I was scrolling through Twitter on my afternoon break a month or so ago—as one does—and a tweet caught my eye. It asked folks to stop writing stories about “sheltered and miserable” homeschooled kids. I didn’t even know this trope existed in the literary world, let alone have other Twitter folk commenting on it and asking for the same thing. (And I admit, it’s probably because that would be more of a middle grade or maybe YA transition story so not really my world.) But as a former-homeschooled-kid, I really don’t like this portrayal. It’s been over a month now and perhaps it’s because school is starting up again, but the disappointment has stuck with me and I figured I’d give a counter-argument to the “miserable/sheltered” idea.
I was homeschooled from 1st through 8th grade; my mom and dad taught me. Dad taught history, Mom taught English, science, math, etc. I was taught at home, at the kitchen table, one-on-one, with notebooks and workbooks and flashcards and tests and papers and the whole shebang.
And contrary to the “miserable” theme, it was great! My dad did a lovely job with teaching me history, even going so far as to record himself reading the history text and expanding on them when we went to visit Nana and he was busy at work. My mom spent hours teaching both my sister and I how to spell, write, do math, learn about science,—all kinds of core things that I’d be learning if I went to school down the street—and she did an amazing job! I did tests and quizzes and had to meet a certain standard to pass through the grades, just like kids in school. I was not miserable.
Now for the “sheltered” bit, I can see how folks might think that. A kid being taught at home isn’t really getting the experience of being out in the world or forging those connections with other kids, but my parents tried to alleviate that, too.
I’d start school after breakfast and usually get done before lunch. (Amazing, right?) That freed my afternoons for homework and a myriad of clubs and after-school activities. I went to drawing classes, 4-H, Girl Scouts, did horseback riding, and a couple of other things to keep myself busy and to keep me on good social terms with the rest of my peers.
Did I get as much one-on-one time with other kids like the ones in public school? No, of course not. But did I get enough socialization for a fulfilling and wonderful childhood? Hell yes. Did I make enough friends? Of course! (I’m STILL friends with some of my Girl Scout troop to this day!) I was probably sheltered on a few other things—bullying, for one, probably, though there were some…interesting characters in my old 4H group—but every kid goes through their schooling differently.
I do admit that transitioning out of homeschool into private school with the hallways and classrooms and lots of different teachers and so many other kids did shock me a bit. So if that’s a feature of the homeschool-to-public-school trope, then that’s true for me, too. (I got over it in about a week.)
Perhaps some homeschooled kids were miserable and sheltered (my heart goes out to those kids) but perhaps some of them were happy to be homeschooled…like me!
My point? Each experience is different, each perspective is different, each kid is different. So here’s hoping there’s a few portrayals of happy homeschoolers out there in the literature world, too, because some of us had an amazing time.