As a junior in high school I have really started to understand how I learn.

I’ve been homeschooled my whole life. (Disclaimer: most people who aren’t familiar with this term envision lonely kids sitting at home studying.) stay with me though. Keep reading!

I am the oldest of nine kids. Yes, Nine!

We all are pretty close and I wouldn’t change being part of a large family for anything in the world.

One of the many things I love about being homeschooled is that I don’t have to be in a classroom to learn. The world is my classroom.

When you are homeschooled you start to see every day things as opportunities to learn or teach. I would imagine this is a benefit for an adult to see the world this way. Lifelong learning, whether you’re 40, or 80.

What if we all remain committed to learning new things?

I am 17 and to date have never followed the traditional school year model, but have always tested above or right at my grade level. I take all the traditional courses, but am also allowed the flexibility to take some college level courses and study other topics that align with my passions and gifting.

This freedom of schedule has given me the chance to have an internship with an amazing company, (OnFire Books) and start my first part time job. I do believe it is very important to have a formal education, but I also see that it is also important to teach younger generations that you can learn anywhere and from anything.

One great example that has impacted my life greatly would be my chance to travel to Nepal as a part of my schooling in 2014.  I studied the fall semester leading up to the trip.  I took two weeks and went to Nepal to work with 35 girls who had all been rescued from sex trafficking.

That was probably one of the most intimidating yet rewarding things I have ever experienced. While I was there I had the amazing opportunity to teach classes on dance, bible, and prepare on the spot training as directed by my team leader.  I realized after returning that the entire process leading up to the trip, as well as the experience of the travel, taught me more than anything else.

It was an education from start to finish.  Before I left, my dad had several criteria I had to meet. I had to learn basic phrases in the native language. I studied the economic and political state the country was in. I had to do a geography overview on Nepal and surrounding countries. I researched the religion and belief structure of the people, as well as, having to find ways to finance my trip. These things all had to be done before I was even allowed to travel.  During the trip, my dad made me navigate an international airport by myself. He wanted me to learn how to do it on my own.

He would say “Ok our gate is ______. We have a two hour layover.  Where is the bag check in, and where is our gate?” He then followed me until we reached our destination. When we arrived in Katmandu he taught me how to do a currency exchange.

Once we had our rupees, he gave me my amount and had me keep track of how much I spent and what I spent it on. As we met the girls and began teaching the classes the next several days, one of my most difficult experiences began. I had to not only teach a class, but I also had to do it through a translator which I had only done once prior to arriving. All of the things listed above could be construed as education, but I will never forget the life change that took place in me when I held a girl my age that had been recently rescued from being sexual abuse. We just cried.

Sometimes an education isn’t what a book teaches me, but the privilege of being a part of someone else’s joys or struggles.  I loved every minute of it!  From the heart wrenching sorrow to the joy of experiencing a new culture, all of it changed me.

If I were to look at that trip and traditionally separate the different skills and lessons that I learned they would be these; Foreign Language, Economics, Politics, Geography, Religion, Math, Public Speech, Cross-cultural Communication and Personal Finances. This list also does not include the fact that I improved my social skills. I visited several historical monuments, I rode an elephant through the Chitwan forest, and I was able to experience a culture that I had studied first hand.

As my teacher, my father took the new things I was experiencing and turned them into teaching opportunities, but he also balanced it by letting me think for myself.

All this to say, I think if you can get out of the mindset that you have to follow a traditional classroom setting to learn, you can begin to look at every day things as opportunities to learn and grow. Just like real life!