Third-year student opens up about his unconventional education and what it taught him
He was only five years old when he had his first homeschool class with his father. In that lesson, Thomas Finley Mackay-Boyce and his sister learned about the artist Jackson Pollock.
The lesson was far from conventional. At the end of it, they walked outside, grabbed two or three cans of house paint, and they colored the back of their house.
“Things like that made us want to learn. Homeschooling was always very practical, very hands-on,” Mackay-Boyce said.
The third-year St. Thomas University student was homeschooled until Grade 12. Mackay-Boyce said his past educational experience prepared him for university in every sense.
Right away, his calm and poised attitude makes you feel at ease. His eloquence is impressive, his gaze focused, but friendly. With his quirky personality, Mackay-Boyce admits he loves too many things in life. Yet, the honours student from the Quispamsis area has a passion for the arts and history.
At STU, he became vice-president of the history society. He’s also had photographs exhibited at Gallery Connexion. While well-rounded, Mackay-Boyce said he still feels judged by some people when he tells them he was homeschooled.
Unlike many that see homeschoolers as socially awkward, Mackay-Boyce said they are simply “socially different.” He explains that children who were taught at home make friends in a different way. He admits that connecting with a group of people who went to the same high school can sometimes be difficult.
“I don’t make friends in large groups…I have to find ways to connect with people based on joint interests or sense of humour.”
He said experiencing homeschooling made him not afraid to approach people. For Mackay-Boyce, students that go to school have a “sense of social worry beaten into” them. Because of the social structure that these students follow, they sometimes feel intimidated to speak up in class or talk to certain people.
But Mackay-Boyce said making friends during camps, trips, and social encounters outside of school prepared him for university life.
Jokingly, he laughs and adds, “I’m a very ridiculous person sometimes, so I made a lot of interesting friends.”
Yet, Mackay-Boyce says some people still judge him for his parents’ decision.
“There is a lot of stigma about it. Part of it is definitely deserved because homeschooling has such a flexibility when it comes to teachers.”
He said there are two types of instructors, and they both have their pros and cons.
“You can run the spectrum from the quintessential hippie, whose kids have no curriculum…Where at the opposite end, you’ve got the very religious fundamental homeschoolers who are taking their children out of the school system for religious or ideological reasons.”
His parents, who are “spiritual” people, decided to include religion into his academic curriculum. But they always taught him to think critically before believing. Now he considers himself a happy atheist.
Still with his hands on the table, the student remains focused. When asked if he considers himself an artist he loosens up a bit and laughs. The photographer leans back and admits that he loves making art, but said, “I’m not a great artist, and I wish I was better.”
Out of all the experiences, travelling with his family was his favorite. They went around Canada and Europe and got to learn from the geography and historical sites. He’s grateful homeschooling gave him that opportunity.
“My dream in life is to visit every single country…The second I’m out [of university]—I’m travelling.”
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