From Fishing to Mechanical Engineering: Johnathan’s story

From Fishing to Mechanical Engineering: Johnathan’s story

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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.

Clemmer fishing at sunset 300x169My 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.

leather clemmer 300x225During 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.

Clemmer Golf 300x153Progressing 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.

A Diverse and Accomplished Teenager

A Diverse and Accomplished Teenager

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Our students have a wide variety of interests, and the freedom to pursue them to mastery. Below is a an excerpt from one of our family’s year-end report, focusing on the accomplishments and life-learning of 16 year old Kitt.

Kitt has had an amazing year for prizes. First, he completed his eagle scout rank, after going to the board of review (interview). Soon afterwards, he attended a week-long National Youth Leadership Training for scouts, where he was selected as one of the excellent scouts who were requested to serve as future staff. His eagle court of honor ceremony was held, after a bit of planning, too. Kitt has also been on 4-5 campouts this year, including rock climbing at Joshua Tree National Park. Doing most of the work himself, he has built a trebuchet and a teepee out of a tarp.

Next, he competed for his 7 year in 4H shooting sports. Although he didn’t achieve his best score in archery, he aced the shotgun with a record 5 out of 5 score. He even hit all 3 practice shots, to bring it to 8 out of 8 shots. That got him the Grand Champion in Shotgun award, as well as winning the high point shooter for the entire club for the season. Kitt has his own bow and target and practices at home as often as he can (when there are no neighbors in residence). He is extremely conscientious about safety rules and proper technique. He even gave a few tips to the adult archery instructor at 4H.

At county fair, Kitt won 4 Grand Champion prizes. His oil painting of a farmhouse won him Grand Champion in Fine Arts, while his Turkish ebru painting of a tulip garnered Reserve Grand Champion. His copper twisted necklace with blue beads won Grand Champion in Arts & Crafts, and his larger leather Viking belt bag (made without a kit or pattern) won Grand Champion in Leathercraft (other projects). On top of all that, Kitt won Grand Champion for Home Economics, sweeping the prize for the while building for his senior age class. Wow! All total, Kitt got $120 in prize money. He had entered one painting in Fine Arts open class, but that only received a blue ribbon and outstanding. As for the interview section of the fair, Kitt got purple ribbons (outstanding) for all three interviews. They noted how knowledgeable he seemed and confident. His appearance had improved over last year, but the only negative room for improvement was noted that he needs to iron his white dress shirt. Kitt put a lot of time and effort into all the pieces that he made for Fair, including meeting with a special mentor in Leathercraft. He was amazed at the skill of his new mentor and learned a lot from him. Also, his Leathercraft leader was very encouraging and always ready to lend Kitt tools. Kitt put most of his prize money into his savings account, and I treated him to a few new Leathercraft tools as a reward for his hard work. He is already thinking of what he wants to make for next year.

Kitt has also earned his Congressional Award Bronze medal, which will be handed to him at a ceremony in October, when our Congressman will be in our city. For this award, Kitt counts his fitness hours, personal development and volunteer hours. Besides volunteering with scouts (about 15 hours) and the Jr. Optimist club (about 35 hours), Kitt has a regular volunteer service that he does about once a week at the local historic park. He serves as the historic blacksmith there, making items out of metal and explaining both the process and history to park visitors. This year he has logged about 50 hours, including the Civil War reenactment event and the Gathering of the Gunfighters event at the Yuma Territorial Prison historic park. He absolutely loved the Civil War event and got “drafted” to serve with the artillery during a battle reenactment. He was initiated into the group and hopes to serve with them again next year for the reenactment here in Yuma. In the meantime, he has acquired a pattern for Union Army pants which he wants to make with my help. All of his volunteering as the historical blacksmith is done in his historic clothing portraying the 1870’s in Yuma. Kitt was also invited to and attended the Civil War costume ball held by invitation only after the reenactment in the evening. He learned several historic dances while attending. He also listened to Abraham Lincoln (reenactor) give a talk and later had President Lincoln talk to him individually when he visited the forge. As a volunteer at the park, Kitt was given free tickets and attended a historic talk by a President Teddy Roosevelt reenactor, which he enjoyed a lot.

Kitt has earned a few more scout merit badges and enjoys going to workshops for those. Many of the workshops are STEM related, and I count them as science for Kitt. Among others, he earned this year Nuclear Science (visiting a power plant visitor center), Space Exploration, and Engineering.  He also likes to experiment himself and to take things apart at home to see what is inside them. Kitt was also invited to go for a free private flying lesson with an EAA pilot. He learned a lot from that and hopes to do it again in the Fall. He even wants to learn about building an EAA plane.

As for English, Kitt is still working on Spelling and Composition, but this is never his highest priority. He does vocabulary building without even noticing it and has a rich and varied vocabulary. We have several workshops/ programs that he uses but this is an area he needs to improve.

As founder and president of the college tabletop game club, Kitt hosts game day once a week for 2 hours. That means he has put in over 60 hours in games of strategy and logic. This includes reading complicated instructions and teaching others how to play the games. This is one of his great interests, and he hopes to host even more game clubs next year. He has already spoken to the teen librarian to start there in the Fall as a volunteer hosting a weekly 2-hour game day. Kitt also tried out new games with other people and chooses new ones to buy for himself and the game club.

Kitt also loves to travel and enjoys historical places. He often visits Viking villages and museums in Sweden. Last year he even volunteered at a Viking village for a couple of days. I believe he may do that again this summer. He gave an hour long presentation for a college class about Vikings this year.

If Kitt had to choose a subject to study in college, he would probably choose archeology or history. He likes the experiential archeology that they employ in Sweden. Last summer Kitt visited Istanbul, Turkey and Helsinki, Finland, besides our home in Sweden and neighboring Denmark. We also geocache when we travel or go for a walk.

~LOB

Homeschooling Teen Shares His Story

Homeschooling Teen Shares His Story

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This essay was written by a high school senior who was homeschooled for his whole life. Homeschooling gave him the opportunity to pursue several interests and volunteer within his community. Here are excerpts from his essay.

Hi, my name is Connor Maricle. I have been homeschooled all my life for which I am grateful. While it is not perfect, homeschooling has helped me with time-management, allowed me to study at my own pace, and has given me time for other activities such as martial arts, archery, 4-H, volunteering, and working. Through these activities I have learned various skills which cannot easily be acquired in a classroom. Although I have not had as many teachers as other students in public school, there have been people who have helped me to learn through active involvement in community organizations. Some examples of people who have contributed to my education are my martial arts instructors, archery instructors, 4-H leaders, food bank employees, and work supervisor.

Homeschooling has been a positive experience allowing me the flexibility to meet my personal goals, learn interesting subjects at my own pace, and contribute to our community. As a young child I remember doing various games, projects, experiments, and activities that provided a solid foundation in the basics of reading, writing, history, math, and science in interesting and fun ways. I had time for reading and playing every day which I believe helped contribute to my imagination and creativity today.

As the years have gone by I have had the opportunity to study quite a variety of interesting subjects. While some subjects have been more enjoyable than others I have still learned an extensive amount through being homeschooled. I have not gone to a public school, but I have talked to others who have attended, and there seems to be more pressure there than being homeschooled. Homeschooling has allowed me to have plenty of time for independent studyI learn faster by doing rather than by reading, writing, or memorizing. If I am enjoying a topic I learn even faster. As such, I tend to learn more through independent study than from learning through a textbook.

Connor Martialarts 150x150Martial arts has helped me learn many things as well: from balance and a bit of Korean, to morals such as honesty and integrity. The martial art I am learning is Tang Soo Do. The people at the studio are all really nice and excellent instructors willing to help someone who wants to learn. Tang Soo Do is an important part of my life, and I plan on continuing it as long as possible. The atmosphere of encouragement and support from those at the studio is unique in the Tang Soo Do community, and is something I carry inside of me even when I am not there. I hope to some day pass on the traditions of Tan Soo Do. Through Tang Soo Do I have been able to improve my leadership skills by leading the students in various warm-up exercises and by helping some of the lower-ranked students improve their forms and techniques. This has also helped me to gain more confidence in myself.

While Tang Soo Do is important to me it was not my first extra-curricular activity. I was about ten years old when I started archery which taught me more than just how to shoot an arrow. From my instructor I learned the importance of cross-training, the responsibility that comes with a weapon, that a person needs to take everything into account when shooting at a target, and that bows and arrows are not toys. Archery was one of the first incredibly difficult things I tried to learn.

From this experience I learned firsthand that it takes time and diligence to get good at something. Many of my classmates dropped out, and once in a while I thought about dropping out as well. I decided to continue and challenge myself to improve. Eventually the school I went to closed, and I took a break before I started lessons again at a new place. I was very rusty at first because even though I had taken archery lessons for four years, my one-year break had dulled my skills. Once I got back in the swing of things I became the best in my class. It was at that point I saw the pay-off from all the effort I had put into archery. While I did feel extremely proud, I believe some of my classmates may have felt discouraged by my “unusual improvement  rate”. Overall, archery was an enjoyable sport for me. I’m glad I did it even though I don’t plan on using it in daily life.

Connor 4HI was eleven when I started 4-H. At first I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not because it seemed more like an activity my sister would enjoy. After the first few years, though, I started to really enjoy 4-H. Although our club wasn’t very big I still met quite a few people and had numerous opportunities to participate in community events. During my time in 4-H, I learned a great deal about animals (that was my club’s specialty), volunteer work, and how to work with groups of people. I even got some awards in the process. One of the more difficult things I did in 4-H was volunteer at the fair’s Petting Zoo. While it was frustrating at the time because of the high number of young kids, looking back on it I felt it was enjoyable and quite a learning experience in crowd-control and keeping the cavies (guinea pigs) safe. The animals I raised were cavies. Many people in the club had rabbits, cavies, and poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys). I had two cavies. Though other people in the club had more animals, I still learned the responsibility of animal ownership. I was also able to participate in fun community service projects through our club, such as: making no-sew fleece blankets for a children’s shelter, designing cards for soldiers, making holiday cookies for the fire department, and sharing my cavies with children at petting zoos.

I also learned more about responsibility and leadership skills by being an officer in our club for several years. Our club members were talented people, so I was able to learn important information about a variety of topics. Even though our club was small our district was large, so I had various opportunities to learn from and interact with several knowledgeable and energetic leaders from other clubs.

Shortly after joining 4-H I started volunteering at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank which was my first “real” job. I have done a variety of tasks at the food bank, such as: sorted canned goods, sorted bread, prepared food boxes, boxed produce and meat, and packaged butter, flour, rice, and sugar. It was tedious at times, but also fun. It was also a good learning experience for me. I learned about defects in canned goods, various types of meat, how to set up and manage a short-term or long-term project, and that no matter how damaged something looks in the store it is much better than what may be available at the food bank

I am glad that I was homeschooled as it has given me many opportunities for growth and development while still having time for other things that I enjoy. Because of homeschooling I was able to do activities I wouldn’t normally have had time to do. As a result, I met many great people who helped me become who I am today. While I don’t know what the future holds, I feel that I am prepared to start the next part of my life. I am looking forward to future opportunities to make positive contributions to my community.