Destination Known: Interview with Kolbe Academy Alumna Hope Forsyth

 

Tell us about yourself: where do you live, what do you do, etc., etc.

I’m an Oklahoma native, raised in Cushing, a small town with about 8,000 people, and now living in Tulsa, the state’s second largest city. I considered a variety of opportunities around the country for college and beyond, but found I really enjoy Tulsa: we have regional and national companies that bring business to the city, really stellar arts organizations like our symphony and ballet companies, an ever-growing restaurant scene, and a low cost of living. The best part, though, is that my family is close by. My older sister and her husband have four middle- and elementary-school-aged children, and they’re in their second year using Kolbe for all of them.

 

I work as a complex litigation attorney at a law firm with great people and great opportunities. Most of my time is spent on cases in federal court, which I really enjoy. I particularly like written advocacy, weaving together facts and law into motions and briefs.

 

You can usually find me in my kitchen if I’m not at work. The weather has finally turned to fall here in Oklahoma (it usually stays hot until November) and my house smells like homemade chicken stock cooking right now. I like reading a variety of fiction and nonfiction; two of my recent favorites are A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone, respectively. I’m also involved in music and sacramental preparation at my parish.

 

I’m always interested in last names. What do you know about yours, Forsyth?

The name Forsyth is Scottish—my grandfather came to America as a child—and the family motto is “instaurator ruinae,” which translates to “restorer of ruins.” We think that’s a reference to Isaiah 58:6-12.

 

So you are a graduate of Kolbe Academy. Describe a typical school day at your house growing up?

We had a schoolroom set up in an extra bedroom of our house, with maps and colorful educational posters all over the walls, plus many bookshelves. I used my mom’s childhood desk at first, but before 9th grade started, my dad and I built a bigger desk for me from scratch. Having a specific place to work was very important to me. I never did school in pajamas or in my bedroom; I needed the separation between school and not-school.

 

The rhythm of the days varied by grade. As I got older, using a paper planner to write out assignments for the week became crucial to make sure I stayed on track. In that planner, we included different schedule commitments we needed to work around, such as rehearsals for my children’s chorus and time spent with my sister and her then-tiny ones.

 

My mom and I worked closely together through about 10th grade—we’d often talk through assignments orally instead of having me write them, she’d use a whiteboard to diagram sentences or draw out math problems, and things like that. For 11th and 12th grade, I was mostly independent. Mom still kept up with where I should be, but I would write out answers and self-grade from study guide answer keys and such. I had a tutor for chemistry, but other than that we worked through the Kolbe high school curriculum on our own.

 

We only began Kolbe in 9th grade and our biggest regret is that we didn’t start sooner. The curriculum my mom pieced together in elementary school worked well for us, but the pre-assembled middle school curriculum we used from another provider was a dismal failure. Kolbe’s integrated and holistic curriculum is so beautiful and beneficial, it would have been awesome to have had more foundation in it.

 

As a Latin teacher, I’m always interested in the relevance of Latin studies. Please tell me that you studied Latin at Kolbe.

I did! Latin is totally relevant. For one, the grammar and vocabulary that come from it are so so useful in better understanding English. For another, it made my four semesters of French in college come more easily.

 

Was it the Henle books? How far did you go? How did you like it?

I did one year of Henle and two years of Cambridge. The constant military discussion in Henle was a bit much for me; I had usually had my fill of battles and generals after history and lit assignments. I liked that Cambridge was more domestic, as it followed a family. However, my 8th grade nephew is now doing Henle I through Kolbe and occasionally I help him. I appreciate it a lot more now than I did as a student.

 

What are some of the most memorable experiences you had while being homeschooled?

The flexibility to be able to participate in extracurriculars and spend time with my baby nieces and nephews was one of my favorite things. There were also several specific events I remember happily.

 

In tenth grade history at some point, one of the books mentioned that Caesar and his companions enjoyed eating asparagus. Fine details like that made history more accessible and underscored that these were real people we studied.

 

My parents and I road tripped up to St. Louis several times to help at Kolbe’s table for an annual Catholic homeschool conference. Megan Lengyel helped me with biology during the slow times at the table one year, and each time I got to visit with a number of families either using or exploring Kolbe. My senior year, I had just received a full scholarship offer from my top college the day before we drove to St. Louis. It was so much fun to encourage people that Kolbe truly is college-preparatory.

 

I was in one of the beta test online classes for Kolbe, before video chat was a thing—we just had an instant message chatroom with a teacher/moderator and a handful of students. I became friends with a classmate from Kansas through class and Facebook. She and I met in person for the first time at graduation in Napa, California, and continue to keep in touch with each other almost ten years after our first class together.

 

Speaking of graduation, my parents and I flew to Napa having no experience with that area of the country. We had a lovely Mass and graduation ceremony at the Kolbe day school with the advisors, and it was very cool to celebrate with the people who had guided and encouraged us through all of high school. Plus, my family found in Napa our favorite vacation destination—gorgeous scenery, amazing food, and a true stewardship of the earth at many of the wineries.

 

Did being homeschooled help or hinder you in collegiate/post-grad studies?

My homeschool experience helped immeasurably in collegiate and post-grad studies. Bluntly, Kolbe is a lot of work, but it is so worth the effort. By learning how to approach and manage a challenging course load early, I never struggled to keep up with college or law school reading assignments. Study guides shaped my reading and analysis skills, and the integration of topics across subjects shaped my worldview of an ordered universe.

 

Kolbe has given me a foundation to participate in civic life, with understanding of the past and insight for the future. Additionally, I strongly believe that Kolbe’s approach toward other cultures and their beliefs (be it Greek, Roman, Russian, etc.) is excellent preparation for encountering other belief systems with curiosity, respect, and charity while developing and maintaining strong Catholic faith. This has been invaluable to being a young adult in the current climate.

 

 

Are people surprised to learn that you were homeschooled?

Often, yes! It tends to come up after I’ve already developed a rapport with the person; I never hide my background, but I’ve found that letting the topic arise naturally as relationships develop lessens the chance that preconceived inaccurate notions will enter into the dynamic. Once I’ve visited or worked with the person for a little while, learning I was homeschooled is almost always well-received.

 

Congratulations on completing your law degree! What a great accomplishment. Could you tell me about why/when you chose to practice law? What is your goal now that you are finished with your studies?

Thank you! My dad is a lawyer, but I didn’t plan on going into the family business, so to speak—my parents encouraged me to explore wherever my interests took me. I wanted to be a college professor for most of undergrad, but became disenchanted both with the untethered-ness of much current academic thought and the dicey job prospects for tenure-track positions, so I began to consider other options.

 

I very much enjoyed my logic and reasoning class in college and was interested in copyright law from my music background. Those two came together with my desire for more higher education of some sort, so I began to explore law school. The more I looked, the more it seemed to be a good next step.

 

I started law school unsure that it was the right path—I joke that I didn’t know I wanted to go to law school until the end of my second year of it. However, I found in the legal field a combination of big, timeless philosophical ideas with concrete, current applications, and I get to use the critical thinking and writing skills Kolbe and my university developed every day.

Hope delivering the valedictory address at her law school graduation

 

As for goals now, I’m enjoying becoming a part of my law firm and practicing with my colleagues. In the future, I’d like to add in some teaching at the high school, college, or law school level. I also hope to be a wife and mother someday, but, uh, I’ve had a few other things on my plate so far.

 

Your law review comment was published, correct? What was it about and is it available to read?

Yes, it was! For those unfamiliar, most law schools have a co-curricular called law review, which is the flagship academic journal for the school staffed by upper-level law students. If you make it onto law review, you do a variety of editorial tasks and also write a 25+-page paper on a legal topic of your choice. Editors choose three or four of these student papers to publish each year. I chose to write on the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and how he and his compositions have influenced the development of American copyright law. It was great fun to write and I was excited that it was selected for publication in our journal. It’s available to read here.

 

What advice do you have for our current high school students who may be considering law studies? Is there something they can do now to prepare for later?

Even though we’re not to be of the world, we are called to be in it. I think a broad liberal arts education gives a solid foundation for this participation regardless of a specific career path. The legal system touches every part of society from the way we drive our cars to the way the most complex institutions function. The more you understand society and the way people act and interact, the better prepared you’ll be for law studies. This sort of understanding doesn’t come from any particular major or school, but rather from experiencing the world around you. Explore what interests you and where your unique talents lie.

 

Do you have any quotes to live by?

A few. The most significant came from my early high school years at Kolbe: Aristotle’s “The mark of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I also dearly love G.K. Chesterton’s “I strongly object to wrong arguments on the right side. I think I object to them more than to the wrong arguments on the wrong side.” I would expound on both of these, but, well, go read the original sources. They’re a lot smarter than I am.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Would you like to share any parting words of wisdom?

Homeschooling is immensely rewarding, but it can also be immensely challenging. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re in the middle of living it out. That’s why Kolbe is there—to provide, guide, and reassure you of the big picture. The job of parents and students is to trust the curriculum, focus on one day at a time, and believe that it’ll yield great things.

 

Bio:

Kolbe Academy magna cum laude graduate Hope Forsyth earned a BA in communication and media studies with minors in English and Philosophy from the University of Tulsa, where she was a National Merit Scholar. She then graduated first in her class from the University of Tulsa College of Law, where she earned the highest-grade award in twelve classes, served as Executive Editor of the Tulsa Law Review, and worked in the chambers of four federal judges. A published author in legal scholarship, academic analysis, and journalism, Hope has written on topics including Russian influence on American copyright law and the history and application of the word “forum” from its Roman roots to its internet iteration. Hope is a practicing complex litigation attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she represents businesses and individuals in federal and state civil lawsuits.

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