I only have one sibling, but when I was younger I always wanted a sister. Then I met Taylor Copeland when I was 5. She and her two younger sisters were my best friends for about six years, and it certainly didn’t hurt that we had a lot in common. Our moms were incredibly close and we loved to play with dolls and enjoyed bossing around our younger siblings more than I’m proud of. However, what brought us closest was the shared experience of homeschooling.
Like my brother and I, Taylor and her sisters were homeschooled from the very beginning. Her mom knew that sending her children off to public school wasn’t something she imagined doing, so their homeschool career began. Just like my family, Taylor was homeschooled in a fairly structured manner, although they never used a set curriculum. “We didn’t really make a plan for every year, but we had structured units to study and would sit down, 4-5 days a week for several hours and do a structured school day,” Taylor told me. Overall, Taylor looks back on homeschooling incredibly fondly and considers herself lucky for never having been to a public school. When I asked her what she enjoyed the most about being homeschooled, she told me that in retrospect, she was grateful for all of the free time she had as a child, although in the moment it just felt like her way of life. However, all of her free time allowed her to explore the side of herself that I strongly identify with – the nerdy side. Honestly, Taylor’s love of learning is something that I have always admired, as I recall she read almost 150 books in a year at one point. Just like myself, homeschooling didn’t force her to dread learning, and she was able to dive head on into topics that interested her. Two of these topics included the Titanic and the Holocaust, and I remember Taylor at about 10 years old researching and writing about both. When reminiscing on this time period, Taylor told me that “I was able to really get into a lot of different subjects we learned and I would just write essays and stuff for fun. I could explore it in my own way and say, ‘it’s not a terrible homework assignment to write this essay, I just want to learn more.’” Taylor even wrote several novels as a young adult, and was always ready to learn more. Even at the time, I knew that she was an anomaly, but looking back now, I realize that I have homeschooling to thank for giving me such an amazing childhood friend. We connected in a way that I doubt I would have with another person, and being friends with Taylor was what really showed me that it was okay to be a nerd from such a young age. When we were together, it was okay to research Harry Potter spells and memorize them in case we were ever under attack. We were comfortable co-teaching in our make-believe schoolhouse when our younger siblings were still little enough to let us boss them around. We made up a complete code and even invented our own religion, complete with prayers and an altar at each of our houses. Together, we were two of the happiest, nerdiest children you could ever find.
When I talked to Taylor, she told me that in hindsight, she realizes that homeschooling allowed her to find a different worldview. “We had this different perspective on everything – I think that was something I really appreciate having – that different perspective on things – because it shaped the way I look at the world, which would have been different if I had been public schooled. I think the perspective that I got from homeschooling was one of the things I appreciated the most about it.”
As a child, Taylor remembers that at the time she felt like she was missing out on something. “I loved being homeschooled, but at the same time I would think about all the things that I was supposedly missing out on. I guess I didn’t really think too much about the amount of homework or sitting in class and being bored. I didn’t really think of the negatives, but I always liked hanging out with people.” She was always a very social child, and saw how attractive the positive social interactions in a school could be. However, as an adult, Taylor is glad that she never went to school. She realizes now that she didn’t miss out on anything. As a homeschooled teenager, she was able to get involved with more activities such as a homeschool teen group, science fairs and several school dances, so she was never without friends.
As she got older, Taylor and her family drew away from the structured style of schooling they had followed as children, but that didn’t stop her from going on to study for her GED when she was 17. Shortly afterwards, she decided to try taking classes at the local community college, Quinebaug Valley Community College. Going to QV was a logical decision for her, because it was close and affordable. Since she had never been in a classroom before her first semester in college, Taylor was nervous about how she would fit into this brand new setting, but her homeschool background proved to be a perfect starting point for college classes. “I got there and it was like I’d always been there. I settled in so quickly it kind of surprised even me. I think that the structure I got – I got a pretty well rounded education.. But whatever it was I do feel like I was really well prepared. I was able to keep up and do well so I think I did get a very good foundation.”
She has now been at QVCC for several semesters and loves the environment that is fostered by the small community college. “I don’t know if it was because I was homeschooled, and in a smaller environment, but I love that it is smaller and can be more personal.” At QVCC, Taylor has been able to get to know her classmates and professors very well, and that’s something she really appreciates and feels as though has enriched her college experience.
Taylor is currently working on her Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from QVCC. She is trying not to plan too far ahead and instead focus on more immediate goals, but once she’s done her Associate’s Degree she is considering pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, as she had such a positive experience studying Spanish with Elkin Espitia-Loaiza at QVCC. While Taylor is still keeping her options open, I do know one thing. No matter what Taylor decides to do after QVCC, I know that she can, and will, accomplish whatever she decides to do. While we have drifted apart through the years, I still consider Taylor one of the people that has impacted me the most throughout my lifetime. I think having been homeschooled and growing up together has taught both Taylor and I is that it’s okay to be different. We are two of the nerdiest people you will ever meet, and I believe that we are both old enough now to embrace that part of our personalities. With her passion for knowledge and learning, I know that no matter what she does with her future, Taylor will go on to impact many more lives just as she has impacted mine.