This essay was written by a high school senior who was homeschooled since 3rd grade. His homeschool journey included participating in homeschool co-ops, 4H, and hunting and fishing. He now aspires to attend a University to major in Mechanical Engineering. Here are excerpts from his essay.
My name is Johnathan Clemmer; I was born on November 21, 1998, in Prescott, Arizona, where we lived until I was two. In 2000 we moved to Collbran, Colorado to be closer to my maternal grandparents. They owned a sizeable ranch at the base of the Grand Mesa that had hiking trails, fishing ponds, guest cabins, and numerous places for a young boy to play and grow. I would have to say that this place was a significant part of my educational beginning as I learned to hunt, fish, ride, explore, and work along with the ranch hands on a daily basis. I remember how beautiful it was; you could see everything for miles around, breathe the fresh mountain air, and roam and investigate the world around you. One of the most extraordinary memories I have of the ranch are the fall colors and how wonderfully the yellow leaves glimmered in the sunlight, not to mention that a typical fall day usually included a cup of coffee and cookies in the afternoon with my Papa. My grandparents sold the original Ranch for a smaller version, and our family moved into the home where we lived until our transition to Grand Junction three years ago. I have many fond memories of Collbran, all the experiences we had there as a family, and the friendships that have remained with me through the years.
My Papa was the person who taught me many of the things that I enjoy most: fly fishing (even the ability to clean and cook the fish once caught – he had the ponds at his ranch stocked with fish each year so that we would always have a place to spend time together), how to hunt (be safe with guns, shoot them, take care of them, and on adventures to places like the One Shot Antelope Hunt in Lander, WY where we were able to meet Governors, astronauts, artists, and many other amazing and inspiriting friends of his), and a passion for reading. I believe our many trips and adventures were a magical part of my education as it taught me numerous life skills, as well as experience in real world travel and exploration. He passed away several years ago, I miss him terribly and wish that he were still here to see all that I have become and accomplished. Though I miss Collbran, our move to Grand Junction has benefited me greatly in my schooling with the option of having co-op classes and career options more readily available
My educational journey began in the traditional sense at Plateau Valley School in Collbran, the area’s K-12 facility. I attended PVS from pre-school through the 3rd grade. I enjoyed my time in public school, had many friends, and enjoyed the process of public education, especially recess and lunch break! Having issues with the school and the educational opportunities it did or did not provide; my parents decided to homeschool my older brother after his 5th-grade year (my 2nd-grade year). My family realized after that initial year that they preferred homeschooling and the opportunities it provided and decided to homeschool me as well. I was hesitant and slightly resentful when first introduced to the idea. I was comfortable where I was, and all of my friends currently attended the public school. After the first year of homeschooling, I realized that it was tremendously preferable to public school. I had not realized how many other kids in our area homeschooled as well; we even got together for co-op classes once a week where we would create art projects, sing, take dance lessons, and spend time with other like-minded families. Our daily school routine included not only core curriculum classes, but time cooking, playing educational games, PE, and creative activities not available in the public system. My preliminary doubts regarding homeschooling were quickly dispelled, and I grew to have an appreciation for the challenges and joys it presented every day.
Once I reached middle school, (seventh grade – current), our family began participating in a local homeschool co-op in Grand Junction, which was 45 minutes from our house in Collbran. The drive may seem long to some, but for our family it was a time of conversation, expression, and enjoyment. Our journeys to school ended up being a day long adventure as after classes we would get groceries, spend time at the park or a museum, and typically get dinner or take-out on the way home (don’t judge me but my favorite combination was a container of sushi and a maple glazed donut). This was a juncture in my life that would significantly impact my future. I made connections with many of the friends and teachers that have been with me over the years and hopefully will be for many years to come. The courses offered were intriguing to me as well, helping to guide and encourage me in the directions I excelled and provided support in the areas where I struggled. Homeschooling and the opportunities it had provided up to this point helped to define the path and direction of my future education.
Typically, I would pursue the core curriculum courses at home while the co-op classes offered variety in the form of courses that were best in group situations. One of my favorites was the art classes I took with a teacher named Mr. Sonmor. His style, humor, quirkiness, and talent made art exciting, and though it was not a subject where I could envision a future for myself, the time spent in graphic design, filmmaking, and 3D design were some of the most enjoyable moment in early high school education. Civics and Speech were potentially not my strong suit, presenting challenges that I had not previously encountered, most specifically public speaking, but inspired me to put forth my best effort and work diligently to achieve the A’s that had previously come so easily for me. I am thankful to the teachers and parents who organized this co-op for the betterment of the homeschool community, and also for the chance to take several courses with my older brother (where in a traditional school environment our separation of 3 grades would have prohibited this) where we were able to assist and collaborate on several projects. His insight and help were greatly appreciated, and I feel that it strengthened our bond as brothers and friends.
During my early education, I also had the occasion to participate in 4H as well as being a counselor at the local church camp on the Grand Mesa. Since we lived in a town where agriculture was the majority of income for most families, we had a local FFA and a 4H club. I thoroughly enjoyed my time participating in the leather craft area of 4H. My leader was a local woman who was as brilliant at leathercraft as she was kind. I am thankful for the time and commitment she put forth, and how she inspired me to greatness (after several years and a culmination of projects, I won Mesa County Grand Champion and Reserve State Grand Champion for a tissue box cover with a wildlife scene inspired by the area in which we lived. My time as a participant and counselor at the church camp impacted my world in a remarkable way and ran the course of six years. It was an event to which I looked forward with tremendous anticipation each year, progressing from a camper to a junior counselor for elementary school, to a counselor for middle schoolers. I would spend hours making preparations, marking verses to be memorized, planning activities, and making sure things ran smoothly so the camp experience for those that I was counseling would be as moving and life changing as it was for me. These summers were some of my favorite times, making me feel like I was doing something with a purpose when I was teaching all the younger kids about God.
As it has been since the beginning of my homeschooling, I still typically take the majority of my core courses at home (we have been utilizing A Beka curriculum for many years and over the past few years have used the online academy as well) while taking more challenging subjects such as higher level math through the local co-op. I have taken an English credit each year and hope that with the foundational knowledge these courses have provided, will be able to test out of the lower level English requirements once I begin college. One of my favorite subjects has been history, and I have taken US History, World History, Colorado History, and Government thus far. I find great benefit in learning the foundation of our country and government and hope that it provides me with sound judgment in my path that hopefully too will be documented in history. I am currently in my fourth year of Science curriculum as well, having taken Biology (which made me realize without any doubt that I do not want to be a biologist!), Physical Science, Chemistry, and presently Physics (which is the most fascinating subject to me to date). Math is by far the subject where I derive the most enjoyment and personal satisfaction. I feel it is the area where I exhibit the most strength, knowledge, and capability. From Algebra I to Geometry, Algebra II to Pre-calculus, I have had the same and most magnificent teacher (other than my mother, because she is reading this), Mrs. Sibl. She has encouraged and challenged me, her style of teaching has made these past four years entertaining and educational. My passion for this line of instruction has influenced my goals for the future, determining that a STEM related field should be the direction for my future. One of the programs of study that I was able to pursue this year were courses in CAD (computer aided design) and MATLAB (computer programming) that I believe will be of great benefit to me once I begin college. The elective courses I have taken including physical education (of which skiing and golf were my favorite portions), multiple years of Spanish, life skills, health, religious studies, etc., have rounded out my educational experience. In addition to taking regular classes, I was very humbled by the experience of job-hunting. After many months of seeking employment, I was rewarded for my perseverance, being awarded a job that I love, working at the golf course near our home. I have made many friends here as well as learning life skills and work ethics.
Progressing through school, taking more intellectually challenging math and science classes and realizing my strength in those areas, I have begun to discern the path I desire for my future. My adeptness at problem solving, calculations, scientific analyzation, and the capacity to understand the working mechanisms of machines has led me to the conclusion that I aspire to become a Mechanical Engineer. I am in the process of applying to several universities in Colorado including Colorado Mesa University, Colorado School of Mines (which is the third highest ranked petroleum engineering school in the United States), and Colorado University Boulder. My goals for high education are to receive a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering degree, while also acquiring a minor in Physics.