It’s good to be weird

When you’re unschooled, you’re already weird. You’re weird from the start. Which can probably go one of two ways. You can get really nervous all the time about being different, and try really hard to fit in with the “normal” people. Or, more conveniently, you can get used to being weird, and just go with it. I think the latter approach is probably more common for a couple reasons.

1. You aren’t around a big group of your peers all the time, so who are you trying to fit in with anyway?

2. Pretending you’re just like everyone else is exhausting.

Kids spend a lot of time pretending to be like other kids. There’s this incredibly basic fact about people. It goes like this: We are all weird. If there’s one thing we have in common (other than a lot of biology), it’s that we’re all weird.

But it’s hard to accept.

Sometimes when I’m by myself, I start making faces. I’m thinking, and I’m scrunching my nose up and biting my lip and twisting my mouth and pulling on my hair. If I did all of these things on the subway, the people around me would probably think I was insane. Or disabled. Or something. Because that’s how sensitive we are about differences. We expect everyone to regulate their facial expressions. To speak in a certain tone of voice, at a certain volume. To hold their limbs in particular positions. You move your leg another quarter inch, you’re out of bounds.

(this is me making a slightly weird face. It’s almost a real smile, but not quite. It is not flattering. But it’s how I felt in the moment, and I like being able to express it.)

A lot of the ways we correct for normal weirdness are subconscious, automatic, or minute. But we also spend way too much time worrying about how we look, and sound, and act. I think it probably gets in the way of doing other stuff. Like making great art, founding brilliantly strange companies, and inventing cool bizarre recipes. Before you can do a lot of interesting things, you have to be comfortable standing out.

When you’re unschooled, you stand out. You can’t help it. So you get to start from a foundation of obvious weirdness. Which makes it a lot easier to keep being weird. Which makes it a lot easier to be creative. Which makes it a lot easier, in my opinion, to be awesome.

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Wild fun list: Play with a kitten.

8 comments to It’s good to be weird

  • […] New post at Un-schooled, about how nice it is to be weird from the start. […]

  • Keri

    Hello, I tried to find a link to just send an email but I can’t seem to find one. I just wanted to say that this is the first website or nearly other person that I have come across that was home schooled. I have to say that just about every single thing that you write I TOTALLY think and I find that very very interesting. From what you wrote about socialization to friends to wearing a purse!! I think home schooling is great if done properly. I love so much about my not going to school but at the same time it wasn’t done properly. At 17 years of age I knew nothing of algebra, geometry, any type of science, history, but that is not the fault of homeschooling, it is the fault of the parents. I knew how to write and read and do basic arithmetic. If home schooling is done correctly I believe it is the best way for one to get an education. I know that I am different and think different then your “mainstream person” but that is what I like about myself.

    • kate

      Hey Keri!
      The site is still kind of under construction. I probably should’ve waited until it was more professional to start writing, but I hate waiting.
      It’s true that homeschooling depends almost entirely on individual families. And it’s true that it definitely isn’t great for everyone who tries it. But there are also a lot of people who come out of school not knowing anything about math, science, or history. Depends on the school, depends on the teachers, and it depends on about fifty thousand other factors too. I wish there was an easy solution!

      • “But there are also a lot of people who come out of school not knowing anything about math, science, or history.”
        Ms. Kate, you’ve said it! Nobody retains math/science/history facts after exams anyway… even the best students…so Ms. Keri doesn’t miss much.

        Ms. Kate, you should have Facebook like button and get a Facebook fan page. If you have the time to do so. I love your writing.

  • Kate, I somehow don’t think that it matters about the type of education you got and how we each feel about fitting in.

    I seriously fit in less and less and less than I did when I was in grade school…but my focus than and for years aferwards was to be invisible.

    nowadays I don’t want to be invisible but I don’t want to stand out either.


    but I do realize that as a child, just the mere fact that you are in a non-traditional school setting sets you apart.

    why is there this unspoken message we hear in our heads that “different” is bad or something we should change?

    I really don’t get it.

    we need to make it a global message to ourselves and to our young that we EACH matter, we EACH have our gifts and our strenghts and weaknesses and it’s our differences that make the world rich.

    we need to embrace it and teach our children too.
    enough is enough!

    i love your picture btw
    you look happy and snarky!
    plus your hair is fab!

  • Kate,

    I’ve been saying for years that “Being weird is never enough.”

    I think you know what it means.

    BTW, nice meeting you at Lisa’s.

  • When looking at a flock of birds, they all look alike, but an upclose evaluation will show you differences in their stances, feathers, etc. Same with teens who seemingly look and act alike, they are not so, and if given the chance and support will become their own person soon enough. That is truly what the arts do for individuals, allows them to find the truth in who they are, even if they look like everyone else to other people. I have never looked like other people because having moved so often I realized that there is really no “standard” but your own. Both of your parents went to public school and became their own “persons” perhaps in their minds in spite of public school. Had you gone to public school you would still be who you are only in a different configuration. The term “weird” is not appropriate IMHO for someone who has found their voice.

  • Autumn

    I really, really like this post. Most people don’t think about how heavily regulated human interaction is, because the rules sonehow come naturally to them. I am an aspie, so I have to think about these rules all the time. Do not talk to loud; do not stand too far away; move your eyebrows; make your voice go up and down, and etc. Difficult stuff, and they don’t know how hard it is just to try.
    I also like to read ETDC and I am beginning to see a definite similarity between growing up unschooled like you and growing up aspie like me. It’s a fundamentally different place to come from. Not bad, not good, not better, not worse– just different. I am actually quite jealous: homeschooling sounds very comfortable.

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