Last night, I was sitting in front of my fireplace watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and their makeover victim was an 18-year-old homeschooler named Sean.
You guys, Sean is a major weirdo. I know that’s mean but there’s no other way to put it. He’s so awkward and he doesn’t have any friends and it’s like you can smell the “outcast” on him.
So I’m sitting there watching this go down and I just start feeling uncomfortable. Because as most of you know, I was homeschooled. And I’ve spent most of my life feeling like everybody can smell the “outcast” on me and overcompensating for it in a lot of sad and semi-pathetic ways.
(one of the dorkiest ways that I do this is that if you make a pop culture joke that I don’t get, I’ll still laugh. And sometimes somebody - usually Andrew - will call me on it and be like “Emma you don’t know what that is, do you?” and then I have to admit that I don’t and I just laughed to make it seem like I did…*face in hands*)
So I started getting almost angry watching this show — like why do we always have to show the weird homeschoolers?! Where are all the normal homeschoolers? And then I start thinking, am I the only normal homeschooler? Which of course leads me to wonder, Am I even that normal? All these years of trying to seem like I fit in and maybe it’s actually obvious to everyone around me that I'm a weirdo.
“Do you think I’m like Sean?” I asked Andrew (who, despite being Egyptian, is like the quintessential American teenager and played Football and Basketball and knows all the TV shows and rapper names…)
“Of all people I can think of, you are the least homeschooled.” He said. (I took this to mean my social skills, not my education level. Though on our first date, I got a city and a country confused…so maybe he was just trying to say I’m not that smart).
And it’s kinda’ true. Not trying to #humblebrag here, but I have really good social skills. I know how to keep a conversation going. I can connect with people of all ages (except for women my age…and more about that in a moment). I can read a room. I am genuinely interested in other people. I also get along well with a big variety of people: my hippy childhood friends, my literary friends, my trump-voter friends (I know!), my introvert friends, my nerdy friends, my entrepreneur friends, my spiritual friends.
On one hand, that’s pretty positive, right? Like maybe I’m living proof that homeschoolers aren’t so weird! Or that maybe homeschoolers are all around us (in stealth mode!) and we don’t even realize it. Or that it’s possible for a homeschooler to have a successful career and active social life and feel like they fit into conventional American life.
But here’s the thing - whenever I tell people that I’m homeschooled, they act shocked. They’re not like, “oh cool, whatever…” They’re like “WHAT THE FUCK?! YOU WERE HOMESCHOOLED!!!???” or they just start laughing and make jokes, like, “that explains it” or “why am I not surprised?” In fact, I usually make the first jokes just to make the situation more comfortable, just to make it clear that yes, I understand that homeschooling is considered equivalent to being a weirdo / a social outcast, etc.
But it shouldn’t have to be this way. The term homeschooler shouldn’t be shorthand for being “weird.”
There are plenty of fun, sociable, comfortable, gregarious homeschoolers. I know at least a hundred adult homeschoolers and they’re across the range of odd” to conventional, of outgoing to introverted. They work all kinds of jobs, have all kinds of personalities, etc…same as the non-homeschoolers I know! Honesty, some of the weirdest and most socially-awkward people I’ve ever met went to public school and I remember thinking how much happier they would have been as homeschoolers.
What’s my point? I’m not sure. I guess that it’s hard to be an adult homeschooler, or a homeschooler of any age. It’s hard to have your parent’s education choices become something you can’t outgrow or undo. Or to feel like you always have to pick a side about whether homeschooling “works” or not. It’s hard to be the butt of every “dork” joke because of something that honestly was completely out of your control. It’s hard to be something that is SO typecast and then not fit into that typecast and desperately want to make sure you don’t fit into that typecast and then feel like you just don’t fit in anywhere.
So, if you know any adult homeschoolers, send them my way :)