The Home School Perception

I was recently reading through a thread of comments on a post online about the option of home schooling your children.  A vast majority of the comments included some variation of, "I have never met a home schooled kid who wasn't odd."  I read these comments over a week ago, and they still bother me a little, so I felt a response was valid.

I have a very mixed experience in my K-12 education.  I did not attend kindergarten at all, but was instead traveling through the United States in a motor home with my parents and sister, getting far more life experience than a classroom could offer.  During this time, I did learn the basics of reading and all of that, but I also learned about people, that people are not all the same, and that I am not the same.  And that it is okay.

I home schooled grade one.  My parents taught me at home, but I took exams at a local elementary school at the end of the year.  People have a false idea that home schooled kids run wild and free and are untested and uneducated.  This is not the case.

Grades two through five, I attended a private school.  My mom worked at the school part time to offset the cost of the tuition that my parents could not afford.  I was a shy child at the start of this time, not likely due to my year of home schooling but more that it was just my nature as a young child.  Please note, despite being shy I did not allow myself to be pushed around.  Previous blog posts reference my life lessons on teaching others how to treat you, which I learned during these years of my life.

One of the things I disliked about school was having to wait for everyone else.  Sitting quietly while the slow pokes figured out how to add two numbers together bored me.  I had an awful fifth grade teacher who I felt both belittled me as a student and didn't help me learn much of anything, and I begged my parents to allow me to home school again.  So, the following year I started home schooling again, and did that from grades six through nine.

During these years, I was fortunate to escape the drama of junior high school.  I studied and learned and outside of the house, I was actively social with neighborhood friends, clubs, and church groups.  I played outdoor hockey in our neighborhood and was active and not at all starved for socialization.  I was also excelling in my studies.  Each year, we were vigorously tested by the school board to ensure we were keeping pace with the rest of the students who attended school.  We were given grades that allowed us to see where we were comparatively.  For example, in the eighth grade, I was reading at a college level.  I understood humanities at the eleventh and twelfth grade levels.  And I was keeping pace appropriately in math and science.

By the end of ninth grade, I was starting to see the challenge of continuing with math and science at home.  I had a tutor come in to assist, but some things are easier done in a hands-on manner.  I saw the writing on the wall, and requested of my parents that I be allowed to attend public school for high school (grades ten through twelve in Canada).

Was I an odd kid, arriving to public school for my first day in the tenth grade?  Perhaps.  I remember being quite shocked at my first experience of public school.  For me, nerdy as it is, school had been a place to learn.  I looked around me during my first days of public school and felt like no one else had learning as a first priority.

Immediately, I got involved with the leadership committee, which was that school's small version of a Student's Union.  I was actively involved in arranging and organizing school events.  Aside from this, I was also an honor's student.  Outside of school, I worked a part-time job in excess of twenty hours per week.  If this is odd, then perhaps we need more oddity in our lives.

Throughout my three years of high school, I was not popular, but I was also completely untroubled by that.  I made what I would now call very wise and thoughtful choices about my course load.  For electives I took things like civil and criminal law and economics and ensured I found myself in situations where I learned life skills.  Before graduating, I knew how to do my taxes, create a budget, and I understood interest both in terms of debt and investments.  I knew how to conduct myself in interviews, create a resume and negotiate my wages.  This was not part of the standard curriculum at my public high school, but I sought out teachers and mentors who would give me the time to help me learn these things.  This self-motivated exercise and interest in my development was a direct result of my years being home schooled, where I learned to take initiative and think thoughtfully about my future.

Am I odd as an adult?  Yes.  But I am also a completely upstanding and involved member of society.  I do not drink alcohol.  I have never once been in detention or on corrective action at work.  I have never failed to pay a bill, and my credit score is over 800 (despite only having a SSN for 9 years).  I am an active volunteer within my community.  I have a graduate level degree and have published two books of poetry.  I have been a homeowner since the age of 25 and aside from some days where my lawn is overgrown, I am a good neighbor.  I am hardly some weirdo hiding out in a cave.

But people imply (as they did in these comments I read) that home schooled kids grow up to be just that: weirdos.  But if my own example is not enough, I point to my siblings and my brother-in-law.  My siblings were all home schooled.  My sisters are both educated and successful, both involved in different ways in their communities.  My brother owns his own successful business and thereby employs a few lucky Americans blessed enough to work for him.  He owns his own home and "takes care" of my mom (who doesn't need it, but he cares anyway!).  My brother-in-law, also home schooled, has a clinical doctorate in physical therapy and had his own clinic before the age of 30.  He also employs a handful of people and is renowned throughout the nation as being one of the most educated and skilled people in his field.

I am surprised that people don't want their kids to grow up as "weird" and as "odd" as we all did.

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