Thursday, 15 December 2005

The Middle Years -- JUNIOR HIGH

Many people are surprised to hear that I consider middle school or junior high to be the worst years of my life. 'If I could turn back time' and wipe out my life during ages 10-13, I would be a much more balanced, healthy person today. Unfortunately, I can't, and I have to live with the repercussions. When people hear that I, like most people, abhored those years of my life (who didn't hate puberty?!), they usually make naive comments like, 'But you were homeschooled!! You shouldn't have had any problems!' HA. Well, guess what. I, too, had horrible 'friends' that taunted me and made fun of my baby fat. I had a group of girl friends who were my age, and they delighted in teasing and tormenting me. I shudder to think that I thought these girls were my best friends. I was so disillusioned and ignorant and BLIND. UGH.
As for the educational side of things, during middle school my family became even more active in the homeschool community, and we started attending 2-3 'co-ops' (co-operational education with other homeschooling families) a week, for science (I did Chemistry in 8th grade, & then repeated it in 11th grade because most kids don't do Chemistry so early!!), math, English (I read 2 'classics' a month for 'Book Discussion'), American Government and Economics, Politics, History, Geography, and more. Around 6th grade I started to become more and more independent and started planning my own education: selecting my own textbooks, planning out what I would do each year to achieve the next grade, studying for tests on my own, teaching myself, etc. I budgeted my time and figured out what I would need to do each day to complete the year's worth of schoolwork: experience that became invaluable when I entered higher education. By this time, I was a voracious reader, usually reading upwards of 75 books a year. I went to libraries and checked out entire oeuvre of authors (my favourites were Roald Dahl, Lois Lowry, Douglas Adams, Katherine Paterson, C.S. Lewis and AVI), usually taking home 15 books at a time to finish in two weeks. My parents made a rule that I wasn't allowed to read non-textbooks or non-school-related material (except for enough to realistically complete an English assignment) between 8-4pm, because I could easily read ALL day if left alone (all right, so my time-management skills weren't perfect, but hey, I was ten!!). My love for reading and insatiable thirst for knowledge are two other reasons why I loved homeschooling: I took charge of my education, was EXCITED to begin each school year, and had more time to read a LOT of wonderful books!! :)

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

The Early Years, Part Deux

As I said in a previous post, homeschooling wasn't actually legal in Pennsylvania until 1988. I was six years old, and I remember going with my family to the state capital building as a field trip to learn about the government. My parents took my sister and I on a lot of field trips, which is a side effect of having your mom as your teacher... any excuse for learning is exploited to its fullest potential. I have photos of myself touring the 'home of the Republican party' in Wisconsin and looking *very* grumpy and annoyed. But, I digress...
After homeschooling was legalised in PA, my parents jumped into it with a lot of excitement. They bought curriculums, joined homeschooler support groups, and invested in many, many books. The law in Pennsylvania requires homeschooled children to complete a certain number of days of logged schoolwork, keep a 'portfolio' of assignments completed or any other examples of schoolwork, and meet with a certified teacher who would evaluate the student's progress and decide whether or not she could pass the grade. We were also required to take achievement tests in 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades. My mother made us take these tests twice *every* year, and each time we scored off the charts. After my 6th-grade test, I scored as a 12th grader (last year of high school) in all subjects.
Our early years of homeschooling (my 1st-6th grades) my parents ran what could really be described as a 'homeschool'. Although my mother worked part-time, she gave us assignments to complete with our babysitters while she was at work, and when she got home we would have 4 hours of school in a mock schoolroom in the basement. We were also active in homeschool co-ops during elementary school, completing science fair and history fair projects (I dressed up as Anne Boleyn, 'pre-beheading' one year), spelling bees, geography bees, MathCounts, Math Olympiad, etc. I played soccer, the piano, the violin, sang in choir, participated in church activities, drama, Girl Scouts, took horseback-riding lessons, did 4-H clubs, etc. Elementary school was really fun, and I learned a lot.

Problems with!

Anyone else having problems trying to access certain friends' blogs and posting on your own?! How annoying... I'm going to have to update later, though, Monteverdi seminar work is calling...

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

The Early Years, Part One

Right... the life of a homeschooler turned academic extraordinaire (I am being totally facetious about the 'extraordinaire' bit, at least for now):

So, I told you why, or at least some reasons why. Now, I tell you about the early years. Interestingly enough, I was v. different from the stereotypical homeschooler for a number of reasons. Most people think of homeschooling families as having a vanload of kids, with a father who works and a mother who stays at home and wears scary jeans jumpers. Homeschoolers are thought to live in rural areas, secluded from other families, and with kids who have little interaction beyond their own family. Well, my experience was different in that 1) It was only my sister and I, I didn't have any other siblings; 2) My mother worked until I was twelve, and she would have kepted working if her job hadn't been abolished and it hadn't been so hard for her to find another hospital lab supporting multiple phlebotomists and medical technologists (after the early-1990's, many hospitals started exporting their labwork to big companies, rather than maintaining their own labs); 3) We lived in a rural area, but the town is only 30 minutes from the state capital and other major cities. We were *never* secluded from other families, but were involved in a slew of extracurricular activities where I made a *lot* of friends, including piano and violin and voice lessons, church activities, competitive synchronized swimming team, Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, homeschooling co-ops and other events, drama clubs, soccer team, book discussion groups, and much more. I had a birthday party every year, and it was difficult to par the friends list down to the minimum of 10 people!

Oh, and my mother *never* wore any kind of jeans jumper!! :)

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Homeschooling... the beginning... WHY?!

I guess the best place to start is to ask why: "Sammee, why were you homeschooled??" The reasons could be put forth simply, in brief, but in the spirit of blogging I will make them much more elaborate, dramatic, and drawn-out.
I am trying to illustrate a transformation here: from homeschooled youngling to academic extraordinaire (I wish). To understand why and the transformation that occurred, you must understand my background.

I am the product of a conservative, fundamentalist Christian family in rural Pennsylvania.

Firstly, my parents wanted to have complete control of their childrens' education. They couldn't bear the thought of my sister and I tottering off to elementary school at the impressionable age of five, becoming indoctrinated by the evil public school system. My parents wanted complete freedom to meld our little minds however they deemed fit, without competition. I don't want to make my parents sound like ogres, but like any other conservative people, they thought they knew the Truth and that they would be sparing my sister and a lot of grief and hardship by making sure we knew the Truth immediately, without having to engage in any Truth-seeking of our own.
Secondly, my parents didn't want my sister and I to have a second-rate education. They were absolutely right in this regard, and I'm very grateful that they cared enough about our intellectual health to not send us to the school in our area. My parents value faith first, success second, and academics third: they are my parents' holy trinity of sorts. The school in our area was lacking in many respects, including funds, intelligent peers (I come from a rural community with a school that does not boast a high percentage of graduates attending college, let alone engaging in academic careers), creativity, and good teachers. Like most parents, mine thought that my sister and I (I have one sister, two years my junior) were extraordinary and very special, and we should be challenged and given every opportunity possible. My parents thought they could do that on their own better than the public school system.
Admittedly, the reasons why my parents decided to homeschool their only children are more numerious and labourious than I have time or patience for, but those are the two major reasons.

Saturday, 26 November 2005


I've been trying to come up with a creative idea for blogging, especially after discovering la Ketch's blog and becoming envious of how funny and cool she is/her writing is, etc. What is unique about me? What would make people actually want to read about my life? Then I realised something that makes me very different from most people pursuing a Ph.D. in Musicology (actually, the fact that I'm a musicologist makes me very different, but that's another story).


Yes, that's right. I am former homeschooler, a product of rural, fundamentalist, conservative America. However, rather than just getting married and popping out babies, I am now living the life of a libertarian, philosophizing, Greenpeace and Sierra Club-supporting, theory-spouting academic. So, that's what I'm going to write about in my blog. I'm going to tell you all about what its like to grow up as a homeschooler in a fundamental, conservative, Christian family ... and how I got out and starting thinking for myself. And survived relatively unscathed and normal (whatever 'normal' means and signifies, I have no idea).

Stay tuned if you dare... :)

Harry Potter

I just watched the first half of the new Harry Potter movie, downloaded for me by my loving husband, who wants to avoid paying for movie tickets and feeding the establishment. The establishment of what? -- Anything, you name it, he wants to avoid supporting it, most likely.

I would watch the rest, but I felt guilty, so I'm working on my research essay on Monteverdi's settings of Petrarch...

...As I do this, I'm listening to Harvey Danger's new album, Little by Little. My favourite song, for now, is "Little Round Mirrors"... Here's why:
(Lyrics taken from here)

All alone
On the floor
Next to your twin-bed box-spring and mattress
The door
Is ajar
From afar
You can hear bands practicing

And When they dream they all
Dream of somebody like you
Somebody who takes what they make
Twice as seriously as they could ever hope to do
And when you dream
You dream of a day...

When you find something you could love half as much
As you love all your little round mirrors
See yourself reflected in one, theres a hole in the middle
You can't seem to fill

Bring them home
Watch them go
All you know is you hope they'll hurry back
And you cry
Then you lie your frail body down
Like a penny on a railroad track
And even if they stay in touch
The past stays in the past
But every time
You crash a little bit harder than the last
And every time you crash don't you

Wanna find something you could love
Half as much as you love all your little round mirrors
See yourself reflected in one
There's a hole in the middle you can't seem to fill

A shooting star is
A little piece of
Cosmic debree desperately wanting to fall to earth
It doesn't get too far
It's not a real star
It's hardly even worth footnotes in your memoir
Shoulder to shoulder
Up on our tip-toes
Chewing our fingers
And craning our necks
Just to see
Quite the collection
Divide by section
It's just a surrogate connection leaving you all alone

On the floor next to your twin-bed box-spring and mattress
The door
Still ajar
There you are and now you're coming to stay until

You can find someone who will love you as much
As you love all your little round mirrors
Murdering your time in cold blood
There's a whole in the middle you can't seem to fill

I especially like the chorus, and the other bit I highlighted...

John Marbeck

I had a research idea yesterday, concerning one John Marbeck, a Tudor composer who was nearly martyred with the Windsor martyrs of 1543. He was spared by the Bishop of Windsor, because he had friends in high places. No one can find any music composed by him after 1550, although we don't think he died until ca. 1585. He was a radical protestant and wrote Calvinist tracts, at a time when England was trying to decide if it was Catholic or protestant. Cool; I love rebels.

Currently Listening...

  • Pearl and the Beard
  • The Dodos
  • Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha
  • Anna Ternheim
  • NOFX
  • Fairiborz Lachini
  • The Clash
  • Rufus Wainwright: Rufus Does Judy
  • Radiohead: In Rainbows

Currently Watching...

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Mad Men
  • South Park
  • Zach Galifinakis

Currently Reading...

  • Bill Bryson: A History of Nearly Everything
  • Gabriel Garcia-Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The House of Leaves
  • Robertson Davies: The Rebel Angels

Favourite Videos