Homeschooling to High School: Pathway to Success

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The author, Emily Lawler, in Chem class on a boat while being "home schooled."

Emily Lawler, Guest Writer

When I was younger, I was homeschooled with Calvert School, an organization that provided books, online programs, and a lesson plan every year. People often ask me, “Really? What was it like?” Every time I tell them, “Awesome. I had four hours of school a day, and the two best teachers in the world.” What I didn’t say was how much it helped me when I entered high school, and how I gained a superb work ethic, expanded wealth of knowledge, the best problem solving skills and an abundance of creativity that I might not have gotten in public school.

The author, left, with her father and mother.

When I was homeschooled, I woke up at 7:00 a.m., leisurely completed my morning routine, and then sat down for school. Technically, Dad taught math and Mom taught everything else, but I rarely needed their help. I would take out the spiral bound lesson plan, and open up to the day’s lesson.

The date was almost never right, as I often worked through the weekend and took days off when I wished. For each day, four to six subjects would be listed, and then the activities to be done, pages to be read, and notes to be taken would be under each subject. Each subject had its corresponding textbook, and math had its own lesson plan for some unknown reason. Similar to regular school, there were the core subjects, yet no electives or physical education to add time. Neither were there DLTs. Instead, I could choose to take a break or get everything over with quickly.

Most days, I started at 9:00 a.m., and by noon I was done. I knew that if I procrastinated, I would have less time to play with my friends, or go snorkeling, or read a book. Now, I have kept that work ethic. When given two days to do a homework, I do it the first day if possible. I have yet to experience the panic of doing a project the day before it’s due, or even the morning of, as I’ve seen many do.

In homeschooling, the courses were staggered, with most classes every other day. Because of that, and the fact that there were no study halls, electives, or lab periods, I studied more subjects than I would have in regular school. In eighth grade alone I took reading, spelling and vocab, composition, geography, grammar, math, science, technology, poetry, and history. Yes, most of these subjects would have been covered briefly. For example, poetry might be a single unit in English class. However, I took poetry as a year-long course, covering much more material than I would have in that single poetry unit in English. In addition, I was required to read about 25 books a year, so I keep a list of all the books I read for fun. At the top was the Percy Jackson series, Lunar Chronicles, the Inheritance Cycle, the Infernal Devices, and Harry Potter series. Of course, my list was almost always double the requirement.

To this day I find that many classes teach things I already covered in homeschool that other kids may not have. Three years later, I am still recognizing most of the math lessons in pre-calculus. I can read old English easier than any kid in public school due to the hundreds of old English poems I read, and my vocabulary exceeds that of most high schoolers.

Yet, that still doesn’t explain why I excel in chemistry, or the new subjects in math. After all, I have an A+ average in both. In Calvert, my dad often had trouble explaining the subject himself, so I taught myself. I had no Internet, so I had to learn and figure out things on my own, sometimes taking half an hour to figure out a single problem, and developing my own way of solving it and learning shortcuts. I never give up. Unlike most in my AP chemistry class, I’m used to being really confused and then learning the subject myself, in my own way and without the teacher’s guidance. It’s not that I’m smarter. It’s because of all those years of homeschool, and the problem-solving skills and determination I gained.

Emily Lawler attending a school in Fiji.

Everyone who knows me has realized that art defines me. I paint, draw, sketch, animate, and do origami. That too stems from homeschooling. On some days, the lesson plan included a small lab, or some sort of project. Because most of the time we didn’t have the materials, or the assignment was too boring, I got to do something else. Instead of writing a boring research paper on the prompt given to me (by now I’ve forgotten exactly what it was), my mom let me write about how marine animals camouflage, which was then posted on our blog. I collected shells for hours each day, to the point where I could tell you all their common names and even some Latin ones. After reading the Inheritance cycle, I wanted to write a book of my own, and I wrote a 25-page book over the next year. I learned origami, folding 274-fold dragon in three hours.  One day my dad let me disassemble and reassemble the DC to AC converter to stop the constant beeping noise it made. I even kept a journal, writing a page each day accompanied by a quick sketch. The short school time let me explore my creativity and gain the years of practice I needed to be so good at art, writing, and many other things.

Calvert School helped me grow much more than if I had learned in public school. I was a bit afraid my first day of regular school, but I was amazed at how well prepared I was. Homeschooling influenced my academic life greatly, making me an amazing student in most subjects. However, though I loved homeschooling, I am glad to be back in public school. I love my teachers, or at least most of them, and I enjoy being able to participate in labs and group projects. History was a bit under emphasized in Calvert, so I also benefit from the more in-depth understanding I get from my history teachers.