What are they doing now: Johannah
Johannah is compassionate, an achiever, strongly sentimental, fiercely loyal to her family and friends, and a risk-taker. She’s the one who calls me and we talk for three hours, processing everything through a variety of lenses. I learn things from Johannah every time we talk.
Johannah has always enjoyed writing, too, which was a great pleasure to me. Johannah wrote a couple of “novellas” (long-ish stories that resembled novels) as an early teen. She told me she overheard me brag about a Brave Writer student who had written a novel, so she decided to write one too, to impress me. Then she would walk around the house with a red pen editing it, like she saw me do with my grad school papers.
Johannah was homeschooled all the way through high school, though she attended our local public high school part-time, participating in their theater program, French classes, British literature, and AP Psychology. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at Ohio State, where she majored in French and Culture Studies. In her sophomore year, she acted as president of the Amnesty International Chapter and organized/hosted a conference on human rights. During her time at OSU, she also studied abroad in Paris and spent a summer in Ghana working in a pediatric AIDS orphanage.
Johannah graduated in 2011. She took a position in France as an English teaching assistant at a junior high in Vichy for the following year. Now she lives in New York City, working as a social worker in the South Bronx.
I asked all five kids to send me a blurb about themselves to share with you. Of the five, Johannah was the only one who did. Naturally. I’ll let you hear her story in her own words. From Johannah:
“I’m currently an Americorps Volunteer in New York City. I volunteer full-time at a Foster Care Agency in the Bronx doing Therapeutic Recreation with young girls. I decided to move to New York City because I thought it’d be cool to live in one of the most expensive cities in the US without getting paid. [Note from me: These volunteers commit to living on $25.00/week!] After spending a year teaching English in France, I missed being in the United States but wanted to experience a new region, so the Northeast was a good fit!
“In my current position, I’ve found myself using a lot of homeschool techniques (they’re Brave Writer techniques now, but when I was little they were our homeschool), like treasure-hunting at museums and matching museum gift shop postcards to paintings. The concept of learning as an interactive, self-directed, never-ending process has been huge in the way I relate to the foster youth I work with. Instead of getting them comfort foods like ice cream and talking to them about teen drama at school, I’m able to introduce the kids to art and university libraries and book read-alouds in ways that make culture seem accessible and relatable.
“I also find myself acting like my mom a lot. At museums, I get really excited if one of my kids says she likes a painting and I want to know: **Why does she like it? What does she like about it? Which colors pop out to her?** I can see her wondering why I think her thoughts are so interesting.
“It reminds me of my mom and how thrilled she used to be when my siblings and I engaged with artwork. It’s incredible to see little people care about the world and have thoughts about it! I love it. Homeschool has made me an avid reader and has filled my notebooks with lists of things I need to learn about next time I’m online. I’ve met a couple homeschoolers since moving to NYC, which has been a big source of bonding and jokes about being weird. I’ve found that generally everyone I meet at this stage in my life has already known a couple homeschoolers and doesn’t have as many questions as people did when I was little. I’m having a great year and a great life!”
Caitrin and I went to see Johannah last week in NYC. Her life is intense, but rich. Her passion for disadvantaged kids is matched by her wisdom about how to invest in them. I’m reminded again that we are not just “educating” our children, but shaping how they understand what it is to have a meaningful life.
Johannah leads our Boomerang Book Club discussions for Brave Writer. She’s a poet (writes it, reads it), and a devoted student of literature. She’s a joy to her Dad (MA American Lit) and me, as we love seeing the fruit of all that reading together in her life now.
I love having grown children. I knew it would be wonderful to see them blossom. I didn’t know I’d learn so much from them. Johannah teaches me new things every time I’m around her. Nice payback for homeschool.