My LopeLife: Homeschooler hits the heights

Giovanni Castellanos, who sometimes finds solitude in a tree, says being homeschooled has provided a solid base for his education. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Editor’s note: My LopeLife is a GCU Magazine feature in which GCU students, staff and alumni share enlightening experiences. To be considered for My LopeLife, please email a short synopsis of your suggested topic to [email protected] with “My LopeLife” in the subject field. To read the digital version of the August issue of GCU Magazine, click here.

By Giovanni Castellanos

I was homeschooled except for eighth grade, an experience that convinced me that it was how I wanted to be educated.

Because GCU is so connected to the homeschool community, I visited campus on numerous field trips, and because of the University’s great homeschool-dedicated counselors, signing up for my first semester was easy. They kept me updated on classes, financial requirements and my housing application.

GCU scholarships also provide great opportunities for homeschoolers, who can use their SAT score alone to apply for many scholarships. That route was great for me, since keeping track of my grade point average was difficult because of how I was homeschooled.

Much of my homeschooling was done through co-ops, in which I would meet weekly with other homeschoolers to review what we had learned throughout the week. We then would be assigned another week of work or reading and return the following week to do it all over again.

The freedom in college is something I believe many homeschoolers are better prepared for than students who are traditionally schooled.

Co-ops were my favorite way to homeschool. I found they prepared me for the collegiate style of teaching. They are very similar in that you show up to a class once or twice a week and are expected to do the rest of the learning on your own. I flourished in that learning style and try to mimic it in college.

I prefer to block as many classes as I can in one day, so I have classes only two days a week. This leaves my weekends open, and I can get plenty of work done because I’m already in school mode.

I will admit, the classroom setting took some adjusting to, though I adapted quickly. My greatest challenge was needing to sit still through classes. I have a lot of energy, so being required to sit still for long periods of time can be difficult.

Growing up, I liked to climb a tree and study from that perch. I can’t necessarily do that at GCU, but the nice thing is that when it becomes too much, I can excuse myself from the classroom for a few minutes to walk around.

The freedom in college is something I believe many homeschoolers are better prepared for than students who are traditionally schooled.

During the week, I could decide what days I wanted to work, what days I would rather hang out with friends, and what days I was too tired to do either. Homeschooling taught me early on how to budget my time, and it has helped me tremendously in college.

As for living on campus, that came much easier. It didn’t feel like a big change because I was already used to doing work in the same space I lived.

Big family

I grew up in a large family. I have 14 siblings – seven sisters and seven brothers. Since I was about 6 years old, my family has been fostering and adopting. We adopted my first two sisters when I was 7 — I begged my mom for sisters, and God blessed us with fraternal twins who needed a new home.

Because I come from such a large family, I shared a room with three of my brothers and have never had my own room, though sharing a space is something I prefer. It prepared me for life in a college residence hall because I’m accustomed to getting work done when other people are around.

Life on campus my freshman year was great for me. I lived in a triple-occupancy residence hall room, which left me as much space as I needed. I had a unique opportunity with my family to become acquainted with shared living spaces, so I never felt cramped – even in triple occupancy.

A common myth about homeschoolers is that we are unsocialized. I never have found this to be the case. I had plenty of friends in and out of the homeschool community.

I was able to hang out with my homeschooled friends a lot more often, especially in high school. This is where the freedom to decide when to be in class came in handy.

My traditionally schooled friends often said they could not hang out on a particular night because they had school in the morning. That was not the case with my fellow homeschoolers. We would go bowling, to the mall or just to each other’s houses anytime we pleased. As long as our schoolwork was done by the end of the week, all was well.

I think that socialization myth is perpetuated by the perception that homeschoolers are isolated in their schooling at home. But that’s not necessarily true. It’s not just sitting alone online at a computer all day.

I went to the Arizona Science Center so many times I lost count, and on similar outings, I often would go with friends. At GCU, it’s also easy to make new friends, thanks to all the clubs on campus, and signing up for classes is always a breeze with the help of my counselor.

Freedom to choose when school gets done feels familiar instead of overwhelming. And since GCU is so invested in the homeschool community, I see plenty of familiar faces.

I have enjoyed my time at GCU and look forward to returning for the fall semester.

About Giovanni Castellanos

Giovanni Castellanos is a sophomore majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in forensics. He enjoys playing Pokémon, board games and martial arts and writing riddles. After he graduates from GCU, he will continue his schooling in pursuit of his dream career as a forensic pathologist.

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