Sometimes I really can’t tell what makes me different and what makes me similar. I can’t tell what part is the homeschooling and what part isn’t.
I was talking to Peter Gray, over at Psychology Today, about being unschooled. He was asking me some questions, and I was trying to answer. For a while, when people asked me about my education, I would try to point out the ways in which I am special. In case they thought that I might be a dud.
I am pretty special. I’m smart. I’m confident. Once my face was on AOL’s front page and all of Bear’s relatives saw it when they opened their browsers and then we were like, “You guys still use AOL? Seriously?” But that’s neither here nor there. What I’m saying is– I could brag.
Everyone can brag. There’s always something to brag about.
But the more I think about it, the really interesting thing about me is how little there is to brag about. How normal I am. How much my skills, at the end of the day, are skills that people have whether or not they spent their childhood in the woods or at a desk.
“I’m kinda normal,” I told Peter. “It’s pretty lame.” I changed my mind. “It’s pretty cool.”
I write essays about homeschooling and people always say, “Whatever! That’s not because of homeschooling! That totally happened to me!”
I’m sure it did. And in my case, it’s probably also because of homeschooling. But honestly, it’s nearly impossible to tell.
Because homeschooling isn’t something that’s separate from my life– it is my life. It informed everything I am. But after everything that I am being informed by this radically different kind of childhood, here I am, being sort of cynical and ambitious and not incredibly famous and sometimes totally down on myself and having gotten a nose job despite feeling beautiful as a girl and trying to figure out how I fit into this big, complicated city. The things that I struggle with are often the same things that my peers struggle with– and most of them went to school.
Interesting. Interesting how much we always want to focus on the differences. People have been trying to focus on my differences for my entire life. In what ways do I stand out? Does my education work? Can I function in society?
It worked. I can, and do. But as a result, I look a lot like everyone else who is functioning in society.
And when I get over the disappointment of not turning out immediately wildly famous or fantastically brilliant, I am glad. And I wonder what all the fuss is about.
Because if I could turn out just fine without a formal education, then maybe we should just be talking about why so many other kids don’t turn out just fine with one, rather than what about me might be weird.
(I’m not a good dancer, but I love dancing!)
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A version of this piece also appears on the Huffington Post here.