Out of the fishbowl: From homeschooling to the college classroom 

By Audrey Helfrich

I never thought that choosing a seat in a classroom would be so nerve-wracking. My brain moved at 100 miles an hour and decided on the safest bet, the back of the classroom.  

It was the first class of my college English 101 at North Florida College. It was now my junior year of high school and after only ever being home schooled I was enrolled in dual enrollment.

Because my parents were in the Air Force I had many experiences with adapting to new environments and cultures, but this experience was different. Not every kid had lived in 10 different childhood homes, but walking into a classroom and sitting down was something that most people my age could do without even thinking.  

So here I was, sitting in the back of the room watching the other students trickle in. They walked in and sat down like it was their own living room and they were just getting comfortable in front of the tv.

Some of them already knew other students and started small talk, and the ones who didn’t speak to anyone looked content that way and seemed self-sufficient enough to not need anyone’s help.

I felt like a traveler who came to study this unknown culture. Throughout the 10 years I was home schooled, I had experience with the classroom setting from co-ops and other elective courses. At co-ops I had to sit quietly, face the teacher and raise my hand when I wanted to speak, but I was still surrounded by other homeschoolers.

There was this understanding that all our educations and lifestyles were vastly different. In this college class, the students understood that they all had similar educations and experiences. This fish-out-of-water feeling made my inexperience with any kind of online school, or widely used school curriculums more prevalent.  

This new world was one that I was not familiar with, but I knew that it was what I needed to help me achieve my dreams and the life I wanted. My options were to either jump head-first into this uncomfortable experience and learn from it or choose a way out like online classes and keep learning the same way I had my entire life.

Homeschooling served me well and gave me so many opportunities that I would not have had if I had been in a classroom five days a week, but I learned quickly that feeling uncomfortable and alienated pushes me to adapt in a way that I had never experienced before.

I adopted new skills quickly and those skills that seemed so unattainable have brought me to where I am today. I have learned how to thrive in a classroom and have used that as a student at Flagler College. 

Data from the District Administration shows us that over half of college students do not feel comfortable in a classroom. This brings us to the perspective of those students who seemed so comfortable walking into the classroom and looking so at home.

If we were able to flip the perspective and walk in as each one of those students, we would come to realize that over half of them would say it was not a comfortable experience for them either.  

While I was sitting in the back of the class, tapping my feet on the floor, sweating for fear that I would have to speak, I was sitting right next to other students who were probably feeling the same way. Not because they were all from the same background as me, but because this feeling as the outsider is one that commonly comes from a formal classroom setting.  

Sometimes you have to jump out of the comfort of your fishbowl and gasp for air. This concept is one that does not come naturally.

The important difference here is that we can survive outside of our comfort zones. That feeling of unfamiliarity will fade away until I overcome it again.

Once I made it through that class all those years ago, I understood that from now on walking into a classroom would only get easier. 

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