* Editor’s Note: this essay was written prior to 2004.
Homeschooling was a wonderful and rewarding experience. It gave me the freedom to explore subjects that caught my interest, whether it was dinosaurs, Icelandic sagas, or Egyptian pyramids. And it allowed me to work at my own pace and graduate early, so I had a couple of years free to write before I had to make a decision about college.
Our family is very close. Since my sister is a little less than two years younger than I, we did lots of art, science, and make-believe projects together. My mom created a curriculum that covered the basic subjects of math, language, science, geography and history, art, music, and physical education. Whenever possible, she gave us hands-on activities to help us learn though experimentation, supplementing with textbooks and workbooks, especially in mathematics. She was unwavering in her dedication to us, and demanded that we make an effort each day. Yet she respected our creativity and encouraged us to explore ideas and things that interested us. Weekly trips to the library were part of our routine. My sister and I became voracious readers, leaving the library every week with our arms filled with teetering towers of books.
My parents read to my sister and me, usually in the evenings. That was how I was introduced to Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Hearing those books read out loud helped give me a feel for the English language, as well as solidify my love for books.
Visits with other homeschooled children and contact with community members allowed me to interact with people of all ages, not just my peers. And with my sister and parents’ companionship, I was never lonely.
My high school education was more self-directed. I enrolled in American School, an accredited century-old distance learning school in Chicago, Illinois., traditionally used by child actors and children of overseas diplomats. Textbooks, study guides, and tests arrived by mail. It was my responsibility to complete the assignments. Working at an accelerated pace, I received a high school diploma shortly after my fifteenth birthday.
I fully intended to enroll in college, but I was not ready to leave home, so I decided to try my hand at writing a story first. That’s how Eragon began. In a year or so, I was accepted at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Determined to finish and promote my novel, however, I received two deferrals but ultimately never had time to attend.
Eragon would not exist if I had gone to public school. Homeschooling gave me the opportunity to pursue my own interests, time to dream, and time to write. And I had freedoms the majority of today’s teens don’t have. I didn’t have to contend with peer pressure to conform to social fads. I could be myself. Without the frantic schedule kept by many teens, I had time to think, to daydream about adventures, to create the world of Alagaésia.
Once I had written Eragon, my family helped me edit, publish, and promote my book, which brought it to the attention of a wide audience. This support was a continuation of my parents’ homeschooling philosophy, to nurture the interests of the child, and through that interest, help him or her learn and mature.
Although I’m very busy doing what I love, learning is still an important part of my life. My parents, sister, and I read widely and listen to college courses from The Great Courses, which presents lectures on a wide variety of subjects from award-winning professors.
Overall, I think the most valuable things I gained from homeschooling are a love of learning, confidence that I can find the answers to questions, and the ability to research many points of view before coming to my own conclusions. Thanks Mom and Dad.