Things you get if you’re homeschooled

Religious Homeschool Kids
Homeschooled? OK, not like this. Source: Still from "Mean Girls."

The scene above from “Mean Girls” is what most people seem to think when they find out you were homeschooled.

The fact that I was homeschooled from kindergarten through my senior year of high school is not something that I often divulge to people (until now, I guess, Internets), because you get asked about a million insulting questions right after that. “Did you have any friends? How were you socialized? Did you even learn about evolution? How did your parents teach you everything you needed to know? Do you make all of your own clothes? Was college really, really hard for you? But you seem so NORMAL!” And so on. Sigh.

That said, today I was reflecting on the reasons why I’m thankful I was homeschooled.

So, here’s my list:

Things You Get If You’re Homeschooled, Apart from a Lot of Discrimination

  • An extremely high tolerance for “weird” people and “nerds.” Later in life, you have a lot of grace and common language with these people, because you were/are one yourself or spent a lot of time with them. Either way, homeschooling makes you patient with the uncool.
  • A total lack of pop culture references from your childhood. If you grow up without TV, like we did, you have to pretend that you really miss Nickelodeon shows and 90’s bands that you are supposed to cherish just to appear normal. Even today, when people are like, “OMG, don’t you wish you could watch ‘Saved by the Bell’ all day??” I always pretend like it’s my favorite, too, even though I’ve never seen it. As Emily likes to say, “I cultivate a nostalgia for a childhood I never experienced.”
  • Great rapport and ease of conversation with grown-ups. Yeah, we dress funky, but your parents love us because we carry on conversations with them like mini-adults.
  • A curious mind and an excitement about learning. Unlike our more traditionally educated peers, homeschoolers often have no shame about loving school. We didn’t get recess or video games or texting; our default hobbies were usually an extension of our educations. Best day in the world for me? Library day!
  • Natural ease with humans of all ages. We spent time with adults, babies, and kids of our own age every day, rather than just kids of our same grade. This means you could entrust your infant to just about any homeschooler and he or she would be equipped to care for it, solely from their experience raising their own six siblings day in and day out.
  • Interests and knowledge in unusual areas. We can’t just join the school soccer team like everyone else. So you meet kids who are free to follow their own bizarre passions and became self-taught experts in things such as calculus, roller hockey, the Elvish “language,” debating the implications of medical malpractice law, tap dancing, origami, mastering the viola, and castrating goats.

Yeah, it was a weird way to grow up. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

My crazy family with animals

One of my favorite things about e-mail is starting family-wide e-mail chains. My family cracks me up and our e-mail chains are often quite colorful and hilarious. Dad started this week’s chain with an e-mail titled “Gumbo.”

Back story: My father spends most of his waking life, when not working, in the unfinished basement, which he calls the Man Cave. It’s largely creepy, but it is now highly customized to his interesting way of life. He plays a game called “crate” down there with Sam and Dave. Crate is like hockey, but you play on rollerblades and with a ball that you try to shoot into tipped crates on either end of the basement. The element that makes crate so exciting is that you have to duck often so you don’t run into the low-hanging beams or the concrete columns that are tenuously holding our house up. He built a ping pong table. He’s jerry-rigged a working television and ancient desktop computer down there, too. He says the only thing he needs now is a toilet in the back corner and he’ll never have to come upstairs to the main house.

One of the main reasons my father loves the Man Cave is because of the company he keeps down there. A few months ago, he discovered a huge bullfrog who was taking residence in the dark recesses of the Man Cave. He was delighted to have the company and promptly named her (I think he calls it a “her”) Gumbo. We’ve never actually seen the elusive Gumbo and tease him that she doesn’t exist.

Then we get this e-mail with the following photograph and note attached:

Dad's true love
Dad and his true love, Gumbo the bullfrog.

Never have I felt this way about any of my children. My love for Gumbo is staggering.

Um, OK. Thanks, Dad. Way to make us feel loved.

Not to be outdone, Grace then sends us a follow-up message. It runs something along the lines of, “Hey family, I miss you, but your lives are kind of slow, because THIS is what I’ve been doing…”

Grace bathes with elephant in Nepal
Grace, bathing with an elephant in a river in Nepal. No big deal.

BATHING WITH AN ELEPHANT.

Top that. I certainly can’t.