Saturday, May 15, 2010

"the idea of university popped into my head"

Here is a guest post from unschooler, Stella of Not an Ordinary Teen blog.

When I was four years old, I was kicked out of preschool.

This is significant to me because it was the event that began my unschooling, the event that freed me from the school system, the event that allowed me to be who I was for the rest of my childhood. My parents had planned on sending me to regular public school from K-12th grade, just like everyone else, but after the preschool incident they re-thought their plans.

Now here I am, at age seventeen. After being unschooled my entire life and gaining a wealth of information and experiences simply by being free from the school system, I am now back to the very administration that started off this crazy experience. No, not preschool, but school. University.

In October, I got the GED. I was sixteen, and there was no burning reason that I had to get it -- I just figured that it would be “cool” to get an equivalent to a high school diploma. To pull this off, I had to study. I actually ended up teaching myself geometry and learning that my paragraphs had issues because they lacked structure. But it was all good! Even though I hadn't been formally schooled since preschool, I passed the test on my first try with high scores all around (and even one perfect score in Language Arts despite my previously unstructured paragraphs).

What was next? Well, in November I went to England and France for a few weeks to visit relatives, continued to spend multiple hours a week in the dance studio, and started writing a novel. December was largely occupied with the holidays, but I started a mural project and taught myself how to play piano by ear (with a little help from youtube).

Then, one day, the idea of university somehow popped into my head. I had always planned on going to university someday, but then I took a moment to ask myself why it wasn't possible to go sooner, as in, now. What was stopping me? The answer was, simply, nothing. I gasped at that concept for awhile, and then started to think about the reasons I wanted to go to university. What did I want to get out of it? Did I really want to enter the school system again after all these years?

It turns out that there's this really cool program at the university in town, where I could become a part time student and pick out my own classes without having to conform to what someone else thought was right for me. I looked through the list of classes, and was blown away. It was this huge resource right in front of me. Did I want to learn Swahili? Fine arts? African history? There were so many things to choose from, so much stuff I could do, and I got really excited. My dad said that it was like an unschooler's dream, which sounded slightly ironic since it was school, but at the same time, it was true. I had no idea what I was getting in for, but I was ready to try it and see what happened.

My first term started in January, at age sixteen. My class choices ended up being ballet, a basic college composition class, and a class that dissected the relationship between music and dance. Monday morning, I dragged myself out of bed, showered, got all my stuff together and took the bus to school.

That first day was overwhelming, but at the same time, incredible. I remember walking through campus, finding my classroom, sitting down and being absolutely amazed that I was actually there. This journey has been unlike anything I've ever done before, but it's proved to be quite the adventure.

However, I don't mean to make university sound like it's all fun and games. There are some things that I really dislike, but personally, the pros and cons seem to balance each other out to the point where there are more pros then cons. The first writing class I took was terrible. It was a prerequisite for any higher leveled writing course, and a requirement for all freshman. Needless to say, there were a lot of people who didn't want to be there. The professor was, quite honestly, a bit psychotic, and at one point she was failing every single person in the class.

In contrast, at the beginning of this term a different writing professor initiated a Petition to the Academic Requirements Committee in an attempt to get me into his already full fiction writing class. I was surprised and extremely thankful for how much he was pulling for me. His attempt did work -- I'm currently in his class and loving it.

In another class, a continuation of the class where we dissected the relationship between music and dance, I have moments where I feel like crying from sheer joy. The ideas that we are learning and discussing are concepts that sit so soundly in my soul. To bring them up to the surface and to even let them be understood by people who truly feel the same way about music and dance is overwhelming in the most completely fulfilling way. The professor himself is amazing as well, he finds the most fantastic resources for us to use and is more like a guide to learning then a dictator. He never went to high school himself, simply because he was too busy. He hates grades and stays as far away from them as possible. He has the busiest teaching schedule in the entire department, and yet he will always make time for us if we ever need help.

Right now, in the middle of my second term, this doesn't even feel like "school” anymore. I love that my ballet shoes are right next to my notebook, and that my day ends with slow plies at the barre. I love writing fiction scenes for the class to critique. I love, love, LOVE the discussions in the music/dance class that make me feel like maybe I'm not the only person in the world who is so obsessed with the arts. All my current professors are funny, kind, caring people. I am happy here.

Starting university at age sixteen is out of the ordinary, and a lot of people are shocked when they learn about this. Right now I “should” still be in my junior year of high school! But age has always been kind of funny to me. Why limit yourself just because of how long you've been on the Earth? Sure, there are some natural disadvantages to being young, but you should never ever be told that you can't do something simply because of how old or young you are. If there is one thing I have learned from being unschooled, it is that I can do anything I put my mind to.


Anonymous said...

How does a person convince a university or college to let them in at age 16? I thought most universities would refuse. Can you tell us how it is done?

Stella said...


Well, I had the GED which is equivalent to a high school diploma, therefore, I was basically done with high school just like any other applicant. I don't think they could have refused me based on my age since my credentials were just as valid as anyone else.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam said...

This was so awesome to read! I have two small children and we have embraced unschooling. My son was a preschool drop out! Reading this quieted my fears about their future. Thank you.

rfs said...

Thanks Sam. We are always looking for more unschooling stories so bring 'em on!

Anonymous said...

That's nice but obviously you have the advantage of supportive parents and 'know how.' Mos people can't do anything they put their minds to because of the numerous obstacles that are in theri way.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...