About a year ago, when I first started considering taking my kids out of public school, I wasn’t met with the kind of incredulous questioning that I expected after suggesting something so reckless and foolhardy. For the most part people were excited and supportive and helpful. Many thought we were already homeschooling, in fact. What surprised me most though is that folks who were concerned about the prudence of such a decision weren’t worried that my children might not learn enough or the the right things. They didn’t wonder how my kids would know how to be quiet when they were supposed to or to wait in lines when they have to.
No, the biggest concern among the concerned was: SOCIALIZATION. Ahhhh! Socialize those kids! Learnin’, schmlearning- those kids need to be among herds of other kids their exact age in order to learn how to be normal. In other words: homeschooled kids are annoying and weird, and you don’t want your kids to be annoying and weird, do you?
Annoying and weird.
Well, if someone tries to tell you that their kids are never annoying, they’re lying to you. And if someone else tries to tell you that any child of mine isn’t going to be at least a little weird no matter how they’re educated, they’ve lost their minds.
But I digress.
Why is this perception of the weirdo homeschooler so pervasive? Why is it that despite the clear academic achievement of most homeschooled students, the fear of them “acting like that one weirdo guy I knew when I was a kid” is enough to turn otherwise supportive folks against the idea? I’ve thought about it a lot and the best explanation I can come up with is this: ridicule.
See, everyone is born with a certain temperament. Parents of more than one will all attest to this. Same parents, same environment, same rules….completely different reactions from their children. And some kids- well, some kids are annoying. And what do I mean by “annoying”? I mean what people mean when they say that homeschooled kids are annoying. I mean kids who ask too many questions and know too much information and like certain stuff and refuse to like other things and don’t care what other people think about their silly hobbies and their know-it-all-ness.
When “annoying” kids like this go to a traditional school, they’re ridiculed. They have a hard, or even impossible, time finding their niche. They must either hide their true personality and inclinations in order to be accepted or they’re pushed to the fringes and made to feel abnormal. Not good enough. Made to feel less likable than those who keep their ideas and opinions to themselves or fail to form any to begin with. Made to feel that convictions and fascinations are stupid and that pop culture is the only culture. Not because “normal” kids are mean. They mostly don’t even know they’re doing it, I assure you. They just don’t know what to do with someone who’s so, like, weird. Ya know?
I know. I was one of those weird kids.
My eldest daughter knows. She is one of those weird kids.
But when one of those “annoying” kids is homeschooled, no one makes fun of their outfits that don’t match. Or the fact that they like to memorize things and wish the math assignments were harder. No one looks at them askance when they know every answer to every question and are eager to share their knowledge. When an annoying kid like that finds a new hobby and wants to learn everything they can about it and talk about it incessantly, no one treats them like there’s something wrong with pursuing an interest like that, no matter how dull it may seem to the other members of the homeschool classroom. They are not ridiculed into trying to be who God didn’t create them to be.
“Oh but dweej…that’s real life! You can’t just go around being annoying all the time. Better they learn now than later!”
Better they learn what? That the crowd knows best? That their interests are boring and a waste of time? That they need to wear a certain thing and buy a certain thing in order to be worth people’s time? Better they learn now not to stand up for themselves?
Because that’s the thing. By the time annoying people like that are older, they’re older. They’ve advanced beyond certain stages of childhood and are better able to confidently stand up for what they believe in. The idea of being ostracized by a group of people that they don’t really like anyway no longer sends them into a panic. If they spend their whole childhood trying to be something they’re not or believing that what they are is weird and weird is bad, they’ll enter adulthood with those same perceptions, that same lack of self-confidence.
If, on the other hand, they’re able to cultivate their interests, learn to be comfortable in their own quirky skin, encouraged to achieve as much as their little over-achieving hearts desire, they’ll enter adulthood with the confidence to continue on that path. They won’t automatically wonder if people will disagree or make fun of them when they make assertions or cling to ideals. And if those people do disagree or make fun of them they won’t care. Because they’re not kids anymore. They’re all grown up!
Of course, not every homeschooled kid is like that. Not even every one of the kids who lives in this house is like that. But no one asks the “normal” kids and adults if they were homeschooled. It doesn’t cross their minds. Because they’re so, you know, normal.
But the homeschooled kids who are like that, who are “annoying” are so different, so confident, so willing to allow themselves to be something that the majority of society has labeled as weird, that people can’t help but paint all homeschooled families with the weirdo brush. Because shouldn’t kids like that want to keep their mouths shut and keep their opinions to themselves?
And that’s why homeschooled kids are so annoying. Because no one tells them that the way God made them isn’t cool enough.