My paddle slices through the clear, blue water of the Baja. Red cliffs jutt out at odd angles, emerging from the water. I glance behind me to see my sister paddle the kayak along with me as we push the pedals of the kayak to glide across the smooth, glassy surface of the water. My brothers race each other in their kayaks ahead of us while splashing each other and poking at jellyfish. Spending a week in Mexico sea-kayaking was not what I imagined for the month of January, but when my Dad gave the trip to our family as a Christmas present, we jumped at the thought of escaping the dreary winter of Saint Louis.
While camping out on beaches at night and kayaking during the day was not necessarily my forte, I enjoyed the chance to try something new and different that would not have been possible a year earlier when I was still attending Westminster.
Being homeschooled allowed for my family, and I to go on trips without the stress of having to do catch-up work. Growing up I was homeschooled until I went to Westminster in seventh grade where
I attended for two more years. After my freshman year, however, my parents made the decision to step away from the stress, and restricting schedule of school and instead try online school for my brother, Nathaniel, and I.
The plan was to try this new way of education for at least a year while allowing my brother and I to take a break from unnecessary stress and enjoy going on more trips, learning new skills, and directing our energy in more than one area of life. Nathaniel spent most of his days sleeping in, working out, and playing baseball while I used my time to take guitar lessons, voice lessons, and tennis lessons.We also enjoyed traveling to places like Mexico, Florida, the Dominican Republic, Arizona, Washington D.C.,Chicago, and were able to visit my older siblings in college.
However, while we had all this time on our hands, I often found myself bored and not totally sure what to do next. Taking classes online meant there was a tiring amount of reading and responsibility to complete all the assignments in enough time with little to no help. Nathaniel and I had to learn how to manage our own schedules in order to complete our school work and do our other activities.
Online school is a wonderful way to enjoy a freer schedule and creates many opportunities to focus energy elsewhere, but it can be very limiting socially and requires creativity to meet new people and form friendships.
Westminster (or any other school), on the other hand, provides a chance to be surrounded by people constantly which can be overwhelming at times. However, I learned in my year away that the teachers, classroom setting, and schedule of school was actually helpful for me. I found that I liked the organization of a schedule and the direct contact with a teacher instead of through a screen.
After our year of online school, it was time to make the choice about what we wanted to do next. The year that we had chosen to try homeschool had come to an end and the option of going back to Westminster was looming before both my brother and I.
In the end, we chose to head back into the private school system. My year off was beneficial in many ways and allowed me to take a step back and realize that as important as school is in my life, sometimes it can be equally as beneficial to take a break. I was able to enjoy a freer and shorter school day as well as begin preparing myself for college where I will have to be responsible for managing my time and schedule.
However, I missed the friendships, direct contact with teachers, and organization of Westminster and after my year off I developed more appreciation for the school. I came back with more excitement and gratitude for Westminster and the opportunities that it offers.
I’ve learned a lot from both attending Westminster and doing online school. What I have come to discover is that both have benefits and downfalls.
That being said, I am very grateful that I took a year off and for the gift my parents gave to me and my brother. They wanted to help us make memories that would last forever and allow us to see the bigger picture of life, which is that school can take over at times and strengthening different skills, meeting new people in different circumstances, and experiencing new adventures will be what we really hold onto in life.