One of my favorite moments in life…okay, maybe this is kind of mean…
…But, one of my favorite moments in life is when I am talking with someone and they begin to tell me all about how weird homeschoolers are.
Perhaps they have a coworker who’s kid is being homeschooled or they have a cousin who is homeschooling (they usually don’t have a close relationship with the homeschooling family). Here they are going on and on about how they just feel so bad for the kid, but what can you expect when they aren’t socialized properly?
I usually let them talk for a little while, judging the exact moment when they have shared enough to demonstrate their bias (and sometimes ignorance) but not so long that they have really embarrassed themselves.
I then tell them that I was homeschooled for my entire childhood.
They stop. They look. They say, “Really? But you seem so normal.”
Sometimes this is the beginning of a meaningful conversation about what types of socialization kids really need and the risks and benefits of homeschooling and traditional schooling. Most of the time, however, the person just assumes I am an exception to the homeschoolers-are-weirdos rule and the conversation moves on.
When I was growing up, I used to feel really proud when someone would give me their “but you seem so normal” line. Taking it is a compliment that I possessed qualities they weren’t expecting and that they perceived as rare. Now, I don’t take it as a compliment. I take it for what it is: their inability to see past the surface. Because believe you me, my experience as a homeschooler has made me ANYTHING BUT normal.
My life has been, and continues to be, different from the norm; the very definition of exceptional.
My family’s brand of unschooling was such that I had participated in almost no structured education, yet I got great grades when I started college at 16. I will be 35 years old this month and have had the same partner for 17 years (we celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary in September). With a bachelor’s degree in classical singing, I have made a lucrative career as a professional technology management consultant. I have a master’s degree. I became a homeowner at the age of 23. My husband and I chose to adopt instead of having biological children. I am able to support my family financially while only working 20 hours a week.
These out of the norm experiences and choices are not random. They are the result of out of the box thinking. It is so much easier for homeschoolers (particularly unschoolers) to think outside the box because, more likely than not, they were never in it to begin with.
If people want to focus on the surface things that are different about homeschoolers, there is plenty to focus on. The poorly fitting sweatpants, bad haircuts, and generally “uncool” behavior may be real for some homeschooled kids because they are too busy living their lives to care what other people think of them.
But the “weirdness” goes much deeper. A child that is given the opportunity to live for themselves from an early age will become and adult who knows who they are and will make the world their own.
So, if you are worried that people will think you or your kid are weird for homeschooling; my response is “sorry, they will”.
The real question is, why are we so afraid of being different?