April 23, 2012

Weirdo

Maybe you can relate, but one of my favorite things is finding a blog post or article that says what I want to say, better than I could say it. So I about jumped out of my seat when I read this article,

Why are homeschooled kids so annoying?

I did start fist-pumping and going, “Yes! Yes! Exactly!”

But quietly, because SoldierMan was trying to sleep.

First of all, read the article. I’m not going to rehash it for you here, and it’s very short.

No, really, go read it.

Finished? Okay then.

It’s been challenging for me to explain to my peers why I intend to at least partially homeschool our future children. Not because I don’t have reasons. It’s because when I start listing my reasons, people look at me like I’m speaking Chinese.

It’s exactly true that the #1 objection people have to homeschooling is almost never education. Very few people can still question the level of education homeschoolers receive anymore in a general sense, and that’s thanks to the large strides homeschooling has made both in practice and in PR in the last couple of decades.

No, their main objection – almost 100% of the time – is this really nebulous and dangerous word, “socialization." People worry that your kids won’t be “socialized” properly. And of course, they aren’t worried your child won’t know how to use utensils in public or will run through the mall pushing down old people.

No, when you get to the heart of the issue, whether they realize it or not,
people are afraid that their homeschooled kids won’t want to be like all the other kids.

What we call “socialization” is really group-think indoctrination. We’re all supposed to like the same music, the same movies, the same clothes. And then when someone doesn’t, we shame them into conforming or leaving. Some people call it bullying. Others call it peer pressure.

Really it’s just the natural product of grouping children together in a setting outside the home for 8+ hours a day from the age of 4 (or even younger) – eventually the stronger-willed ones become the social arbiters of their sphere of influence and decide that the “cool” kids (in my day) all like Britney Spears and Abercrombie and if you didn’t, there was something really wrong with you.

I was homeschooled through 8th grade. In 9th grade, I went to a small traditional school. My parents wanted to make sure I had an official high school transcript when I applied for colleges, and that was the best option for that at the time (thankfully, things have changed since then). And of course, there was a very clearly-defined pecking order, at least for the girls. There was the Queen Bee, there were the worker bees, and there were a few stragglers they spent hours a day either ignoring or making fun of.

This environment was entirely new to me. I wasn’t used to teenagers that I didn’t go to church with or wasn’t related to, who didn’t accept you as just you were. I wasn’t used to someone loudly pointing out that I wore something they didn’t like, had weird hair, or – God forbid – didn’t hang on his or her every word for approval.

Thankfully, because I was homeschooled, I really didn’t care that So-and-so didn’t approve of my clothes, or my favorite TV shows, or that I didn’t have my learner’s permit yet, or that I (felt like) the only 15-year-old not already on a Slimfast diet for no good reason whatsoever.

My identity wasn’t defined by what other people thought of me.

Then high school goes on and into college. And into adulthood. And the challenge to stay “weird” is still there. Less difficult in a sense, because as an adult, I’m more comfortable with the fact that there are still people who never got out of group-think mode and can’t have a relationship with you if you don’t conform. More difficult (for one example) as an Army wife, where so much of our lives is standardized and uniform. It’s a struggle to maintain that individuality in a world where relationships are often based on what your husband does for a living. But, since I was able to grow up “weird,” it helps me stay less concerned with making other people try and understand why I want to do the things I do and more comfortable in my own skin.

Let’s go back to the Queen Bee in high school. Not long after I started there, this girl and her minions were (in my 15-year-old mind) singling me out, trying to verbally humiliate me in and out of class. It was obvious this was because I stuck out. Yeah, I was the Hermione of the group. I answered all the questions in class. I read ahead. I didn’t follow her around and ask her opinion about anything and everything. I even had the huge head of frizzy hair. In a world of sleek blonde athletes, I was the weirdo. But instead of letting this girl shame me into changing my behavior – and by extension my personality – I stood up for myself. I stood my ground and talked back. A few times. And then, she stopped.

If I had invested my emotional well-being and personal identity in group-think, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. And I’m sorry, but I really do believe part of the bullying problem we see today isn’t that bullying is this brand-new 21st-century epidemic that nobody knows how to handle. I believe it’s the product of three and four generations of Americans growing up in the pressure of the group-think mentality that says that it’s so terribly important to fit in, to be part of the group, whatever group that may be. Then, if someone points out and ridicules your uniqueness, it’s a tragedy, not an opportunity to build strength.

I’m glad my parents wanted better for me than to be “socialized.” They wanted me to be educated, self-confident, curious, capable of handling adult conversation at a young age, able to look beyond people of our own age and life experience for emotional validation. Because we certainly were socialized in the true sense of the term. We were at church whenever the doors were open. We had a huge extended family with dozens of cousins that spent much of our free time together. We had fellow homeschoolers with whom we went to the movies, the skating rink, the science museum, the Braums dairy, and Harn Homestead. My parents took us to every precinct meeting, county convention, work and social activity they engaged in. They were the “weird” parents that actually enjoyed being parents.

I could go on and on, but I’ll just finish with quoting the above article that inspired this post:

And that’s why homeschooled kids are so annoying. 
Because no one tells them that the way God made them isn’t cool enough.

15 comments:

  1. Amen! Also, me too on the Harn Homestead and Braum's field trips! Oh, the memories..

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  2. Good for you! Great post with a better perspective on this issue. I was the "weird girl" as a public-schooler: asking for homework over the summer and wearing weird clothes (and not driving until I was 19). I totally get the dangers of pushing everyone to be alike. I'd never associated that issue with public school vs. homeschooling.

    I think, like anything, it's all in how the parents handle it. Most will be successful, as we've seen from the numbers. There are, on occasion, students that should/could benefit from a public school setting or parents that don't homeschool in an effective way (i.e. my siblings who NEVER left the house and really did need to meet people - anyone that wasn't mom and dad. They lacked serious self-confidence and independence because they were so isolated.)

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  3. As someone who grew up "socialized" and in public schooling and wore all the Abercrombie sweatshirts I could find and listened to all the Brittany Spears songs I could think of and learned to fit in and conform and not be an "annoying weirdo", I have one thing to say about this article and your post. . .ENLIGHTENING. Let me just tell you, Jaci, that I have been one of those people who looked at people that were homeschooled(outside of our family, of course)and thought, yep, that are a little odd. I wondered if they were odd and lacked socialization skills because they didn't get it growing up. That maybe the fact that they were homeschooled was the problem. And then I've known people like yourself who ARE different, but not in an "annoying weirdo" sort-of way. More in a overly confident, independent, "who-cares-what-others-think-of-me" way. I've always admired that about you. Now, as I have kids of my own, I've thought long and hard about how I feel about homeschooling. My opinions of it have changed a lot. Because when I step back and think about what I want for my kids, it's so much different than what I thought I would want for them. More than wanting them to "fit in" and not be the object of someone's bullying, I WANT them to be different. I don't want them to conform to the world's standards. Because let's face it, the world's standards suck and don't work and I can honestly say that I want them to be WEIRD. I want them to think outside the box and find out what their passions and talents are without the peer pressure of what talents and passions are "trendy" right now. I want them to write because they love it and not because it's "cool". I want them to go out for sports because they are proud of themselves and their abilities and not because it puts them in the "in crowd". I'm not sure that we will decide to go the homeschool route. But one thing I have decided is to no longer judge people's personalities based on the fact that they were homeschooled. I have you to thank immensely for opening my eyes to this subject. Love ya!

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  4. I'm considering homeschooling more and more these days, and honestly, I'm a little frightened to tell people for this very reason - socialization. And I'll be the first to say that that is my main concern. I know it's not a real concern, but it's stuck in my head as one. It's so hard when you have a child and you just want the best for them in all aspects. You want to make sure you're making the right decisions and helping them grow into functional adults.

    I'll say that I went through public school and survived. I was the weird one, and yes, that probably affected me more than I realize.

    I need to give homeschooling a close look. It scares me, but it's more a fear of the unknown. Lucky for me I have a good four-five years before I have to even really worry about it!

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  5. I LOVE It!! We homeschool, we have for 4 yrs, my oldest is 3rd grade this year. And one of the biggest criticisms, like you said is, "what about socialization??" To which I usually respond with a "praise God my kids will be spared from it!!" Because I so want my children to be different, and not just cookie cutter brats like every other kid their age! Great post, I am going to share it with some of my homeschooling buddies :o) and I love your images...HILARIOUS!!

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  6. Absolutely loved this post! Great points about indoctrination and bullying. I was homeschooled 4th-8th grades. When I got into high school, I really struggled to fit in. Unlike you, I hadn't embraced my weirdness just yet. It was a rough four years. Thankfully my confidence blossomed during the college years and I've been able to fully appreciate my uniquely weird quirks. :)

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  7. My oldest is in 3rd grade and has only been homeschooled. Last week we had a conversation in which I used the word "stereotype" in trying to explain the meaning I gave the example that some people believe homeschoolers just sit in a room alone all day doing school work, never go anywhere fun, and have no friends. He looked at me incredulously. And then he laughed. Because we go to church, gymnastics, and Cub Scouts every week. Have play dates with friends, play with the neighbor kids, and right now play Little League baseball on a local team. These days I wish we were a little less social!

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  8. Awesome article!!! We're just about to start homeschooling and I'm saving this article for responding to this complaint. I was homeschooled for just 3 years of high school but I thrived with the removal of peer pressure. I hope that my kids benefit from it too.

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  9. Great post! This is a great way to look at it. I never really considered the bullying and group think aspect of public school. As long as a child has loving, supportive parents who encourage who they are, I think the "weird" kids will do fine. My husband hates a lot of things about public school and I think he would love it if we could homeschool, but that's not realistic since I love my job too much (since homeschooling is an obvious commitment). Despite being the smart, weird girl, my public school experience was great with my supportive family and friends.

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  10. This former homeschooling mom (the pups are almost fully grown!) has seen a great Facebook pic lately that states, "Forced association is NOT socialization." When people asked about the s-word, I told them to look it up. What they thought was socialization was NOT. As to your blog post? -fistpump!-

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  11. Yea, homeschool! We plan to homeschool our children. Have you read "When you rise up"? I am reading it now and highly recommend it.

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  12. ha AWESOME!I actually quit my mommy group because of the ridiculous guilt these women would put on me to "socialize" my children. Putting your child into mom's day out starting at the age of 2, then pre-k then another 12 years of school, ummm no thanks, I had my children to raise them myself and not feel guilt over actually enjoying to parent! Right on, we plan to homeschool starting next year after our move :)

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  13. Thank you for sharing your opinion! It is very encouraging to read positive things about homeschooling from someone who was home-schooled. We are thinking about homeschooling our future kids, but have been concerned about "socializing." Thank you for pointing out so many ways for kids to make friends and to have company of other people, while staying themselves.

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  14. I've thought much about homeschooling because of the sad moral state of society at large...worrying about my kids attending high school in such an environment as then one I did. It wasn't all bad, but I know it's only getting worse. Anyway, I guess I'm always worried that I wouldn't be able to homeschool, that I wouldn't be good at it and then my kids wouldn't be up to par. Not because I don't think I'm smart enough, but it just seems like a big responsibility. And I have never felt like a good teacher. Perhaps I need to look into it a little more. I honestly don't have the first clue about how it works. Thanks for the post. I'm very very very behind on the blog world. But I'm glad I kept scrolling down :)

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  15. Oh goodness. Love love love. I was homeschooled nearly my entire school age years, and hope to do the same for Millie!

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