I have often said I chose a profession where I get paid to learn rather than requiring an advanced degree where I have to pay to learn.
I have always enjoyed learning new things. I chose journalism because it was the combination of three things I enjoy: learning, research and writing.
The educational experience that brought me to this point can be called nontraditional at best.
I have spent more time in public schools since graduating than I ever did while I was a student.
The uniqueness of my educational experience actually began when I started kindergarten at age 4. (This has since been disallowed in many states.)
From kindergarten to sixth grade, I attended a small Christian school. Third and sixth grades did the most to solidify my love of writing.
My third-grade teacher would assign creating a short story with our spelling words as homework. She often selected a few students to read their short stories to the class. I was usually one of them. My mom sometimes joked that my teacher had me read every time because she couldn’t read my cursive writing.
In sixth grade, we had a similar exercise. My teacher encouraged me to follow my dream of being an author.
That dream morphed a bit at the encouragement of my mother, who wanted me to be able to support myself.
I later chose the slightly more dependable career of journalism.
After sixth grade, I was home-schooled until high school graduation.
Yes, I did graduate with a diploma.
No, my home state’s department of education did not endorse it.
Yes, it got me into college.
The biggest question everyone seemed to have for me as a home-schooled high school student was would I be able to get into college. With the reassurance of friends who had done it before me, I told them, yes, I would be able to get into college.
My thoughts did not really turn toward college until my junior year. My father strongly suggested attending community college first. Since I would be 17 when I graduated from high school, it sounded like a good idea.
I am so glad I followed his advice. Not only did I save a lot of money, and was able to keep my part-time job, but I also qualified for thousands of dollars in scholarships available for a transfer student.
Because my community college had its own placement exam, I did not take the SAT (the Northern states’ equivalent of the ACT). The exam determined I needed one remedial course — Intermediate Algebra. Since many students I knew, including someone who wanted to be a doctor, also had to take this course, I felt really good about it.
Once I graduated from my community college, I had an associate’s degree in English so no one asked about high school.
I have never taken the SAT or ACT, something many find astonishing.
At my community college, I was determined to succeed — partially because I was tired of people thinking I had gotten a poor education that could not prepare me for college. I was an independent learner who did very well with home-schooling. However, I do believe some students have other learning styles that do not lend themselves to home-schooling. Home-schooling is not the best option for every student — or every parent, for that matter.
Despite all the newness, despite all the concerned questions, despite the unique challenges, my college experience was great.
I transferred to Lee University at age 19, and graduated when I was 21.
I can now say I am the first person in my family to graduate from college.
I recently learned that my father was the first in his family to finish high school, something I never realized or thought much about. My grandfather took more of a “learn by experience” approach after being an aviation engineer during the Korean War.
I suppose my approach is a meld of two ideologies: experience and a college degree.
Much of what I have learned about journalism I have learned through experience, either with a student newspaper or during my professional career.
Everything I know about taking good photos I have learned at the Cleveland Daily Banner.
I have heard being a “lifelong learner” improves brain health. Even before this knowledge, I wanted to learn something new every day.
I am glad I’ve chosen a career that allows me to do that.