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The Choice to Be Different: What Homeschoolers Need to Understand

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Written by Amy Dingmann of The Hmmm…schooling Mom.

Homeschoolers choose to be different just by choosing to homeschool. Well, yeah. Duh. I know. It seems pretty obvious when it rolls off the tongue, right?

We follow a path that leads us away from—or absolutely against—the mainstream and, with those footsteps, declare we are different. For some of us, it’s uncomfortable and nerve-wracking. For others of us, it’s like a badge of honor or a status symbol.

I’m different.

homeschoolers choose to be different

But I think we need to have a conversation about what being different actually means, and what you’re signing up for.

Different means your normal clashes with other people’s normal.

It means that a lot of people won’t get what you’re doing. And that your normal won’t be other people’s normal.

What you are accustomed to is not what other people are accustomed to. Your typical day (even if it’s never the same!) isn’t what’s typical for other people.  The experience you live each day is completely your own.

Isn’t that great?

It is. Unless you want people to really understand that experience.

Different means the way you run your home won’t line up with a lot of other homes.

One of the ways that I know our house is entirely different from that of many of our friends’ and families’ is our schedule. For the most part, at our house, we go to bed when we want and wake up when we want.

This difference is not only because my husband’s schedule is always changing from being up during the day (like a “normal” person) to being up at night (like a vampire) so we never really know which end is up. But also, because I long ago lost the romantic notion that people who are ready to take on the world at 6 am every morning are somehow more everything than people who aren’t ready to take on the world until 9 pm.

Here’s the thing, though. The vast majority of the world does operate on the 9-5. That means that people can’t wrap their mind around the fact that my kids’ functional hours might be more like noon to 3 am.

Or that I’m okay with it.

That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them not understanding our schedule. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with us living that way. It just means we are all living our lives in different ways.

And, let’s be clear, different isn’t wrong. It’s just d-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t.

Different means you will be questioned.

When you choose to step out of the mainstream, people will ask you why. It comes with the territory. It’s like people go along with the same-old, same-old and then get slapped to life because someone is doing something else.

Different sticks out.

It doesn’t mean people have the right to be rude. Questioning doesn’t mean bullying, name-calling, or harsh, out-of-line judgment by your mom, your uncle, or your neighbor. Cruelty is never the answer to someone choosing a different path.

But, simply put, as a homeschooler your life will be different in ways you won’t immediately realize. Homeschooling allows you to grow into a new normal—and it’s not a normal that most people get to experience.

And you know what? In defense of other people, it’s difficult to understand what you haven’t experienced yourself.

Different means you will question a lot of things you didn’t think to question before.

The thing about choosing something different means it will seep into a lot of other areas of your life.  Homeschooling will make you question a lot of things. Because you’ve chosen to be different, you will become even more different.

The freedom of homeschooling infiltrates its way into everything you do. It may change the way you view parenting, rules, bedtime, meals, or internet use. Your priorities and opinions may shift. In fact, you may find there is very little that doesn’t change.

I question so many things that I would never have thought to wonder upon ten years ago. And I know when I’ve gone off on a tangent at home because my husband will give me that look. The one that says, “Amy, you’re acting like a homeschooler right now.”

Well, of course, I am. That’s our normal. And when we’re taken out of it? Gah.

My kids get involved in activities and classes, and I find myself questioning why things are set up the way they are. And I know that without all the rules and regulations and needing to put this check mark in that box, the experience would be so much richer, engaging, and more fulfilling.

My kids have lived their entire educational life with a pick-and-choose mentality, and they dive in way deep into what’s there. So, to have them get involved in something that is skip-across-the-surface-for-a-check-mark-in-a-box goes against what we know and how we live.

But see, that’s because it’s different from our normal. It’s different from how we experience the world. So, we question it. We wonder upon it.

Everyone questions what is different. It’s not just them. It isn’t just public schoolers or conservative Christians or people who live out of state. It’s all of us.

And it doesn’t mean any of us are wrong. We’re just different.

homeschoolers choose to be different

Why do I point this out?

I bring this up as a reminder that when we choose to swim upstream, we’re going to stick out.

And that’s okay.

But it also means people will ask questions. It means that we will have to work harder to “fit in” at some things. Or that we just won’t fit in at other things.  It means that we will question stuff we didn’t before.

It’s not uncommon—especially for new homeschoolers—to get bogged down by the constant questions from those who don’t homeschool. The questions can feel like an attack on their parenting, character, or motives.

Even within the homeschool community, our choice to be different can sometimes make us feel as though we can’t find the right co-op, the right tribe, the right curriculum, the right thing.

With homeschooling, there is so much freedom to be who we are. And that’s great! But the ability to be who we are means we are different.

Different isn’t bad. It doesn’t need to be exhausting. Different doesn’t mean we have to handle something with kid gloves.

Different is great.

So instead of freaking out and being offended that someone notices that we’re doing things differently, we should be…I don’t know…flattered? Like, hey. You noticed. We’re trying to do a thing here. We’re not the same, and it’s okay.

Be confident in your decisions. Be aware that not everyone will understand it—not out of meanness or an unwillingness to learn, but just because it’s not their normal. Understand that there are things in your life that will be different that you didn’t even expect because of your decision to homeschool.

But most of all, celebrate the fact that with homeschooling you can be different—because it’s absolutely amazing that you have to freedom to do so.

What unexpected differences have you noticed as a homeschooling family?

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4 Comments

  1. I could really relate to this post! We have homeschooled our fifteen (soon to be sixteen) year old daughter from the start. She is a smart, quirky girl who cares a lot about everything and everyone. We are constantly asked why we choose to homeschool and if we are doing the “right thing” for our daughter. They seem to think she stays in her room all day and never interacts with others even though she is right there in the middle of where ever this conversation is happening listening to every word. We even had one lady tell us “I hate homeschoolers” right in front of our daughter! I was shocked by that one. I’ve heard the whole socialization thing and the how will she go to college or earn a living if she doesn’t get up at the crack of dawn but I have never had anyone say such a mean thing like that. I can’t remember exactly what I said in response but I kept my cool. Later I asked my daughter what she thought. She said she didn’t take it personally. She just felt bad for that lady for being so closed off to people different than her. I have always known my daughter is a sweet, loving person but this just made me swell up pride. That lady doesn’t know what she is missing!

  2. Well I was kind of surprised that not everyone has a competition to build a better mouse trap at midnight. And that they didn’t build a bridge out of wooden dowels. Or teach their 11 year old to bake bread. Or have a solar system strung all the way through the house (hey….Pluto is a LOOOOOOng ways from the sun so). Little things.

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