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Just Like Home(schooling)

October 10, 2014

When many people hear the word “homeschooled,” they picture a socially inept demi-genius who occasionally dresses in pioneer clothing and never leaves the house. While this stereotype may have an origin, I like to think I’m one of the homeschoolers who proves it wrong.

From ages 5 to 15, my education was atypical. Instead of eight-hour blocks in school with scheduled classes, I was taught through a mix of weekly classes with hired teachers (or a homeschooling parent) and facilitated textbook learning, or “experiential” learning. Within this varied schedule, I feel experiential learning is what changed who I am as a student and a person most.

Other than the basic skills like reading and math, my mom had a pretty loose schedule regarding what my sister and I should study. Instead of following a sequential pattern, she would let us choose which aspect of each subject we would learn. For example, while reading a book by the Dutch author Meindert Dejong, I became curious about the Netherlands. So we did a project on the country, complete with wooden clogs. (At least it wasn’t pioneer clothing!) All interests were followed; all curiosities explored. It was less about what we were supposed to learn and more about what wanted to learn.

My mom liked to say “the world is your classroom” and strove to teach (and learn) something in every situation. Every vacation was an education. On a cross-country roadtrip to the Grand Canyon at age 6 , I learned about the history of the Southwestern United States, the Hopi and Apache tribes and the geological history of the canyon. I was immersed in the lesson, and examples were all around. It never occurred to me that other kids my age weren’t learning about Kachina dolls and erosional formations; it was just what we were learning, and it was cool!

My family executed a rather intense “experiential” learning program when I was 12 years old. My parents believed learning another language was important and the best way to do it would be total immersion. So, for four months my sister, mother and I lived and went to school in Lima, Peru. It seemed insane, random and over the top. But they were right — it worked! We learned the language and culture in record time.

Every hike, trip and museum visit reinforced this way of learning. I may not have rejoiced over every “teachable moment” at the time, but as I look back I realize that finding stories and information in everything made me fall in love with learning. I was trained to absorb everything around me. This approach makes even classroom learning more rich and exciting.

So, to me, it’s clear why Drexel and I are a perfect fit: The focus on experiential learning through co-op and even many of its class offerings appealed to my homeschooled past.

Bobbie McKenna is a junior marketing and international business major who was born and raised in California, Connecticut and Wisconsin. She loves the Green Bay Packers, the outdoors and drinks way too much coffee. Her favorite thing about Philadelphia is rowing along the Schuylkill River with Drexel’s rowing team.