So, who am I, and why do I care so much about having life without college? And who do I think I am, anyway, to have anything to say on that subject?
Well: my name is Jess, and I am presently 19-years-old. My parents educated me using varying methods of homeschooling and unschooling since practically the day I was born. I graduated at the age of 17 in May 2008 with a highschool diploma from the North Carolinians for Home Education conference, and with many hopes, dreams, desires… and so, so many interests I had discovered in my freedom over the years.
In my “senior” year of high school, I made up my mind to spend those last two semesters trying out some college classes through dual enrollment. My parents thought it would be good, if I decided I wanted to go to college, for me to get a feel for it, and rack up some credits while I was at it. I took two classes each semester, so I wouldn’t crowd out the biology, math, and animal behavior I was studying at home on my own.
These classes went along pretty well, though I wasn’t exactly a fan of being shoved in a room full of people who couldn’t care less about the subject material, who were just there for the grade and credit, and who would have rather been out doing anything else, except they assumed there wasn’t anything else for them to do. Granted, there were exceptions among them, but in general I felt extremely out of place among my peers. I tried to talk it up with the teachers, but often they didn’t even remember me from class to class. The homework often felt irrelevant or overbearing; and often I just wanted to go outside, but I had to sit inside and write a paper about a subject that nobody, not even I, not even my teacher, cared about. That is, as long as I wrote it and cited things right (which I, invariably, would get something a little bit wrong in my citations and it would bring my grade down significantly).
Over the summer I tried to re-embrace the freedom of life and become in charge of things I wanted to do again. Unfortunately, the release from responsibility was a little overwhelming and I didn’t know quite what to do with myself, except swim in meets and hang out with my friends. By the fall I had magically forgotten the hassle of my former classes, and signed up for two more classes at the local community college. I figured I would ease my way into things, in the meantime I would spend time with a great guy I had met over the summer and we could plan out our future life together. Perfect.
Instead what hit me were more irrelevant papers, an inability to enjoy family vacations, a small but bitter case of depression because of the awful statistics and stories presented to me in sociology, and an overall feeling of misery because deep down inside I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, or, often, who I really was.
After that fall semester of 2008 I officially became a college “drop out” and swore I wouldn’t set foot in that kind of classroom again. Naturally, I acquired a lot of opinionated feedback from some of my loving family and friends on this matter. And I didn’t have a good rejoinder either: “College just isn’t for me. I… I don’t like classrooms, particularly.”
You might be able to imagine the responses:
“But classrooms are where you learn.”
“If you don’t like classrooms, you won’t like cubicles, so just get over it.”
“College isn’t all classrooms, you know.”
“That’s just ’cause you were homeschooled. You’re spoiled.”
Of course, if I had received the same feedback now, I would have better comebacks. But that was not the case then. If I came up with another argument it would be something about wanting to be a stay-at-home mom anyway; otherwise, I would attempt to change the subject to anything else I could possibly think of.
I spent that following spring semester composing and writing songs on the piano, swimming exhibition on my high school swim team, writing stories and poetry, performing with a local improv group, and cooking. In the summer I started an organic vegetable garden and was able to compete on the summer swim team for an extra year because of the age-out date.
Also in the summer, I signed up for two classes at the community college for the fall. I know that you are wondering what I was thinking, but here was my reasoning: one was a journalism class, and the other was a creative writing class. And neither of them offered transferrable credits. I figured I would learn some of what I really wanted to learn, and have a small portfolio of some sort by December.
Around that same time in the summer, I found out about a novel writing retreat for unschoolers in Oregon to take place in the month of November, AKA National Novel Writing Month: the challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in that one month. This retreat was designed for everyone to write their novels with a group of like-minded individuals to provide support and feedback.
Man, was I torn!! I expressed my indecisive feelings to a few friends; and they expressed to me that I should go the college route. It didn’t surprise me. So, I did the best thing any teenager could do: I talked with my parents about it.
They asked me which I would rather do: stay home and take classes from people teaching theory and end up with a few halfheartedly completed assignments, or travel across the country, live on the Oregon coast for a month, and have a finished novel in my hands; something I would never have if I just took a college creative writing class?
Well, you can imagine which one I chose, and may I say that it was the most God-given blessing that I have ever received!! My month in Oregon changed my life around, completely, in every single way imaginable. Not only did I complete a novel, but my life changed. My goals resonated. My dreams were suddenly right in front of me, waiting for me to grab on so they could sweep me away to sail on stars.
That was November 2009. It is now March 2010, and so much has happened in these past 4 months, it is positively the most crazy thing ever, period.
So, that is my back story, in several words. And I feel as if I have said quite enough for now. Just chew on this, and in my next entry I will go into more specifics about what Life Without College means to me, and how it really, really makes sense.