By Kierstyn Darkwater
I have always wanted to go to college. I’ve always been a motivated learner, and the pseudo-classroom environments I occasionally had with other homeschoolers and parents armed with teacher’s guides were places I really enjoyed being and learning in.
Growing up, my parents’ plan for me initially included sending me to a vo-tech school to learn things I had no interest in. Over time, as my parents gradually became more conservative and more entrenched in stay-at-home daughters ideology, they looked at me and only saw a uterus. They determined that college was not God’s plan for my life and would only get in the way of my highest calling of being a wife and mother.
However, they did occasionally let me entertain the idea of going to a super conservative school after being done with homeschooling. When I was seventeen and a half, they even encouraged me to apply—I gathered my “transcript”, I wrote an essay, I had letters of recommendation, and all I needed was for my parents to sign the form. They refused, again telling me, for the final time, that I had no right or reason to pursue education, that going to college was contrary to God, and that I needed to continue my decade-long training of being a helpmeet. I was devastated.
This was just one more in a long series of unrelated blows to what I hoped was my future. But this essay isn’t about how my parents thwarted my education over and over again and left me to pick up the pieces. This is about something I discovered recently—that I’m not alone, that attending college in my mid-twenties isn’t that weird, and that community colleges have programs for people like me, people like us.
For something unrelated I was looking up how to obtain a diploma in Washington State, it was there that I found out the state community colleges have a HighSchool 21+ program in addition to the GED program. I got distracted looking at the Continuing Education/personal enrichment classes that they have, with the thought of taking an art class, but they all seemed pretty expensive. Then, I saw it, under pre-college “Adult Basic Ed. & GED”. Since I have an HSLDA printed diploma I don’t feel the need to get my GED, but, for $25 a quarter, I could totally take a math class.
Math, that subject that had been abandoned because I couldn’t teach it to myself, because I wasn’t deemed worthy enough to learn it, because I have a uterus. Suddenly, there was a way I could be in a classroom with someone who knows how to teach math, and learn enough algebra to be able to get past the blocks I was having trying to learn various programming languages.
I signed up to take the Adult Basic Ed. (ABE) class for the winter quarter (Jan – Mar) without really knowing what I was doing. I just knew that at this point, because I was in a good mental and emotional place and could afford the $25 tuition, I had no excuse not to at least try.
So I walked into class and my teacher had us write goals for the quarter. I wrote that if I improve and learn things, if I keep coming to class consistently and don’t talk myself out of it, then I will have succeeded. I surpassed my goals. For the last three months I’ve been going to school 4 nights a week, making a lot of progress in math. I learned algebra and I’m actually good at it, and being enrolled in a college—even as sort of an outsider as an ABE student—has opened up a world of opportunities, just by being a night student.
My teacher believes in me and my abilities—is impressed with how well I’ve been improving in math and encouraged me to take the placement test for english (the math gap is real). I aced it and placed in Eng 101 which I am starting in April. I’m taking my first ever actual college-level class at age 25. The other adults in my class are varying ages, some have grown children, some have babies, but we’re all in ABE because we want to improve—whether that means continuing on to college classes (like me) or getting their GED or High School Diploma to improve their job opportunities.
Personally, as an educationally neglected ex-homeschooler, taking the ABE has been so liberating—not just because I’m learning the things I was told I’d never be able to, but also because having a teacher who believes in her students and encourages questions is empowering. She encourages everyone in their progress, even if it’s small progress, because progress is progress.
If you’re an educationally neglected former homeschooler and you feel like you’re ready to attempt college but feel so lost (it’s so daunting!), see if your community college has ABE classes. Adult Basic Education helped me get my foot in the door, get used to being on campus, set me up with an advisor, and gave me the ability to see if college is right for me, and a place to ask questions about continuing my college education if that was something I wanted to do. You won’t be the only person over the age of 18, supporting yourself, and having gone through some shit.
I encourage everyone who’s curious and thinking about taking classes, but also anxious about it, to at least look into it. It’s a less expensive way to get your feet wet, and it might be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. And if not, it was still less expensive than tuition for a full college or reparative course!