On Tuesday, Leinad walked into a large, brick church building and sat down on an old sofa in the foyer. He waited around for a while, glancing briefly over a sheet of paper with some scribbled facts about Mexico City’s pollution and crown-of-thorns starfish, before standing up to chat nervously with a young man in a bow-tie. Presently, an elderly man entered the foyer and ushered the two young men into the large church hall, which was filled with desks — all empty, except for two which had booklets reading “2014 HSC Geography Exam” lying on them.
The two young men sat, nervously emptied their pencil-cases as the old man intoned the malpractice warning, and then tensed, ready to begin.
Three hours and five minutes later, having filled in 20 multiple choice bubbles, answered four sets of short-answer questions, and written eleven pages worth of essays, Leinad straightened up. As he walked out of the church hall into the bright, spring day, he was filled with one sublime thought: he was done with school forever. The only thing preventing him from skipping down the street was his backpack, filled to bursting with books to be returned to school.
I have, of course, been very busy with study and exams — and more study, and more exams — for quite some time. Two years ago, I quit homeschooling and started studying in the public school system by a distance. Though I was fortunate to have excellent teachers and classmates, and I learnt a lot of things, the sharp increase in workload kept me from regular blogging and recreational fiction-writing for quite some time.
But now it is over! After a hectic three and a half weeks, in which I sat 18 hours worth of exams (and wrote about 86 pages of essays, 18 pages of short answers, 20 pages of Maths working, and filled in 57 multiple choice bubbles), I am free. Just in time to catch the second half of NaNo WriMo!
As I write this post, I am on the plane home from my exams (I had to travel a fair way to sit them). Earlier in the flight, I began my NaNo Novel. It’s the first novel I’m writing since 2011, and I daresay my skills in writing long fiction have grown rusty (if I ever had them), but I am eagerly taking on the challenge. My hope is that by the time I start University in mid-February, I will have written and polished my first ever high-quality novel.
But I won’t bore you by blathering on about my life. I’m writing this because I’m so relieved and happy to done with school (and because I can’t seem to sleep on this flight). But you shouldn’t be relieved and happy. Your NaNo Novel is calling you. You should be writing.
Tomorrow morning, one era in my life ends and a new one begins. After years of home-schooling, tomorrow I enter the Australian public school system — albeit from afar. I will do Year 11 (my “Preliminary year” if you’re an Aussie, or “Junior year” if you’re American) through Karabar High School’s distance education department. No longer will I be fully home-schooled.
All my 11 years of study — from when I was four up till the present — have been home-school with Mum and Dad as my teachers. I have never studied at a school — or through a school — in my life until now. I’ve been to school, sure — every Sunday in Australia, because our church meets in one. And once when I went on a youth camp we slept in sleeping bags in a classroom. But I’ve never been in a classroom at classroom hours. Rather, I’m the bloke who makes sure that your desk is not in the same place on Monday morning as it was when you left it on Friday afternoon. Tomorrow, while I still won’t be in class at class hours, I’ll be enrolled.
The style of my curriculum is about to change dramatically. For the first few years of my schooling we used an Australian home-school curriculum, but for the past six years we have used an American curriculum called Sonlight. Sonlight is a heavily literature-focussed curriculum. It is tremendously fun opening the school boxes each year because they are always bursting (underneath the copious paper padding) with delicious new books. Opening the school box this year was fun too, because I had no idea what would be in there, but in the whole thing (school for the several weeks of the year) there was only one non-textbook — which I will have to return when I’m done with it. It seems English this year will be more about analysing a few books in depth than about reading a great deal.
Looking through the notes for each subject was quite different too, to what I’m used to. While Sonlight notes are written to be interesting to read, and the passive voice is almost non-existent (though I know I use plenty of passive voice myself, even though I studied Sonlight…), the Year 11 notes seem to be written for the sole purpose of conveying information — and the passive voice is abundant. It is also chock-full of “course outcomes”, which are quite formal to read: “a student will learn to communicate a knowledge and understanding of historical features and issues using appropriate and well-structured oral and written forms”. I don’t remember seeing any “course outcomes” listed in the Sonlight notes.
While public school work will clearly be very different to what I’m used to, I still expect to enjoy it and I’m keen to begin. I chose subjects I like, so I have no compunction about studying them. Neither have I any compunction about studying from an Australian perspective: Australia is, after all, where I am from, where I hope to go to uni (“college” in American english), and where I might even spend the rest of my life after I leave Cambodia. The lack of a Christian perspective will seem less of a boon, but after studying from a Christian perspective for 11 years it will be good to get exposure to secular education so that secular uni won’t be a complete shock.
In the Australian system, we have what we call “units” for Year 11 and Year 12. Most subjects are two units, for some you can do three units. I am doing three unit English, three unit Maths, and regular two unit Geography, Economics and Modern History. All of these look like they are going to be interesting. English and Maths look tough (they are three units after all). The others seem like they’ll be easier, but all very interesting. For Geography I get to do a year-long research project. Economics will be interesting because it is a completely new subject for me. And History is always interesting. So really I can hardly wait.
The book deficit I can fill on my own: this year I want to read some more Percy Jackson books (Rick Riordan); The Street Lawyer (John Grisham); St. Mallory’s Forever! (Miriam Joy, Charley Robson and Saffina Desforges); Great Expectations (Charles Dickens); and The Silmarillion (JRR Tolkien) — just to name a few. I also want to reread Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Lynn Truss); The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien); and the Deltora Quests (Emily Rodda) — again, just to name a few. In fact, there are so many books I want to read and reread that I am almost pleased that I have no school books this year.
So really, while I greatly enjoyed my six years of Sonlight, I learned a lot, and I would not have minded doing it all the way to year 12 — I have no regrets about switching to distance education this year. Tomorrow a new era dawns, and I’m looking forward to it. Wish me luck.