Home-Schoolers Might not be so Weird After All

10/15/2010 01:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Kate Fridkis Author of Growing Eden, blogger at Eat the Damn Cake

Home schooling is a growing trend., in a web-only series, reported on the growing number of American kids who don't have a lunch hour every day, but spend entire days eating whenever they feel like it. At least, that was my experience. I ate lunch at all different times. Sometimes I ate it twice. Sometimes I skipped it in favor of a composition I was working on. Or a piano lesson I was teaching. Or a book I was reading. But I never expected to be part of a "growing trend."

In an article connected with the project, suggests through encounters with some home-schoolers and former home-schoolers that this group of people might not be as weird as everyone has always suspected. The first home-schooler mentioned in the piece is a teenage girl who loves to shop. She hangs out a lot at the mall. See! Totally normal! A 25-year-old who gets quoted is described as being very socially confident.

And it's a good thing that is covering this news, because this is information that needs to be shared. The stereotype of the cowering, twitchy home-schooler who wears his T-shirts tucked far, far into his too-blue jeans and never really learned how to shake someone's hand and say, "Hi, nice to meet you," is getting old. So is the idea that all home-schoolers are conservative Christians? I'm Jewish. I knew a lot of Jewish home-schoolers growing up (though none of them were home-schooled for religious reasons). I knew hippie home-schoolers. I knew brilliant intellectual home-schoolers. There's a lot of variety.

I'll be perfectly honest. I knew that guy -- the twitchy one. He was home-schooled. He was annoying. He had really awkward body language and a perpetually bad haircut. I also ran into a version of him at summer camp. He went to high school, and had been in a classroom since kindergarten. And then in college, there were a bunch of him. They'd all gone to school. One of them, when he found out that I'd been home-schooled, asked me in his uncomfortable, halting way how my parents could've been abusive enough to prevent me from gaining access to socialization. He said he felt sorry for me. He hooked his fingers under the belt that fastened his baggy corduroys, tried to lean back casually, and bumped into someone walking by. He turned bright red, adjusted his glasses and avoided my gaze.

I didn't even know where to begin.

The truth is, some home-schoolers are nerdy and socially awkward. Some are wildly confident. My brothers each have about a thousand adoring friends who orbit them. Their friends try sometimes to dress more like them. To sound more like them. They're both in college now, and the transition from home to school didn't seem to faze them. Some kids who go to school are nerdy and socially awkward. And when this happens, it's probably more impressive that they manage it, since they're around so many people who often remind them that they are not worth as much for being this way.

I'm glad that home schooling is becoming a trend. It makes sense that it is. Look at our school system! Watch Waiting for Superman. Cry. And think, "There must be a better way..." There is a better way.

Malcolm Gladwell identified it in Outliers, when he wrote about KIPP schools. Geoffrey Canada, the force behind the Harlem Children's Zone, knows what it is. And home-schoolers offer their own less unified, less structured, less studied, but -- I would argue -- equally effective alternative.

As something becomes more obvious, it becomes gradually less stigmatized. But home schooling IS weird. And home-schoolers ARE different. And rather than trying to prove that everyone is the same, and home-schooled girls are as addicted to Forever 21 and Gossip Girl as their schooled counterparts, it's probably better for us all to acknowledge that every group of people contains an amazing amount of variety. And that not sitting in a classroom every day for twelve years in a row probably does make you pretty different. But a good way?

Read more about the writer's experience as a home-schooler at