Several months ago, I read an article in Homeschool Helper by homeschool graduate Shanxi Omoniyi. Impressed with her multi-cultural point of view, I thought to myself, “I wish I could have her write an article for Ask the Grad!” I subsequently dismissed the thought, assuming such a busy writer would never consider doing a profile for this humble blog. My very next email in my box, however, was a gushing review of the same article I had just read from another Ask the Grad member, insisting I contact Mrs. Omoniyi immediately and request she share her story with you readers. I took a deep breath, researched Mrs. Omoniyi’s contact information, and asked her if she was interested. Imagine my delight when she quickly replied that she would be happy to tell her story!
I hope that someday I can meet Mrs. Omoniyi in person. She exemplifies the true spirit of individuality in homeschooling and in life. Her joy and contentment with her life choices are contagious, too!
Home schooling has given me many opportunities. It gave my family flexibility during our immigration to the United States, where my father’s job in information technology caused us to move four times in two years. It gave my sister and me the best education we could have had. Perhaps most importantly, it gave me the freedom to be different.
I had always known I was unusual. Growing up as the child of an Australian father and a Singaporean-Chinese mother, in the tiny nation of New Zealand, required a degree of difference. I was the only left-handed person in my family of four. But coming to the U.S. only intensified the variety. I once introduced myself in a university class as “a left-handed, accordion-playing, homeschooled legal resident alien.” At one point, every one of those descriptions was true! (I am now a U.S. citizen.)
I liked the emphasis that homeschooling placed on learning just for the sake of learning. During my one year at private school before my parents decided to homeschool us, I often found classes derailed by the teachers’ attention on the “problem kids,” leaving the rest of us to deal with lessons as best as we could or just whisper to one another when the teacher was otherwise occupied. Often the better my grades were, the less attention I received. As I was rather shy then and intimidated by my often-older classmates, this wasn’t a problem – until the class misbehaved and I was punished by default. One vivid school memory was of a teacher returning to a classroom that was boisterously out of control (two high school seniors had been assigned, and disastrously failed, to keep order), and her announcing that everyone had to take a whole star off their performance charts.
With homeschooling, however, my mother went over new concepts and lessons with us individually inside and outside the classroom. She read stories to us at night, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. She knew the academic areas in which we struggled, and areas where we flourished. As a result, she tailored our homeschool curriculum to develop our natural strengths while focusing extra time on our weaknesses. For example, I finished my English curriculum way ahead of my math, and took an extra calculus course at a local community college to prepare myself better for university.
Another way that homeschooling made education fun was through our family’s software business, Udax. My parents bought educational programs such as Logical Journey of the Zoombinis and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? My sister and I, as the “software quality controllers,” would play these computer games tailored for education, testing our geography, math, physical science and other skills. If we liked them well enough to play them in our spare time (even outside school!), my parents would decide the software was appropriate to sell to other homeschooling families. Even though we never quite made a profit (my father called it our charitable ministry to homeschoolers), the experience of running a business and setting up booths at tradeshows was an invaluable asset
Looking back, I view my homeschool experience as the best education I could have received. It drew us closer as a family and gave me confidence to tackle areas in which I had no previous experience. I decided to study journalism, for example, after joining the local community college newspaper as a reporter and later as an assignment editor. Even though my mother couldn’t teach me music, she enrolled me in a music center for piano keyboard classes, and I enjoyed them so much I took up the accordion at my music teacher’s bidding. A few years later, and I was competing in the 2003 World Cup (Coupe Mondiale) Accordion Championships in Hungary and Slovakia! Homeschooling didn’t just allow for these tangential experiences; it encouraged them.
Today, I am Web editor and writer for the nonprofit organization, Christian Foundation for the Children and Aging , after five years of working as a copy editor and freelance writer for the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper in Lawrence, Kansas. I’m also married to Ifeoluwa Omoniyi, a Nigerian graduate student whom I met at the University of Kansas. He says I was one of the first homeschoolers he had ever met. Apparently it made a good impression!
It’s impossible to say what my life would have been like without homeschooling, but I can say without hesitation that it has empowered, not hindered, my life. I would definitely homeschool my own children if given the opportunity (at the moment, we have no children). It may not look like my homeschool experience, however, for obvious reasons. For example, if my hypothetical child is a kinesthetic learner, I would try to tailor my homeschool curriculum for more hands-on activities and laboratory classes. If a child develops an uncommon affinity for sports (something I avoid at all costs), I would emphasize athletic opportunities where the child could develop that ability in ways I could never have imagined. We may also do some of our homeschooling in Nigeria!