Fortunately for me, my education started long before school. As the first child to be born into my family, I was a new little experiment as everyone adjusted to their roles as parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Since I was the only child in the family, adults talked to me like I was one as well which allowed me to develop vocabulary early and easily. I was also read to very often which fostered the beginnings of literacy and a lifetime love of books. My uncle even started to teach me basic math including multiplication before I started Kindergarten.

Like most children, I had to go through a screening process before I could be enrolled in the parochial school, St. Joseph Elementary School, in my town. I was only four at the time, but because I had drawn eyelashes on my stick figure people during the screening process, I was allowed to start early. My seven years at St. Joe were very much a traditional elementary school setting. However, we had a strenuous Catholic curriculum with very strict dress codes and rules. This last fact has led me to joke that I went to Catholic school for seven years and the only thing I ever learned was that I will probably be going to hell.

When I was in sixth grade, I was identified as Gifted in English, science, and mathematics. I was placed in the district program. Unfortunately, this is the biggest complaint I have about my education experience. I very rarely had a teacher for more than one year and the ones I did have were not qualified to work with gifted children. Many hours were spent working on brainteasers or projects that in no way helped supplement the work I was doing in the classroom. It was incredibly frustrating to have to remain in the program. By the time I was a junior, I very rarely met with my teacher because time spent in the regular classroom was far more valuable.

Like I mentioned in my introduction post, I had a traditional high school experience. I was very fortunate to have collaborative teachers that could engage me. I was also very involved in extra-curricular activities such as tennis, cheerleading, boys basketball manager, newspaper, Student Council, National Honor Society, Family Career Community Leaders of America, and Teen Respect Committee. I really enjoyed my high school experience.

While the above talks about the time I spent preparing for or attending school, I do not consider any of those to be my best learning experiences. The summer before high school, I attended a Duke Talent Identification Program at the University of Kansas. For the first time in my life, I was away from home. During the three weeks I spent studying medical science, I taught myself how to live independently and to effectively juggle schoolwork, activities, friendships, and keeping in touch with family back home. This was an extremely important lesson that helped me greatly during high school and beyond.

My most important learning experience occurred two and a half years ago. On July 2, 2008, my brother, Christian, was born. At fifteen, my maternal instincts kicked in prematurely. I totally immersed myself in the life of this little boy. Suddenly, things that had been priorities before did not matter as much. I was so happy and willing to give up time for school events or with friends to spend as much time with Christian as possible. His birth marked a new learning journey. I learned that there is a two-feet wide splash radius around the bathtub and that babies will eat dog food if it is close enough to the ground. I figured out how to install a car seat and how to do dishes one handed. I learned the words to a score of Beatles songs to sing while I rocked him to sleep. I memorized the words to his favorite book, Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? I now know that formula is extremely expensive and that so far nothing in my life has compared to hearing him say “Sissy” for the first time. Christian taught me how to take care of another person and how to love wholeheartedly and unselfishly. Having him in my life has been the best learning experience I could ever imagine. I did not got a grade for the time I have had with him and I never had to evaluate Christian as a teacher. However, the experience has taught and shaped me more than any classroom ever will.