Reflections on an Unorthodox Education Career

Reflections on an Unorthodox Education Career

By Rachel Mann

Rachel-MannAs the final year of my college career is coming to a close and I reflect on my education, clear upsides and downsides emerge to the many types of schooling   I received.

I started in a private Catholic school and moved to public school for middle school.

All the while I had a passion for horses and the show jumping industry, but who knew where it would lead me?

I spent my freshman year in a private Catholic high school and lasted four days in public high school before I enrolled in an online homeschooling program.

My interest in horses changed from a cute hobby into a fire that drove me to persuade my parents to let me ride, compete and travel while studying online.

My college experience was also unorthodox. I spent two full years in a normal college routine, and because I sought more time to spend with horses I took a gap year. I returned to college and earned my degree in only three years of school.

This freedom led to priceless social experiences, opportunities to ride and compete throughout the U.S. and internationally, and to train horses for sale while still a teenager.

Now, I’m the one handing out report cards. Here’s how each school experience made the grade or didn’t.



Private Catholic School – No tolerance for misbehavior. Any student who became a distraction could be expelled. This eliminated many issues and allowed students to continue learning.

Public School – Diversity. I was exposed to students from all walks of life with a multitude of cultural and economic differences, truly preparing me for the real world.

Homeschooling – Responsibility. The online program I was enrolled in held me to high standards of independence and responsibility. This set the bar for my future in college and in life beyond the school doors.



Private Catholic School – Sheltered. My private school lacked diversity – hardly a reflection of the culture around us. Private schools tend to be homogenous.

Public School – Distractions. Placed into the public school system, I was shell-shocked. In my experience, all students behaved. Not so in middle school. Teachers often spent instruction time dealing with problems outside the realm of education.

Homeschooling – Lack of social involvement. The homeschooling atmosphere can be solitary. If I wasn’t riding every day, I would have been friendless.


I can say with confidence that my education off the beaten path adequately prepared me for college and beyond.

My true passion is and has always been outside the classroom.

However, my experiences in the classroom and at home helped shape me into the person I have become – independent, resourceful, a self-starter.

Private school taught me about focus, respect and discipline. Public middle school taught me about acceptance of people and cultural differences.

Online homeschooling through high school taught me about individuality, determination, and allowed me to pursue what has become my life’s passion.

Although my education was offbeat, I find myself a college graduate on the right path.