I am eighteen years old and I haven’t been to school in over twelve years. My mother pulled me out of school at the beginning of grade one and brought me home to home-school me. I finally finished the journey when I matriculated in May of 2016.

Home-schooling has become much bigger in recent years, but when my family first started, it was a largely unheard of concept. Many people told my parents that they were crazy and that their decision to home-school me and my siblings would ruin our lives. I am here today as living proof that not only is home-schooling not crazy – it’s an incredible experience for everyone involved.

Families choose to home-school for many different reasons. My parents wanted to be involved in our lives and to allow us each to learn at our own pace and in our own way. Each home-schooler has a very unique experience and story to tell. It would be exhausting for me to talk about or even just touch on each of its different possibilities, options and challenges. Thus, I will be focusing on my personal experience with home-schooling.

The first thing I learnt at home was how to read. This opened up a whole new world for me. I spent the majority of my childhood reading any book I could get my hands on. Through fiction, I learned English, history, geography, and science. The characters I read about taught me human values, such as kindness, being courageous, and dreaming big. I can confidently say that books and reading have shaped me into who I am today.

Once I started reading books, it wasn’t long before I was writing them, too. I spent hours every day scribbling away in notebooks, writing short stories, poems, and novels. Being home-schooled allowed me the freedom to pursue and explore this passion. It’s not just me, either. My youngest brother, who excels with numbers, was given the freedom to progress to far above his age level in math, and another friend of mine graduated culinary school at 16 and is now working her dream job as a chef.

Home-schooling taught me a lot more than just basic education. As I was largely responsible for my own schedule, especially during high school, I learnt self-control and disciple. I learnt how to pursue curiosity and enjoy learning. I learnt how to do things around the house, such as cook and clean properly, in order to help my mother out. (I especially appreciated these lessons once I moved out!)

A lot of people have told me that they admire my direction in life. I know who I am and where I am going. Though in part this is due to my personality, I also believe that one of the reasons for this is that, as a home-schooler, I had a lot of time and space to explore myself, the world, and my relation to it.

Being home-schooled gave me a lot of opportunities that might otherwise have been difficult for me had I been in school. At 12, when I was contemplating going into film and drama, I took a week off school to act in a student film. At 15, I took a college-level online creative writing course. And, because I worked hard, I matriculated early and spent the last six months of my matric year working in order to save for my gap year trip.

One concern people often have about home-schooling is that home schooled children don’t or can’t make friends. While socialising as a home-schooler certainly is different to socialising as a “school kid”, it is far from impossible. I myself have many friends, both home-schoolers and “school kids”, in a variety of different ages and walks of life. I met these friends at organised social events (such as the monthly home-schooler’s Ice-Skating), other friend’s birthday parties, and extra-mural classes.

Do I believe that every child should be home schooled? No, I do not. I believe that every family should choose what is best for their unique situation, characters, and circumstances. However, if you are considering home-schooling, I can promise that it’s worth a shot. I for one am very glad that I was home-schooled, and very grateful for everything that I learned from the experience.

Written by Aimee-Claire Smith