This morning on my walk to work, I was listening to the most recent episode of one of my new favorite podcasts “2 Dope Queens” which features stand-up comedians.

And I had to laugh when their first featured comic, Shane Torres opened his set with this bit:

“Do you remember meeting your first homeschooled kid? They always act exactly the way an alien would act if they took over a human’s body. Like, they kinda get it, but if you watch them from a distance, you’re just like, “that one’s eating cereal with a fork.” And they just show up one day, just walk out of a house in your neighborhood you thought no children lived in, and when they come out, they always smell like laundry that wasn’t dried properly. And the first thing they say to you is always nuttier than squirrel shit. It’s never “How you doin’?” It’s always something bizarre like, “My name is Baxter and my dad puts honey in our milk.”

Ah yes, Mr. Torres. I understand completely.

I was one of those weird homeschooled kids.

1995 maybe
Being my usual stunning homeschooler self, age 9ish #thoseglassestho

It’s always the biggest compliment when I “come out” as homeschooled, even as an almost-30-year-old and people remark with amazement, “Wow, I never would have guessed!”

I usually shout “THANK YOU!” And contemplate kissing them on the mouth. (But that would be weird, right?)

I attended “regular school,” as it was called in our household for Kindergarten and First Grade at our local public school in West Michigan. I was always a shy kid, clinging to the teacher’s skirt. I met a best friend named Kayleigh and we spent a lot of time together, but, even then, I found it difficult to make new friends. I’ve always been an introvert.

But I was happy enough in school. My kindergarten teacher was awesome, but things took a turn when I hit First Grade. Miss Thompson was a bitch. She was old and mean and looked like a witch. I had always excelled in reading and writing, and by this point, I was devouring books with a Sixth Grade reading level, so I worked with an older elementary-aged student “tutor” on extra projects in the area to keep me interested. But I struggled with math. And I remember a time when Miss Thompson actually laughed at me for getting a problem wrong. I was six years old. I mean, what kind of monster does that?

This whole public school thing really wasn’t working out so well for me. I needed to be allowed to flourish at the things I was good at, and given extra help in the areas in which I struggled. Also, there was the “religious aspect” of it all. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to a private Christian school, but they worried about the type of stuff I would be exposed to in my current setting. (Nothing too juicy had happened yet in the First Grade…just “The Kissy Boy” Adam trying to put the moves on me in the corner by the blocks and some boy sitting under the jungle gym claimed he could “see my vagina” under my skirt. That was patently untrue for a myriad reasons. Perhaps they should have been concerned about the influence Robbie’s rat-tail would have on my psyche. #1992)

Shia LeBeouff
Maybe Robbie knew that he would inspire Shia LeBeouf twenty years later (via)

At any rate, my mom had begun to look into the legalities and methods of homeschooling. Michigan was one of the easiest states in which one could home school their children, with no official state testing required, no certifications for parents, etc. She was a stay-at-home mom at this point, though she was still maintained her Registered Nurse certification, so she was wholly capable.

My mom brought up the subject to me many times, and it always ended in the same way, with me screaming “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THE WORD HOMESCHOOLING!” I didn’t want to lose my friend Kayleigh, and the whole concept sounded so…weird, even to a six year old.

Finally, my mom struck a deal: I would try homeschooling for one year, and if I absolutely hated it, I could go back to “regular school” for Third Grade. My little sister Caitlin was ready to start Kindergarten, so it was a great time to start this little experiment.

“How about for one month?” I countered.

“No, that’s not possible. One year,” my mom stood firm.

“All riiiiiiight….” I sighed.

And I never went back.

It turns out that West Michigan was quite the hub for homeschoolers. There were dozens of support groups that held events, sports, drama groups, published newsletters peppered with clip-art…the type you copied from a book and then physically cut out and glued to your newsletter. My parents saw to it that we got involved with all of these opportunities.

1997 Grace I ThinkL-R: My sister Caitlin, my mom, me, and my friend Rachael in a small science class my mom taught for homeschoolers, c. 1997 (I was such a nerd.  Yes, that was a denim jumper.  Only the top part, the bottom was floral print.  I promise.)

We were never starved for socialization. Sure, I was a little awkward, but that was just me as an introvert. I was just as awkward in “regular school.” We were always out and about, doing something, whether it was piano lessons, dance or gymnastics, or making pinatas as a group for the upcoming Valentine’s Day party.

My sister, who is less than two years younger than I, was always the bossy one.  But we were forced to get along because ultimately, we were each others’ constant companions, our best friends.

We would roll our eyes at each other when the ladies at the grocery store on a weekday afternoon would ask us, “Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”

“We’re homeschooled!” We’d respond in stereo.

By the time I was 7, I knew how to figure out the price per ounce of nearly any product in the grocery store and therefore comparison-shop. Normally the store brand of cereal was a better price, but due to the sale this week, the name brand Froot Loops were a far superior value, I would argue.

field trip day
(Damn, I wish memes were a thing when I was homeschooled, there are so many of them now! Via)

Because our breaks were more flexible, we were allowed to go on business trips with my dad to Las Vegas. He would attend a trade show as a buyer, while Mom, Caitlin and I would walk down the Strip, stopping by the Mirage to see the white tigers and to watch the now-defunct pirate show in front of Treasure Island. We stayed at Circus Circus and made note of every showtime for the performing dogs and cats, which were by far the most impressive act.

Circus circus
SERIOUSLY THE BEST (via)

In the evenings, we would have dinner with my father and his colleagues, and they would always gush about how well-adjusted we were, how polite, smart, and how well we interacted with adults.

I had no idea that it was so rare that children could interact well with adults. Weird.

willy wonka homeschooler
(The eternal question, via)

We went on field trips to the zoo, conducting scavenger hunts for who could find the Latin names for the most animals on the list first. After obsessing over dolphins and Orca whales because of my Zoobooks and Free Willy, we went on a trip to Sea World. (My Social Justice Warrior heart now weeps about Sea World, but this was 1993…)

I experienced so many things that I would have never have been able to had I gone to “regular school.”

Every so often, I would wonder what it was like to be in a “real” middle school. But then I’d hear about it from the girls at church, and decide maybe I was good without it.

But…yes, it’s true.

A lot of homeschoolers were weird.

There were the “denim jumpers and bobby socks” crowd, in which every female member of the family from age two to the mother would look like a little blue and white clone of the others. Unfortunate fashion, wide-eyed and slightly confused stares at the world in general. The type that would never go to college because they would learn how to keep a house until they met their husband through courting, marry right out of high school (ideally) and start popping out the next generation of God’s followers as quickly as possible.

Jean jumper
(The traditional costume of the Conservative Modest Homeschooling Female + white bobby socks and tennis shoes.  I found some really amazing photos that I just didn’t feel right sharing on here as a mockery, but just google “homeschooler denim jumper” and you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about, via)

If they were a bit more progressive, they would go to a Christian college (ideally Bob Jones University or some other similar place, where men and women were not allowed to be alone at any point, go off campus without a chaperone, or watch a movie with any saucier than rated PG on or off campus, or video games rated above E10. (Their student handbook is some seriously good reading, if you’re interested.) But then, it was “Ring By Spring,” meaning that you had failed to get your MRS. Degree unless you had a ring on that finger by the time you hit the spring semester of your Senior year. But at least you had an education, even though women didn’t really need that.

Lust

I’m sorry, it’s all my fault.  (via)

And, as girls with newly blossoming bodies, it was extremely important that we keep everything as shapeless and covered-up as possible, lest we cause our Brothers In Christ to fall into lustful sin. Because obviously, they couldn’t be held responsible for their own lust. It was us Jezebels with dem titties that plunged them into damnation.

Modesty
Yeah cuz you don’t want your property to have other dudes’ eye-prints all over it, right?  I WANT TO SMASH THINGS NOW, Y’ALL (via)

For the most part, I steered clear of these types. They were weird. They were way too “overboard.” My religious philosophy was more “you can live in the world but still not be the same as those heathens over there.” I was definitely still self-righteous, but a much more well-adjusted type.

The friends I chose to align myself with wore cute clothes from Old Navy or Areopostale or even the oft-boycotted Abercrombie and Fitch, shameless in their nudity in advertising right out in the open in the malls.

2003
The Rachies” on left and center and I on the right, three fashionable dames by early 2000s’ standards, not a denim jumper in sight, photo 2003

We were, dare I say it, The Cool Kids of the Homeschool World. Though that’s not really a high bar to leap.

2000 or 2001 Grace Study Hall
We did have to wear skirts to our homeschool classes, though.  #modesty (I’m second to the left.  Gotta love that headband.)  2000 or 2001, obvi.

stumbling block
My friends and I were some serious Moral Stumbling Blocks at my senior formal, 2004

As I grew older, my schooling became looser and more self-directed and self-led. We had a general curriculum to follow still, but it was a bit more like “unschooling.” I took some specialized courses taught once a week that were more difficult for parents to teach at home, like advanced math and science, choir and drama. But a lot of my learning was by being in the world, reading about what interested me in my own time frame, not strictly from 8am to 3pm, like many of my friends. Some weeks, I wouldn’t accomplish much, but others I would pour myself into projects. I reveled in this unstructured way of learning.

I loved being able to sleep in till 10, and roll out of bed and do my school work in my pajamas.  That, my friends, was one of the most amazing perks of homeschooling.  I was so grateful that I had a mom/teacher who would allow such things.

pajamas
Seriously, someone has to stop me with these homeschooler memes (via)

Sometimes I was a bit ashamed of the lack of structure my education had devolved into, but the proof was in the test scores, and I was excelling. I had hit a groove, and this obviously worked for me. I graduated (twice, actually, with both my Homeschool Performing Arts class and the Homeschool Association for which my mom had taught dissection and biology classes for ten years at that point, and is still going strong in 2016) the top of my class, my teacher’s favorite Senior.

DSC01362High school graduation #2 with my mom, 2004

I was accepted into my first choice of college, supplying them with a transcript of the general course work I had completed throughout the last four years, and received some academic scholarships. If it hadn’t been for that stupid math class that I got a C- in (thanks to The Boy Who Got Legally Banned From My College Dorm [link]) I would have graduated college Magna Cum Laude. Just one point under, I had to settle with Cum Laude.

Hope Graduation 2008 003.jpg
College graduation with my parents, 2008.

Me MFA graduation 2011 (2)
And then I went and got myself an MFA, too.  2011.

I guess my homeschooling worked out okay.

People often ask me if ever I regret it.

I was always mildly curious. I always knew that high school was nothing like the movies…or perhaps everything like the movies. From all reports, it sounded kind of awful to me. So much drama, so rigid, so impersonal. I never regretted not going back, though a part of me always wondered how different I would be if I did.

Especially now, knowing who I have turned into. Would I have been more honest with myself about my sexuality if I had attended a public school, perhaps known a gay person or two earlier? Or would the hatred and bullying I heard about pushed me even further into myself?

No, I don’t regret being homeschooled “all the way through.” I was allowed to have so many interesting experiences and permitted to discover my own learning styles in a way that perfectly prepared me for college, potentially much better than my “regular schooled” counterparts. My education had already been self-motivated and guided for years.

People also ask me if I would want to homeschool my kids.

That’s a trickier question. As I grow older, I become more and more certain that I should not have kids. (Oh man, this is another post in the making, for sure…) I am too selfish, too independent, treasure my alone time, my freedom, my career, my sleep, way too much to give it up for something I am utterly apathetic about. So I find it difficult to go through the thought experiment of “if I were to actually want kids, would I want to give up my career and homeschool them?” There are way too many things that I’m not interested in doing in that sentence to even entertain this question.

But, if we’re talking about a situation in which I am a selfless, loving, devoted mother who adores her kids and was in a community in which many of the same resources were available to me as there were when I was growing up, I’d say, “Sure. It worked just fine for me.”

My mom wrote a companion guest post to this for me, talking about her experiences as a homeschooling mom.  You can read it here

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10 thoughts on “On Homeschooling or How I Refused to Align With The Denim Jumper and Bobby Socks Crowd

  1. Ok, I was rolling on the floor over the denim jumper comments – you see, I was the denim jumper too. At least until I was old enough to fight back! Homeschooled K-12 at that time was. ..interesting. Worked for me too – double major with a Suma in 3.5 years of college. And today I am homeschooling my kid, but for completely different reasons than my parents. Good post, good read! Made me smile 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whew! I was a little nervous to tag this because I know my statements are a bit controversial and I’m far from the person I was when I was homeschooled (a gay divorcee, as my blog would suggest!) So I’m glad that it resonated with you in some way! Thanks!

      Like

  2. This was interesting to read. If that was your homeschool experience, you are lucky; it’s amazing how much home life can differ between homeschooling families.

    Did your parents push courting/modesty/etc on you at all? It seems from your post you were not only one of the “cool” homeschoolers (lol! love that), but also maybe one of the more “liberal.” I put liberal in quotes because that word has a low bar in the homeschooling community, but even the fact that you only had one sibling puts your parents in the progressive camp to me. 🙂 I would have loved to have heard more of experience from this end, in addition to how they felt about the rampant use of corporal punishment in homeschooling circles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I was incredibly lucky in my experience. I owe a lot of it to the fact that, while my parents are moderately conservative, they are still very much grounded in the “real world.”

      Sure, we weren’t allowed to watch some TV shows growing up…but we were allowed to watch TV shows. My mom bought me some hip-hugger jeans when I finally showed some interest in fashion.

      Yes, by Christian homeschooler standards, I guess they were quite “liberal.” Even my more “mainstream” friends’ parents were stricter on them than mine were. And I think a lot of it came down to the trust in us that my parents held. And that trust wasn’t misplaced…we were pretty good kids. I can’t help but think that, because of the gentle leadership we were given, it allowed us to experience more and therefore make our own decisions, not hammering us into an unrealistic mold.

      The majority of my friends with more conservative parents ultimately “acted out” way more, because they had to sneak around for the smallest of things.

      I think if I were to dress in a super risqué fashion my mom would have said something, but I had some self-governed standards. And, quite honestly, I think they thought courtship was weird and silly. I didn’t start dating until I was in my senior year of high school simply because a lot of the guys I knew weren’t dating yet/I didn’t find one I was interested in until then. I myself read many books about being a godly woman and the benefits of courtship, but I too decided it wasn’t for me. If anything, the bar I set for myself was higher than any my parents set for me.

      I never heard much about the “rampant use of corporal punishment” from my friends, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t present.

      Like

  3. Also, by the way, no homeschoolers dress in jumpers now and nobody can tell my kids are homeschooled. One thing, though, they notice is that my kids are not afraid to talk to anyone about almost anything and public schooled kids nowadays rarely talk to adults, anyone not their age and in their school and in their group. It’s weird. Just weird.

    Almost every homeschooling family fits in with almost any crowd and you would never know unless it is for the obvious, like they are not in school on a school day.

    Liked by 1 person

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