Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled, Part 1
- Friday, August 08, 2008
Those of us within the homeschooling community who claim the status of “graduate” rather than “parent,” have our own unique perspective on this fascinating and fun lifestyle called homeschooling. We claim the title of “homeschool graduate” gladly, and tend to revel in the idiosyncrasies of the way of life we have come to know and love.
There’s no denying that we homeschoolers are an unusual sort of folks—at least by some people’s standards. We just seem to think a bit differently than others. I recall this being vividly illustrated to me one evening several years ago at a meeting of the local chess club of which I was a member at the time. It all started when a public schooled teenager approached Josh, a bright young homeschooled lad, with the seemingly innocent query, “What grade are you in?” It was an unfortunate question. Josh looked startled . . . a little nervous . . . even trapped. (If you’ve ever seen a deer caught in headlights, you have some idea of how he looked.) After a brief moment of silence, during which it was evident he was frantically searching his brain for an appropriate answer, he finally spluttered out, “I don’t know, but I’m ten years old and I’m doing sixth grade math!” I doubt the hapless public schooled questioner really understood the answer, but it made perfect sense to me. We homeschooled students and graduates just don’t fit the traditional mold, and the usual answers to the usual questions just don’t work when you’re approaching life and learning from a different paradigm.
Two of my fellow homeschool graduates who understand our uniqueness in the modern world are cousins Rachel Thomson and Carolyn Currey. They recently co-authored the newly released book Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled, a collection of humorous glimpses into their lives as homeschoolers. An interesting additional twist is that, in addition to being homeschooled, Rachel and Carolyn both have the distinction of coming from unusually large families (which brings to mind another stereotypical question asked of many homeschoolers: “Are they really all yours?!”)
Speaking of questions, I recently had the opportunity to interview Rachel and Carolyn, and you can be sure I used the occasion to ask them some real stumpers.
Jonathan: I know the two of you were homeschooled, but I just have to ask you—didn’t you miss real school? I mean, what about things like sports and all that? What about seeing your friends every day, hanging out with your peers for hours on end, and learning how to fit into society like normal people? In short, what about socialization?!
Carolyn: What about socialization?
As homeschoolers, we weren’t raised in classrooms with twenty-five kids who all matched us in age. We were raised in a home where we had regular contact with babies and grandfathers and young mothers and toddlers and teenagers. I spent a lot of time in ballet classes and also now teach ballet—I started when I was thirteen! When I was fifteen I was asked to direct our church’s Easter production. That included bossing all kinds of people around—from ages eight to eighty! I felt very socialized.
Rachel: Really, the idea that children are best socialized by spending all their time with people their own age is a weird one. There are twelve kids in my family—I’m twenty years older than my youngest sister. That means we all get to practice relating to people of many ages. Of course, we also interact with a host of friends, church people, and work colleagues. We run a chocolate business, so our oldest kids have all spent full days on the sales floor. We get to socialize in fun cross-generational ways that are also great preparation for the rest of life.
Jonathan: Perhaps someday those oft-answered questions will cease to be asked. But until then, I suppose we’ll continue being confronted with unusual questions and opinions about homeschooling. I imagine that each of you, coming from large homeschooling families as you do, have experienced your share of odd questions and comments over the years. What are your most memorable experiences in countering critics or trying to put to rest the odd notions people sometimes have?
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