Yesterday I was at my home in Gaston where I lived for ages 3 to 13. While at the house, I was talking to my friend about being homeschooled. We started looking at a shelf of books from my homeschooled days, and we were looking at the work I had done in these years. Textbooks, workbooks, note pads, etc. We then happened upon my journals from our family vacations.
The way my homeschooling worked was for around 10 months a year my parents would pick a topic of history and we would learn everything about this time. After we learned about each place and time period, we would spend a month in the country or continent we were learning about. Starting with ancient Greece and ending up in modern-day Israel, our family traveled all over Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and the Middle East, learning about the biblical stories, the renaissance, The Industrial Revolution, the formation of modern democracies, Imperialization, the birth of the U.S., World War I and II, Communism, and the modern-day Middle Eastern conflicts. For each place we visited, my brother and I kept a careful journal detailing each thing we learned each day in these places.
So today, let’s talk about my homeschool experience.
Here’s a common discussion I have with someone who I have just met.
THEM: “What school do you go to?”
ME: “I just graduated from Lincoln High School.”
THEM: “Oh cool. Where did you go to middle school?
ME: “Catlin Gable for two years.
THEM: “And before that?”
ME: “I was homeschooled.”
THEM: “Ohhhhh. That makes a lot of sense”
THEM: “Well…. Did you like it?”
So now I will talk about my experience. At least some of it, I may cover more down the road.
There were pros and cons to being homeschooled, but not the ones one would assume. People assume that the hardest part of being homeschooled is the fact you don’t really have that many friends – or for me and my brother living in gaston, we had no friends. When I went to middle school, I didn’t know anyone and had no friends. This can be verified by my early Instagrams where I wore green pants, lensless glasses, and hiking boots. But to be honest, it has not been hard for me to adapt to the social scene. Let me rephrase that. Middle school and high school can be shitty socially for everyone, I don’t think I struggled with it any more than anyone else. In fact, homeschooling made me comfortable being alone, which is very valuable. A lot of times people think their time needs to be spent around other people in order to have a good time. But for 10 years my brother and I invented a plethora of games and things to keep us entertained, and that creativity can be missed when you need to be around other people. Adding onto this, in life you will need to be comfortable being a fish out of water, being dropped into a new environment, so I am certainly more prepared for that than my average peer. So the no friends thing for the early parts of my life hasn’t been an issue.
If there was one thing that homeschooling can mess you up in, it’s being strategic. High School, college, and your career depends on you being strategic. Every grade, every school, every job, every invention or creation you are competing against people who are smarter and more connected than you. In order to be successful, you need to be strategic. Public school engrains students in the strategy more than homeschooling. When being homeschooled, your parents lay everything out for you. Here is what you will be studying. There are no grades. No classmate competition. Just do the work and become smart. This was awesome because it made me a lot smarter than my peers. The smartest I have ever felt compared to my peers was entering middle school. While homeschooling I was doing far more advanced work and it has been a decline ever since I started going to normal schools. However, I lacked all strategy. I was intelligent in middle school but got bad grades at Catlin. I would pace around my classroom. I missed easy assignments and despite knowing the content would rarely do assignments well – i.e. doing it the way the teacher wants you to do things. When it was time for me to go to high school, I had to become far more strategic. While I got good grades in school, I didn’t get them because I was smart I got them because of my strategy. I also only got into college because after my sophomore year I had planned out what my ending GPA would be and added in a variety of extracurriculars and got an SAT score that was just barely in the range of the schools that I was applying to. I didn’t get in because I was the smartest or hardest working, but rather because I had learned from my peers how to have a school strategy.
Additionally, my peers who have been in school, in the evolve and strategize or die environment had to work far less hard than me to get better grades because they knew how to strategize better than I could due to their several more years in the environment. My brother who is one of the smartest kids I know when he applies himself got a B in freshman PE because he didn’t know how classes worked and it took him a while to get strategic because he was homeschooled until high school. Now he is in college and is strategically studying computer science and econ. Going from not needing strategy and just learning deeply to being a strategic person takes time.
And I know what you’re thinking. Hank, it’s more important to just be smart than it is to be strategic. Homeschooling made you smart, so that is more valuable than learning to be strategic. Wrong. Strategy is everything. There will always be someone smarter, someone better, so you can make up for this by working wisely and knowing how to work, skills taught well in a public school environment.
Essentially what I am saying is that school is a game. Games require strategy. Homeschooling allowed me to pass on the game and just become intelligent for my age. But I missed on all the strategy and I paid the price. There is value in being in the game for the formative years of your life.
When I explained all of this to my friend, he fell asleep halfway through. You probably did too.