My sophomore year of high school was pretty rough. There were several personal challenges I was facing, and academics was one of them. I was involved in an incredibly rigorous homeschool program, which unfortunately left me mentally drained and physically exhausted every day. It was nearly impossible to find the time (or energy, for that matter), to pursue my interests, develop my hobbies, or spend time with friends and family without forsaking my studies. School was taking over my life, and I was sick of it.
This particular homeschool program spanned over 30 weeks and contained 6 different subjects. For the literature strand, my classmates and I were assigned to read 18 books and write essays on them. For longer books (such as Robinson Crusoe, Jane Eyre, The Hobbit, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Screwtape Letters), we had only 2 weeks to read the entire book and write a 5+ paragraph essay. For shorter books (such as Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, and Animal Farm), we were assigned to read the entire book and write the essay in one short week. We also had a final essay due at the end of each semester. On top of my studies for 5 other subjects, completing the literature assignments became extremely difficult.
This leads me to the issue at hand: how this program negatively impacted my creativity and love of literature. After a lot of thinking, I’ve come to realize the three main problems I had with this class, and why it affected me so much.
1) Because of the packed schedule, there wasn’t enough time to dive deep into each book.
Going into that school year, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the reading list to begin with. Even though most of those books wouldn’t have been my first pick, I was still excited to dive deep into the stories and really study them. I’m a deep thinker, so my personal belief is this: if I’m going to take time to read lengthy and challenging books, I should learn as much about them as possible while I’m at it.
However, because of the extremely fast pace of this program, I felt like I wasn’t learning anything. The constant stream of work allowed almost no time for deep study, and I was only skimming the surface of one book before rushing to the next.
After the first several weeks, I began to believe that the only purpose of my assignments were to, a) read the book as fast as I could, and b) crank out an essay ASAP in order to meet the deadline and receive a grade. This was extremely difficult to do during such short periods of time (and on top of 5 other challenging courses), which leads me to my next point.
2) I often wasn’t able to complete all of the work before arriving to class.
Because of the intense workload from the other subjects, my literature homework was often pushed to the back burner. This was incredibly frustrating for me because I love literature and want to spend time studying it. I’m embarrassed to admit that I only read 6 out of 18 books start-to-finish. Because of my struggles with completing the work, resources like SparkNotes became my best friends. Through different websites, I gained just enough information in order to participate in class discussion and complete the corresponding essay. For some of the books, I skipped the essay entirely.
All of these factors left me genuinely unhappy and frustrated. I often went to class feeling ashamed and embarrassed for not being able to complete all the work. On top of that, I never felt good about myself or even proud of what I had accomplished.
3) The quality of my work drastically declined.
During my freshman year of high school, I was incredibly proud of every. single. essay. that I wrote. This was mainly because we studied our assigned books over several weeks, and the pace hardly ever felt rushed. I had plenty of time to read the material, brainstorm ideas, and craft a fantastic essay with relevant information. During my freshman year, my priority was Quality over Quantity.
My sophomore year was completely different – because of the constant “go, go, go” mentality, I was only reading and writing to meet a deadline and receive a grade, not to produce my best work. There was never enough time allowed to think deeply about the essay topic, which led to a lot of stress when I eventually sat down to write. I was thrown into a Quantity over Quality mindset, and I wasn’t proud of a single essay I wrote during that entire school year.
So, what happened?
These three factors combined led to a major burnout. By the end of the school year, my brain was fried, my energy was drained, and my creativity was spent. I didn’t pick up a book for months afterwards because reading didn’t make me excited anymore. Instead, it felt like a chore rather than a hobby, and I didn’t crave stories like I used to. It made me incredibly upset that something I used to enjoy had become an activity that I avoided.
Now, almost a year later, I’ve slowly been getting back into literature again. I’ve been researching new books, placing some holds at the library, and actually reading. Last week, I sat outside for hours immersed in a book – something I haven’t done since last summer. It felt amazing to be turning pages again, engrossed in a story and actually craving more. For the first time in months, I felt that my love of literature was returning to me.
Unfortunately, writing has also become extremely difficult. Posts on the blog have been few and far between recently because I no longer have a strong desire to write. When I sit down to try, I feel incredibly overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. Working on my writing has been quite the challenge, but I’m getting there – slowly but surely.
Why does this matter?
Through my sophomore year, I learned so much about the academic world, the people involved in it, and myself as a student. I further discovered my learning style and strategies to tackle huge tasks and break them down into bite-sized pieces. Based on my experience, I have taken steps in my academic life to better myself and perform to the best of my ability.
Recently, I’ve been tossing around the idea of becoming an English teacher. This path isn’t set in stone, but I’m still exploring my options. If I end up pursuing that career, I have an idea of how my class would be different. Through my experiences in several English classes, I have begun to discover what works best for the students as a whole. I’ve discussed ideas with my peers, friends, and family, and I’ve gotten some great feedback about which methods are the most beneficial. I’d love to use my experiences – the good and the bad – to benefit students in the upcoming generation.
During my time with this particular homeschool program, I was also shown the importance of balance in one’s life. I learned what really matters to me as a person – SPOILER ALERT: academics is not everything. While I still believe school is incredibly important, there are other things that matter to me, too – spending time with my family, hanging out with friends, attending church and growing in my faith, pursuing my hobbies and interests, writing for this blog, working at Chick-fil-A, exploring career opportunities for the future, discovering what mark I want to leave on the world – the list goes on. Balance matters.
I believe it’s worth mentioning that I am no longer enrolled in this specific homeschool program. There were several things that played into the decision to leave, and it involved more than just academics. I’m a junior this year and I’ve reached a season where many things are changing, so my academic life needed to change, too. I’m currently taking a dual-credit class at my local community college while studying other subjects on my own at home.
After writing this out, I realize how I, the arrow, was pulled back – my sophomore literature class stretched me beyond the limits of what I thought was possible. The bow was bent, the arrow was pulled. After months of struggling, the Archer released the arrow. It flew past the obstacles it overcame and landed on a target, right in the middle of the lessons it learned. Looking back, I am so grateful for the experience I had and what I was taught through it – literally and academically.
“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So, when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.” – Paulo Coelho
Thank you all for your support over the past several months – I appreciate each and every one of you sticking with me while I continue to figure some things out. You all are amazing. <3
Lots of love,