One of my favourite homeschool memories is walking downstairs to the basement of our townhouse when I was six to find that mom had been already up for hours preparing that week's lesson. Walking down the grey carpeted stairs along the wall she had stuck life-sized paper cut outs of beavers, racoons and foxes behind real corn stalks. Walking into the school area blue tissue paper was taped along the wall—a river into the “forest”. Like that week’s history lesson on Canada’s Indigenous peoples, mom found a way to bring every subject to life. The first Olympic games, Medieval Ages and the building of the pyramids leapt off the pages into our games and three-man plays (my brother, sister and I) and gave me the love I have for history and travel.
However, not all subjects carry the same kind of pizzaz. I never loved math throughout my homeschooling and at public high school during grades eleven and twelve. But not once did I feel like a failure. My parents ensured that working hard and putting my best into everything I did was more important than finishing as the “winner”.
While my parents gave me, Abby and Lucas a great learning environment at home, they also made sure we were active socially. We participated in swimming lessons, music lessons, local plays, being in homeschool co-ops and being on some city sports teams. I was always trying something new and wanting to meet more people, and even though I enjoyed the co-ops we were a part of, by grade 10 was ready for a change. I decided that I wanted to give public high school a try for grade 11, and parents were both supportive and excited for me to enter this new stage, although I think mom was more nervous on my first day than I was. I often get asked whether I preferred homeschooling over public school or vice versa, but I think it ultimately depends on what kind of environment the student prefers. While it was fun to go to football games, meet new people and go to prom, I wouldn’t say I would have missed out by sticking with my home education. At home I had more time to create, think outside the box, and I could cater my schooling to how I learned best. While I enjoyed the social aspect of high school I didn’t feel that I was getting a better education than I got at home. Instead of being a student, I I kind of felt like a number. Sounds intense I know! But the truth is that every kid has a different style in which they can learn effectively. Some are visual learners while others are logical, mathematical learners. I felt that the school system did not allow for students to be different and if your way of learning didn’t align with the curriculum, you were not going to do very well. In terms of the social experience, there were lots of cliques and of course the whole 'popular' and 'unpopular' pyramid scheme, but I joined clubs that aligned with my interests and I ended up making some amazing friends.
I am so thankful for the sacrifices my parents made to give us a home education. The years I spent at home gave me a passion for learning and have made me excited to discover my own passions. I am self driven and motivated. After I graduated I decided to take a year off before furthering my education because I really had no idea what I wanted to do next. I spent some time in Australia and New Zealand but was sent home earlier than expected due to the pandemic. Back at home, I've been able to make some amazing friends and new memories this summer and I had time to figure out what my next steps would look like. I got accepted into the University of Waterloo where I’ll be studying Environmental Resources and Sustainability online this September. Hopefully, I can move there for the winter term.
A lot of people have asked me if I wish I had been at public school all along or vice versa, but I wouldn’t have changed anything. It’s all gotten me to where I am and I can’t wait for this next chapter of learning and exploring.
Mom's note: Lauren received 2 scholarships to Waterloo University totalling $3,000. One from her specific program and one was the President's scholarship - all based on her high school marks. I don't say this to brag (it wasn't me who got the marks after all) I'm just wanting to let you know that a homeschooled kid going into a 'regular' high school can transition just fine, and excel. Our goal at home has been to instill a love of learning and to do your best and not just to obtain high marks (many of her high school courses at home were't graded anyway). The scholarships were just a very nice bonus!