by Sarah Kmosko
I was sitting in my friends’ apartment my final semester at UNC-Wilmington. I’d gotten to know them pretty well over the course of the time I’d spent at their place, playing Mario Kart and Cards Against Humanity and Dungeons and Dragons.
My roommate Ali was there too, and some others they’d invited over. We were all on the various chairs and the couch in their living area playing Never Have I Ever.
“Never have I ever,” I started, “been to public school.”
“Aw come on! Not fair!” they all said, laughing and shaking their heads at me.
The topic of conversation that night had been about high school.
“High school was an experience and a half,” my roommate Ali told me. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Drew, a guy from Asheville with a man bun and hipster glasses, leaned forward in his seat with a look on his face that indicated that he wanted to start some trouble. “My friend Jones was homeschooled and I guess he turned out alright,” he said. “I think I was one of his only friends back then. Guess that’s what you get when you’re homeschooled,” Drew smirked.
“Yeah, how do you socialize when you don’t go to school?” Mark, a guy with deep brown eyes, a curly head of hair, and a problem with picking up social cues said with what appeared to be sincere curiosity.
“You don’t,” I joked.
For a while in college, I was unsure that I should reveal that I was homeschooled. I thought that if I did, it would be an opening for people to go, “Oh that’s what’s wrong with her!”
For that reason, it’s still sometimes a challenge to decide whether I’m gonna tell peers I was homeschooled—even when I’ve been through college.
I think we’re all familiar with the reactions:
“How do you socialize?” Classic.
“Are you actually learning anything?” Insulting.
“Does your mom have her teaching license?” No. Ouch. Ok.
Then we have the know-it-alls. A friend told me over the phone once, “Your social skills just aren’t as developed as mine. You didn’t learn social skills like I did because you were not around people every day like I was at school.” Alright Matt. You were right about one thing. I wasn’t around a bunch of people my age every single day.
I was around my family. I am close friends with my little siblings who are five and 8 years younger than me. I’ve become pals with people of all different ages. I got to travel because the schedule as a homeschooler is so flexible. I met people in different areas all over the US. I’ve learned to socialize with young and old. I’ve learned to talk to a community of people instead of just people my age.
Of course, I didn’t say this to Matt. What I said was, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” To which he replied. “It’s just true. I’m sorry that I’m making you angry by telling the truth.” So matter-of-fact. So sure.
With the idea of homeschooling made fun of a lot by peers and in media, it’s not hard to believe that one would want to hide the fact that one was or is homeschooled.
But remembering what Ali said about public high school makes me think about my experience as a homeschooled high-schooler. It was pretty much an experience and a half too—just a different one.
What a lot of people who attend or have attended public school don’t realize, is that we’re not homeschooling alone. Homeschooling is a lifestyle and it includes a lot of other homeschool kids and parents too. We have a network, and we help each other, and can act just as wonderfully or dysfunctionally as any other community of people.
But here’s another thing I like to remember: When I went to those weekly homeschool co-ops, I met some of the coolest and most interesting people. These people were dorks and nerds and weirdos like me, and so much fun. I guess we are different because we are separated from some of the trends that happen in public schools, and because we’re probably around our families a lot more, and because we get to do school in our pajamas sometimes. (I’d bet money on the idea that doing school in your pajamas affects you in some way).
But it’s ok if you’re not quite ready to tell everyone. Because—face it—we are looked at a little funny when we tell others we were homeschooled.
But I want to let you know that our experiences as homeschooled high-schoolers don’t make us less than anyone. In fact, we can bring a fresh new perspective to the years within which we were homeschooled, and even beyond, after we’ve graduated from our homeschooled days.
We’re not better or worse—we’re just different. And I guess I’m learning to embrace that.
(Sarah Kmosko graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelors degree in Communication Studies, and a minor in Psychology. She is currently attending grad school, with plans to become a licensed counselor).