BY BILL WILLCOX
COURIER-TIMES STAFF WRITER
Jackson Loftis won’t be walking across a stage to get a diploma this spring, but he does have some bragging rights. At the young age of 17, he will be transferring from Piedmont Community College to become a junior at UNC-CH this fall.
That is quite a feat and even more amazing considering he was homeschooled since third grade and managed to complete all his high school courses and land a diploma while earning his associate’s degree from Piedmont Community College as a Career and College Promise student.
He started kindergarten early, at four years old, and then went to public school through third grade but both he and his parents thought he could make more progress at home. At first his mother Jayne mostly taught him and then as time went on his father Jason took over.
During the early grades his learning was more structured.
“That was something that sort of changed,” he said. “At first it was much more involved and traditional, with books, the whole nine yards. We had it very formally done because we wanted it to be like real schooling, but we realized as time went on, we wanted to do it our own way and started to do more online and independent classes. From ninth grade on, it was almost all online.”
He would spend about four or five hours a day taking online classes during his high school years.
He said didn’t feel isolated socially by being out of a traditional high school environment.
“People always say that,” he said. “I guess that is the stereotype but really, it just allows you to have the extra time to pursue groups that you actually want to be a part of. So rather than being thrown in with everyone and having to figure out who had my same interests, I got into martial arts, teen court, different things that I was actually interested in, so for me it was better. I made many more friends, lasting friends, homeschooled than in public school.”
He took online classes through various organizations with different teachers, eventually earning his diploma with a 3.7 GPA. Many of the classes he took also counted toward his associate’s degree at PCC.
“They function as dual credits,” he said. “Any homeschooled student in the state has that option. It’s just unfortunately not used as much as it could be.”
He made a good impression on his professors at PCC.
“It is a joy to have had Jackson Loftis, a student with many strengths, in my psychology and sociology classes,” said Professor Lisa Covington. “He demonstrated intellectual curiosity, motivation, and initiative with regard to his performance in my classes and toward his future ambitions, which include the attainment of higher education in the behavioral sciences.”
Loftis said he had to rush to throw his college application together because he had to have his high school diploma before he could graduate from PCC.
He will pursue a bachelor’s degree at UNC in psychology, possibly with a minor in philosophy.
“From there I am definitely going to the graduate level,” he said, “but I haven’t decided if I will do school psychology or law.”
Meanwhile, at home he has two younger brothers who are being homeschooled: Jasper, 10, and Jett, seven.