The Year I Went to School and Why I Left

11/08/2012 08:12 am ET | Updated Jan 08, 2013

I have spent my life in and out of the school system. No, I am not a delinquent, or on the run -- I'm just someone who has always been torn between schooling and homeschooling. Currently I am homeschooling, as I plan to be for the remainder of my time as a high schooler. Last year I was in school, but before that I had been homeschooled for four years. This is the story of why I chose to go to school... and why I chose to leave again.

For many, it might be easier to imagine why I would choose to go to school. All of the traditional myths about homeschoolers -- that we are socially inept and don't interact with anyone except our parents, that we laze around all day in our pajamas watching TV and never leave our houses -- are utterly ridiculous and simply not true. But they do have some truth to them. It is harder for a lot of homeschoolers to find the type of social environment that you get at school, and there isn't as much structure. I don't see my friends every day and, yes, I am writing this in my pajamas. Some people prefer it that way. They don't want to see other kids every single day and are happy with a few close friends that they see once or twice a week. They don't want a teacher standing over them reminding them that they have a paper due in two days. Personally, I missed those things about school, particularly the social aspect.

I was feeling lonely and wanted to be surrounded by other people who were going through the same things I was, people who I could talk to and laugh with. I already had some really great homeschooling friends, but it wasn't the same as being able to see them every day. I also felt I needed the structure of a school. I work best under deadlines, and school is notorious for deadlines. I thought it might help me procrastinate less, and really focus on what needed to be done, leaving me more time to pursue the things that I wanted to accomplish.

And so I went to school. All the traditional myths about school -- that it's an evil place with bad teachers and bullies, that you sit around bored all day and don't learn about anything useful -- are utterly ridiculous and simply not true. But they do have some truth to them. There were aspects of school that I really enjoyed. Yes, there were some kids I didn't get along with, and teachers that I disliked, but I made some amazing friends. I loved the discussions that I was able to have with these friends (and sometimes a cool teacher as well) about everything from the latest gossip to deep philosophical questions about life. There were days when I learned a lot of interesting and exciting things, and developed skills that I wouldn't have necessarily discovered on my own.

However, there were also many days that I would sit around thinking "Why am I here?" and "What am I actually accomplishing by sitting here right now?" I would often find myself wandering aimlessly through the halls, bored by the endless repetition of something I had already mastered, or frustrated by a teacher's inability to help the class master something we were struggling with. My biggest pet peeve became going home and re-teaching myself something that I need to know in order to complete the homework. I couldn't help but think "Why am I spending eight hours in school if I'm just going to go home and re-teach myself everything I was supposed to have learned?" I also had a lot of issues with the stupidities of the hierarchy of bureaucracy in the school, and the bad decisions that stemmed from that. The bureaucracy of the education system is not ideal, to say the least.

I was unhappy, but ultimately deciding to leave came down to much more than that. Everywhere I go and anything I do will have problems and I recognize that. If it had only been a matter of dealing with the bad aspects of school, I would have been willing to work to make it better so I could reap the benefits as well (like spending time with my wonderful friends). But I also had a lot of really exciting opportunities open to me if I decided to homeschool; classes that I was interested in taking, internships that I wanted to pursue, etc. I felt like I was ready to start my life already and that homeschooling was the best way for me to do that.

Now I take classes at the community college near my house, and I hope to start taking classes at University of Maryland next year. I have an internship that I love, and (shockingly) I still have a pretty active social life! I'm happy, but I still have frustrations. My math teacher is, unfortunately, keeping alive my old pet peeve about having to sit in class only to go home and teach myself the material. I still work best under deadlines, and I still procrastinate entirely too much. I guess it doesn't really matter where you go or what you do -- there's really no escaping the things that just have to get done.

What's important is that you never lose sight of why you are doing those things that are necessary. Whether you are in school or out, always remember where your interests lie and make time to pursue those interests. Whether you see a person every day or once a year, recognize the relationships that make you happy, and work to build and maintain those relationships. Most importantly, I can tell you from experience that everything has its ups and downs, so never over- or under-estimate any situation... even school!