Imagine a school where you can sleep in late every day, play video games while doing class activities, and have a home-cooked lunch every day. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. It’s actually a double-edged sword.
When I was 12 years old I had surgery to remove a portion of my intestines because I suffered from a really intense stomach illness. As a result, I enrolled in an online school. The majority of the next few years of my life were spent taking classes online. In the beginning, everything went smoothly and I was an A+ student. But then the teenage angst set in.
I stopped listening to people who said I should care more about my grades, and placed all of my energy into perfecting my kill-to-death ratio in Call of Duty. Why care about an 85% in Math 30, when I could have a 2.5 on Crash? School was boring, and video games were fun.
Looking back, I can safely say I didn’t have my priorities in order. But eventually I started to realize that I had no hopes of joining the Major League Gaming circuit, so I talked to a guidance counsellor to help me salvage my education so that I’d be able to go to university.
Turning things around
During grade 12 I finally managed to find a balance between school and fun. Although the freedom of online school had previously been my downfall, it ultimately played a major role in helping me to graduate.
I was able to take a more diverse stream of classes than my friends in traditional school, and I worked at my own pace so I could get things completed faster. I had a lot of time to make up for, so the staff at my school helped me build a learning plan that integrated my love for video game design with high school credits.
Every Monday morning I’d wake up, check my emails, and download the weekly lessons. Once I had my ducks in a row, I’d work away at the core subjects. When I started to feel overwhelmed, the self-designed courses gave me an opportunity to explore the intersection where my education and my interests met.
Customizing my education helped me graduate
I knew I couldn’t handle certain courses, like Math and Biology 30, so I mapped out a plan that allowed me to graduate with applied courses (I planned on upgrading at a post-secondary institution afterwards). In my final semesters I took English 30-1, Math 30 Applied, Social Studies 30-2, Foods, and the self-designed courses that integrated my hobbies into my schooling.
I managed to graduate and was accepted to start Open Studies at Mount Royal University (MRU) the following fall semester.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mistakes in the past had given me the opportunity to develop a uniquely independent learning style that almost perfectly suited the university environment.
From high school to university
When I talk to people who’ve recently entered university, they always complain about how different high school and university are. They’ll say high school held their hand too much, and they missed the opportunity to learn how to work independently.
My experience entering university was the opposite. I felt that MRU was holding my hand more than high school, because I’d just come from an environment that was almost entirely self-paced. But I wasn’t upset—I was stoked.
My online education background helped me perfect two elements of university life: managing procrastination, and independent learning. But my university gave me something new that I’d been craving throughout high school: a physical person to talk to about things I didn’t understand.
Online school gave me the skills to survive university
I don’t want to say that online school was bad for me, because it helped build character that has helped me survive in the real-world. But I did miss having a face behind the screen.
Online school gave me the skills I needed to survive university. It gave me my first real experience with how things work in the post-secondary world. Even today, five years into my degree, I’m still using self-paced learning plans, integrating my hobbies into my work, and letting my personality shine through my education.
But the biggest benefit of my online high school days? They gave me my first experience with envisioning a future that’s drastically different from the situation I’m in today. Even when I’m building “self-paced learning plans” in university, I’m trying to figure out how I’ll be able to leverage them in whatever comes next.
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