I loved being homeschooled, although I won’t pretend that any part of this installment of my journey is earth shattering. I wasn’t unschooled, socially deprived, or locked in a closet. My schooling wasn’t crazy religious and I wasn’t part of any co-ops. I had friends and hobbies, and my family went on fun vacations together. Other than being homeschooled, I was remarkably unremarkable growing up. If I’m being honest, I’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes trying to come up with a good hook for this blog post, but I don’t really know where to start. It’s not that I wish my story is more shocking or horrifying, it’s just that the whole thing stands out in my mind as being entirely lovely (despite a few teenage angsty moments, but when your mom is your teacher, that’s to be expected). So I guess the best place to start is really at the beginning.
When I was almost five years old, my parents sent me to preschool two days a week for a school year. And until I was 17 years old and sitting in a college English class, that was the last time I ever sat in a classroom. If all you’ve ever known is the typical “8 hours a day/ 5 days a week/180 days a year/12 years in a row” education system, it might seem impossible that I was able to get an amazing education at home, from the comforts of my kitchen table, being taught by a parent who had never taken an education class in her life. But I did.
Whenever I mention that I was homeschooled, a very common question is why I was schooled that way, and until I started this project I had never really asked my mom why, because it was just the way of life that we all loved. At the time my mom and dad decided to homeschool me (and eventually my younger brother), they chose this lifestyle because they wanted the close family ties that homeschooling fostered. They wanted us to be able to learn based on our interests and our speed of learning without the pressures of standardized testing. While they knew it was important to educate us in the goods and bads of the world, they wanted us to be able to avoid actively living as many of the ugly realities as possible, for as long as possible.
During my elementary and middle school years, homeschooling was standard fare for my group of friends. Among one of the many activities my mom involved my brother and I in was Story Hour at the local library, and there we met a family of homeschoolers that we were close with for years. This family of three girls and their three cousins became our closest friends, and together the eight of us reveled in our homeschooled freedom. One of my favorite things about having been homeschooled when I was younger was the freedom to learn wherever we went. Even though we spent four or five hours most days working on school at home, home was most certainly not the only place that we ever learned. Looking back, that is one of the things that I am most grateful for now. When I was young, I wasn’t conditioned to dread learning. Having been homeschooled, learning was around every corner. Family vacations, outings to the movies and baking were lessons in history, finance, and chemistry. I am somewhat of an anomaly now, because I am a college student that not only does well in school, but actually, legitimately loves to learn, and I have no doubt that I can trace this back to my homeschooling roots.
As I got older I started to dedicate more time to my school work, but even this was a fraction of the time that my peers spent in school. Having been a dancer since I was 3 years old I was now able to go to the dance studio during the day and work on my routines, instead of being stuck in high school. I continued playing piano and French Horn, (two hobbies that my musician parents started me with very young), and was even able to play in a high school level honors band once. While I grew away from some of my childhood friends, socialization was never a problem as I found new companions at my dance studio. I grew up dancing with a group of girls and we became extremely close in high school, as we saw each other about 5 days a week. We had sleepovers for everyone’s birthday and are still in touch, getting together every Christmas to reconnect. I met another homeschooled family through my younger brother and even went on to have a boyfriend before I reached college. Suffice it to say, when I entered the college world, I wasn’t lacking for any social skills and still take pride in the fact that revealing my homeschooled past often yields shock on the part of anyone I meet.
Recently I’ve been doing more self reflection, and the more that I look at who I am as a person now, the more I realize that if I hadn’t been homeschooled, I would be a completely different person today. I feel like most of the values I associate most closely with have come from being homeschooled. Avoiding public school instilled many values in me, and entering college I have found that independent learning has been very valuable. My mom was always around to help me if I needed it, but when I was in high school I would often just take my pile of work downstairs next to the woodstove and would read my lessons and do my work solo, and then later we would review all of my work together. This helped me embrace time management, how to learn independently, and not to rely on someone monitoring my every move in order to get my work done. It is also not a secret that being homeschooled automatically makes me different, but I feel like this experience has also given me the confidence to stand out. I have never felt shy or embarrassed about my past, and honestly revel in being different. Something else that is important that I didn’t even realize I had gained from being homeschooled until recently is the ability to resist peer pressure. Having been in college for several years now, I have witnessed many interactions between my peers in which someone has been swayed by peer pressure. This is something that I’ve never struggled with, because homeschooling has taught me it’s okay to be different, and I don’t mind being that person who says “no” at a party, who says “no” to drinking and driving, or who says “no” to anything that I don’t want to do (despite how uncomfortable it makes everyone else).
I don’t feel as though I missed out on anything having been homeschooled. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had such an amazing 12 years spent with my family – learning and growing into a person that was able to transition into a functioning adult (although I’m still working on the “adulting” part. If anyone has that figured out yet, let me know). Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about how I have been educated so far, and I think that’s pretty amazing.