I was home schooled from pre-K to senior year of high school, and I'm not part of a cult. Or sheltered. Or socially awkward...most of the time. Well, part of the time. Sometimes.
For a lot of people, those statements sound mutually exclusive. My time in college has been filled with shocked faces and muffled gasps when people discover my apparently surprising background. This is quickly followed by a myriad of questions:
Did you get to watch TV? Did you wear pajamas all day? Do you have a learning disability or are you exceptionally smart? Did you have friends or social media? Did you live on a farm? Were your parents incredibly strict? Are you a conservative? Do you still believe in Santa Claus?
Duh, Santa Claus exists. Who do you think eats the Christmas cookies?
I want to debunk some popular myths about being home schooled. Some of the urban legends are true (yes, I did get to do school in my pajamas). Some—most—are not. No, I did not learn six languages and master quantum mechanics by sixth grade. Unfortunately. Sigh. But I did get a thorough and well-developed education, very similar to kids who went to a public or private or charter or any other kind of school. And by very similar, I mean basically identical. The only difference is I got to learn ninja warrior arts instead of P.E.
Yes, that was a joke.
In all seriousness, my childhood was very similar to anyone else's. I got up in the mornings, did school (usually in the kitchen or living room), got frustrated by math, ate lunch, did more school, got confused by science, ate dinner, did more school, read a book, hung out with friends, watched TV, listened to music, ran amok and wreaked havoc and went to bed. Normal. My life was normal. High school consisted of a bunch of classes either online, at someone's house or at a church or camp. I went to classes with other kids, just like everybody else.
I watched TV, movies, YouTube. I listened to the radio, and I had an iPod. I read magazines and books and newspapers and just about anything else with words. I had a cell phone and Facebook and Instagram. I had friends. I had a life.
Transitioning into life at a public university was not a culture shock for me. Rather, I think it was far easier for me to adapt than a lot of my friends who went to a normal school. I had already been going to a community college for two years in a dual enrollment program (which means I got high school and college credit for the courses I was taking). So the workload and expectations of a college class were definitely not new. Managing my homework load over several days was something I’d been doing for years because when you’re homeschooled, all school is “homework.” I didn’t suffer socially, either. Being home schooled did not impair my ability to make friends or communicate or catch pop culture references. I was not sheltered, and even if I had been, going to a community college in the middle of a sketchy town would have quickly gotten me over that.
The truth is, I fully believe that being home schooled was a huge benefit for me. It’s certainly not for everyone. I absolutely hated it up until seventh grade, when I started taking classes outside the house with other kids. But I learned, and I learned well. I had small, personal classes with close friends. I had a lot of independence to create my own schedule. I was able to have a job that I could work at during the weekdays. I don’t think that being home schooled made me smarter than anyone else. I don’t think it gave me any magical abilities, but I do think it taught me to take learning seriously and developed my love for knowledge.
Basically, home schooling is quite simple. It’s going to school at home. No cults, no shrines, no voodoo hoodoo magic. Just school. And you still turn out just as weird as everyone else.