may you build a ladder to the stars

I read a blog post the other day by a well-meaning woman, a college English professor, who was contemplating her reasons for and against home-schooling. She talked about a college senior who was unable to articulate a thesis statement vs. the perfect grammar of a freshman boy with terrible social skills and “no clue about basic classroom etiquette.” Apparently, this kid monopolized class time and was intolerant of other people’s opinions.

I truly believe that this woman was simply trying to illustrate what she saw as the primary pitfalls of two very different methods of education, but the comments soon snowballed into a gross mis-characterization of a legitimate portion of the population. I mean, really. If every home-schooled child was “excessively dependent on adults and completely unable to relate to their peers” wouldn’t people stop choosing that method of education? My favorite was “All of the adults I have met (family, roommates and friends) who have been home taught for an extended period of time have had big problems in their social and educational development.”

*sigh*

Okay, so I’m sure we all know someone who seems a bit socially inept who was home-schooled. But don’t we also know at least one big-talking, center-of-the-world’s-intelligence public-schooler? I know I do. I had class with some of them. But you know what, I think that the majority of the time you probably don’t ever know which of your aquaintances were home-schooled, especially now that homeschooling has been legal in most states since the early 80’s. There are now a good number of us who were home-schooled who are your peers in the adult world, who are your colleagues in grad school, your companions on the bus, or your coworkers. And you don’t know that we were home-schooled at all, because it never crossed your mind, and no one asks where you went to high school once you’re actually out of high school. (Because it doesn’t matter. Really.)

I tell people that I was home-schooled for the first 18 years of my life, from birth until I went to a private college. After graduating with honors, I attended a grad school where I graduated with an M.A. (also with a very respectable G.P.A.)  So now that we’ve established that I am educationally well-adjusted, I should add that I have lots of friends, am generally liked, and the normal response to the discovery that I was home-schooled is “Wow. You seem so socially well-adjusted!” (Don’t even get me started on how ridiculously condescending and rude that is. I don’t respond to your childhood by announcing “Wow! And you’re not addicted to meth and living in a trailer. Yay, public education worked for a change!”)  I also am very close to my three siblings, talk to my parents often, and have very relaxed childhood memories. I didn’t understand the social structure of school, and I still, for a large part, don’t.

Most confusing of all to me about people’s reactions to my childhood is the fact that public education was never established for social reasons, but for education. So why is it that our culture has so adapted to the twelve years of school paradigm that we are concerned about the social repercussions of not taking advantage of it? I will agree, home-schooling up until college gave me a different understanding of my friendships and relationships than that of many of my peers. I was not as shell-shocked by the transition between dorm life and having my own apartment in grad school as some of my friends, because I had grown up in a culture where friendships required forethought and planning. When you did not grow up seeing your friends everyday in the hallways between classes, you find it easier to adjust to having to make an effort to stay in touch and hold onto closeness.

Home-schooling also gives  you a different perspective on your role in your own education, and often a better understanding of your learning style.  I spent 17 years of my life learning in a large part my own way, guided by my parents. When I got to college, I knew I was a highly visual learner, and amused all of my roommates with my charts and posters of verb forms and conjugations of every language I was studying.  I made flash cards, but knew that color coding was not as helpful to me as associating vocabulary words with English equivalents. I also enjoyed directing my own studying and budgeting time for homework in college, because that was essentially what I did for three out of my four years in high school at home, juggling a job (sometimes two), college courses and general school-work. (Don’t ask about that fourth year of high school, which was the despair of my math schoolwork and the crowning glory of my over-preparation for college English classes.)

I’m sure it can be argued that these were both also due in part to temperament, but I think they were honed by the educational paradigm I grew up in. Home-schooling worked for me. It more than worked, it shone.  I suspect that this is the case for a lot of kids out there whose families chose this lifestyle. I don’t think that home-schooling works for everyone, but neither does public school. Don’t punish all of us with the stereotype of some of us.

/end rant.

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10 thoughts on “may you build a ladder to the stars

  1. The most common phrase I hear when I tell people that I was home-schooled is” Oh that explains a lot” usually in a joking matter. I credit this mostly to the fact that I work in professions filled with smart alecks and it has become one of those jokes that you want to response to in a sarcastic tone “no I haven’t heard that a million times”. But the truth is most people are surprised to learn that I was home-schooled. My favorite response from a friend was “but you are so normal”. I burst out laughing because I am not normal but maybe by theater standards I am. Then the dialogue follows a similar pattern. We continued to talk about the individuals previous experiences with home-schoolers, which leads to my standard speech of “there is a wide gambit of home-schoolers filled with as many individuals as there are in public schools”. This is then followed by a list of questions it seems people have always wanted to ask but never did, which then leads into a discussion about education. At this point the conversation either goes one or two ways. One about how the individual wants to education their children and their fears about it, or a traumatic experience they had in school. I am always happy that I have this conversation despite how similar it seems to be from person to person but also a concern always rises within me about where they got the stereotype in the first place and the fact it has nothing to do with education of skills but social graces. I believe this is because most of the traumatic events that happen to my friends in school were linked to the social aspects of school. Even in recent videos of middle schoolers I have been watching the focus is always on the social. One girl said that “if a friend gave you a mean look on the bus you can forget about doing well in class”. I guess the social aspect would not bother me so much if it was more about communicating knowledge with society rather then fitting into cliques and being awkward. People are people with strange tics, different desires, and priorities. It is what makes people amazing and like Coral said most people are not aware of all the home-schoolers they probably come into contact during their lives because as an adult it really does not come up to often. I wish people were more opened minded about this issue and maybe we are getting there but I feel I will forever be defending my education and rolling my eyes at “Oh that explains a lot”.

    1. Amen, sister. Long time no hear from. I’m sorry about dropping the ball on that. LOL. Proves what I’m really doing well at in my post-college relationships, huh?

      I have also been startled at the number of times people have told me “Oh, I want my kids to go to school. How else are they going to learn to deal with bullies?” or “I had to suffer through that, I think it will be good for them.” Since when does our educational system have to provide the hard-knocks portions of life? Why do we would we want our children to suffer just because we did?

      There are plenty of GOOD reasons to send your children to public school, especially in areas with solid schools, but that is not one I understand.

      1. I went to public school and I don’t know how to deal with bullies. So you’re ahead of me.

        (Excuse me, Coral, while I hijack your blog momentarily.) Hi Maria!!!!

  2. I think that home-schooling can be likened to a ministry; anyone can technically do it, but those who are truly called of God are the ones who succeed most. When it’s done well, home-schooling is beautiful. It’s the crazies that give it a bad name.

    1. I would agree. It’s not something I would want a family to undertake because they feel they *should*, because to be truly content in it, you have to be a family that it’s right for.

  3. I’m not even homeschooled, and this topic can make me see red. This is probably because we plan to homeschool; The Child has only been around 9 months, and people are already plotting a life full of social blunders and hermithood for her. If she’s socially awkward, it’s not going to be the homeschooling, it will be our DNA, which happens to be made of social fail.

    Of the homeschooled people I’ve known (you guys, Rachel, Seth, Kiersten, and a few more) (I hope I spelled her name right), I haven’t known any that are crippled socially. However, I have known dozens of completely obnoxious kids who were schooled more conventionally. Feh.

    1. It’s as I pointed out to someone the other day in another online discussion, who made this statement about the educational aspect of homeschooling that “Frankly, as much as I strongly support homeschooling, the complaints of children NOT learning at home are likely much, much higher.”

      First, there are absolutely NO statistics that back these sorts of statements up, whether we’re discussing social or educational aspects of home-schooling. Secondly, that is not a numbers game that the public school can win. Less than 2% of the United States school age population is currently being taught at home. Even assuming that half (a ridiculous number, in my opinion) of those children are not recieving an equivalent education (or learning equivalent social skills) to that of a good public school, the total number of “failures” is still far lower than that of children *in public school* not recieving an education equivalent to that of a good public school. And home-schoolers are not taking taxpayer money in the process.

      Take the log out of your educational system’s eye before attacking the eyeballs of mine.

  4. I have many thoughts on this issue but I shall sum it all up in a few lines:

    I went to public school and I hated it. I was seperated from my peers most of the time because I didn’t learn the way my teachers wanted me to.

    I know alot of other people that went to public school. Most of them are idiots. I know a few people that were home-schooled. They’re some of the smartest people I know.

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