Edmonton sisters who were homeschooled and started college at 12, 14 have a master’s degree from the U of T – Edmonton Journal | Team Cansler

The family believe Isabel – the middle of three daughters – is the youngest person in history to receive a Masters from the school.

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It wasn’t a conscious decision, but at some point during their post-secondary careers, Sophia and Isabel Jewell stopped touting that they were — for the most part — the youngest people in the room.

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“It just evolved over time,” said Sophia Jewell of her family home in Edmonton, where she and her sister entered the University of Alberta when they were 14 and 12, respectively.

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“It wasn’t a big deal for us,” she said of their relative youth. “But once we realized how much it affected how (others) saw us or how comfortably they interacted with us, we just stopped sharing.”

This month, the sisters reached another milestone by completing their Masters in Slavic Languages ​​and Literature from the University of Toronto. Sophia was 20 when she graduated that fall, while Isabel was 17. The family believes Isabel – the middle of three daughters – is the youngest person in history to receive a master’s degree from the school.

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The children of lawyers who met at U of A law school, Sophia and Isabel, were homeschooled by their mother, Mena. Both sisters’ education was largely self-determined, and both took an early interest in languages, especially those with ties to their family background.

“I wanted to learn the languages ​​of our ancestors,” said Sophia. “Our family only speaks English, but we have Polish, Ukrainian and also Korean, Irish and French ancestry.”

When Sophia began taking courses in U of A’s Modern Languages ​​and Cultural Studies program in the fall of 2016, it was her first time stepping foot into a formal classroom. Isabel joined her the following January when she was just 12 years old.

The sisters, who took the same course load in the undergraduate and master’s degrees, eventually specialized in Slavic languages. Her program focused on both literature and current events. Isabel’s most recent article dealt with the defense of Snake Island, while Sophia’s dealt with patriotism during the Battle of Kyiv.

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“Isabel often took a more direct approach to studying current events and media use, for example,” Sophia said. “And I tended to get more into the philosophy or the theoretical aspects.”

Mena Jewell said she sometimes gets calls from parents who want to know “the formula” for their daughters’ academic success.

“That’s kind of wrong,” she said. “You have to decide for yourself what you want. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I have a formula for kids to go to college.’ Because that kind of defeats the whole purpose.”

The family is Catholic, but faith wasn’t the primary reason for choosing home school, Mena Jewell said.

“It sounds kind of cheesy, but the bottom line is that they’re the best person they’re supposed to be — not my idea of ​​what a person should be,” she said. “We never pushed her to college and said, ‘You should do that.’ We didn’t even know they were even leaving.”

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She added that with what’s known as “traditional” homeschooling, parents have “100 percent flexibility” in what they teach. “You choose the results yourself and you measure them against your own results … the level of freedom is kind of mind-blowing.”

For the time being, Sophia and Isabel are taking a year off and planning their next steps, be it academic or professional.

“That’s something we’re definitely talking about,” Sophia said. “Because, you know, going through everything at once, it’s kind of hard to imagine[a situation]where we’d just go our separate ways.”

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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