaking abilities. There was no sign of the “outcast homeschooler” everyone warned me I would be. 

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that everyone should homeschool, as for many families, due to various reasons, that is impossible. However, there are gaps in our current traditional public school system that cause students to lack necessary skills as they enter university. 

I would propose there are functional skills that traditional public education could implement from homeschooling practices that would make many students appear to be “academic weapons.”

Allowing students to craft their schedules, encouraging self-study and teaching, and allowing students to write about their passions rather than the same prompt that’s existed for 20 years, are all examples of practical changes that could be made. 

In no way is homeschooling perfect for preparing students for everything they may encounter. After all, when I came to Chico State I had to learn when to raise my hand in class and how to take notes for a live lecturer, but I would argue that my academic skills were crafted out of my homeschool experience and cannot be replaced. 

Am I an academic weapon? Perhaps by the standards of traditional public education, but in my mind, I’m just a student who wasn’t given a reason to hate the education process. 

Jessica Miller can be reached at [email protected].

Society dictates that young people should be well educated on recent pop culture, including the latest fashion trends, TV and YouTube shows, music and so on.

While I may have a better understanding of these so-called trends now, I was not so lucky when I left the world of homeschooling and entered the land of high school, aka “hell on earth.”

From a young age, I found books of all types to be my best friends and preferred form of media, which I guess isn’t normal in the world of generalized public education.

My parents, for the most part, chose what topics I learned, and these areas were varied and in-depth.

I experienced ancient cultures through reading, tasting their recipes, wearing their clothes and at times attempting to learn their languages.

I discovered the nature of science in all its forms not only through textbooks and worksheets, but also through experiments.

I read an assigned book every week or two, and that was just on top of my recreational reading, which generally amounted to two or three more books every couple of weeks.

This type of education helped lift me up so I could achieve high state testing scores, and better yet become well-versed in a variety of topics that helped make me the person I am today. 

The knowledge I accumulated during the time I was homeschooled has nurtured my sense of self and perception of this blinded world, a world that chooses to be ignorant and skim the surface of humanity. Which was something I personally was unaware of until I left my protected, homeschooled life and ventured into society through high school. 

High school has a bad reputation, thanks to media, or at least that’s what I thought until I went there. Unfortunately for me, my high school was also an arts school, just my luck.

Once I stepped across the threshold of hell on earth, I felt the heat of pressure and scrutiny on every part of my emotional, mental and spiritual being.

I learned very quickly to be quiet, because exhibiting knowledge no one else has puts a target on your back. As does exhibiting a lack of knowledge everyone else seems to put on a gold-rimmed pedestal, such as the latest fashion trends and celebrity gossip.

I was also shocked by the learning style at my high school, such as in my English classes, where we read two to four books an academic year and wrote essays that either weren’t even really graded or seemed to be a time-filler.

For the first time in my life, I was embarrassed by what I knew and didn’t know. The confidence I had in myself and my desire to constantly learn was shattered and it was a long time until I recovered it. 

Chico State, in some ways, became my sanctuary from the banality of high school. It rescued my academic hopes by giving me the option to choose what I learned and how I learned it.

Now I feel more comfortable in and with my mind; I can use what I know and continue to learn to my heart’s content, even after I graduate from university. I can return to the structure of homeschooling, to a certain extent.

No, I am not an academic weapon, but I am an academic warrior, as I will not let anyone tear me down simply because I was homeschooled or because I’m comfortable in my knowledge.

I will always seek knowledge, and I invite everyone to do the same.

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected].



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