[Editor's note: The following is an essay from a student of the Ron Paul Curriculum]
Now, arriving at the end of my fourth year in high school with the Ron Paul Curriculum, I just had to fill out a report card on my own. Unlike a conventional report card, this one was not meant to give you an A+ in calculus, a B in US history, and so on. It was not about grades in specific courses: it would be hard for students to judge that on their own. Instead, I had to consider my improvement, from 9th grade through 12th grade, in terms of skills: how had my reading speed increased or decreased? What about my speed and accuracy in math? How many hours was I working per day? Was I better able to focus? How many hours per week was I devoting to leisure time? It was these sorts of questions that I had to consider, and some of them were hard to answer – for example, I do not know exactly what my reading speed was at the start of 9th grade, so I could not make an effective comparison. Still, if I were asked, “What is the most important skill you developed in high school?” I think I would have an answer. The most important skill I developed in high school is self-teaching.
Self-teaching is a broad term. It encompasses a myriad of other skills, notably time-management, self-discipline, focus, and so on. As my parents will tell you, I do not particularly shine in all of these areas. I still have serious trouble with time-management, getting things done in an allotted time. It is hard for me to force myself to sit down and follow a schedule every day. Nevertheless, I think four years of striving at this, fighting with it, have left a mark, even if only a small one. The unchangeable reality for me, over these four years, was this: if I do not do my work now, I will have to finish it later. There was no teacher to absolve me of my assignments, to make exceptions for my schedule. On the flip side, this meant there was no teacher to give me an F on an assignment I had procrastinated on – but it was up to me to come back later, finish the work, and try to produce A+ material on my own. And I hope this taught me some responsibility: I am accountable for my own work, for my own time. No one is there to tell me what to do, to force me to get things done.
Not only did I have to learn self-teaching in terms of responsibility, though, I also had to learn it in the sense of teaching myself new material. Especially with more advanced math and science courses, there was a point where my parents were no longer able to help me with my schoolwork. I had to make sure I learned and understood. The Ron Paul Curriculum video lessons were key resources for me; so were Khan Academy videos (particularly for AP Calculus BC, where they were my main course material). I took several AP exams, and we bought test prep books for those, but I had to work through the books on my own. I had to find supplementary resources on the Internet for specific training on how to tackle, for example, essay questions on the AP US History exam. I had to take practice exams – I actually took an AP Physics practice test during a four-hour road trip, which was not the most comfortable setting (who says homeschooling isn’t flexible?). And, insofar as standardized test results are a measure of mastery of material, it seems my self-teaching has been pretty successful.
This essay has contained a lot about me: what I did, and how I did it. I do not mean to boast. Daily, I am conscious of just how much I lack responsibility, how badly I manage time, how much I have left to learn. To be frank, it is still a struggle for me to go to bed early and wake up early. Yet I think what sets me apart from many other students, thanks to this curriculum which focuses so much on self-teaching, is this: I have tried. If I have not emerged victorious, I have at least started the battle. And through fighting the battle, I think I have learned – despite myself – important principles about responsibility and self-teaching. That is the most important skill I learned in high school, and for it, I am deeply grateful to my teachers, to my parents, and most of all to God.