“You’re the most normal homeschooler I’ve ever met!”
The sentence, “you’re the most normal homeschooler I’ve ever met,” is one I have heard far too often in my short 24 years on this earth. This statement is always said with good intentions, but does it really come across as a compliment?
My mother had four children of which I was the last one. My siblings and I were all homeschooled. When I was little all my friends were in public school, pre-COVID, and they would be so jealous when I told them I was homeschooled.
“Omg, you get to do school in your pajamas?”
“I’d love to do school in my bed!”
“Do you get to start and stop whenever you want?”
“I wish I was homeschooled.”
And, of course, “What? Really? I never would have guessed! All the other people I know that are homeschooled are so weird…”
It wasn’t until I started public high school during my sophomore year that I heard anything else. Finally, I heard kids say that they needed the structure of going to school because they knew that they would slack off otherwise. Another experience I had was with other kids that had been homeschooled for a brief period before returning to public school. Their experiences varied.
My homeschooling was brought about by two things. First, my parents wanted their children to be protected from the bullying that can happen in public schools. My mother knew how cruel kids can be in middle school and she wanted her kids to avoid having that experience. Second, my parents were very religious and wanted to have more control over what information we were exposed to.
Bible was a mandatory class when I was growing up filled with being tested on Bible stories and graded on our ability to memorize and recite Bible verses. I am very familiar with the Bible and distinctly remember being told around 10 years old that I would be “on my way to Hell” if I strayed from God’s commandments. Via pre-recorded video class, of course. My DVD teacher couldn’t see the look of bewilderment I had from her blunt statement. Perhaps we were looking at the Old Testament.
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized it was not “normal” for your science, health, and history books to be in “Christian perspective.” It was what I was brought up in, so it was normal to me.
From what I have gathered, although I was homeschooled, what allowed me to infiltrate the “normies” effortlessly was my natural charisma and sociability. Despite being home and isolated from the outside world most of the time, my mom put me in dance classes when I was little, and I would usually accompany her when she worked at the local skating rink as a manager. I was a kid—I liked having friends! I made them everywhere I went. I had no fear (up until adolescence when we moved states) approaching another child close to my age, or older, and asking if they wanted to play while we were both at a McDonald’s playscape. It was normal for me to have a fun time with a temporary pal.
Even when I attended a volleyball camp located at the campus my Christian homeschool program was based, I noticed other homeschooled kids were incredibly social. I quickly fit in with the miscellaneous misfits there who didn’t abide by a particular clique and learned more than I ever had before about Transformers from the most extroverted gal in our group. Okay, maybe we were a bit of a strange bunch.
I never understood what it was about me that prompted such praise from my public-school friends. What “homeschooled” behavior was I lacking that shocked them? Do people expect homeschoolers to be socially inept shut-ins incapable of making intelligent conversation? That is obviously an exaggeration, but what conclusion is a person supposed to come to? One TikTok search down the homeschooled tag, fueled by morbid curiosity, gave me some insight as to why some folks act a bit strange around homeschoolers. I knew that the parents of homeschoolers often have quirks, but some of those parents are a little too “quirky.” The overlap between anti-vaxxers and extreme beliefs in certain homeschool parents is deeply uncomfortable. That deserves a deep dive of its own.
All right, ADHD brain is back on track.
Only as an adult have I started to adopt a complex surrounding this issue because, let me be clear, being homeschooled is not sunshine and rainbows like I used to hear others telling me. I was an awful homeschool student. I slacked off, slept through my DVD classes, and cheated my way through 9th grade because I knew where my answer key booklet was. It was a wonder that I excelled academically once I entered public school or graduated college with honors.
However, people are much more familiar with the concept of homeschooling after the pandemic’s infamous lockdown. Everyone got to learn that being homeschooled is, in fact, not as fun as they may have previously thought. I had my deeply repressed chuckle while understanding that most of the virtual programs in place were works in progress as students had to continue their education. Every state has its issues with education, and I am deeply sorry that some kids will have missed vital parts of their schooling because of the state of the world. It’s not easy being homeschooled when the correct environment and support systems are not in place.
If being homeschooled automatically places a sign on your back that says, “warning: weirdo walking!” then I suppose more people will be empathetic to this experience after 2020.
Regardless of your education experience, being gifted socially can be learned or it can be instinctual. Don’t be shocked when you learn your extroverted pal was homeschooled. It’s a feature, not a bug.