Friend: “So where do you go to school?”
Me: “I’m homeschooled.”
Friend: “Oh man, you’re so lucky!”
If I had a dollar for every time that conversation happened growing up…well, let’s just say I’d have a much nicer website.
I was homeschooled PreK-12. Except for a brief conversation before high school, neither my parents nor I ever seriously considered anything else. When I enrolled as a freshman in college it was the first time I’d ever had to leave my front door to pursue education.
Before I go further, let’s get something out of the way. There’s a popular perception of why parents choose to homeschool that is ridiculous and often used to incite fear and loathing. In my life I’ve met hundreds, maybe thousands of fellow homeschooled kids: I’ve never ever EVER met a family that homeschooled so they could protect their child from the government or keep the kids “in the bunker.” In fact, the opposite has often been true. Many homeschooling kids I’ve met were taught early to be engaged in public service and civic responsibility. The “military homeschool” meme is grossly exaggerated.
I’ve considered writing about homeschooled life for a while. What made me decide to do it, though, was a recent Twitter hashtag, #HomeschoolConfessions. Most of these posts were funny and warmly nostalgic in nature. But as I perused them and clicked some of the blogs of the people who contributed, I picked up on something. Many of these people were very, very bitter about their homeschooled childhood. Several had obviously adopted religious and political worldviews that were opposed to what they were taught as kids. Reading their thoughts about homeschooling was like reading a jilted 16 year old’s diary entries about an ex-boyfriend; they were angry, combative and very, very cynical. It was a sad experience that made me realize something important:
I can’t empathize with this.
My homeschooling life was full of love, warmth, joy, Jesus, and memory. My years at home, getting help in math from Dad and pretty much everything else from Mom were some of the happiest days of my life. I didn’t grow up and realize that my parents had brainwashed me. I didn’t meet new people who informed me of how abused by the patriarchy I was. I wasn’t rebuked with anger for having questions or not understanding why my family did certain things a certain way.
For me, homeschool was a way not to avoid the outside world but to get to know my parents and my family in a special, intimate way. To this day I treasure the relationship I have with my Mom and Dad. I believe I’m closer to my siblings because I saw them so much growing up. And for what its worth, I would say my education was just fine (I graduated from college after all).
I’m writing this so that parents, current and future, can understand something. Simply because a neo-feminist or progressive evangelical tells you that homeschooling wounds a child’s spirit doesn’t make it true. Yes, my only formal sex education before college was through my Dad. Why is that a problem? True, I didn’t have the vast network of friends that my public school buddies enjoyed. Know where those friends are at 25? Neither do I.
Homeschooling can be a soul-building experience for children and parents. It’s not for everyone, and many Christian parents will opt for public or private school for perfectly sane reasons. For those who want to consider homeschooling, please just take from this brief note that the “homeschoolers anonymous” groups do not speak for all or even most of us. Who knows? Maybe your child will write years later about how grateful they are to you for the extra years spent learning math, English, science…and home.