Not Well-Rounded, But Excellent: Sean-Allen Parfitt
HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sean-Allen Parfitt’s blog Of Pen and Heart. It was originally published on August 16, 2013. This is the second part of Sean-Allen’s three-part series for HA. Read Part One here.
My whole family has been homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. In last week’s post, I discussed how I was forbidden to learn anything that was “unapproved”. Though the effect was a deprived of a well-rounded education, I will stand by my opinion that my home education was actually quite excellent.
The base curriculum my family used was Rod and Staff. As is frequently the case with Mennonite education, the curriculum stopped at grade 10, so for grades 11 and 12 we used the curriculum by Bob Jones University Press. The BJU Press science curriculum was also used to supplement the lower grades, as was their math curriculum from 9th grade on.
The schoolwork we did was in fact quite vigorous, and Mom was a strict teacher.
We were far from “unschooled”, as some families are. Quite the opposite; we were not allowed to play until our homework was done. For many years we were required to complete every problem, question, and assignment in every lesson of every book. Every wrong answer was to be reworked and returned for re-grading until it was correct. Every reading lesson was read out loud to Mom, and any mistakes in pronunciation or inflection were to be corrected and the section read over until Mom was satisfied. Every essay was carefully scrutinized and marked up with red pen. All suggested class questions from the teacher’s manuals were duly asked, and answered. Every flash card drill was performed, with all speed times for each child written in the teacher’s book to be compared to previous work, both by the individual child, and to his or her siblings who had gone on before!
As you can see, this rigorous classroom method kept me working hard at my desk for much of my childhood. I studied math, English, science, geography, history, and other subjects. As the eldest, I did not have the competitive element that came from comparing the younger ones’ work with the older ones’. Nonetheless, the in-depth curriculum, along with Mom’s strict grading, kept me aiming for the highest grades possible. Every misspelled word was -1/4 point, and any other mistake was at least -1 point, if not -2, depending on the problem and the severity of the mistake. An A grade was 95% or higher.
I didn’t pick up as much in science and history as I did in English and math. But the education I did receive, and retain, was quite sufficient. In fact, it was superior to many public-schooled children in America.
Every 2 years our family took standardized tests, and we routinely ranked in the 99th percentile in many subjects.
When I took my SAT, even though my score wasn’t as high as I was hoping, it was still quite good. I took the entrance exam to attend Monroe Community College, which consisted of an English section and a math section. Afterward, when I sat down with the adviser, he told me that I had done so well… I had only gotten one question wrong on the whole test. They placed me in advanced composition, which in which I received an A, and when I took pre-calculus, calculus I and calculus II, I got A, A, and A-, respectively.
I believe that my academic education, though perhaps lacking in literature and humanities, was quite sound. My English skills gave me an advantage when learning Spanish, as I thoroughly understand how grammar works. My scores of essays written in school now serve me as I attempt to communicate with the world. Math was indispensable in college, and I even use it sometimes today. In fact, my career as a software engineer was born from the seeds my father planted, when he taught me how to program in MBASIC on an Osborne Executive when I was only 8 years old.
He nurtured this throughout my middle- and high-school career, and now I program for a living.
Even though there were some drawbacks to being educated at home, I emerged academically well prepared with a career path ready for me to follow. I am extremely grateful for the care my mother and father put into making sure I was ready for life. One thing I’m really not good at: speling.
To be continued.