A Homeschooler in the Harbor

Little unknown or unmentioned fact about me: I used to be homeschooled.

From 3rd through 8th grade I learned from my parents via the Calvert curriculum, took classes with other homechoolers in a co-op, joined homeschool groups for knitting, choir, and even went to museum events specifically for homeschoolers. Oh yeah, and there was even a homeschool prom.

One of my favorite memories of homeschooling was getting to travel with my parents and learn along the way. Whenever my dad had business trips my mom and I would piggy-back along, and I’d become immersed in the city’s history and culture. During the day my mom and I would go to museums (history and art lessons), walk through parks (nature lesson), and visit the churches (architecture and culture lessons). In the evening we’d meet back up with my dad and go to dinner and try new cuisines and local fare.

In a way, this exploration and curiosity about new places has never left me, although at the moment I’m strapped for cash and time to continue these adventures to new places. Which is why when I do get the chance to see something new, even in a city I’ve gone to school in for 3 years, I get so excited and happy.

Just like this past weekend!

My parents came down for the Dean’s List Luncheon and we spent some time at the Inner Harbor, soaking up the sun and history of the USS Constellation.

Dragon boats galore at the Inner Harbor

The majestic sloop, USS Constellation

It was just like old times: learning the history of the ship, going aboard and watching a gun demonstration…The history nerd inside of me was quite content.

Right before he made the cannon go off

Captain's quarters

My dad really enjoyed himself, he’s a big fan of the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey-Maturin books, and got a kick out of showing me all the parts of the ship and which sail does what and where the Orlop deck is and everything. It was so nice to be out in the sunlight, catching the smell of the ocean on the spring air, feeling the slight sway of the deck beneath my feet, and enjoying the time with my parents.

Mom and Dad enjoying their stroll on the pier

It was so sunny!!!

I never thought I would say this, but I kinda wanted them to stay a bit longer. Ever since freshman year I’ve reveled in being away from home and spending a limited amount of time with my parents. But this weekend I was actually reluctant to see them go. Maybe it’s a maturity thing, maybe it was the previous rough week, or maybe it’s just nostalgia. Whatever it is, I’m glad I’m at least able to recognize how thankful I am for my parents. Not just for giving me their time and energy both growing up and now, but also for their constant encouragement in my education.

People always ask if being homeschooled gives me an advantage. I don’t think I can answer that yet. But I know it definitely shaped my love of independence, reading and higher education, and new experiences. So, thank you, Mom and Dad. You’re the best.

*And for those of you who want to know (and I know you’re out there, I got asked this all the time when I was homeschooled): No, I did not wear my pajamas to school. I got dressed every day.

Farewell Friends

Sometimes there’s so much I want to tell you, but I’m not sure how to start.
Sometimes there are weeks I stare at a blank Word document and have nothing to say.
Sometimes I’m afraid to type into that blank document because not everyone would be interested.
Sometimes I do it anyway.
Sometimes….

There are a lot of “Sometimes” in our lives. Not every one is pretty, and not every one dictates what we will ultimately do. It’s up to us to take those “Sometimes” and make them beautiful, make them count, make them worth our worries, heartache, and even hope.
As this year winds down, I’m left thinking about last year’s adventures and memories and wondering if 5 years from now I’ll be able to remember this year just as clearly. That the “Sometimes” of this year became an “Always” or maybe a “Never Again.” That the “Sometimes” helped me learn, grow, and become a better person. You are part of my “Sometimes.” And I really want to say Thank You.

Writing to you has been an experience I will never forget. It’s this weird combination of a journal entry, a college paper, a note to a professor, a biography, a recipe, and a letter to a friend. You’ve let me be myself in my writing, and for those who know me in person, thank you for letting me be myself everywhere else.

I have to say, I didn’t think I’d open up as much as I have, and I definitely didn’t think I’d write as much as I did. Can you believe this is my 40th post?!? Just..wow. Your encouragement and commentary have truly helped contribute to that.

I’m sure you know where this post is going. This is the end. Finals begin tomorrow. All my brain power and energy will be dedicated to Philosophy, Italian, Microeconomics, English, and Printmaking. Well, there may be a couple movies in there, some hanging out with friends, and a good dose of procrastination on Sunday (I do not want to face the reality of packing).

But I’ll be back! Come August I’ll be in Ireland, by September I’ll be choosing between Geography and Imagination in Antiquity and the Middle Ages and Ireland and the Beginnings of Europe for my upper-level history class. Somewhere in there I’ll start writing to you again, blogging from the Emerald Isle.

So, I guess this is where I say goodbye. I’m really going to miss this though. Maybe I’ll write for myself over the summer, like my friend Ben. Maybe not. But no matter what I do, I’m looking forward to sharing it with you in the future.

To fellow students: Good luck on your exams! To professors: I hope you have a relaxing break and good luck grading all those exams! To parents: Thank you for sticking with me and I hope you also have a relaxing time with your family. To any and all in between: Have a wonderful summer and many adventures!

Warming Up and Reaching High

You know those days that are so good that nothing can get you down? Everything is good: the weather, your lunch, the people you see & talk to, the lit exam you had that morning, you even feel great in your body.

Spring is officially here on the Evergreen campus.

I’m in such a good mood I’m even listening to Marry You by Bruno Mars!

Yeah, sure, the weather has a lot to do with it, but I think my very positive view of the world comes from some recent accomplishments I’ve been keeping from you guys (this blog isn’t supposed to be about me so much as the school, anyway). But I figured it should probably be known that Loyola really does honor students who put in a lot of time and effort into their work.

The first of these “nice things” that have been happening the past week is the phenomenal support I’ve been getting from you amazing readers. From a father whose daughter is looking at Loyola and has asked me some great questions to the senior who just told me he enjoys reading my work to the professors who compliment my style and ask if I’ve considered taking a class in their departments. Thank you all. You keep my spirits up and allow me to truly speak my mind. You are part of this blog just as much as I am.

Going along with this theme of recognition is the publication of The Forum, the school’s non-fiction literary book featuring the winners of the First Year Essay contest and other class writings. Last year I wrote a paper on how college campus stereotyping can have a greater influence on future social choices than we expect. As proud as I am to have tied for fourth place, I’m even more proud to say that I know the first place winner, Chandler Zolliecoffer. Her piece on self perception and personal development in the African American community through the role of her hair was amazing. Her mature writing style and combination of personal anecdotes make a riveting expository paper. I was lucky enough to take a photography class with her last year and her art pieces were just as stunning as her writing.

Loyola doesn’t just publish wonderful writers, but also displays student artwork in the annual student show in the Julio Fine Arts Gallery. As I walked by the gallery today to get lunch at boulder, I saw my cyborg piece from last semester’s Life Drawing class front and center. I’m pretty sure I was grinning non-stop for the rest of the walk through the College Center. However, as cool as it is that one of my pieces in the show, I can’t wait to see my fellow students’ work. My friends Christine and Amanda have some spectacular drawings and prints from their classes this year, and as seniors I know they’re going to excel in the art world after graduation.

It’s getting pretty warm out here on the Humanities porch and I’m pretty sure I’m sunburned (even though I’ve only been out here for an hour or so), but there’s one more thing I want to mention about Loyola’s tradition of celebrating students’ successes.

Weekend before last was the annual Dean’s List luncheon, an hour or two of good food, inspiring speeches, and much gratitude given to students and parents alike. To make Dean’s List, a student must maintain a GPA of 3.5 and take 15 credits each semester. Given that most, if not all, courses at Loyola are challenging in one way or another, earning this achievement is a huge confidence booster. As I looked around at the tables surrounding me at the lunch, I saw many familiar faces: friends, classmates, even students I see on my breaks between classes. It’s comforting to know there are so many people here who care about the intellectual spirit of the school and dedicate so much of their time to learning not just for the grade, but for the sake of knowledge itself.

So now that it’s about 75 degrees and my computer is uncomfortably warm on my slightly pink legs, I think it’s time for me to cool off with a cold drink inside. I’ll make sure to end this beautiful day with a bang though!

The Omniscient Fortune Cookies

Loyola administrators are smart. At least, whoever decides when to have breaks and special weekends is. It’s like they’ve figured out a formula to keep students at a tug of war with their parents over college’s newfound freedom.

Think about it this way:
Week of Fun Without Major Homework + Week of Intro Activities + Week of First Club Meetings & More Homework + Week of First Papers & Exams = Perfect Build Up to Family Weekend.

By the time 4 weeks has gone by, most students want a little bit of “home” back in their lives.

And then by Sunday they want their Loyola back.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, but I also love my independence. This school is so much like a home to me I don’t always need the reassurance of my parental units to know there’s someone who cares about my existence. But it was still nice to spend the weekend with them, even if it was a short visit.

*Insert cheesy but heartfelt call out to Mom and Dad here*

For those of you who are wondering what this whole Family Weekend thing is about, I’ll give you the low down:

It begins on Friday with the Honors Convocation, during which all the students who received academic achievement awards, summer programs, or are in an honor society, are recognized. The first years who are in the Honors Program or received academic scholarships are also recognized. Of course, before the awards are given out, there are speeches and one of the faculty is honored for “outstanding achievement in scholarship or creative work,” (The Nachbahr Award).

The rest of the weekend passes in a blur of sports games, food (provided by the university and your parents’ ability to drive you to the Inner Harbor), a “big” event on Saturday night, and mass on Sunday (always packed).

The school keeps everyone busy, even if families don’t attend every event.
For example, I spent my Saturday morning drawing

and enjoying the quad with my parents

before working on homework while they chilled out in my common room.

We also went out to the Towson Mall; I needed some more “mature” clothing.
(I’m really more of a t-shirt & jeans girl, and have recently found myself lacking in the
“job interview” and “nice occasions” clothes department)

After asking my dad if there was an equation to determine the yield of clothes purchased from clothes chosen (in vain), we decided it was time to eat dinner.

Little did we know of the fates that awaited us at P. F. Chang’s.

It sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure the fortune cookie writers have had workshops and focus groups to determine which phrases resonate most with customers, because my own and my parents’ fortunes were eerily relevant or accurate to our lifestyles.

Mine: Keep your feet on the ground even though friends flatter you.
My mom’s: Learning is a treasure which accompanies us everywhere.
My dad’s: Patience is a key to joy.

How could I apply these indispensable pieces of wisdom to my life?

Patience is truly the key to completing homework, as I try to reassure myself that my History paper is a treasure, and in the end a joyful experience when my professor will (hopefully) flatter me with a good grade.

Maybe fortune cookies and parents teach you more than you expect after all.