By Jennifer Lewis
It can be tough to find acceptance in the mainstream if you’ve been homeschooled. So much so that a surprising number of homeschoolers lie about their educational past simply in order to avoid the raised eyebrows and automatic assumptions it brings with it. If you’ve had a good homeschooling experience, there’s no reason why many of these prejudices should have a basis in reality. However, there is (sometimes) a kernel of truth in some of the ideas people have about homeschoolers. What are the most common prejudices concerning homeschooled kids, and how can you overcome both the prejudices and any potential truth behind them?
Prejudice 1 – Homeschoolers Are Ill-Prepared For ‘Real Life’
The idea behind this commonly encountered prejudice is that homeschooled kids are the offspring of over-protective parents. The kind of parents who cannot bear to think of their children suffering the rigors of conventional school. The kind of parents who believe their children far too precious and delicate to withstand the bumps and scrapes of recess. The kind of parents who mistrust school canteens, who hate to think of their darlings being disciplined by teachers, and who shudder to consider the privations of the classroom environment. Many homeschooled kids thus find themselves stepping into a world which believes them to be extremely sheltered, soft, and ill-used to the ill-usage which life ultimately inflicts upon everyone. Weakness – even perceived weakness – has inspired scorn since time immemorial, meaning that many homeschooled people have to fight twice as hard to prove themselves equally as strong as their compatriots.
In all honesty, if your parents did do everything for your while you were homeschooled, then you may have trouble adjusting to a more self-reliant mode of living. Problems with debt, with emotional management, with criticism and so on might rear their heads. However, it is wrong to assume that parents homeschool their kids because they’re overprotective. There are many reasons why a parent may choose to homeschool, and most do it because they want what is best for their children. No parent decides to homeschool without doing plenty of research into the potential outcomes – so responsible parents will do their utmost to introduce their homeschooled children to the skills they’ll need and the issues they may face in later life. In all fairness, problems of ill-preparedness are just as likely to affect children of strongly protective parents who were not homeschooled. It all depends on the way in which your parents raised you. Many homeschoolers are far better at the basic skills one needs for life – i.e. cooking, cleaning, home management, taking responsibility for one’s actions, effective use of time etc – than those who went through the mainstream educational system. To judge the entirety by a largely unfounded stereotype is fundamentally unfair.
Prejudice 2 – Homeschoolers Have Poor Social Skills
One of the major arguments in favor of mainstream education is that it gives children a chance to develop social skills among their peers. Indeed, ‘socialization’ was the major reason behind a Florida judge’s order that a family’s children be given public rather than home schooling. Some believe that those who do not spend their days surrounded by other children within a mainstream school environment will grow up socially malformed. Even more moderate individuals point out that mainstream schooling forms a major part of our common cultural experience, and those who do not partake of that experience will have one less thing in common with their peers.
Most commentators will tell you without hesitation that the issue of ‘socialization’ is not really anything to worry about for most homeschooled kids. Indeed, homeschooled kids may even be at an advantage, socially speaking, as they miss out on much of the potentially psychologically scarring angst and trauma which comes with school-based social issues like cliques and bullying. However, again, it all depends on how your parents conducted your education. Most homeschooling parents are well aware of the fact that socialization could be an issue, so will do their best to give their kids plenty of opportunities to form friendships and interact with other kids whenever possible. Sure, there is that ‘cultural common ground’ issue, and many homeschooled kids will miss out on later conversations about mainstream schooling – but there are plenty of other things to talk about, even when conversing about one’s childhood.
Prejudice 3 – Homeschoolers Are Weird And ‘Brainwashed’
Lots of people believe that parents choose to homeschool their children in order to inculcate a certain belief system within them. This view holds that parents with extreme religious or conspiratorial views will choose to deliberately isolate their children and bring them up in an extremist culture under the guise of ‘homeschooling’. The children of such parents grow up not only unprepared for the realities of the world, and socially isolated, but with a firm conviction in a set of very troublesome beliefs to boot.
Sadly, there have been cases of parents choosing to segregate their children from mainstream society, and use that combination of isolation and parental influence to instill some worrying ideals and ideas within their children. Indeed, the homeschooled children of many extreme Christian families have written in detail about their troubling experiences. More worryingly, those speaking out are the minority who managed to break free. What is important to remember, however, is that these cases are not truly ‘homeschooled’ people. They’re more ‘home brainwashed’ people. It’s not the same thing at all. If done correctly, homeschooled kids can grow up to be just as (if not more) open minded, questioning, robust, socially skilled, and independent as any other child – and the vast majority of homeschoolers are all of these things!