The word "homeschooler" carries with it all sorts of images, doesn't it? Right or wrong, consciously or unconsciously, most people hear that word and immediately conjure up a stereotype based on their own experiences, perceptions, or assumptions.
You know you do it. I know I used to.
It's alright. I don't blame anyone. I still find myself doing it occasionally, and I've been homeschooling for well nigh a decade.
In fact, to make it more fun, I've turned it into a game of sorts. Not unlike small children, stereotypes are a lot less annoying if you play with them. So sometimes I like to mentally categorize my fellow homeschoolers -- especially the more quirky ones -- based on how other people might stereotype them at first glance.
It sounds kind of awful, I know. But it's all in good fun. Since I'm a homeschooler, I can poke fun of homeschool stereotypes, right? It's kind of like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry's dentist converts to Judaism, and Jerry accuses him of only converting so he can make Jewish jokes, and then Kramer calls Jerry a "rabid anti-dentite."
Or maybe not. That was a funny episode, though.
Anyway, let's play a bit. I say, "homeschooler." You picture one. Does the image in your mind fit one of the these descriptions?
The Uber Christian: Quiet, polite, religious. Spends free time reading the Bible and trying to figure out how to save their pagan neighbor's soul. Mother is a dedicated homemaker/cheerful helpmeet and father is a creation scientist/youth pastor/rightful authority figure. Conversations inevitably start with "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" and always lead back to Salvation, the Rapture, and our Sin Nature. Perpetuates the stereotype that homeschoolers are religious fanatics who don't want their kids exposed to the evils of evolution and critical thinking.
The Geeky Freak: Nerdy, awkward, socially inept. Spends free time studying the word list for the Scripps Spelling Bee, as well as all of its official rules and regulations. Both parents are nerds themselves, and not the cool kind. Conversations include staring at the carpet, painfully long silences, and perhaps some unconscious nose-picking -- unless you get them talking about their latest science project, in which case they'll talk a little too loudly, a little too fast, with excited spittle flying from the corners of their mouth. Perpetuates the stereotype that homeschoolers are awkward, unsocialized weirdos.
Photo courtesy the author.
The Creative Genius: Free-spirited, innovative, ingenious. Spends free time building medieval trebuchets or inventing rockets that stand a real chance of making into orbit. Mother is a writer/artist and father is an engineer. Conversations include enthusiastic descriptions of explosions and/or contraptions they've created with duct tape, chicken wire, and LEGOs. Perpetuates the stereotype that homeschoolers are outside-the-box genius thinkers who are destined to make radical contributions to human intellectual and technological advancement.
The Hippie Homesteader: Nature-loving, organic, always somewhat dirty. Spends free time running barefoot through the family farm or playing with hand-carved, wooden toys. Mother burns bras and makes cloth diapers; father dehydrates sprouted almonds and runs an organic co-op for a living. Conversations usually involve shy, one-word answers -- unless you ask them about their rocks-and-twigs fairy habitat, in which case they'll grab you by the hand and introduce you to all of their imaginary friends. Perpetuates the stereotype that homeschoolers are earthy, granola, off-the-grid hippie types.
The Perfect Poster Child: Stellar, outgoing, super-student. Spends free time acing standardized tests, winning essay contests, volunteering at nursing homes, qualifying for the Olympics, and performing an instrument at Carnegie Hall. Mother is Supermom and father is a successful entrepreneur/philanthropist. Conversations are shockingly mature and intelligent, making everyone in the room believe homeschooling is the answer to every educational and parental woe. Perpetuates the stereotype that homeschoolers are smarter, more involved, and better conversationalists than anyone else on the planet.
See, wasn't that fun?
My homeschooled children, by the way, are none of these things.
Or, more accurately, my children embody small pieces of each of these stereotypes, in varying amounts, on different days.
One of my kids is a great conversationalist, one hides from strangers and friends alike for the first 15 minutes of any visit, and one greets people by dropping on all fours and panting like a dog.
All of my kids have moments of mind-boggling brilliance, and days when I wonder if their IQ oozed out of their ears in their sleep.
My children can be nerdy, they can be creative, they can be awkward, they can be imaginative, they can be friendly, they can be impressive, they can be weird.
You know, like normal kids.
I've been part of the homeschooling community long enough to see where the stereotypes above come from. While exaggerated quite a bit, I admit I have met at least one kid who closely fits each of those descriptions. It's a strange thing when someone is a perfect caricature of a stereotype. Strange, and rather hilarious.
But really, overall, most homeschoolers don't fit into any of those categories. There is no such thing as a stereotypical homeschooler. In fact, I've been delightfully surprised by the diversity of the homeschooling families we've gotten to know over the years.
There are a lot of Christians in the homeschooling community, yes, but I've found most of them to be perfectly lovely and not at all preachy. There are some freaks, some geeks, some homesteaders, some hippies, but most don't fall on the extreme ends of the spectrum.
Most homeschooling families I know are a lot like us.
You know, normal.
As if there is such a thing. :)
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