My Experience as a Homeschooled Child

Thu 2015-06-18

“Homeschooling” comes with a lot of connotation. You might think of a super nerd with no social skills or a mindless sheep being force-fed the Bible and ultra-conservative ideals. I was both. But I’d like to explain how being homeschooled worked for my benefit overall and how homeschooling can be a very good thing.

So let me tell you my story. Let’s start all the way back at the beginning. My parents were ordinary people who met through mutual friends at a party, hooked up, started dating, conceived me, and got married. I started out the first few years of my life as any child would. I went to daycare, believed in Santa, dressed up on Halloween, and was a socialite with tons of friends. But halfway through kindergarten, my dad got a little more into his Christianity. No more Santa, no more Halloween, and off to Christian school I went. I was still able to keep up my wild extroversion despite being shoved into a new school in the middle of the year. I quickly made new friends and even got a boyfriend! The teachers were a lot meaner, but I had a great time going to school.

After graduating kindergarten, I was so happy. “I’m in 1st grade! I’m in an actual grade now!” My parents asked if I wanted to be homeschooled the next year and I was so happy to be in a real grade that I said “sure!” I obviously had no idea what that meant for me and my little sister.

I don’t remember exactly what the first year being homeschooled was like, but it wasn’t a huge shock to me. I always did as my parents said (though I would fight with them over doing chores) so I just went with it. And I don’t remember the exact moment I became socially awkward. Perhaps it was due to hanging out with socially awkward, overly polite playmates instead of real friends. However, I was able to retain my wildness and spirit, which led kids to think of me as bossy and rough, but I loved it.

And I wasn’t completely unsocialized. L.E.A.R.N. was every Thursday. Homeschooling moms in the area would gather at Faith Church to teach classes. My mom taught ballet and my favorite class was a dollhouse constructing class. (I built a dollhouse!) I also participated in the local recreational soccer program for many years. (But I was the one who would always play defense and sit there picking grass.) And there was ballet for many years, tap dance for a couple, and other activities my mom got us involved in so that we could be socialized. Yet it wasn’t enough to replace the hours every day that regular kids spend together in school.

Thinking back, I would be much different if I hadn’t been homeschooled. In kindergarten I was the center of my friends and boy-crazy. We would spend recess acting out sleeping beauty a few times so everyone got a chance to be Aurora. I would squint my eyes while lying in the sandbox so I could see when the boy we picked to play the prince would lean in to kiss me. When my younger sister and I would get matching stuff, I always was the one to get the pink option because “I’m the pretty one.” Even at 4 and 5 years old, my security rested on how desirable I thought I was and I was always trying to be the prettiest by putting girls around me down. Think about how that would have translated in a middle school setting!

But since I was homeschooled, I wasn’t in that situation. I was watching educational television for an hour or less a day, diving into my science books, exploring the woods, playing pretend with my siblings and playmates, reading fantasy novels, or crafting whatever came to mind. We would learn our curriculum through our textbooks and rather than having bad weather days and weekends off, we would have nice days off to play outside. Our mom taught us to garden and we grew fruits and vegetables. She taught us a lot of practical knowledge and filled us with her open-hearted, compassionate, loving nature. We may have been heavily sheltered, but that allowed us to live and grow freely in an almost dream-like perfection.

But of course it wasn’t perfect. The ultra-conservative ideals were damaging. For instance, our dad broke us down as girls. There was a chart he drew and taped in the kitchen: God > Man > Woman > Child. He would explain that children obey their mother, women obey men, and men obey God. We were taught that a girl’s worth was based on her ability to please her husband. He was obsessed with making us as desirable as possible. To keep me under 100 pounds in my tweens, he put me on a strict and painful diet. He would complain about our mom all the time: “If your mom doesn’t lose weight, when boys come over for dinner so they can date you, they’ll take one look at your mom and think you’ll get fat too and they’ll run away.” Even now, those deeply ingrained ideas affect me.

My dad also had almost Hilter-like ideas on ethnicity. He told us that black people were children of Ham, Noah’s third son, and because Ham was a sinful, bad son, all black people are bad. He said that the genes for being bad are paired with the genes for dark skin. And it wasn’t just blacks -- my mom is half Italian and so of course he would trash talk Italians. I still subconsciously relate “Italian” with nasty, hot-tempered, troll-looking people and I so don’t associate with my Italian heritage at all. My dad “taught” us that blond-haired, blue-eyed people are genetically superior and naturally this led me to tell my siblings I’m better than them because I am the only one with blue-green eyes and they all are brown-eyed like our mother.

My father is full of hate whereas my mother is full of love. When you’re homeschooled, your views and personality are based on just two people. If it was just my mom, that would be great. If it was just my dad, I would be a horrible person right now. Fortunately I spent a lot more time with my mom than with my dad, so her love is what primarily made me. It seems that non-homeschooled kids have a lot of examples of views and personalities, but that can go either way. They might get swept up into the negative side of society or they might become a more well-rounded individual, or both. I wouldn’t know of course, but I appreciate that I was able to absorb so much of my mom into the foundation of my character. There may also be the arrogance of my father, but I am really grateful for the love and shelter my mom provided to turn me into the compassionate, empathetic, sensitive, loving person I like to be now. (See my post on sensitivity if you think that’s a bad thing!)

Besides having control over who their child becomes, parents like homeschooling because it allows children to learn at the pace that is best for them. Science was my favorite -- I would finish my curriculum in half a school year and then fill up the rest of my time with scientific pursuits like science projects, playing with science toys, etc. My science projects were frequently advanced. My fourth grade science fair project was using thermoelectric chips (TECs), a tin of hot water, and a tin of ice water to light up little lights in a doll house. I saw TECs again in my senior year clinic project, where I was doing essentially the same thing! Math came quickly though it bored me. I was years ahead in math and my dad taught me algebra in fourth grade.

If you take away all the bullying that comes along with being a scholastically interested child, the child can blossom and fully experience her love of learning. And of course I’m nerdy. I love learning! Not to mention my dad for some reason thought chess was cool and taught us chess and other strategy games so we could impress boys. I’m not good at chess, but I really enjoy strategy games now!

I would argue that the shelter from bullies is great, except for when it comes to actually entering the real world. In 2005, just before entering 7th grade, my parents asked me if they could get divorced. I highly recommended the split and so it began.

Middle school was hell (and academically boring, leading me to get C’s in math because I knew it already and didn’t do my homework). I didn’t make friends until the end of sophomore year of high school. Going four years with no friends while dealing with my parents’ violently terrible divorce was a shocking difference to the happy-go-lucky, free-spirited, sheltered life I was used to.

Finally my life started improving during junior year when I had friends and a boyfriend, I was getting all A’s in my all honors classes, my siblings and I were together with our mom instead of split between our parents, and I was finding out who I am separate from my parents. I threw away a lot of what I used to “know,” such as evolution not being real and the world being created in seven literal days. In college, I even threw away Christianity as a whole, trading it in first for agnostic theism and finally throwing away religious beliefs altogether. Now I have my own morality and causes, such as feminism. I feel like it took longer than most, but I was able to find my individuality.

My siblings each had their own experiences with being thrown into the real world. Megan fought our father for her right to be homeschooled again and now she is getting her master’s in accounting, lives with her boyfriend, was president of the karate club, and is totally socially capable. Noel would find other adults to lean on for all her opinions and became a minion for our mean, Fox News-watching, disabled aunt (father’s sister). But during her first year of college, she found herself and separated from our aunt’s control. Heidi and Isaiah had essentially no homeschooling. Today Heidi is your typical punky, lovable teenager and Isaiah is having a lot of trouble with bullying due to his soft, loving nature.

We’ve had unique experiences and if I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything. There was a lot of pain and strife, but I believe being socially awkward humbled my vanity, being sheltered made me sensitive, being raised by my mom made me loving and compassionate, being raised by my dad helped fuel my love of science, and overall being homeschooled helped make me who I am today. However, for future possible homeschoolers, I have some opinions.

  • Don’t raise your kids with one worldview. Teach all religions, all philosophical views, etc. and teach your kids how to think, not what to think.

  • Do socialize them more. Not just once or twice a week -- find a way to get them interacting with other kids their age every day.

  • Do use homeschooling as an opportunity to pass on your POSITIVE traits. You have a lot of control in molding your children, so be a good example and show them the way to being a nice, loving person!

  • Don’t use homeschooling as an opportunity to brainwash hateful thoughts into your kids! You might not mean to, but anything you say, nice or not, is going to be absorbed by them. Hold off on criticizing or trash-talking others because your kids will start thinking that way.

  • Do let your kids work at their own pace. (Unless they’re lazy, then you should consider putting them in regular school.)

  • Do teach your kids more than the curriculum. Gardening and sewing are examples of skills I learned while being homeschooled.

  • Do go on lots of field trips. One of my favorite parts of being homeschooled was all the field trips! We visited museums, zoos, parks, and historical sites very often and I got to experience a lot of fun things. It greatly helped nurture my love of learning because learning was fun!

Whether homeschooling is a positive or a negative experience for a child depends on the parents. If done right, it can be better than the current educational system. If done poorly, the child may go through a lot of hardship in life or even be forever socially disabled. I am not against homeschooling and I’m not against regular schooling either. The decision on how to raise my own children isn’t one to be made any time soon, so I have time before I decide what works best for my future family.

My current stance is that homeschooling during preschool or up to middle school would be best. I want to share my mom’s love and my love with my future children and give them the foundation of a compassionate human being. It’s also very important to me that they learn philosophy and different religions so that they can be thoughtful, reasoning people. Being homeschooled myself, I have experienced the good and the bad. This would help me in homeschooling my own children.

Perhaps then after home school they could attend a high quality private school to experience the real world in a more controlled, academic setting. And then when they are old enough, I would like to give them the choice where they will go. Public, private, or home.

But again, I currently have no idea what I will want if/when I have my own children. However, regardless of the decision I make, it will be all for the kids and for whatever I think will make them (and the world) the best it can be.

By Britt, Category: Biography

Tags: bio /