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.
It’s all right. I don’t blame anyone. I still find myself doing it occasionally, and I’ve been homeschooling forever. I’ve actually grown to enjoy these stereotypes. Not unlike small children, stereotypes are a lot less annoying if you play with them.
(Since I’m a homeschooler, I can make fun of homeschoolers, 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 “raaaaaabid anti-dentite!”
Or maybe it’s nothing like that. That was a funny episode, though.)
Anyway, let’s play a bit. I say, “homeschooler.” You picture one. Do any of these stereotypes fit your mental image?
1) 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.
Stereotype: Homeschoolers are religious fanatics who don’t want their kids exposed to the evils of evolution and critical thinking.
2) 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.
Stereotype: Homeschoolers are awkward, unsocialized weirdos in constant need of a haircut.
3) 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.
Stereotype: Homeschoolers are outside-the-box genius thinkers who are destined to make radical contributions to human intellectual and technological advancement.
4) 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.
Stereotype: Homeschoolers are earthy, granola, off-the-grid hippie types who believe everything can be cured with hemp and essential oils.
5) The Perfect Poster Child
Stellar, outgoing, superstudent. 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.
Stereotype: 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, they embody small pieces of each of these stereotypes, in varying amounts, on different days.
One of our 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 fits each of those descriptions. It’s a strange thing when someone is a perfect caricature of a stereotype. Strange and kind of hilarious, but those are also the outliers.
By and large, 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. 🙂