While most agree that online learning is the only way to return to school safely this semester, few are excited about it. Many dread a repeat of last semester: a haze of information in the form of never-ending zoom meetings and evasive Blackboard links — perhaps overshadowed completely by personal struggles, physical and emotional.
At the very least, students this fall fear a lack of motivation. It seems to come with the ability to simply sit up in bed and grab a technological device to receive a college education. This past March, I found myself in a familiar position. Not only had I returned home (with campus closed, I had no reason to stay in Brooklyn and returned to my parents’ upstate house,) I was schooling from home. Again.
My mother homeschooled me from Kindergarten through my junior year of high school. In middle school and high school, I took English and Math classes online. So, as most of my friends groused about lack of motivation for the rest of the spring semester, I found myself—literally—at home. I had known how to use the chat function, mute my microphone, and navigate Blackboard for years. I knew how to budget online homework and wake up “on time,” when there was nowhere to go. I even knew how to stay in the house all day without going crazy. I wasn’t particularly happy about being thrust into the position I had left years ago, but I still tried. I knew there was worth in it.
I probably first discovered that worth after I entered college. Over my homeschooling years, I faced stereotyping from adults and kids alike that quickly left me with a suspicion of my own intelligence.
“How exactly does it work?” an adult would ask, beaming down at me with concern. “I mean, how do you learn?”
“You must be stupid,” a kid once said to me, after I told her I was homeschooled. (We later became friends, and she remains a close friend to this day.)
I liked to think that I was smart, but there was only so much evidence I could scrounge up. Most of the grading was done by my mom, who said I was smart, but could be just flattering me. Sure, my mother made detailed quarterly reports to our school district, and I took state testing at the end of every year. But the testing results, which Mom always presented to me proudly, were always strange graphs and irregular numbers, not A’s or 100s. When I started online English classes, I was annoyed to find that I would not be graded a letter, but a number from one to four. I always received a four, but three was failing, so what did that mean?
It was only when I started college that my doubts began to recede. They were tempered by receiving grades—definitive grades, letters, and numbers scrawled in red ink—from people I barely knew. I relished my grades, even the bad ones. To this day, I have every graded college paper and project stuffed into a folder under my bed. They are proof, not of my faultless intelligence, but of my education’s legitimacy. I have thrived in some subjects. I have pursued the same passions I had as a homeschooler and succeeded. I have found new interests and explored them.
I don’t mean to glorify grades. I only want to say that I received everything I needed from my early education.
There are so many parts of campus life that I will miss this semester, and I’m not overjoyed to return to a method of education I thought I left years ago. I know, however, that I can learn, and that I will learn. I may zone out sometimes during zoom meetings. I may wander around my apartment between classes because I’m tired of sitting in my room. My computer will overheat, I will undoubtedly lose Wi-Fi a few times. I will, nevertheless, learn. There are worlds to be explored in books and videos, and even in a professor’s droning voice behind a computer screen.
It is possible to learn from home, from a room, from anywhere. All that is really needed is the desire to learn, which is hopefully why most people are in college anyway.