Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Now that I’m a senior, I’ve discovered an urge to cringe whenever an unsuspecting peer asks me, “Where do you go to school?” When I was younger, replying “I’m homeschooled” brought cries of jealousy from my friends, who envied my freedom to finish my schoolwork by noon and go on vacation in the middle of September. Now, that same response results in a startled “Oh!” or worse, the twitch of eyebrows longing to jump in skepticism.
“Do you . . . like it?” That inevitably comes next; I can’t help feeling that other teens expect me to say no. In eighth grade, I chose to stay home for high school, largely out of reluctance to leave a life and homeschooled friends I loved when I didn’t have to. This my peers would understand, but what they do not grasp is how I can “stand it”—in other words, why I love homeschooling in the first place. It is hard, I think, for traditionally schooled people to grasp how the freedom of homeschooling has allowed my life and learning to interact with such rewarding results.
In elementary school, this was manifested in hundreds of small ways, but the one that I remember most is our off-season road trips. My mom always had us highlight our route in tattered atlases and write short reports about each state we drove through. At gas stops, she would present my younger brother and me with the receipt and a pen, challenging us to calculate the miles per gallon. I would find the answer first—barely.
We hit all the traditional tourist destinations, of course—Disney, Sea World, the Statue of Liberty. And we’ve always been fond of obscure museums and rural state parks, where hours of fun can be had fishing for bluegill in duckweed-choked ponds.
At home, raising tadpoles retrieved from the woods and tracking their metamorphosis was a yearly tradition, although hardly any of them lived to become full-fledged frogs. Raising chickens became a similar and more successful endeavor. In the beginning, my parents put me in charge of certain responsibilities, such as turning eggs in the incubator and setting up the brooder. Later, I applied my research experience to county science fair projects and won several prizes.
But these are all years-old examples. Was my decision to spend high school at home truly just a result of my reluctance to leave my friends? At first, yes. But I have found more benefits as the years have come and gone. Freedom still plays a part: I have many more hours in which to write, edit, and seek publication for my novels. After penning several hundred pages of prose, I no longer find school essays a headache like many of my peers do. My life and my learning are still intertwined, only I now appreciate it more. On a family road trip when we detoured to the Iowa Prairie Museum, I was the last one out the door because I spent so much time looking at the exhibits.
Do I wish I had attended “real school”? Not really. Contrary to popular belief, I have not spent my life in a closet reading nothing but the Bible. In fact, I have been further, seen more, and done more than most of my friends in “real school” ever have. Better yet, I have learned that school and life are not separate but rather complement each other, and their combination is the most fulfilling growing-up experience I could have had.
“Where do you go to school?” At home, sometimes, but more often in the whole wide world. And yes, I love every moment of it.
Lyla Lawless, a freshman in the honors college at the University of Maryland, College Park, is an avid reader and writer. She is the eldest of three children, was homeschooled from 1st through 12th grade, and considers that one of the best things that ever happened to her.
Publication date: July 25, 2012