"How would you feel about being homeschooled?" I don't remember the exact day my mother asked me this question, but I'm pretty sure my answer was somewhere along the lines of "Um... okay!" My part of my 9-year-old mind was saying "No school? Yes." while the other part was somewhere between "But all my friends... " and "I'll make new ones." That June, the choice was made.
It's weird, having your one constant removed from your life like that. It was the start of summer vacation, but once we reached the end, it started to sink in: I wasn't going back. It didn't matter that I had grown a couple inches, because I didn't need to wear my uniform anymore. We didn't have to start worrying about what middle school I had to go to. No more rising at the crack of dawn to make lunches. Believe it or not, I had a couple breakdowns over it those first few years. August was always really hard because, I mean, school supplies. Backpacks with laptop pockets, day planners with sections for every part of your life and locker decorations. I didn't actually want to go to school, but for some reason, those trappings of it were things I desperately wanted. I was still very used to my routine, and even seven years later, I find myself following it.
When I went to school, Friday mornings were these horrible, 100 problem, timed math tests. I hated math. It's been seven years since I've had to take one and I still wake up on Fridays panicking that I'm going to have to do one and I'm going to forget how to multiply. I also still hate math. Its one of the few long term things I suspect was truly affected by my time in school. We had four different Spanish teachers over four years speaking four different kinds of Spanish. When I started homeschooling, I chose to study French. Some of my habits have faded over the years, like my hair braiding. I used to wear my hair in two school-girl braids every day. My first year of homeschooling, I accidentally got it cut off. At first, I was devastated. Then, I considered it a ritualistic sacrifice and embraced the bob. I've had pretty much the same haircut since.
The few years in between leaving elementary school and starting high school were strange, educational and slightly murky in my memory. I remember my panic at having to learn algebra, the wonderful moment when I attended my first 4-H meeting and knew that this was my place and these are my people, and the internal tragedy of "losing" people who, now that I think on it, weren't really my friends anyway. I started a blog, mostly as a challenge. I was in the process of forming myself as a person. I wore camo cargo capris a lot. I know.
Ah, high school. I only started you three years ago, and as I write this, we are coming to a parting of the ways. I could have gone to physical school for high school. I nearly did. The questions kept coming "If she doesn't go to a REAL high school, how will she get into college?" "What about PROM??" (Isn't it funny how college, prom and football are on the same level?) I second-guessed my choice to keep homeschooling a lot, especially as my friends went to their homecoming dances and parties with their newly-found friends. Freshman year was awful on that front. But I was rising through the ranks of 4-H, fresh off my first State Leadership Conference. I made new friends too, and slowly worked out how to mix all my groups together. My blog was going from this weird thing I did sometimes, to a slightly growing platform where I could exercise my new love of writing. I met this girl at a homeschooling event who terrified me. Her name was Madeline.
Fast-forward to now. It's May of my Junior year, I'm still homeschooled, and I'm graduating high school tomorrow, a full year early. My blog, A Bent Piece of Wire, has been featured in Teen Vogue and on TeenVogue.com, the TODAY Show, The Huffington Post and more. I've traveled, I've had the opportunity to write for the big guns, like The Huffington Post and the New York Times, and I've worked with everyone from the Disney Channel to Fujifilm. I'm a 2014-15 California 4-H State Ambassador, which is our highest working honor. Madeline is my best friend. My French hasn't gotten any better, but my Russian is pretty decent, if I do say so myself. I discovered that I love rollerskating, even though I'm not that great at it. I have friends around the world, and most of them go to school. People have started asking me "Do you regret never going to school?" instead of "Why don't you go to school?" Honestly? No.
I could cackle off into the sunset with a "I REGRET NOTHING," but before I do, let me tell you why: If I had not packed up my cubby that day in June of 2006, if my extraordinarily patient mum had decided this wasn't working, if I had registered for school every time I felt lonely, or bored, or like I was missing out, I wouldn't be who I am today. I wouldn't have ever started my blog or written about Barbie dolls. I wouldn't have learned Russian. I wouldn't have met Madeline. All of those experiences, from the cutting of the hair to the cutting of "friends," have created the Justina you see today, and the Justina you'll see tomorrow. And this Justina? SHE REGRETS NOTHING.