At an age when most teens would be looking ahead to high school graduation, a homeschooled brother and sister from Hayes, Virginia, graduated from college – and not just any college. Barbara Call (17) and Joseph Call (16), both graduated on Friday, May 20, from the prestigious College of William and Mary with bachelor’s degrees in computer science.
The Call siblings were homeschooled by their mother, Elizabeth, after regular public school failed to work for Barbara. Elizabeth Call, originally from Nicaragua, had already taught her daughter how to read and write, both in English and Spanish, by the time she reached kindergarten age.
When Barbara began public school for kindergarten, she was already far ahead of her classmates. She would come home at the end of the day, complaining that school was boring and she wasn’t learning anything new.
Elizabeth and her husband JB Call decided to pull their daughter out of school, and mom began homeschooling her. Joseph, who is only 13 months younger than Barbara, was close at hand for each and every lesson. He paid attention to what his older sister was learning, and caught on quickly. So their mother decided to teach them together – and they both progressed at the same fast pace.
“If I recall correctly, sixth grade took us only a few months, probably three or four,” Joseph said. “So there were some grades that took a little longer than others but some of them were shorter.”
The Calls never really took summer vacations and they homeschooled year-round. But the family moved a lot, including to Honduras and back. Seeing the Honduran people struggling with poverty and other difficulties prompted the children to work even harder explained their dad, a computer systems administrator.
“Elizabeth has a real hard work ethic herself,” JB said of his wife, a two-time war refugee from Nicaragua. “She didn’t have a lot of educational opportunity. I think if she had, she’d be smarter than any of us. Where she didn’t have that opportunity, she made sure they took every opportunity they could get and she pushed them.”
As a result of their accelerated pace, Joseph and Barbara graduated high school at 11 and 12, around the same ages that most kids are still in middle school. Both of them are bilingual in English and Spanish.
After a two-year stint at Thomas Nelson Community College, Barbara and Joseph Call transferred to William & Mary to earn their bachelor’s degrees in computer science.
Despite being much younger than their peers, neither Joseph nor Barbara considered themselves any different than the rest of the students in their classes.
“Everyone else on campus treated us as if we were their age,” Barbara said. “It’s hard to tell for them that we are 16 and 17 because we don’t act 16 and 17.”
“The only thing we didn’t do as college students is actually live on campus,” she added. Throughout college, the siblings lived at home with their parents in Gloucester Point.
Joseph and Barbara have been fortunate to be able to share their entire learning journey from homeschool through college. Whether comparing notes or working together on a project, navigating through the challenges of virtual learning during COVID, or taking the same on-campus classes, the brother and sister have always supported each other.
The Call siblings already have much of their future planned out.
Barbara will continue at William & Mary to work on her Master’s of Business Analytics degree. When she graduates, she hopes to get a job in government management and “make her way up the corporate ladder.”
Joseph will continue studying computer science in William & Mary’s master’s program before hopefully entering either the data engineering or software engineering fields.
Both of them want to stay in the Virginia area, though Barbara does have a wish to backpack around Europe some day.
This summer, the siblings are staying true to form and keeping busy with jobs, internships, and another class or two.
“I like challenging myself,” Joseph said. “I get bored easily when I don’t have something to do, so I like being able to work on something, whether that be a project or one of my hobbies.”
In his spare time, Joseph enjoys playing music and working out. Barbara enjoys running, reading, and painting.