Brooke A. Rogers

Posted on April 7, 2014

Editor's Commentary

Secret lives of home-schoolers

There are a few things in life home-schoolers can bet on. First, they will think black corduroy pants are an acceptable fashion choice for at least two years in elementary school. Second, they will forever be silently correcting other people's grammar, and, finally, they will be asked the same set of questions about homeschooling by every new acquaintance for the rest of their lives.

I was homeschooled until college. I never attended junior high or high school, and almost every person I meet is curious about what that experience has been like.

Somehow, everyone comes up with the same six or so questions.

So, these are one former homeschooler's answers to the FAQs of homeschooling:

1. Did you get to do whatever you wanted as schoolwork?

No. Contrary to what most people think, most homeschoolers' days are structured. There are usually time periods for what needs to be done, and most homeschooling families I knew followed their schedules religiously. I had time cut out for math, science, history and language just like most students. As I became older, I had more freedom to choose what I wanted to learn, but I still answered to my parents. 

2. Are you really smart because you were homeschooled?

Yes. Absolutely. I have a higher IQ than Marilyn Von Savant and Sherlock Holmes combined. I'm building an army of artificially intelligent robots in my basement. I'm currently planning world domination, and if I ever get my hands on uranium, all bets are off.
No, in all seriousness, please stop asking homeschoolers this question. We're all out of sarcastic responses, and we don't know how to answer it seriously.

3. Do you have friends/did you have friends growing up?

The first few times I was asked this, I tried to answer seriously, explaining being homeschooled didn't mean isolation, and I had plenty of opportunities to meet people my own age; however, after a few dozen times repeating this, I realized I was wasting my time and began to answer in one of three ways:

A. "Yes, and most of them were real."
B. "Are we counting the ones you can see, too?"
C. "No, I'm not allowed outdoors since the 'incident,' I'm afraid."

Any of these responses would abruptly end the conversation.

4. Did you have a prom/did your brother take you to prom?

Please know, if you have ever asked me this question, you are one of many who have contributed to my dismal view of society.

In case you're still curious: No, we did not have prom. So, no, my brother did not take me.

5. Did being homeschooled impair your social skills?

This question is usually asked a little more tactfully by parents who are considering homeschooling but are afraid of screwing their kids up. Homeschoolers are often viewed in society as socially inept weirdoes. Spoilers: We are socially inept weirdoes.

The inescapable truth is being in a house with the same three or four people every day for your entire childhood is bound to affect the way you interact with people your own age; it’s unavoidable. I think the way to socialize homeschooled kids is in large groups, like puppies. Get them around kids who have different personalities and backgrounds. It’ll improve their ability to appreciate diversity and teach them bite inhibition.

6. Did you like being homeschooled?

I've been asked this more than any other question, and the truth is my experience with homeschooling was mixed.

Some years I truly hated it. I was far more extroverted as a kid, and some days homeschooling was torturous. I often felt as if I were missing some big experience by not attending public school. I never cheered a high school football team. I attended Central/East games wearing a purple shirt and telling people I was "Switzerland."  I don't have a yearbook or a graduating class. I never walked across a stage to receive my diploma. I will never have a high school reunion. When my friends used to talk about annoying teachers or exchanged class schedules or talked about how nervous they were for an upcoming Spanish exam, I was the weird "alternative" kid who had no idea how to relate. It was weird and awkward growing up not being anything like my peers.

Still, what homeschooling gave me exceeded what it deprived me. I'm not cookie cutter in any way. I was offered a view of the world that was not shot through the lens of the public school system, and to me that was worth giving up the sentimentality of school dances and photos in a yearbook.

I became more introverted in my high school years and grew to appreciate time alone and the freedom to explore the subjects I was interested in on my own. I wouldn't trade the hours given to me to expand my love of writing or the sporadic conversations about Marxism that my dad and I would have in the car on the way to dance class for days spent in classrooms with high school kids who I may or may not (most likely not) have been able to tolerate.

My education contributed to who I am and who I will be. I may have outgrown my black corduroys (which is really, very fortunate), but I'll always be undeniably and irrevocably homeschooled.

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