“Homeschool”

When I was a precious tyke of five, or so my mother tells me, I was ready and eager to head off and seek my fortune in the public schooling system. Trouble was, my birthday came particularly late in the year – too late, apparently, for the local schools to accept me until the following year. I wasn’t interested in waiting, and neither was Mom, so she decided “to instruct [me] in an educational program outside of established schools, [specifically] in the home”. In other words, she homeschooled me.

            Since that pivotal day, The People have wanted to know: Did I go to school in my pajamas?

            (Could someone please explain this obsession with getting away with life in one’s pajamas? This is one of many things I’ve never understood about the world.)

            Other FAQs included something along the lines of:

“So… what grade are you in?”

“How do you make friends?”

“Is it weird having your mom as a teacher?”

“Do you wish that you could go to regular school?”

            I’ll start out by putting an end to your slow death by curiosity, informing you that yes, I did sometimes tackle my lessons while wearing pajamas. And I gotta tell ya, it really wasn’t all that. Algebra is algebra, no matter your ensemble. And all else being equal, I’ll usually prefer to be dressed.

            As for the grading system, we barely bothered with it. My classmates (a.k.a. sisters) and I learned new material whenever we’d gotten the knack of the old stuff. The incorporated workbooks, computer programs, and videos might have been aimed at any grade, from that comparable to most other children our respective ages, to high school or college-level students. To simplify life in the world outside, I would generally claim whatever grade matched my age, but it was basically a worthless answer to a silly question.

            …Not as silly a question as the one about making friends, of course. Was I seriously getting asked how I met people by people who had obviously managed to meet me?? I was homeschooled, not a prisoner in solitary confinement. I left the house all the time for lessons of all sorts – dance, gymnastics, horseback riding, ice skating, piano, theater. I joined an orchestra with MYA (acronym, “Midwest Young Artists”). I took tons of park district classes for art, acting, some “fit kids” thing where they ran you up a hill. I went to church. I chatted up kids in the grocery store parking lot. (Seriously, I ended up getting invited to two of that girl’s birthday parties.) Strange but true: You don’t actually have to lock up a child in a classroom full of children their age for three seasons out of four to gain them friends. Socialization doesn’t have to sound like a nightmare.

            Talking of nightmares, you know those kids who want to die of shame after having accidentally called their teacher “Mommy”? Never worried me. Mommy was my teacher, and I forgave her for it. She listened patiently as I sounded out a story, syllable by syllable, and she made mathematical word problems comprehensible. She recorded herself reading my piano instructor’s notes for me when I couldn’t be bothered to decipher cursive writing, ending every directive with the pleasant command, “Turn off the tape, and do that.” She encouraged reading and writing and drawing and viewing edutainment like “Kratt’s Creatures”, “Bill Nye the Science Guy”, and my favorite forever, “The Magic School Bus”.

            Ah, school buses… The real reason that I ever wanted to go to public school in the first place, I’m told, and therefore one of the very few features of public school that ever caused me to feel that I was possibly missing out. School bus rides, field trips to outer space and under the sea and inside a classmate, food fights… my lack in these areas was my only regret. (And having subsequently ridden in a school bus and decided that throwing food everywhere is wasteful and gross, my list of unrealized dreams shortens.)

            I liked being homeschooled; probably would have enjoyed being unschooled, too. (More on unschooling here and also here, for the curious.) And I’m proud to represent (homeschoolers unite!) as a living refutation of all those bizarre stereotypes that would have you believe that homeschoolers are a special brand of uneducated freak.

            …Not denying that I’m a freak, mind you. But I’m thinking that’s mostly genetic. Thanks for everything, Mom.

19 thoughts on ““Homeschool”

    • Thanks very much. (: Sometimes I wonder whether some concerns regarding homeschooling are the product of too little imagination, or of the sort that might lend itself well to dramatic fiction writing!

  1. “Strange but true: You don’t actually have to lock up a child in a classroom full of children their age for three seasons out of four to gain them friends. Socialization doesn’t have to sound like a nightmare.”

    Beautifully-said! I hope you don’t mind if I quote you when I get the “unfortunate socialization question” in everyday life ツ after unschooling my boys for 12 years, I’m still surprised that it’s the one question almost every non-homeschooling person asks…

    I’m looking forward to reading more by you!!

    • Oh, thank you — be my guest! I’m happy to have my two cents on the positive side of the homeschooling/unschooling conversation tossed around.
      Every choice leads to a new set of opportunities; if you choose to have your kids schooled outside the classroom, they’ll find friends outside the classroom! — yes, even among the public school crowd, if you can catch them during their dwindling downtime. (:

  2. I’ve been asked that question 20000 x per child. ‘Who do they play with?’ (I have 5 kids; they never played with each other!)

    The question that gets me the most is, ‘What grade are you in?’. We’ve always had to count up from 6 to get the appropriate grade.

    This article was well written! I’m going to read it out loud to my baby, 15 years old. We will both have a hoot!

    Blessings!!

  3. THIS made me LOL:
    “To simplify life in the world outside, I would generally claim whatever grade matched my age, but it was basically a worthless answer to a silly question.”

    Thoroughly enjoyed the rest too 🙂

    Thank-you!
    Andrea

  4. I must say, you’ve hit it the head on the nail in with a hammer!!!

    I was homeschooled too. And it was the bomb! I am not sure that I would’ve had so much time to develop my early-years writing talents if I hadn’t been homeschooled. Seriously, if your homeschool experience was anything like mine, you’d know…I was bored a lot.

    Socialization issue…SPOT ON!!!!! “You don’t have to lock up a kid in solitary confinement!” ROck on!!! And what’s the big deal with socialization anyway? So what did I miss out on…feeling bad about how I didn’t measure up, and learning how to swear? Ha.

    And, for the record, “What grade are you in,” was one of the hardest questions to answer. I just started taking my age and subtracting five…that seemed to work out well.

    • Fellow homeschooler handshake! (I don’t actually know that there is one, but it’s okay — just wave your hand around and pretend you know what’s going on.)

      I would think that homeschooling could go some way toward teaching one how to avoid boredom. (Writing, for instance — hey, hey!) Public schooling seems to have a way of training kids to not be able to think for themselves, just follow whatever narrow parameters they’re given (or be so unmotivated that they won’t even bother to do *that* much; very sad, either way). That, and learning how to swear, right? I’d prefer my vocabularly to be a different, cleaner sort of colorful, thanks so much. (;

      • A cleaner sort of colorful…I like that.

        And by bored a lot, I mean that. You learn how to handle boredom and even enjoy it by distracting yourself. By writing, drawing, or inventing conscripts or cultures, imagining worlds, etcetera and so forth and all that…

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