Monday, March 12, 2012

Common Misconceptions About Homeschoolers

So, I was homeschooled. Might as well get that out there. But I'm not one of those weird people that you see in movies and on TV who can't hold a conversation without going "nurrrr evolution is a lie" or "bleeeeeee calculus!!!!" I'm pretty normal. Most homeschoolers are. And yet people still assume some pretty weird shit about you when they find out you didn't go to school like a regular person. Shit like...

We Have No Social Skills
Well this one is kind of true, but who does have social skills, really? Still, people think that we don't have social skills because we were homeschooled, which is clear not true. I've met lots of people who I know damn well went to school but still walk up to me and start talking about their wife's vagina completely out of the blue (okay, I only know four people who do that). And yet if there's a homeschooled character in a movie nine times out of ten they're going to be awkward and have a hard time interacting with other people, and if you tell people you're homeschooled they say stuff like "wow, that must've been hard not having any friends"

So first off, because it is kind of hard to make friends if you're homeschooled or the mother (or stay at home dad) of a homeschooled child, there are support networks in most large outcroppings of people. From the age of seven (when my parents decided to start homeschooling me) to seventeen (when I fucked off to New Brunswick and became a redneck), I went to some incarnation of the weekly get together for homeschooled kids at the local rec centre. So there weren't six hundred kids there. There were probably thirty at the very most but I knew and got along with almost all of them (except for that one kid because fuck him). How many people did you really know and get along with in school? Probably about thirty. And because there was such a small group of people, if you went around acting like a dick, you couldn't just go make new friends. You were fucked. So you had to learn how to interact with other people if you wanted to have any kind of social life at all.

That being said I have met some kids who really did not have any idea of how to behave at all but they were assholes and the rest of us ignored them. There were also one or two kids with mild forms of autism, but they sure as shit didn't get it from not going to public school.

I think the reason that we're pictured as being a bunch of dorky weirdos is that the people who talk the most about being homeschooled and are the most defensive about it are little kids. Little kids are notorious for being obnoxious and really vocal about shit. Add to that they get nigh unlimited attention from the adults in their life and think for some reason that they're special and you get one irritating person.

But guess what? We grow out of it. Yeah, I'm still a dork but if there's one thing I'm good at it's socializing and bending people to my will.

We're Not Prepared for Real Life
This was another one my brother, my friends, probably our parents and I got from people all through growing up. "But going to school prepares kids for real life." Let's face it, nothing is going to prepare you for real life except actually living. Want your kid to be prepared for real life by age eighteen? Send them to work at a factory at age ten. That'll do it, but for some reason that's not allowed in this part of the world.

What school does is give young people a safe environment to be out of everybody's way during the work day (geez, when put that way it makes public schoolers sound pretty sheltered. Huh), and hopefully give them the skills necessary to learn how to do things and get into university, whether or not this is successful depends on how good the school is.

What schools do not do is prepare you for things like going through an abusive relationship, coping with a death in the family, or surviving when you're so fucking broke you can't afford a bag of rice or a can of beans. Those are things that, no matter how many talks we've heard or advice we've been given, we're not going to know how to deal with until they actually happen and maybe not even then.

It also doesn't prepare you for the workforce either, contrary to what a lot of grown ups used to say to me. Okay, maybe a job that involves sitting at a desk doing paperwork with a calculator on your computer all day - which is going to make those twelve years of math and English seem like a total waste of time which they weren't - and according to TV, working in an office is one of the four jobs available (the other three are barista, wearing a suit, and emergency personnel). But that's not real life, which is what we're talking about. That's sitting in a cubicle for decades waiting for death or retirement, whichever comes first.

The real life jobs are the ones where you can work all day and then actually SEE the result of your work, no matter how menial or low paying that work is. It's not just numbers on a screen or even a stack of paper in a tray. It's working on a farm - you did a good job pruning that tree so it will produce more apples this year; in a warehouse - you got the shipment together and loaded on the truck in time so you don't get fired; or even at fucking Subway - people are hungry so you make them a sandwich. All of those jobs are way better for you than sitting at a desk staring at a computer all day and the only way to be prepared for them is to just go do them.

We're Either Hippies or Bible Thumpers
I will admit that my mother is kind of a hippy. My father wasn't particularly though. Yes, a lot of the kids I hung out with were on the hippy dippy side, and most of the kids I didn't hang out with were a little too keen on Jesus, but the majority of homeschooling families that I know are just regular people who weren't especially happy with the schools in the area, and one of the parents made enough money that the other could stay home with the kids.

My parents, being more on the hippy side of the spectrum, worked from home, and we were poor as shit but we were rich in love or something (this is what happens when you listen to too much fucking country music).

And there is a spectrum, going from Hippy to SuperChristian (both of which I will refer to as Long Haired Freaky People) are generally more attracted to homeschooling than any other group of people. Why is that? you may wonder. Because in order to homeschool your kids, you need to fill the following criteria:
a) You have to be pretty pissed off with The Man, which Long Haired Freaky People generally are, and
b) One parent has to be home most of the time. Since Hippies don't work and SuperChristians don't let their women leave the house, this fits Long Haired Freaky People to a tee.

It also fits Hillbillies (who don't work at all) and Newfoundlanders (the women work but the men don't), but they aren't really known for homeschooling their children. Go figure.

We're All Really Smart
I don't know how many people I've had to say this to - just because I was homeschooled doesn't mean I'm smart. Now, most homeschoolers that I grew up with are more than slightly intelligent, which I am not especially. And that's pretty hard. Being a dumb homeschooler is like being the kinda stupid kid with really smart siblings. It's not great. The people I grew up with are out there programming computersm solving advanced math problems, reading Nietzsche, writing symphonies and decoding the secret messages in whalesong (probably). Me? I draw comics on the internet and can make a pretty good ceaser.

And I'm not trying to jump into the 'being dumb is cool' trend, I'm really not. Being dumb is exactly that, dumb. Not being able to put a coherant sentence together, thinking math is for losers and not giving even the slightest shit about what the Universe is or why it's here, are some of the biggest turn offs for me, and the fact that it seems like a lot of people think it's cool to act that way is incredibly sad. But when I say I'm not very smart I'm saying it out of simple honesty.

Being smart has less to do with what you know and more to do with common sense and how you utilize the things you know. So you can recite two hundred digits of pi? That's great, how are you going to use that to your advantage. Smart people can do stuff like that.

Almost as good as being smart is being able to present yourself as smart. I like to think I'm pretty good as passing myself off as a reasonably bright person who knows more or less what she's talking about. People seem to think that about me because I know a lot of polysyllabic words and I know how to bullshit really fucking well. But you know what? I once ran myself over with my own car. Smart people don't do stuff like that. So just because homeschoolers know how to pass tests and say the right thing when asked a question doesn't mean that we're any smarter than anybody else. Or any dumber. Or any different really. We may have grown up a little differently, but deep down, we're the same as you.

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