I don’t want to be just like everyone else

After Home schooling, Pomp and Traditional Circumstances

My friend sent me this New York Times article. She pointed out that it concludes with the words “…just like everyone else.”

See look, the article seems to be saying, they want to be just like us!

Or maybe it’s saying, homeschooling is so normal now, they are just like us.

Or, probably, it’s saying both.

I know that what I’m about to say is radical and possibly unhealthy, but here it is:

As an unschooler, I did not want to be like everyone else. Not at all. I really, really liked being different. I wanted to be Stargirl, not the kids in her class. I wanted to be the one who stood out. Not because I was weird, but because I was weirdly awesome.

Actually, I don’t think I minded being weird very much, either.

Being normal is overrated, right? I mean, that’s the message of pretty much every book written for kids except for the ones in the Sweet Valley Twins series. And even then, Francine Pascal tried to give her identical blond twin protagonists endearing quirks and nerdy habits.

I read A LOT when I was young. Less so now. (Being an adult gets in the way of reading all the time!) I was like that illustrated kids’ book about the girl who climbs inside paintings. I loved that book. I climbed inside books and stretched and ran around and explored. I empathized and got annoyed and cried when the grandmother died in Walk Two Moons. I identified with the weird protagonists. I think if anyone had teased me, the way they often got teased, I would’ve taken it as a sign of heroic promise. But no one teased me, because my friends didn’t do that, and because I didn’t actually look different enough to attract it from strangers.

I loved that I was unschooled. People were always interested in hearing my story. Even when I was eight and ten and fourteen. I was an interesting character. My life was an obvious adventure, and I had an adventurous streak.

Now, when people emphasize that homeschoolers are normal, that we fit in, that we do the same things as normal children and teenagers and, later, adults, I find myself feeling a little frustrated. I don’t mean to. The emotion catches me off-guard. ¬†For just a moment, I find myself thinking, “We aren’t just like everyone else! Our lives are a wild adventure!”

And then I think, “Well, everyone’s life is an adventure, and plenty of people want to be as ‘normal’ as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with doing a graduation if you’d like one.”

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think non-schoolers should write their own scripts. I think they should include whichever traditional elements they think they might enjoy. After all, I went to homeschooled prom! I think there shouldn’t be any rules.

But at the same time, I don’t want to be told I’m normal.

Normal is boring.

I refuse to be boring.

(me at 16. Stargirl would’ve worn it. But I promise– I had normal-people clothes too :)

15 comments to I don’t want to be just like everyone else

  • As a kid, I didn’t mind be different (I certainly didn’t want to be like all those other insecure, silly girls), but I DID mind being lonely.

    Now as a mother of four, I have tons of good quality relationships and feel like a queen.

    No moral to the tale—just an observation.

  • (Can’t STAND it when I have typos: it’s “BEING different.” I’m done now.)

  • […] New post at Skipping School, in response to a NY Times piece about […]

  • Amanda

    Though, I agree that those that are “unschooled” have led a different life than those that went to school… that doesn’t make the life of the kid that went to school “normal”… I went to a public school and though my school experience is similar as most people, I would say that I was just as “weird” as you seem to have been! The only things that should be labeled as “normal” are things that are medical related (as in “that mole looks normal”)… I think maybe the Times article is really saying to those scared to have their kids home schooled is to go for it! That your kids will still have healthy relationships with those around them, that they won’t be “doomed” to be forever awkward. Which, by the way is what people tell me as I am an only child… I am doomed to be bossy, selfish, and that I don’t have good social skills… which isn’t true, in my HUMBLE opinion. ;o) You say that “I think non-schoolers should write their own scripts,” shouldn’t we all?

    • kate

      Yes, we all should! There’s no such thing as “normal” when you think about it in certain ways. On the other hand,there are shared experiences that create a type of normalcy, by virtue of being so commonly shared. School is one of them.

      • Nicole

        I’ve always felt like being homeschooled gave me the strength to enjoy being different. Even now, at 30, I still feel like I march to the beat of a different drummer… One reason I’m homeschooling my 6 year old….

  • You know, when I think ‘normal’ I usually think mainstream, 9 to 5, conventional, want what every one else does, do what every else does. That is boring. But what gets me excited at least, is when people are going after their own thing and that passion translates into a kind of energy that inspires others or not – but it’s a situation that forces an onlooker to acknowledge. You can’t miss it.That’s what I can ‘not the norm.’ I think what Kate is saying here is that when you’ve grown up unschooled, you are more likely to be outside of my definition of the ‘norm’ by virtue of having had that opportunity to go for what you want at a very young age. And that is what we cherish, we unschoolers. So if that makes us different, then that’s okay!

  • Sounds to me like this was mostly for the parents who are still stuck in a schooled paradigm. That said, if these grads are willing to let their parents have this one day of social trappings, that sounds like a pretty nice way to say thank you for getting out of their way during all of the non-schooled education that came before it.

  • P Griffin

    I was reading this very article over the weekend and thought…. “What?” This craze over caps and gowns and medieval… I mean, pre-modern… rituals. I see young children in caps and gowns and scratch my head. However, if it makes them happy…. While I am home schooled, we did that so we wouldn’t have to do school things. To follow the lemmings off the cliff if the herd turned towards that direction. Or copy ancient silly rituals devoid of all current meaning. I mean, if I want to dress up in a cloaks and have a party, I do it whenever I can get friends together to do that and not to pretend that I am just like everyone else. My girlfriend (who DISLIKES homeschooling)said she wants for her kids (none yet) the same thing other kids have. I said, I don’t want my kid to have the same as everyone else. I want them to have something different that no one else has. In a less resource rich environment, that’s what may set my kiddies up for survival in a difficult world.

  • I’m with P Griffin. My husband and I didn’t walk for our college degrees. It just seems so silly when looked at at a fundamental level. I’ve heard parents site “prom” as a reason for sending their kids to school. I don’t get it, but I do get that we each have our own path.

  • stacie

    I was just discussing this recently with a friend. I feel that the decisions for having/not having a prom and/or a graduation ceremony are best left for the family involved to decide. Others may express their thoughts or concerns but ultimately the decision needs to best fit the family. If my kids decide they want to have the graduation ceremony, we will have one with other homeschoolers in our area. If they decide to go to prom, we will do that also. At this point they aren’t interested in either. I don’t feel that any of these traditions are required or rites of passage into adulthood. I despise when people try to argue otherwise.

  • […] more recently, it’s been very clear to me that I am normal. Which has been a disappointment. OK, I’m not really normal. But the ways in which I’m fascinating and different were […]

  • I have all this cool ideas to wear clothes that look fun and cool and oh! but then I lose courage because they are different.

    One time I wore this thing to school and no one complimented on how creative it look. I’m being honest when I say it didn’t look crazy and ugly. It looked good. If I saw a high schooler wear that I’d take note on a heartbeat and tell them I like it just to encourage their guts to not buy everything at buckle, american eagle or urban outfitters or whatever.

    I wish I had grown home schooled so I would’ve given myself a chance to explore and have the delicious opportunity to wear stuff like your picture. Just for the pleasure of it. Without worrying that it will look dumb.

  • I now buy stuff at thrift shops and alter them, mix and match. But it’s cool to do so nowadays. Maybe it’s the recession. I don’t know.

    I got complimented on a rad mini dress I wore to a wedding this weekend. I bought it for $4 at value village and cut and hemmed it. Then I stole a clutch from my mom’s closet that she bought for prob. $1 at another thrift shop. Everyone said I looked good and I told them my secret. They think it’s cool.

    I wish I’d had that freedom when I was in high school. you know what I mean?

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