Things homeschoolers don’t know how to do

1. Line up

2. Raise their hands

3. Identify the “cool” kids

My mom was in the city with her friend yesterday, so the three of us were hanging out, and we started talking about lines, because we were walking by Grimaldi’s Pizza in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and there is ALWAYS a ridiculous line. People wait for three hours to get in and get some pizza. I wonder what that pizza tastes like. I’d probably wait that long for the best pizza in the world.

A few days before, my friend from Australia said that “we would never queue like the Americans.” I hadn’t known that Americans liked to queue. Would you look at that. Maybe it has something to do with our obsession with what other people like? We are always pretty concerned with popularity.

Anyway, my mom laughed and said she remembered going with a bunch of other homeschooling families to some event, possibly at a museum, where the guide told all the kids to line up. And all of the little homeschooled kids looked at each other and their parents and moved obligingly in several directions and couldn’t seem to arrange themselves into a line.

(we were good at this sort of thing, though!)


The guide stared at us like we were from another planet. What was wrong with these kids? Hadn’t they ever been in a line of kids before?

No. We hadn’t.

“But,” my mom assured her friend, “They learned very quickly.”

It’s too bad, in a way. Because standing in line is incredibly boring. It may only be worthwhile when there’s the best pizza in the world at the end of it.

My mom’s story  made me think of other things I didn’t know how to do as a kid. Like raise my hand.

In ballet class, when I was six or seven, the teacher asked the group of us who would like to play a tree in the upcoming performance. I loved trees, and I really, really wanted to pretend to be one. Which sounded infinitely better than trying to hold my chin really high and point my toes and suck in my tummy. So I yelled at the top of my lungs, “MEEEEE!!!!!” I wanted to make sure the teacher appreciated just how enthusiastic I was about the part.

Everyone turned to look at me. And suddenly, with dawning horror, I realize that several of the other girls were raising their hands. And that no one would have even thought to make any noise then. And that I looked ridiculous and stupid. I felt the heat pour over my face. I was sure no one would talk to me again. The teacher was raising her eyebrows and smiling slightly.

“Alright, Kate,” she said.  “It seems like you’re very excited about being a tree.”

I was terrible.

But also, why couldn’t we make any noise?

It wasn’t all social humiliation and awfulness, though, not knowing how to do things that other kids had learned long ago.

I didn’t know to only make friends with kids who were of the same social status as me. So when I went to summer camp or joined a group or took a music class or went on a trip, I ended up with dorky friends and cool friends and rich friends and poor friends, and friends who thought I was just like them and friends who thought it was interesting that I was nothing like them. I couldn’t tell what I was supposed to be. Was I nerdy? I loved to read. Was I outgoing? I thought I was pretty funny. Was I pretty? I was sure of it. Was I daring? I went out in the forest by myself at night. Was I flirty? Yes. Was I going to go all the way with a boy? Of course not! I was too young!

I couldn’t tell how I fit into groups, because it depended on the group, and I couldn’t tell how other kids saw me, because it depended on the kid, and they seemed to see me in such different ways.

I still don’t know, I guess.

I do know how to raise my hand and stand in line. But I try to avoid doing either.

(notice the school bus in the background)

*  *  *

Disclaimer: Obviously, these things aren’t true for ALL homeschoolers. I never know if I have to say that, but I want to to avoid the comments that go “I was homeschooled and I definitely knew how to line up.”

Second disclaimer: Obviously, it isn’t just homeschoolers who these things apply to. It almost never is. But please no comments along the lines of “you think you’re so special and different, but really everyone goes through that.” Being homeschooled IS different, but there should never be a competition concerning who is  the most different and weird. There are better ways to talk about the topic! :-)

17 comments to Things homeschoolers don’t know how to do

  • […] New Skipping School post, about things homeschoolers don’t know how to do. […]

  • Marina

    We’re pretty good at making circles, though. 😉 I keep hanging out with grown homeschoolers and realizing we’ve somehow sorted ourselves into a shape where everyone can see everyone else, rather than clumping together or breaking into smaller groups.

    I’m still no good at identifying who the cool kids are. It’s sometimes a liability, and sometimes an asset.

  • justmama

    Kate,
    I love your writing about being homeschooled! It sounds like you flourished in that environment.
    As a post-“un”schooling mom, (my girls are grown up and married now) I can only hope that someday they realize what a cool and awesome life they had…even if their parents were (and still are) sorta dorky. 😉
    Yay for not fitting in!…whether it be lining up or raising your hand. As for being cool….it’s so great to be able to see the individuality of people…not just their social status.
    Thanks…you made my day. :)

  • I love this! I was worried not too long ago about my own little unschoolers and these very items. Lines and hands and groups and how to sit at a desk. You make me realize that maybe they won’t learn those things ever and really, that’s okay too. :)

  • Val

    This makes me laugh!

    My son was looking very nervous, getting a haircut, as the lady zoomed the buzzer near the back of his little neck.

    The lady said, “Well, it’s not as bad as having a SHOT.”

    His already wide eyes grew another notch.

    I had to tell her he’d been born at home and had never actually had a shot of any kind.

    It’s so all about what we’re used to.

    Great post again. Thanks for you. love, Val

  • Val

    You know, when it comes to identifying the cool kids when the kids go to high school, they don’t seem to.

    Over and over they make friends with other nerdy-normal kids much like themselves, and then they maintain those relationships in an ongoing way.

    My oldest son is in his 30s and is still friends with his high school friend/college roommate.

    Homeschool just works, and I don’t know how, but it does. love, Val

  • When I was a teenager, I went to a few sessions at the Not Back to School Camp in Oregon. It’s a week-long “summer” camp for home- and unschooled teens (and it’s AMAZING, but that’s another story). Lining up and hand-raising were totally out, of course, but we did have a few activities that started by forming a circle.

    Or rather, they were supposed to be circles. They ended up being giant ovals with big gaps. We were so consistently unable to form a circle that “homeschooler circles” became a running joke.

    Now I’m in my fourth year of college and I still can never remember to raise my hand in class.

    • Jean

      That’s hilarious, Heather! Here in TX, the “homeschool circle” is a running joke, too. It seems like all our group activities start with a badly formed circle.

  • I didn’t know you wrote about this stuff – saw it tagged from your other recent post (which was a good one) but really – you sound a little defensive about being homeschooled where I don’t think you need to be.

    My kids are all in public school where they learn to line up and raise their hand just like everyone else however, it’s far more difficult to resist the indoctrination than be clueless about it. It’s far more difficult to live through the social groupings than be secluded and shielded from it like someone who is homeschooled is. I regard public school another lesson in life. The real world. With its foibles and its difficulties and it’s, yes, social groupings. Learning to navigate them and still retain your own individuality is where the real challenge lies. It’s not easy.. but the worthwhile things rarely are.

  • HA HA! I went through the EXACT same things as a homeschooler! Didn’t know how to stand in line, raise my hand, or hang out just with the “cool kids”. I’m so glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one!

    Now I don’t enforce the “raise your hand if you want to speak” rule in my music classes that I teach. It makes the parents raise their eyebrows, but I’d rather hear my students’ voices.

  • This is really lovely and I particularly love your disclaimers! The social identification thing is wonderful to witness in my own kids and their friends.

  • I am a homeschooling mother of 4. My children definitely know how to raise their hands – mainly because shouting out drives me bananas. I must be a product of my private-school education.

    I could definitely see line-forming being an issue for my kids though. Ha!

    As for identifying the “cool kids” – my kids assume they ARE the coolest kids.

  • Bethany

    Haha. I love this post, because when I was a kid we always hated when the public schoolers intruded on our field trips to museums or the zoo. Not because they’d make us wait in line, but because they always pushed to the front of the displays. Unaware that we were supposed to be the awkward ones, we were certain that the public schoolers were growing up with no possibility of ever knowing how to participate in society. :)

    I guess the judginess swings both ways, but both sides probably ended up just fine.

  • Eliza

    It’s REALLY GOOD PIZZA. An hour into my wait I was like THIS BETTER BE THE BEST PIZZA ON THE PLANET. And it was.

    Either that, or the 1 hour 40 minutes total spent in line made it taste SO MUCH BETTER.

    And yes on the circle! I wasn’t homeschooled until 8th grade, but it always amused me how when I hung out with my other homeschooled friends, we didn’t group off into little cliques like the schooled kids did, either. At the movie theater, we were all just one big circle, waiting for our parents to pick us up, etc.

    And we didn’t dress alike, either. We had skaters, preps, grunge kids, and everything in between. #90s

  • When I first started reading this, I wasn’t sure if you were for homeschooling or not lol!

    I can see how some homeschoolers could have some trouble with these things, but I can’t say this would be typical, even for those following an unschooling method. What comes to my mind is, what age were those homeschoolers? Young children typically have trouble standing in line, raising their hand, at first. I have also noticed that most kids are some what shy and have trouble engaging with other kids, at least at first. In my experience many adults are worse!

    I can totally see not knowing how to raise their hand. This last thing I don’t really consider that important other than being able to make friends. One of the reasons why school is bad is because of the social labeling. Being away from that allows people to get to know the real you, a part from some silly label!

    My children are 5 and 8, they have never been to school or day care. Most of their time is spent with us, mom and dad. They know how to stand in line, raise hand and make friends, and they learned it all on their own. We encourage them to say hello to other kids and ask their name and introduce their selves to the kids as well. We do have to remind them to raise their hand before speaking when we are in an environment appropriate for that. At home they speak when they want to, so it is a little hard to not do, it once in a while. With home education kids may miss some things that public school kids don’t. Yet home education provides children with an environment where they can learn so much more than what a school can provide or is even willing to provide to children!

    This was an interesting article, I hadn’t ever really thought about these things before.

  • mellissa

    None of us know what the other people think about us, some of think we do but really we would have to ask which most of us are terrified to do. Some people care more than others and education probably effects this.

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