I admit it. I didn't graduate high school. I'm not usually eager to share that information, because I never know how people will react. It's not that I wasn't smart enough; I was an honors/AP student who loved reading and writing and knowing more than most people I met. I was the teacher's pet who screwed up the curve in biology class. My teachers loved me and I stayed after school just to talk to them. I loved the idea of school, of education. I thought about maybe being a teacher one day. I was never a very social person when it came to other students; I mostly just felt uncomfortable and out of place with them. But the teachers spoke my language. I could make connections with them.
But at some point, I just didn't want to be there anymore. Actually, it wasn't a specific point; it was more of a gradual realization that I didn't see a purpose in going to school. English class was a joke; they never taught us anything new. I was reading and writing at a level higher than any of the classes that were offered, so what was the point? I found it insulting that I had to sit there for two more years, when I had already taken courses beyond what most graduating seniors had taken. Why couldn't I move on? Was this a prison sentence? And then there was the whole issue of What I Wanted To Do With My Life. I had no idea. Teaching? Art? Writing? They all seemed like viable options, but I didn't feel passionate about any of them. I had just taken the classes that people like me were supposed to take. Was I supposed to think about my classes, as far as how they related to my future? No one had ever told me that....
So I approached my parents with my plan: Drop out of school, get my GED, and go to community college. And somewhere in there, figure out what to study, since that would determine my future career path. Surprisingly enough, my parents let me leave school, probably because my mom couldn't deal with the stress of trying to get me to go any longer. I didn't get my GED for about a year and a half. My parents weren't thrilled. I spent time working, being with friends, reading, thinking, talking, learning, and trying to figure out who I was. I toyed around with the idea of college, but every time I thought about it I still had no idea what I wanted to do.
During this time, I met my husband and fell madly in love. We got married and had two wonderful children. By this time I had figured out what I wanted to be, and it wasn't a complete shock to me when I finally realized it. I wanted to be a mom. I had always wanted a family more than anything else. Of course, when you're young and people ask you what you want to be, they're asking about what paying career you want. Mom is not really an acceptable answer; it's more of a side job than a career. But my mom had always made us her full time career and I wanted the same for my kids.
So as time went on, I had to start thinking about schools for my girls. I researched everything I could find about the public schools in our area, but nothing really seemed good enough. I looked at private schools, but we couldn't afford them, especially on one salary. While looking at private schools, I stumbled onto this school that I absolutely fell in love with. It was called Sudbury Valley School and it embraced everything I never knew I believed about education and learning. There were no mandatory classes, kids had freedom to explore their interests, all ages mixed freely, and the students set their own goals for graduation. It was like education heaven. Unfortunately, it was in MA and we were in NJ. So much for that.
Funny thing is, that school was what pushed me toward homeschooling, and, more specifically, unschooling. It was the combination of all my frustration with public school and the realization that there were alternatives that were so much better. I took the philosophy of Sudbury Valley and used it as a jumping off point. Of course, I did tons of research into homeschooling and unschooling once the idea planted itself in my head. And the more I read and thought and talked about it, the more right it seemed. Like it was the natural next step our lives were supposed to take. And it really has been the best thing I could have done for my kids. So it turns out I became a teacher after all. But I didn't need to finish my prison term and march off to college for 4+ years to do it. In fact, if I had done what I was "supposed" to do I probably would have been leading a much less fulfilling life than I am now. As happy as I am with the way my life has turned out, my best friend never really forgave me for leaving school. She thought I was wasting my intelligence, which I find insulting. I don't think I could have put my intelligence or life to better use.
And even though I'm technically a dropout and haven't had any "formal" higher education, I still know more than most people I meet. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I think for myself, as opposed to being told what to think. Or that I actively seek out information all the time, not just when I have to. Or that learning has become such an integral part of my life that I'm always eager to find out something new.
Or maybe I'm just conceited.