Geneva Varga

∆ The documentation of my life work as an artist & naturalist ∆



WR 122 — Essay II

Geneva Varga

WR 122 Essay 2

3 May 2017

Homeschoolers Are Not Abnormal

I have never been to public school. When I tell people this fact they are always surprised. I have grown to expect an exclamation of disbelief, even from people my own age. Despite the growing popularity and rising numbers of homeschoolers, there is still a strong aversion to it. People frequently ask me: “What about prom? Do you have any friends? How do you make friends?” I make and have friends just like anyone else, except age is not a restriction. I connect with people based on shared interests and experiences thus I have strong friendships with those younger than me, as well as with adults. Homeschooling has also enabled me to explore my passions without having to encounter obstacles in my path. I discovered who I want to be and what I want to accomplish in my lifetime far earlier than others because I am homeschooled.

Homeschooling, in concept, incorporates a diverse spectrum of approaches to education. Some of the popular methods include but are not limited to Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, “School at Home”, Unit Studies, and Unschooling. My family considers us an eclectic blend, particularly Charlotte Mason and Unschooling. The Charlotte Mason philosophy believes a child is a person and we must educate the whole person, not just her mind. In Mason’s words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life”, which my mom repeated to me throughout childhood. It is a gentle approach that incorporates living books, narration, time outdoors, and modern languages. The Unschooling approach is more relaxed whereupon we have the freedom to explore whatever peaks our interest at any given time.  We also take part in a variety of extracurricular activities (e.g Boy Scouts, swim team, service learning projects, and volunteer experiences) which provide opportunities to connect with others and build community. In my mother’s words, “We follow the ebb and flow of life, allowing life to lead the way.”

A handful of stereotypes have emerged because of ignorance in regards to what homeschooling is and how it is achieved. The public school system, from my perspective, pushes the idea that homeschoolers are weird, uneducated, and abnormal. There is an automatic assumption that homeschoolers are unable to perform properly in society. In contrast, this could not be further from the truth. Albeit, many families choose this lifestyle because of religious reasons, disagreements with the vaccine requirements, or are concerned that their children will not thrive in a “traditional classroom” due to learning disabilities or physical handicaps. In reality, homeschoolers act more mature at a young age, are generally more willing to help around the house (either with chores or helping with younger siblings), and are more enthusiastic about their schoolwork. They realize the value of tasks, such as folding the laundry, in building their skills for the future. Monotonous busywork like comprehension worksheets and vocabulary crossword puzzles are unnecessary. The student is thus afforded the time to pursue long-term passion projects that meet both academic and future goals.

My mom decided to homeschool my brother and me for multiple reasons. When I was five years old, I told her that I wanted to learn to speak Chinese. Immediately she knew that no traditional school would be able to provide me this opportunity, at least where we lived. Foreign languages were not even taught until high school in most school districts at this time. Eventually, she found a private instructor and I began my journey towards Mandarin fluency. If she had made the decision to send me to the local elementary school, I never would have had this unique experience. Additionally, I likely would not have discovered how intriguing and unique different cultures are until much later.

Furthermore, my brother and I make friends in a natural way without feeling required to have friends of the same age. When my family went to the Galápagos a few years ago with a travel group we connected with two retired couples and another family with grown children. My brother connected with a grandfatherly figure who looks remarkably like Charles Darwin. Every morning, they were the first to wake and would be found on deck sipping cocoa and telling tall tales of their adventures. Similarly, I became friends with fellow a Harry Potter fan, Karen, and was “adopted” by another family when my parents wanted to go for a panga ride and I desired to go for a hike with the other group. Karen and I would often reminisce about our favorite books and discuss the art that we each loved. After we had all spent a week in the Galápagos, our family along with the two couples we became particularly familiar with joined another travel group to go to Machu Picchu. Our friendship and camaraderie with these two couples was so familiar that the people from this new group quickly made the assumption that we were traveling with both sets of our grandparents, even though this was not the case.

People who were taught at home often become successful entrepreneurs as living on the “outskirts of society” has allowed them to think outside the box and discover solutions to problems with ease. From an early age I have had the goal of pursuing a college degree. Since the age of eleven, I have focused on pursuing my academic goals with more fervency and have developed a plan for how to pay for college without incurring debt or student loans. Upon realizing that there was an absence of bubble tea vendors in our local area, I had considered opening a food cart style business. After completing a market research survey and writing a business plan, I discovered just how much money I would need up front and how much time I would be obligated to work. As I am a full time student, aiming to complete my Associates degree while I also complete high school, I realized this was not the best option for me. I have thereby opted to pursue other means of financing for college and now rely on art commissions and a variety of odd jobs. When I am older, I will most assuredly take on a part time job and have already made promising inquiries.

By homeschooling, I have been allowed to explore who I am without being pressured to like the same things as everyone else. My taste in art, literature, and music are different than my peers because I have not been expected to follow the crowd. I have been independent from an early age and my travel experiences, foreign language studies, and extracurricular pursuits have molded me into the person I am today. I stand proud knowing I can defend my opinions without worry of how I am perceived.


WR 122 — Extra Credit

In order to earn the optional extra credit, the professor required us to read a book and then write a review of it. Focusing on what we thought of it, what we understood, and so on. Then she asked us to meet with her to discuss the book. This was easily my favorite assignment to do for writing this past term.

Geneva Varga

WR 122 Extra Credit

3 May 2017

Eucalyptus & Monarch Butterflies

Senses are vital as they are how everyone experiences the world. Humans like to imagine that they are the only ones who use their senses, yet that is a misconception. Animals and plants also use senses to navigate their surroundings. For example, carnivorous plants rely entirely on touch to capture their prey. Another misconception is that other creatures do not have as many senses as us, this idea could not be more wrong. Animals experience hundreds of other senses that humans can not comprehend. Diane Ackerman’s book, A Natural History of the Senses is the perfect guide to discovering depths of our senses that we do not fully appreciate, including nostalgia and sexual attraction.

The most brilliant aspect about the book is Ackerman’s ability to vividly describe each sense and what the human body learns from it. She uses her personal experiences to connect with the readers on a nostalgic level; painting eloquent pictures of moonlit beaches, oranges, and eucalyptus with resting monarch butterflies. Ackerman begins her book with the sense of smell and reminisces of how she spent one Christmas season:

I traveled along the coast of California with the Los Angeles Museum’s Monarch Project, locating and tagging great numbers of overwintering monarch butterflies. They prefer to winter in eucalyptus groves, which are deeply fragrant. The first time I stepped into one, and every time thereafter, they filled me with sudden tender memories of mentholated rub and childhood colds…. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be proclamations left by some ancient scribe. Yet, to my nose, it was Illinois in the 1950s. (Ackerman, p. 18)

By allowing the reader to visualize a memory of hers, Ackerman cleverly draws her audience into a story of noses, ears, eyes, and tongues, which otherwise would have been dull and lifeless.

At the beginning of the section on taste, Ackerman states that taste is a social sense. “Humans rarely choose to dine in solitude, and food has a powerful social component.” (Ackerman, p. 127) Upon reading this statement, I quickly recall all my past gatherings with family members during which we have shared a meal, especially during the holidays. I envision couples leaning in towards one another at a table in a romantic restaurant; friends sipping a cup of chai tea as they catch up on the latest news. Even going out to eat alone is a more social occasion then eating in the solitude at home. Food is central to many social moments and our sense of taste is intimately involved.

When young writers are taught the nuances of writing and techniques to make their writing stand out from the rest, they are encouraged to use details and often to consider all of the senses. Ackerman’s book gives proof to why this is such a vital technique to learn and apply. To describe an apple, a writer should not only use words based around the color and shape of the fruit such as red, firm, and round. He should also consider the crisp sound an apple makes after biting into one, the tickle of the tart juice as it trickles down your chin, and the sweet floral fragrance that calls a perfect summer day to mind.

While A Natural History of Senses is written in an engaging style, rife with rich detail, I admit had to set the book down several times and return to it at a later time. Ackerman discussed in length each of our senses in the context of attraction to others (pheromones), kissing (taste), and sex (touch), which is something I am not fully comfortable with. Thankfully, the book was written in a scientific context.

Ackerman’s portrayal of our bodily senses from a natural history perspective is both informative and intriguing. Her colorful descriptions of each sense provide readers with a unique exploration of the depths of our senses. By using her memories, Ackerman easily communicates with the reader on a conversational tone. Our senses are how we comprehend and explore our surroundings, Ackerman’s book provides a useful in-depth analysis of them. Be keenly aware when our noses affect our sense of taste and remember the childhood memories of summer days, flower picking, and rushing waves.

English Composition — WR 121 – Essay III

Assignment: This is the final essay and should include: your experience at college, changes in your writing, and what grade you should earn in WR 121. Make sure to use persuasive, compare and contrast, narrative, and evaluative writing techniques.

Geneva Varga

WR 121 Final Essay

9 March 2017

Green Tea Chocolates

Jane Goodall has been a role model to me since I was a young girl when I had the opportunity to meet her at a Roots & Shoots conference. Her words and life experience inspired me to work hard to make a difference for others in the community, animals, and the environment. For many years when I was a child I wrote to Santa requesting a better environment. On family walks I would always pickup litter and we took part in community invasive weed pulls regularly. I illustrated posters to communicate the danger of releasing unwanted pets like the red-eared slider turtle into the wild. As I grew older I realized I could have a greater impact by pursuing a career in environmental engineering. College and the lessons I have learned thus far, specifically in regards to writing, will play an important part in my chosen career and protecting the environment in the future.

“Every individual matters.

Every individual has a role to play.

Every individual makes a difference.”

– Jane Goodall 

My first college experience was in the fall of 2016 when I enrolled in Algebra I. The logical nature of mathematics has consistently appealed to me. Unlike traditional artists who use paint or authors who express themselves with words, engineers use mathematics as their medium. Consequently, I was intrinsically motivated to also complete Algebra II in the same term, receiving an A in each course. As my second term now comes to a close, I am confidant I will receive an A in my third college level math course, Intermediate Algebra II. However, not investing equivalent time and effort to also develop good communication skills —both written and verbal— can be a self-limiting decision. Mathematical skill is only a part of what an engineer needs to succeed. Therefore, I am currently enrolled in English Composition I, the only other course I am currently taking at Southwestern as a part-time, dual enrolled student.

Throughout this term, I have developed a deeper understanding for the writing process than ever before. I have discovered the three rhetorical devices of persuasion used to convince audiences, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos – each coined by Aristotle. I have learned strategies and techniques for choosing an intriguing title. I now also recognize the struggle I previously experienced with writing introductions and conclusions and the many clichés I infused into my work. Furthermore, I had previously found constructing a thesis statement near impossible and I would often wander from my topic. While criticism has been difficult to receive, green tea chocolates and a box of tissue have become my constant companion these past couple weeks, I have grown tremendously over the course of the term. I developed a better understanding of where I went astray in my writing. Often I failed to understand the original assignment. I am continuing to grow as a writer having completed just one college level writing class thus far. I look forward to all the challenges to come and applying the skills I develop in the future.

My Mandarin professor has said I am the best student he has ever had the pleasure of teaching because I am highly studious and always put my schoolwork above leisure time. I have approached all my college courses with the same methodology. This is demonstrated in English Composition by my near perfect attendance; I missed only one class due to family circumstances but scrupulously notified the professor in advance. Another factor to consider is that I have turned in all assignments on time and have fully participated in class activities, willingly reading aloud the work my partner and I composed. Additionally, I have read all assigned reading material, annotating the text while doing so. While I may have misunderstood the specifics of the two writing assignments, I was diligent and made every effort to apply the feedback once it was received to subsequent writings. Lastly, I have sought out assistance from other skilled writers rather than relying solely on my own perception of the assigned task. . I have clearly met or exceeded the criteria outlined in the course syllabus for which an A is deserved.

The lessons I have learned in writing are already helping me better communicate with others. For example, I was able to clearly share my vision for a student conservation project to the staff at South Slough which will commence next term.  As an aspiring environmental engineer I know skills in mathematics and sciences are critical, but writing is equally important. Engineers have a reputation for being weak writers. However, a broad array of skills are required to be effective in today’s multidisciplinary teams. Developing my writing skills will help me correspond effectively with my colleagues and the public. As a strong writer and mathematician, I can make a difference.

“What you do makes a difference. 

You have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” 

– Jane Goodall

English Composition — WR 121 – Essay II

I had to revise this essay twice because the instructor believed that I did not provide a solid thesis statement and did not have a genre for the movie stated.

Assignment: Write an evaluative essay on a movie and movie criteria of your choice, make sure to use scenes from the movie to support your thesis statement.

Geneva Varga

WR 121 Evaluation Essay

12 March 2017

Hands of Sewing Needles

Numerous well-meaning parents forget that animated movies do not always mean kid-friendly. Coraline is one such motion picture that slides by the careful checking of parents for any disturbing content. While Coraline can be frightening at times, the visual graphics are breathtaking and all but distract from the storyline. The 2009 stop-motion animation film adapted from Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novel of the same name is a breath of mountain air to an audience accustomed to superhero or science fiction on the big screen. Thus, Coraline belongs to a noticeably specific genre of film called Animated Fabulism, which invokes elements of magic, artistic style, and smooth exciting visuals.

In the opening scene of Coraline, a pair of hands made of sewing needles are creating a doll that has an uncanny resemblance to the eleven-year-old protagonist, Coraline. This scene is important because the doll is the first connection that the audience sees between the real world and the fictitious world, connected flawlessly via a small door as a portal. During the day, this door opens to a brick wall, but when both the sun and Coraline have gone to sleep the door leads to the sinister world. Fabulism places no remarkability in magic. Instead, magic is presented in an otherwise real-world or everyday setting.

The artistic style of an animated movie plays an important role, the shapes and colors help to create a certain emotion. Tim Burton’s films would not be reputed as nearly as creepy if he had chosen to go in the style of Disney Pixar. The use of bright, cheerful colors in the ominous alternate world are in stark contrast to the dull colors of Coraline’s real world. This allows the viewer to separate both worlds from one another and magnifies the differences between them.

Additionally, the characters were created with puppets; there were 28 individual puppets of varying sizes to portray Coraline alone.  At one point, our protagonist shows sixteen different expressions in a span of just 35 seconds. Together with the myriad of voices provided by actors, viewers are spellbound by the emotions reflected in the lifelike dolls. Furthermore, the way a character is dressed and acts helps the viewer construct opinions and emotionally connect with the characters. Coraline appears to the audience as an energetic young girl that is confident in herself, evidenced by her yellow raincoat and blue hair. We are captivated by her resourcefulness and determination and cheer for her success. In contrast to the Other Mother who the audience immediately becomes suspicious of when they see she has buttons for eyes.

Ultimately, the most visually exciting scene in the entire movie takes place during the finale. After Coraline has beaten the Other Mother at her game she becomes furious and begins to change. Finally, the audience comes face to face with the truly despicable villain.  At the start of the film, she appears to be an over-caring mother to Coraline. In the end, when Coraline continues to evade her attempts to trap the protagonist in the Other World, she grows in height, her outfit becomes dark, she gains hands made of sewing needles, and her body shape transforms into that of a spider as the climax approaches.

The use of puppets, talented voice actors and stunning visuals enhance a story that is already captivating. While many parents are often shocked by the content Coraline contains, the movie teaches a valuable lesson to not only the children but also to the adults. Coraline is about overcoming the temptations of desire and realizing the sacrifices parents make for their children.

English Composition — WR 121 – Essay I

I was required to revise this essay twice, as the instructor believed I did not fulfill the assignment and instead wrote a report.

Assignment: Write a narrative essay on your writing experiences, please use MLA format

Geneva Varga

WR 121 Narrative

4 March 2017

The Spell of Writing

我爱写故事。Oh! Pardon my poor manners, sometimes I unconsciously switch into my second language as I am accustomed to frequently writing in Mandarin. A lot of people ask me how I know Mandarin, my reply is because I am homeschooled. My mother made the decision to teach me at home during the Beijing Summer Olympics. Additionally, because China was in the news often at this time, I begged to learn Chinese. When my mom finally followed through on my request, I knew it would be an adventure of life-long learning. One of the many things she has taught me was to use my imagination and trust my instincts.  This not only allowed my passion for story-telling to grow but also how to enchant people with my words.

One of the first writing experiences I can ever remember was a creative assignment, I chose a panda as the protagonist who lived behind a waterfall in a bamboo forest. She had a band of various animal friends and they went on adventures to save various artifacts, similar to Indiana Jones and his life-threatening quests. I had this wild prospect that I would become a world famous author at only 5 and a half years. Obviously, this didn’t happen, at least not yet.

At one point in time, my family listened to an audio book by Scott O’Dell, The Road to Damietta. The book struck a chord in me which quickly inspiring a frenzy of writing poetry. We had learned about poems only a few months before and it was exciting to know that there was this entirely different path of telling a story. In this arc of prolific poem writing, I wrote one titled Wishes of Thy a Daughters. To this day it ranks as one of my best-written works, mainly because of all the meanings I had hidden in the words.

Eventually, I came to a stand still in writing and I became reluctant to write anything. I questioned how could I write anything better than the poem with hidden meaning? In an effort to breathe new life into my writing, along with experiencing peer works, my mom organized a Writer’s Workshop for homeschool kids. It helped me discover that everyone has a different approach to writing, a different voice. Writer’s Workshop helped me realize how words, sentence structure, and the way we read something aloud, could change the feeling of a story.

Furthermore, it was around this time that I first discovered fan-fiction. Fan-fiction is written works created by fans of popular books, movies, or plays that add a new dimension to the published story, sometimes creating something completely new. While fan-fiction authors are not making a profit from what they create, some are able to build a fan base who hunger to read their original works. Fan-fiction is a really interesting concept. For instance, there could be two pieces of work that are identical in storyline, but one is more enjoyable to read than the other. Fan-fiction provided me a way to continually engage with the characters that I loved, but also to recognize the difference between good, bad, and subpar writing.

While I did not attend public school, this did not mean I was exempt from disliking an assignment. This was especially clear when I had to write a biographical essay about a historical person. It eventually became a yearly assignment and I have since grown to enjoy them, but at the time, the idea of writing about someone else’s life seemed wearisome and lifeless. I knew that I had to choose someone, though I did not want to write the cliché report on George Washington or Sacagawea. Instead of half-heartedly choosing someone, I went to my teacher (Mom) for suggestions. In the process of finding someone whose life intrigued me, Mom expanded the assignment slightly to where I would dress up as the person and give a presentation on their life in first person. This simple change was able to spark my muse, and I hurried to the library to learn everything I could about Marie Curie; I wanted to have the best report. Even though I was able to find joy in my school assignments, it was not the same as writing creatively.

One of my favorite writing assignments took place over the course of a year, the long term goal was to write a magazine based on a topic of interest. At the time, I was in the height of my obsession with Anime (Japanese Animation) and thereby pursued it vehemently. My chosen topic became problematic, however, when I was expected to interview someone who had experience in the field. Here I was, living in a small town on the southern Oregon coast. How was I to write an interview that related to Anime?

As I procrastinated, my mothers tempers began to rise, she was the calm before a storm. My saving grace came a few weeks later when my violin teacher happened to mention that her husband had worked on the animation team at Disney. I had struck gold! He had animated many of the movies my mother had grown up with and shared with me anecdotes of his experiences. His story became the centerpiece of my magazine, tying everything together – even the color scheme. To this day, the collection of writing I created for The Otaku Habit is what I am most proud.

Several years ago during a weekend trip to San Fransisco, I lead my family into a bookstore. My family dawdled along behind me already predicting the amount of time I would spend here, in perfect contrast to my frantic eyes scanning every shelf of the store. It was here that I discovered a book that expressed everything I wanted to achieve in my writing. Buried beneath dusty tomes at the back of the store, I had stumbled upon Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe when my arms were enveloped in a mountain of intriguing books. I instinctively knew now why I had felt the undeniable urge to enter this bookstore in particular.

It was exhilarating to read the thoughts of a character with whom I so identified. While I had previously enjoyed numerous other books and liked the characters, this was a completely new experience. I immediately connected with Ari. Suddenly all of my previous writing appeared to be in a forest dipped in the sweet fog of a hazy morning.  I had always aspired to write a book, but now I had a vision and clarity in what I wanted to say. My writing became flush and vivid.

Homeschooling has not only shaped me as a being, but how I approach writing. To me, writing is the expression of experiences and feelings. Writing holds a universe of opportunity, it contains hopes, failures, nightmares, and dreams. I have always imagined myself as a traveling bard who would tell stories around the crackle of a campfire and capture the listener’s hearts with my fables of adventure and incredulity. 我希望你喜欢我的故事。

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