I am a Homeschooled Freak

I was homeschooled. I write it as one word. Always have. College was my first experience with formal schooling. It was a little jarring. I kept thinking, “Seriously? We have to raise our hands?” I know, that makes me sound like a freak.

I am a member of a tiny minority in this country. I did not ride a school bus. I did not sit in a classroom. In my world, there was no recess, no bell, no tests, no gym class, no APs, no prom, and no graduation. Ironically, there was no “homework.”

I have grown accustomed to hearing people tell me, “You seem so normal!” Sometimes they say, “You’re very social!” Or “You don’t have trouble talking to people!” There is always a note of surprise in their tone, and I recognize immediately that they are wondering how it is that I turned out so strikingly normal.

I’m not one of those genius homeschoolers who won the Van Cliburn competition at seventeen and went on to study astrophysics at Yale. I’m not even impressively well-read anymore. Maybe when I was ten, or fourteen, but these days I’d rather watch TV and write songs in my free time. So maybe it comes down to this: For a homeschooler, I guess I’m pretty normal, but compared to everyone else, I’m still too different for comprehension on a beginner’s level. I mean, I can’t even comprehend how different I must be, so it makes sense that the rest of the world has trouble with me.

As a homeschooler, I spent a lot of time taking pictures in the woods

As a kid, since I was really different from most kids, I figured I’d be famous. Like, right away. By the time I was sixteen. In my mind, sixteen was the absolute latest I could afford to get famous. But that didn’t work out. And instead of touring the world with a fuchsia grand piano and a bevy of scantily clad backup singers, I went to college, like everyone else.

College had never been a part of the plan. College was like the goldfish you eventually get after begging for months for a perky pony with amber spots. College was what other kids did, because they were so used to going to school.

But there I was at college, and suddenly I realized I was unattractive. And awkward. I’d always felt really pretty and popular before then. It was a miraculous transformation. I think for most people this same thing happened in, like, elementary school. Ok, maybe middle school. But, you know, really really early. Maybe it would’ve been better if I had gone through it then. Gotten it over with. At eighteen, I didn’t know what hit me. I didn’t know why I was so depressed suddenly. I started writing a lot of poems called “Prison” and “My Escape” and stuff.

A dorm hallway. Not exactly "homey"

Of course, it wasn’t just about my appearance. I had no idea who I was supposed to be around all of these people exactly my age, many of whom had days and days of conversation that centered on TV shows I’d never seen.

But for me, my appearance was tied into every aspect of this new world. It seemed perfectly clear that being hot was critical to succeeding as a girl. And I had a feeling I wasn’t the right kind of “hot.” Smart, I could do, but that was much more important to the professors than the other students.

In protest, I cut off my hair. Original, right? I actually did it myself, though, so I get some points.

In retrospect, now that I’m all worldly and grownup (ha!), I realize that if I’d just figured out that not everyone who met me could immediately tell I was an alien freak from planet Homeschooled, freshman year would’ve been easier.

But still, when I hear fifth grade girls in a class I teach talk about how everyone picks on this one girl because she’s “weird-looking,” my stomach turns a little. I’m glad I missed that. At least at eighteen people didn’t just say it to my face.

Here’s the thing, though: Why do we have to end up feeling like that at all? Why is that a normal, expected part of growing up female? Being homeschooled didn’t prevent me from having to feel bad about myself– it just postponed the experience. At the same time, being homeschooled first taught me how beautiful and capable I am, and I wonder if that can ever be completely destroyed. I’m going to go with “Nope.” I have hope that eventually, even if it doesn’t happen right now, I will be sure about how much I rock.

Un-Roast: Today I love my belly. It is really cute. It sticks out a little bit, which looks feminine.

Everyone: How did school impact the way you feel about yourself?

P.S. Homeschooling doesn’t necessarily freak everyone out. Think about Pioneer Woman! She’s a homeschooling mom! And just like her kids, I never knew what grade I was in.

24 Comments »

Kate on April 20th 2010 in beauty, body, homeschooling

24 Responses to “I am a Homeschooled Freak”

  1. Maggie responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Here’s a topic I love :)

    Can’t wait to share my own homeschooling experiences (do people actually write the word with a space?). We definitely had different paths, but I think similar in some ways. You should write about our homeschool group and our first crushes. Or maybe I can write about that.

    I love Pioneer Woman!

  2. Maggie responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    P.S. See you in 15 minutes.

  3. Jamie responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    I am working on a post right now about 2 moments in 4th grade that changed my perception of myself for the rest of my life. At least you had yours in college when you were more emotionally capable of handling it!

  4. Cindy responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    This is really eye opening Kate~
    I of course went to “normal” whatever school.

    I never felt comfortable in my own skin, till, well, mabye last week. ;)

    didn’t go to much college (2 or 3 years total)

    kids are brutal. really people are very judgemental. at any age. clickey too. I never understood it.

    fitting in is such an unnecessary emotion to deal with.

    why can’t we raise a society of people that never think about that stuff and can feel good about what they DO, giving caring sharing helping working…science, nature, economics…you name it.

    why can’t THAT be the axis of our judgement rather than our noses, our boobs, our waist and how we dress, talk or look.

    why oh why?

    so much of it all is genetic, and cultural and out of our control.

    it’s silly to me.

    why do we give so much power to some dumb thing someone said to us in like 3rd grade or some painful thing in HS? why do these things tweak us for so many years?

    because it HURTS and because the human heart is tender and we don’t respect that enough.

    I love that you were homeshcooled…please share more (Maggie you too)

    have a great Tuesday Ladies!
    xoxoxo

  5. Kate responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    @Jamie– I LOVE your post. I just read it and will comment as soon as it shows up on your site (it’s not cooperating right now).

  6. Kate responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    @Cindy— Thanks for this, as always! It does feel out of our control sometimes, because it is, to a large extent. But that’s exactly why we have to gain some control by writing and talking, and above all, feeling better! It’s always amazing to me how fragile people are. I think I’ll actually write a post about that. Thanks for the inspiration! Hugs!

  7. Anne responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    awesome post. middle school was rough for me. that’s when i started feeling bad about myself. the usual story. some girls decided not to be friends with me anymore. that’s interesting that you were homeschooled!

    un-roast: i love my arms today. they’re strong and well shaped.

  8. jenn k responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    i’m lovin on you right now. way to be awesome.

  9. Rob responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    This is one I can definitely relate to. I was also homeschooled and I also spell it with one word, though my spell-checker doth protest too much. I tell people I grew up in a kind of “Free to Be You and Me” bubble world! I never liked kids who went to public school. By the time I was ten or so, I already knew I’d be an object of ridicule to them just because I didn’t play sports, wear the right clothes or like the right music. I can’t tell you how badly I used to feel about myself because of that. I went through a phase in my teen years when I tried a little harder to fit in with the crowd, but I just felt ridiculous. Now I like to think of myself as a kind of alien observer from another place and time: a stranger in a strange land, observing bizarre and unhealthy customs that make no sense to me!

    I still have a hard time fitting in with my “peers” even today. Although I could easily spend hours at Home Depot emptying my bank account on all sorts of power tools I never knew existed and then cutting all my fingers off, I’ve never been interested in most stereotypical “man stuff” like football, beer and go-go bars. I find it really hard to relate to men when they try to subtly one-up each other with their knowledge of sports statistics or top each other’s tales of sexual conquest. I would never feel comfortable getting a lap dance or hiring a stripper for a party.

    Sadly enough, I’ve found that men’s negative attitudes and women’s negative attitudes in our society are two sides of the same coin. They compliment and reinforce each other in a thousand unhealthy ways. Men degrade and objectify women and encourage each other to lust after unrealistic ideals, and women compete with each other at the expense of their own health to be what they think men want them to be. Everybody loses. It’s a vicious cycle, and it must be fought on both fronts. The only way “women’s lib” can succeed is if “men’s lib” also succeeds, and vice-versa.

    I don’t know if we’ll ever live in the kind of society that Cindy mentioned, where people would judge each other by what really matters instead of what’s only surface-deep. I don’t have much faith in humanity and sometimes I think that kind of maturity is simply beyond what the human animal in general is capable of. I hope I’m wrong!

  10. Jamie responded on 20 Apr 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    It’s up now. I didn’t actually publish it, but it for some reason went out to my subscribers when I saved it as a draft. Anyhoo, it’s now up, with photos : )

  11. Ali responded on 21 Apr 2010 at 12:27 am #

    This is so interesting. I grew up *wishing* I was being homeschooled (not that I was terribly crazy about my parents, but any alternative to the hell I went through on a daily basis seemed alluring). But it makes sense that it really only postponed the inevitable.
    I know this is very naive and optimistic, but society will only change if all of us, one by one, reject what’s being “sold” and stand up for other ideals than the tiniest waist and the biggest boobs.
    Un-roast: Today I really like my lips. They are plump and accent the rest of my face.

  12. Kaila responded on 21 Apr 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    I was homeschooled as well (that is how Kate and I met) and I entered school for the first time in 7th grade. It was…an interesting experience, to say the least. I was going through this enormous change, and puberty, at the same time. I was very, very insecure in middle school. Before middle school, not only am I unable to recall a time when I felt badly about my appearance, I can’t really remember thinking about my appearance much at all. I would say I am much more well-adjusted now, but there are definitely times when I still feel like the socially awkward, frizzy haired homeschooled girl with braces and no fashion sense that I was in 7th grade. I am by nature a sensitive person, and had a very hard time dealing with the teasing in middle school. The majority of it was by my friends, who were insecure with themselves and didn’t mean to offend me, however I wasn’t aware of that at the time. I have a lot to say on this subject, but for now I will just say that being homeschooled had a huge impact on who I am now, and although there have been many negative effects, on most days I am glad for the experience. I think that sometimes feeling different can help you have a different perspective on things, and I imagine how boring the world would be if everyone were the same.

  13. Kaila responded on 21 Apr 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    oh, PS: unroast: i like my toes today. usually i don’t, because my second toe is WAY longer than my big toe. not to mention they are abnormally small. but they have light pink nail polish on them, and they look cute and feminine.

  14. Smart and Pretty. At the Same Time! | Eat the Damn Cake responded on 23 Apr 2010 at 4:46 pm #

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  15. Christina (Dinner at Christina's) responded on 25 Apr 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    I think school taught me insecurity. I think because there is such a flood of so many different people, it’s natural to try and find similarities. When you are smaller, shorter, etc. it sticks out. It’s made even worse if others point it out.

    I homeschooled for a few years at the end of middle school and beginning of high school, but I think by then it was how my brain worked. When I hung out with friends that still went to school I would make sure to wear my “cool” clothes and talk about “hip” things so they wouldn’t think I’d turned into a dorky homeschooler.

    School also produces a lot of “group think” where you just go along with the crowd and don’t create your own opinion or sit and think things out for yourself. For me, the transition of being alone for a few years really helped with that. Even now, when I hear about something in conversation or on the news I do my own research and google around before I just take somebody’s word for it, or accept things as fact.

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  19. San D responded on 20 Jun 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    I wasn’t homeschooled, but had my own weird schooling. I went to many schools because of my father’s career. Since birth I moved every 22 months, and therefore changed schools alot including 2 high schools. Each school had its own flavor, which meant I was always a fish out of water. That said, the experience taught me how to ‘read’ people really quickly because of my exposure to the masses via moving. My sense of humanity is optimistic because in my coping mechanisms I searched out positive, intellectual, interesting, creative types. I must say though that one thing we (meaning the human race) have in common is our need to “categorize” each other. Whether for survival reasons, or for “collective” reasons, we are always judging, categorizing, and labeling. I am sure the animal species does the same thing only nonverbally, and more about survival than anything else. Once you realize that even in our idea of nirvana, where judgements would not be made, everything would be perfect, and all would be equal, there were judgements in those “descriptors” to begin with.

  20. Marilia responded on 16 Jul 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    I went to regular school. It sucked, but it took me to much time to realize what it was doing to me, to my sense of myself, to my way of thinking. I guess I only realized it when I was 23 more or less (I´m 32 now).

    In a few words I´ll sumarize how I see it today: It´s just wrong.

    The other day I dreamed I was in high school again, failing at Chemistry. I woke up and told my 3 year old girl, she will never have to go though that, unless if she wants it.

  21. Cassie VDH responded on 15 Nov 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    Homeschooler here… My path was a little different. Homeschooled by slightly hippie/slightly punk-y anarchist parents because they decided that they didn’t want me stuffed into the modular classrooms in trailers that our town was using at the time to deal with the overflow of first graders. At the meeting for prospective parents of the school system, the school board administrator for our town basically said, “Please don’t send any more of your kids here,” as a joke, and so my parents decided that they could probably do a better job at this thing than that dude could.

    I felt the same way you did – waiting for my glorious moment of genius to shine publicly at around age 16. I blogged before there was blogging, sang in choirs, took stealthy community college classes in a million weird subjects that I was interested in before the administration realized I was 14, and did service trips to Native reservations in Arizona, tiny villages in Honduras, and the mountainous jungles of Puerto Rico. All before I decided I wanted to be a nurse and started getting my BSN at 18. Everything seemed foreign. People were struggling with weird issues I didn’t know existed. Clothing and makeup budgets were beyond my wildest imaginations. People asked me about where I went to highschool and I wanted to tell them that everything and every place was my highschool and all they could ask me when they finally found out I was homeschooled was whether I was socialized and how could I be so indoctrinated by only my weird parents?

    But then.. I never felt like that. I felt like I had lived a small lifetime before college, and then there I was at graduation with parents telling their children to Fly! Fly away and be an adult! You can start living now! It was kind of depressing to know that I had been living all along and somehow these other people felt like they weren’t really until then.

    So anyways. Didn’t become a jungle nurse like I thought. Still not a Rhodes scholar, and I don’t write a famous blog (just an old, dusty, eleven-year-old one). Got married at 21, had a kid at 23, and work part time as a nurse. Still dressing kinda like a homeschooler, though.

    Love your blog(!!!). :)

  22. Leann responded on 29 Mar 2011 at 11:39 am #

    You really need to start blogging! I really enjoyed your comments! I am a mom of 3. They are going to public school but I really want to homeschool them, however fear sets in. I don’t want them to miss the good about public school but there is more negative I feel. I want them to be living now!

    Thanks for your story!

  23. kevin responded on 29 Mar 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    I accidentally came across this as I was trying to find my own blog. I absolutely love it.

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