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This is Part 2 of our interview with Hannah Miller, blogger and founder of the site www.edventuregirl.com. Check out Part 1 here.
OK so here we are again. Let me be clear: Our intention is and always has been to document the freak-show that is a World-schooled kid but our guest Hannah has NOT made it easy, what with her “articulate” and “well thought out” responses. Bah. By now I was hoping to at least get a shot of someone biting the head off a chicken, but so far nothing. Let’s all hope out luck takes a turn for the better in Part 2.
So, Hannah *slides a caged chicken towards her suggestively,* tell me what life’s been like after high school. Was it hard to get back into the system for university (or college for our American readers out there)?
I didn’t have any difficulty enrolling at Queen’s University. I had several university credits under my belt already and we’d kept track of my grades. Mom and I collected all of my grades, extracurriculars, and personal projects, wrote them up as a list, and went in to speak to the admissions at Queen’s in person. I was accepted without issue. Universities today are looking for something that stands out or is unusual. Both universities and employers get excited about students that have international experience, as our societies are becoming increasingly globalized. I basically showed them my skill/experience/grade list in person and was admitted without a glitch.
But you crashed and burned, right? Please tell me you crashed and burned.
Nope! During my first year, I didn’t have a hard time with the schedule, the workload, or learning to live alone as an adult. I was used to managing my own time. I’d been traveling solo for a bit, so I knew how to cook and clean and take care of myself. Hilariously, I didn’t know some very basic things about house care that I’m sure you’d all school me on. Like that you actually have to buy toilet paper. It just shows up when you’re traveling. Haha. Learning to deal with a landlord was also an adventure, but I figured it out. School was easy, but staying in one place was new. I had cabin fever by month six.
OK, THAT I understand. I’m the same way. I can no longer stay anywhere for longer than a few months without getting itchy and wanting to get back on the road.
Actually, about that. One of things I realized after I started travelling is that you really have to figure out how to be a self-starter to get things done on the road. Did you find that as well, and do you think it takes a special personality to adapt to world schooling? What was your experience like?
I don’t think you have to have a certain personality to be a worldschooler. While it’s true that a worldschooler needs to be self-driven to get their work done, I think it’s also true that self-sufficiency and self-motivation can be taught regardless of location or lifestyle. We are not all born with it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn it. As adults, the majority of us have to be self-sufficient and motivated if we want to succeed. Why not begin teaching that at an early age instead of waiting for the college years and the school of hard knocks to teach it to you?
I have always been a bit of a self-starter. I started reading from an early age and can learn anything on my own time, given the right reading material. I’m lucky that way. But each of my siblings has a slightly different approach. Some needed more guidance from my parents than others. A couple of the boys really had to learn self-motivation, and yeah, that was a tough process. But now, as the guys are reaching adulthood, those skills are starting to kick in in other parts of their lives. It’s not a personality thing as much as it is a family commitment to making it work thing, in my experience. We all have to learn to organize ourselves outside of a structured environment eventually. Some start earlier than others.
I read on your blog that you’ve learned how to make a side income online to support yourself while you are in University. Tell us about that.
We never did an allowance in my family. Our basic needs and a few treats were taken care of, but we were expected to find ways to make extra money ourselves. When I was little, that meant doing “the big chores” like cleaning the car or refrigerator. As I got older, I found ways to make money wherever we went, stacking wood at campgrounds, raking leaves, selling cookies, doing dishes, whatever. I like to work and to have my own money. Then I sold my first article to a teen travel magazine and realized I could make money (and learn anything I wanted to) online. I was fourteen. It took off from there. Opportunities are always there if you ask for them, work hard, and step outside of your comfort zone, it seems. Now I’ve been published all over the place, have written a few novels, built websites, and am currently doing SEO work, managing social media accounts for a few big travel companies, and teaching creative writing to kids around the world via Skype. It’s a blast and I’m fully supporting myself at this point. The gigs came to me as I learned more, talked to people, and put myself out there. It took time and commitment, but it’s starting to really pay off!
Holy crap. Colour me impressed, especially since I know how much work it takes to get ANYTHING published. I’m starting to think that maybe you’re not that screwed up after all. Did you find it hard to adapt back into university life?
I don’t think I’ve had a hard time adapting. I really missed travel after the first six months of uni living. Once I’d been in Ontario for a year, the cabin fever settled down and I felt at home. The only thing that’s been difficult to adapt to is the uniformity of university culture, where almost everyone has had extremely similar life experiences and lived in the same 400 square kilometre patch. I’m used to a rainbow of changing cultures and people and there’s a sense of almost forced conformity and lack of diversity at my university that drives me a bit crazy. It’s a conformity in how you talk, how you think, what you like, what offends you, what you look like. My partner and I have a game where we walk home from my afternoon class and count how many people are wearing the same (pick an item of clothing). Hehe.
Oh yeah, we did that too in Engineering school, except for us we were counting people who were wearing crocs and/or torn clothes repaired with duct tape. We stopped playing once we realized the answer was always EVERYONE.
What’s your ideal job after graduation?
To be honest, I don’t have a specific job I’m shooting for after graduation. I’m already supporting myself financially, so I don’t feel a great push to get a traditional job. I’m going to see how my current work evolves and continue to take opportunities and move forward. Right now I’m working at an important historical archive in Guatemala, learning to document and maintain negative images of Guatemala from 80 years ago. I likely won’t do that forever, but who knows?
Oooooh Guatemala! I’m actually bouncing around Central America right now myself, maybe we’ll see each other! Hmm, so judging from my producer sulking in the corner, it looks like you aren’t actually that screwed up and Worldschooling’s actually worked out really well for you. Dammit.
What’s your favourite thing about World Schooling? What’s your least favourite thing?
I loved having control over my own schedule and interests. I always had time to pursue the things I wanted to explore outside of the typical high school lineup. I was never bored. I could work when I wanted to and take breaks when I felt like it. When your learning is primarily interest-driven, learning time isn’t something you dread. That said, there were still days I had to knuckle down with something I didn’t particularly like… but hey, that’s life.
Least favourite thing… had a really hard time with this one… Dude, I really don’t know. I liked worldschooling. The only downside for me was that I had a hard time finding fiddle lessons around the world. I suppose I also had a phase at around 16 where I really wanted a gaggle of girls to hang out with and I missed my girlfriends from around the world. But all in all, there’s not much I can point to as a definitive least favourite thing. More closet space would have been awesome. Ha.
And finally, what advice would you give to parents or would-be parents about World Schooling?
You’re not going to f**ck your kid up by worldschooling them. You’re really not. The whole idea of worldschooling sounds scary because it’s off-the-beaten-path and not in the parenting handbooks. But you’ll be fine. Do your research and go for it, if it feels right to you. Slow travel and save money, or change locations every day. Live in luxury or live in a tent. Enrol your kids in international schools around the world or teach them yourself. Every worldschooler does it a bit differently, so find your own groove.
But also, if worldschooling isn’t for you, that’s 100% okay. This isn’t some “my kid’s checked off more countries than yours has” competition. I’m sure I’d have loved my childhood just as much if it had been spent in one place. So go with your gut, trust that your kids will turn out just fine, and do your best. You’ve got this.
Hannah, thanks so much for doing this. I was expecting some weird awkward kid living in the woods or something and instead we got a smart, witty, and articulate woman who seems to have her shit together way more than most other people her age. I guess we’ll have to live with that.
Hannah Miller writes about her adventures on her excellent blog www.edventuregirl.com. Be sure to check it out.