As I complete yet another semester of college and apply for graduation today, I can't help but think back on where my education began.
Something that a lot of people don't know about me is that I had a sort of un-average upbringing. In 1st grade, my mom told me that I wasn’t going to school at Lincoln Elementary anymore, but rather, I was going to do lessons at home. At the time, I was a blank slate. The word “homeschool” didn’t have any negative connotations attached to it. To me, it was just something special I got to do.
I still remember the day I realized being homeschooled wasn't your "run of the mill" education style. I was probably 7 or 8, and my mom took me with her to the grocery store on a weekday morning. Before we got out of the car, she turned to face me in the back seat and asked, "You're going to be on your best behavior, right?" This question confused me. Not once had my mom ever asked me if I was going to "be on my best behavior." I was a good kid, and I knew that. She must have been able to read my confusion because she explained to me that there weren't going to be other little kids in the store that morning. She said I had to be on my best behavior because I was homeschooled, and other moms and dads didn't always think it was such a good thing. She said it was my job to show them that it was.
Being homeschooled was great. I got to wake up and get ready and do my school work at the kitchen table, my mom was always there to help when I got stuck on a problem, nothing about it was hard up until about junior high.This is when I discovered that being homeschooled meant something different to some people. This can be best expressed in the words of Caty Heron if you recall the movie Mean Girls, “I know what you’re thinking, homeschooled kids are freaks.”
I guess some people are under the impression that there are “warning signs” of homeschooldness, there aren't by the way, but that's what makes me hesitate before stating my previous form of education. When I feel I'm well established in a group, I'll find myself mentioning the fact that I was homeschooled only to get responses like, “Wait seriously?” and “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look very homeschooled.” In my opinion, this is sad. I wish I did look homeschooled, but that would require the conceptions of homeschooling to be positive ones. Homeschooling is not about being a freak. It is about building intimate and meaningful relationships with your family, it is about customizing curriculum to fit your child’s learning style, and it is about making education exciting, but I have strong doubts it will ever be perceived this way.
After the immediate shock and disbelief, the next question never fails to fall from the questioners lips, “Did you like it?” This question conjures up a complicated response for me. Yes, I loved it. I got to spend every single day with my family. I learned how to do everything a public schooler learned and more as my mom took the time to implement cooking, baking, and other household responsibilities into our daily schedules as well as art classes from actual artists, trips to see the Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Children’s Theater, and countless museums. By the time I entered the public high school, I found that I had learned beyond what my classmates had in some subjects and had no trouble transitioning into the public education system.
On the other hand, as much as I enjoyed it, it was hard to fit in. Not because I was socially inept, I had lots of homeschooled friends growing up. It was the fact that I felt like I was starting on chapter 6 of a book that everyone else had read from the very beginning. It required sitting back and listening a lot of the time. This was hard for me. I wanted to be in on all the inside jokes and share the storytelling spotlight too, but my job, at the time, was to sit back and put the pieces together as they fell into my lap.
I tell people high school was hard for me, but honestly, show me someone who said high school was not hard. People then ask if I would put my own children through it, and I say absolutely. I plan to. Transitioning from homeschool to public school was not only one of the scariest things I’ve done, but one of the best things I’ve done. I was pushed so far out of my comfort zone that it actually made me fearless. I threw myself in front of a dodgeball, and after I had done it once, I could do it again and again. Being homeschooled made me into the person I am today. It shaped me, grounded me, and pushed me to rise to every occasion life has set in front of me, and though it wasn’t the easy way, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.