On homeschooling

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I homeschooled for several years in primary school, and I've spent most of high school studying via distance education. I went to a few schools in between and met some lovely people and had nice experiences, but the way I'm currently studying suits me better than a traditional school environment.

This is something that I haven't really discussed much at all on the internet before, and not something that I ever go into a lot of detail about when I speak to people in my physical life either - perhaps because I've been homeschooling so long that it doesn't seem that different anymore. And in the past I also really didn't want to be characterised as a homeschooler - when I was younger, the stereotypes and assumptions that people had about homeschoolers and homeschooling really irritated me.

There were two questions people (mainly adults - people my age usually just said 'you're so lucky!') always seemed to ask me. One being 'Do you feel like you're missing out?' And the other, my particular favourite, 'Are you socialised?' (Because apparently if you don't spend six hours every weekday in the presence of a whole bunch of people you share nothing in common with but age, you must be some kind of hermit. I mean, really. How will you ever live in the world!) I find that people don't tend to ask these things anymore - being an author and speaking in front of large groups of people is probably evidence that I am a functioning human being. I wonder though, if I were not an author, would people still question my decision to homeschool?

My issue with the whole 'Do you feel like you're missing out?' thing is that everyone is always missing out on a lot of things. Just because I'm doing something that the vast majority of 17-year-olds aren't doing doesn't mean I'm doing the wrong thing and I'm going to spend the rest of my life bemoaning the fact I never went to a school ball or had a group of besties or suffered through five years P.E. classes. Yes, sometimes I do feel like I'm missing out. I wonder what my life would be like had I made different decisions. I'd like to feel part of a school community and have friends I like and see on a daily basis. But if given the choice between this alternate reality Steph and the Steph that I am (who gets to meet brilliant people all the time, and is writing books, and can speak in front of roomfuls of people now about something she's passionate about), I would always choose the life I have. We have to make decisions that rule out other possibilities. If I were still going to school and not pursuing writing than I think I'd be missing out on a hell of a lot more than I am right now.

'Are you socialised?' (or some variation thereof) is really just the product of assumptions that people make about homeschoolers. Just to be clear: I have plenty of friends of all different ages. I am not devoutly religous. I love my family dearly, but I am definitely a distinct and independent person from my parents. Writing was something that I pursued of my own accord, and no one in my family ever pushed me to become an author. I'm shy, but I was shy when I was at school, too, and I'm a lot less shy now than I used to be. You can't guess someone's entire personality or relationships based on whether or not they homeschool, same as you can't say that every single student in the public school system is the same. Some homeschoolers are pushed by their parents to achieve success. Some are religious and some are shy, and some are very social and some are not. Some people study from home for a short time, some their entire schooling careers. The tendency of people to make assumptions endlessly frustrates me.

I also think that if I were going to school, I would still be the same person. And I think that if I'd held back from pursuing writing, I'd be frustrated. I'd be longing to get out of there. I don't see the point in living life as the majority live it if it's crushing your spirit. Why do anything that isn't enriching you as a human being?

It doesn't really bother me anymore if someone thinks I'm a hermit. Or that the fact that I've been lucky enough to have a book published as a young person in combination with the fact I've homeschooled for years means my parents must be monstrous creatures trying to produce virtuoso* (which I'm not and they're not, but hey, I could write a good memoir if they were. Why do all the people around me have to be so sane! It's impossible to be a tortured artist when everyone's so nice).

I'm not suggesting you all drop out of school immediately and come and have midweek pyjama parties with me (though if you want to, I think it'd be great fun). But just to let you know - homeschooling (in primary school with the help of my mum and in high school with the help of the Distance Education Centre) has been pretty awesome for me. I think there's a lot of ways to live your life and conduct your education (or that of your children) and just because you're not doing it the way most people do doesn't mean you're doing it wrong or you're 'missing out' (my friends, right now you are missing out on being Steph Bowe. Missing out big time). I'd be the same person at heart if I'd gone to a 'normal' school. And I'm pretty sure homeschooling doesn't produce child geniuses more than traditional schools do (but I can't say that for sure, because I haven't conducted a study. But I'll make inquiries and get back to you). Thus concludes my blog post! No wait, I have questions...

What's your opinion on homeschooling? Are you a homeschooler yourself?
Would love to hear from you and hear about your experiences! (Also, who's up for midweek pyjama parties?)

*Remember this? Out of context quote made commenters at that blog think I was crazy and was probably taught French verbs in the womb. When in fact I don't know French at all. It's pretty funny if you know me or my family.**
**I had to edit that sentence because it sounded like I was the one teaching French verbs in the womb. Who to? I wonder. Who was I teaching French verbs to when I was a fetus? It's just one of the many mysteries of life.
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