At the beginning of November, I left 11th grade at Stuyvesant High School, and started homeschooling myself. One of the primary benefits of homeschooling is that it freed me to select my courses of study. Had I stayed at Stuyvesant, this year I would have taken American Literature, Spanish 3, US History, Health, Regents Physics, Precalculus, and AP Computer Science. Now that I homeschool, I have selected courses which are both more interesting, and will better prepare me to take advantage of new opportunities in college.
Most of my new courses clearly exceed Stuyvesant’s standards and expectations. Substituting AP Calculus BC for Precalculus and calculus-based AP Physics C for Regents Physics allowed me to take more interesting and rigorous courses. I may seem misguided, taking calculus without taking precalculus first. However, every student, teacher, and internet forum I interrogated claimed that precalculus is almost entirely unnecessary for calculus, and, regarding calculus as a prerequisite for Physics C, even the College Board itself says that the courses can be taken concurrently. Many colleges require students to have taken Calculus before enrolling if they intend to major in a STEM field, so I’m ensuring both my preparation for their programs and demonstrating my preparation via AP exams.
Had I stayed at Stuyvesant, I would have taken calculus my senior year, meaning that when I applied to college, they would only see my first semester grades. They would assume that I would complete calculus based on my Stuyvesant record and their knowledge of Stuyvesant’s rigor. Forgoing that, I chose to take the AP Calculus BC exam this year to prove rigor to colleges, because, as a homeschooler, I lack Stuyvesant’s reputation. Additionally, following a pre-designed curriculum makes studying from sources like Khan Academy significantly easier.
I chose to take AP English Language and Composition, abandoning Stuyvesant’s American Literature course, because it will allow me to prove my writing skills relatively objectively in the absence of Stuy’s reputation, and it will allow me to read more effectively and widely. I studied European Literature last year and creative writing the year before that. I am taking advantage of this year to hone my writing skills while also reading a wider variety of less conventional readings which I can both enjoy and fully process, as I can pace myself. The lack of class discussion is unfortunate, but this year in school, Zoom makes discussion marginally more difficult and unpleasant. My entire family loves discussing books, so, even when homeschooling, there’s no chance of my readings going undiscussed this year. My primary goal is to learn to write more effectively as the year goes on, which I’m practicing at this very moment. My secondary goal is to be able to comprehend writing more effectively and efficiently, which is a skill that comes with practice. That practice is often severely limited by schools, which dictate what is read and when it’s read, as well as assigning other work in other classes, limiting the time which one has to read, and the mental energy available to process the reading.
Taking US Government and Politics and Macroeconomics instead of US History is the best replacement I made. While I replaced my science and math with more rigorous courses, in the realm of social studies I’ve upgraded in both my courses’ rigor and relevance. US Government and Politics is like US History, except that everything is relevant to my present reality. It doesn’t just tell me what has happened, it tells me how what happened affects the present and why it’s important, an area where many history classes fall unfortunately short. I hope that pairing this class with Macroeconomics will give me a much better understanding of the world, the country I live in, and the big issues. Understanding these things can only improve my preparation for whatever I may face next.
My dropping Spanish may seem like an oversight, but there are few effective ways to study a language while homeschooling in a pandemic. Learning a language requires verbal communication, ideally face-to-face. Such communication is made more difficult by the Zoom format and reduced class time. (Nobody talks in breakout rooms.) Of course, I could use Duolingo or Mango Languages, and maybe I will (I now have the freedom to make those decisions), but, at least for now, I’m taking a break from Spanish.
Only two Stuyvesant courses remain unaccounted for: Health and AP Computer Science. Health class is a pseudoscientific waste of time. Most of class was spent telling us to be happier and choose to be healthier, and the amount of ableism in every video we watched was astronomical. The advice given was great for people who are already in circumstances which make it easy to be happy and healthy, but for teenagers who have negligible control over their living situation, it was incredibly frustrating to be told to be less stressed and be healthier. One video literally told us that the best thing to do is always to be your true self and stand by your values, which is great advice for people who already fit in with standard society, and is a great way to disregard any discrimination people may have experience based on their religion, accent, or any other percieved personal attribute.
I do have the option to take the AP Computer Science A exam, but, at the moment, I believe it unnecessary. It’s a single-semester course, so I could still decide to study for it next semester. I already have experience as a programmer. I’d much rather spend my time programming professionally and showing that to colleges, rather than learning Java, which is a programming language forged in the deepest, most horrible pits of Tartarus, to meet the standard of the College Board which has set the bar in equivalently immeasurable depths.
Homeschooling also grants me the ability to study during the summer and select entirely new and unusual courses for next year in a coherent and logical manner. I’ve selected each of the aforementioned courses to deepen my understanding of their subject matter and to improve my ability to learn on my own. Every one of the courses I’ve selected will prepare me better for my future years of study than any courses chosen by Stuyvesant possibly could.