homeschool1Editor’s note: This is the first installment of an ongoing series that highlights stories from homeschool graduates.

“Do you have friends?”

I can’t even count the number of times I was asked this question while growing up in Southern California. The reason for this rude and seemingly random question is simple: I was homeschooled. In fact, I was homeschooled from my first day of preschool to the moment I received my high school diploma. During those years I was asked a number of questions regarding homeschooling, many laughable and a few insulting. The root cause of these questions was stereotypes. Some stereotypes are positive, depicting homeschoolers as the people who win spelling bees and geography contests. Over the years, homeschoolers have been seen as people who excel at school. These stereotypes are flattering. Let’s be real, though—when most people think about homeschoolers, they visualize socially-challenged nerds walking around in long denim skirts and high-rise camouflage pants. Without a doubt, the first group of stereotypes mentioned is backed up by reality. The second, however, is an entirely different matter.

An incredible aspect of being homeschooled is the individualized education which each child receives. One of my personal strengths is words—I love spelling, grammar, and writing, and my SAT scores placed me in the 99th percentile for both the Writing and Critical Reading sections. Being homeschooled allowed me to focus on these strengths and to move at a faster pace than would have been possible in a class with forty other students. My mother recognized my love of English and intentionally chose curriculum which grew me as a writer. Math, however, was a more challenging subject for me. In this case, being homeschooled allowed me to spend extra time working on it. Instead of striving to merely pass the current math class, I was encouraged by my mother to put time and energy into truly understanding the subject. Homeschooling gave me the foundation needed to thrive in future math classes. Because my education was personally managed by my mother, someone who saw my weaknesses and helped me overcome them, I was able to place in the nation’s top quarter for the math portion of the SAT.

What about the social aspect of homeschooling? In my experience, the general stereotypes regarding this matter are utterly false. I’ve literally had strangers ask me if I had friends, if I “talked to people,” and if I got enough “socialization.” My answer to these questions was always a resounding ‘yes’. Socialization was never lacking in my journey as a homeschooler. In high school alone, I was involved in a homeschool support group called VCHEO, a homeschool co-op named New Hope Christian Academy, and another homeschool organization known as Christian Heritage School. I played volleyball during my sophomore and junior years, took dance classes, and participated in academic courses with other homeschoolers my age, gaining hands-on knowledge in subjects such as history, chemistry, and American Sign Language. Each of these activities gave me the opportunity to “socialize” and to interact with other students. Throughout high school, I attended monthly events organized with other homeschoolers, including scavenger hunts, Bunco game nights, and formal progressive dinners with over fifty high school students. I made friends and I made memories. Instead of having prom in a garage with ten other people—yet another false stereotype—I attended my senior prom at the historic Mission Inn, located in downtown Riverside, California. In June of 2012, I graduated with over thirty other high school seniors, thus completing my homeschool journey. I am, beyond a shadow of a doubt, glad to have been homeschooled. It was an incredible journey spanning over twelve years, and I would not trade it for anything.

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  1. I find it amusing that people asked her if she talked to people. How were they asking her this if they weren’t talking to her? While talking to her, I presume they noticed she was capable of holding a conversation. One thing education has not been good at, thanks to standardized testing, is teaching people to think. Stereotyping is so much easier than thinking.

  2. We’ve homeschooled all seven of our children. One of the best choices we ever made. I don’t want to give any impression that homeschooling is easy, or for everyone, or that we turned out seven perfect children. What we turned out were seven children who know they are not perfect, who know they are loved and forgiven by God through Jesus Christ, and who live in service to others. I doubt that this would have happened if we had institutionalized our kids.

  3. As a homeschooled grad class of 2000, I generally agree, but would also like to mention that the author appears to have spent a lot of time surrounded by Christians, which is not necessarily wrong and was in fact my experience as well. I mention this to say that I went from being homeschooled to the Marine Corps and to say that was culture shock is a massive understatement. I eventually adjusted and my ears recovered from hearing the f word used in ways I’d never heard before, but just talking about my own experience, I think sometimes we homeschoolers may assume that we are “socialized” when in fact we are just surrounded by people like us, and may encounter trouble relating to those who aren’t like us. That was my experience anyway, and I’m not assuming the author’s was the same.

    1. Excellent point.

      It goes both ways, though – I work with inner-city kids trying to get them ready to get jobs and become ready for life as independent adults. They are shocked that employers might be “prejudiced” against them if they wear pants that show their underwear or if they have purple hair, or if they use the “f” word in an interview, or if they take a phone call during that interview. They are sometimes angry that they can’t seem to move up the ladder of “success,” even though they don’t show up to work on time or may show up stoned. In fact, most of them don’t know anyone who acts any differently than they do in their neighborhoods.

      My point – everyone is “socialized” to fit into a certain cultural group, all subcultures have positive and negative social habits they foster, and everyone experiences some level of culture shock when subcultures collide. Some subcultures more generally prepare members for positive social growth, while other subcultures mostly inoculate members against positive growth. In my experience and opinion, homeschooling generally prepares students to get along well in most positive social settings. Although some homeschoolers can be arrogant and show little grace for the negative social habits practiced in some groups, most are stable people who are better able to adapt to a variety of situations – sometimes after an adjustment period – than most publicly-schooled kids.

      I am speaking this as a special ed. teacher who has taught in public and private schools, a psychiatric hospital, and a drug rehab program with ties to instruction in jail and who has homeschooled my kids for over twenty years with three years to go before the last one graduates. My oldest and second oldest daughters have worked as bartenders in a restaurant, even though neither of them drinks, and have seen the lives of people around them changed for the better because of their positive outlook on life.

      People don’t have to have the same experiences as everyone else in order to be able to move into different social networks; they simply have to know the difference between positive and negative social behaviors and the skills and confidence to maintain positive behaviors themselves, grace for the negative habits of others, and a love for the human race. These can be acquired in almost any setting, but are easier to acquire in a homeschool setting, in my opinion.

      1. I think what you’ve shared is what I’ve been trying to say but had trouble expressing. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      2. This was an incredible reply, Mimi! We’re all drawn to those who are similar to us, and that is completely acceptable. I think the key, like you wrote, is extending grace and love to those who differ from us and not simply isolating ourselves. In my own opinion, homeschooling allows children to develop solid beliefs and ideas in a safe environment and prepares them to then positively impact others from different walks of life.

    2. So what you are saying is that to being “appropriately socialized” you must be exposed to the f word on a regular basis?

      1. Actually, yes. As Mimi was talking about below, the culture I grew up in didn’t teach anything about social graces; the only thing mentioned was “it’s bad to say this or that”, so that was the only thing I knew. I firmly believe that at least in my experience, having a different attitude towards people who weren’t the same as me would have made my transition a lot smoother. Obviously I’m not advocating using the f word in every sentance, but I am saying that the conversation needs to move beyond “this word is bad, don’t say it” to the reasons why it’s a poor choice and developing the skills necessary to live with others who do use it. Unless you become a hermit, there is no escaping hearing foul language.

      2. You make some good points… we need to protect our kids, but also prepare them for the world they will face. I would disagree however that kids need to be exposed to the “f word.” Obviously unless you live in complete isolation there will be times your kids will hear it. Then you can use that as a teachable moment. Re. social graces… as an adult I don’t typically correct bad language. If my kids are around, especially when they were younger, you better believe I would. People need to learn proper etiquette and respect for others as well and while they are at it grab a dictionary.

      3. I think we are very close in intent…I don’t advocate using foul language around children, but I also think it needs to be discussed at a level that the child can understand. “Saving Private Ryan” is not appropriate for a 7 year old, but I would say by 14 or 15 it would be an excellent teachable moment.

      4. As a fellow veteran I would like to share more of my story with you in the hopes that it better explains where I am coming from in regards to socialization and homeschooling. I feel that the lack of communication about and exposure to the world made boot camp a lot harder for me than it had to be. Thankfully I’ve come to terms with that time of my life, and have adjusted to become a productive member of our society, but I want to prepare my kids a little better for life than I was. I’ve talked with my parents at length about all this, and I think we understand each other, and I certainly love and cherish them for many things; this is probably the main issue I’ve had with them, but we’ve worked it out and still love each other very much. Anyway, having not been exposed to much foul language, etc, when I arrived at MCRD San Diego for boot camp, immediately I was greeted with a form of the f word with many variations to follow over the next three months, and to treatment that to me appeared to be cruel. I did not understand what was going on and could only focus on how this new environment seemed to be against everything I was taught growing up. I often cried myself to sleep at night. Obviously, some of this may be attributed to being 19, as I was not the only one having issues. However, as time wore on and the other recruits were starting to figure things out, I was instead still plagued by thoughts of home and how I didn’t want this any more. Eventually it got to a point where I pretty much cracked. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because everyone else had moved on mentally with training while I was still stuck thinking about home. I could not understand that while what I saw and endured seemed cruel, it was in fact designed to save lives in combat; it took about a year after boot camp to realize this. I eventually tracked down my Senior Drill Instructor a couple of years later and thanked him for not giving up on me after I cracked and was trying to make up an excuse to leave. He said he did know I was someone who he wouldn’t have to worry about later on down the road. Who knows, even if I had attended public school, I still may have had the same struggles, but I think they would have been not nearly as strong. Today, I am thankful for both my homeschooled life and the life experience the military gave me. I guess I just wish to caution homeschooling parents not to shelter their kids too much, and help them adjust to life. Based on your career, I’m sure this is something you are trying to do.

    3. It’s things like that that also make us all unique! We aren’t all the same generic teenager graduating from high school who knows “all” things about the world. My own experience was similar to yours, but my Dad was an active duty Marine until I was 17. By the time I graduated, nothing could shock me anymore (which is what people seem to like to do when they realize I was homeschooled) but that didn’t mean I felt nothing. I still cringe when my husband curses in my house and yell at him for it (we have 3 kids). 😛

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