When I was twelve and relatively new to homeschooling, I spent a lot of time at our local homeschool co-op/bookstore. It really was an amazingly cool spot, and I wish there were more places like it around today. It was full of books (both curriculum and novels), board games, and educational toys. There was a whole section of documentaries and educational movies to rent and several rooms that were used for homeschooling co-op classes and music lessons. It was chaotically full of beautiful clutter and reminded me of Hogwarts. Around this time, I began dressing in what I thought was the “style,” based on some of the older girls I’d often see at the homeschool bookstore. Ankle-length denim skirt. T-shirt. Practical shoes. Hair in a messy bun. I tell you: I thought I was in the know.
One day, my mom asked me why I’d started dressing so ultra-conservatively. I was raised in a Christian home, but I’d never really had a ton of rules about what I could or could not wear. Therefore, I was sort of surprised (and I’m sure my mother was amused) when I realized that- what I’d perceived as “high homeschool fashion” – was actually just a reflection of those particular girls’ religious beliefs and their desired level of comfort. Since (for me) modesty didn’t equate to long skirts, I soon switched back to my preferred jeans.
Today in the How to Spot a Homeschooler series, we’re talking about How to Spot a Homeschooler By How We Dress. So why did I tell you this story? Well, it certainly was not to say that all homeschoolers wear long denim skirts and t-shirts (although there’s nothing wrong with that). And my intention is not to tell you what modesty means, or what it should mean to you. However, I do think that this anecdote demonstrates something important about how homeschoolers dress. I think that, while homeschoolers dress in any number of styles (which may result in some of the familiar stereotypes), the truth is that homeschoolers ultimately dress to express. This expression, through clothing, can reflect all kinds of things: from values, to specific interests, to the every-changing facets of growing up. Homeschoolers have more freedom to express all of these things through clothing than their public-school peers, due to a lifestyle that has less of a dress-code, less peer-pressure, and plenty of room for exploration.
How to Spot a Homeschooler by How We Dress
Today, I want to talk about 4 of the ways you can spot a homeschooler by how we dress, with the caveat that “dressing to express” can honestly look a thousand different ways. That said, here are a few recognizable styles in the homeschool fashion line.
1. Homeschoolers dress for comfort.
This is one of those stereotypes that’s out there for a reason. When at home, doing academic stuff, many homeschoolers (and homeschooling parents, too) spend a lot of time in pajamas, comfy athletic wear, or just whatever feels good. I mean, why not? There are a lot of new homeschoolers since the 2020 pandemic began, and many virtual schoolers/school-from-homers now also know how sweet it is to do school in your jammies. It’s a special secret that the homeschooling community has been sitting on for years, but one that the whole post-pandemic world now understands.
2. Homeschoolers dress to showcase special interests.
All kids and teens do this to some degree, but homeschoolers are extra when it comes to donning attire that shows off our special interests. This can mean so many different things. It could mean Star Wars tees everyday, or wearing clothing that supports a particular brand or cause. It could mean dressing like a different Disney princess every day of the week (as my 5 year old does). It could mean doing math in half of a cosplay outfit/half regular clothes. I had some homeschooled friends, growing up, who were very interested in fashion, and who always looked amazingly cool (often with a look that was pulled together based more on their favorite fashionable eras rather than what was necessarily in at the moment). I had homeschooled friends who were into history, who cultivated styles using elements of their favorite time periods.
Dressing is a form of expression that homeschoolers get more chances to play with than their public school peers do, simply because there aren’t as many rules and there’s not really any peer pressure. Personally, as a former homeschooler/homeschooling mom, I still dress to reflect my interests. (For example, my literary t-shirt game is strong.)
3. Homeschoolers may overdress for casual events.
This doesn’t apply to all homeschoolers, but – when getting ready to face the public- many homeschoolers will go all out. Just because the rest of the day was spent in mismatched pajamas, the outfit for that Walmart run must be on point. And if it involves a social gathering among friends? The opportunity to showcase one’s style is tripled! It doesn’t matter if it’s a youth group event or co-op or something that happens on a regular basis, homeschoolers will plan an outfit. Many of them will also likely be (proudly) overdressed for most occasions.
Maybe one reason that homeschoolers overdress has to do with parental values. Homeschoolers are often actively taught to dress-up extra nice for certain things: church, a job interview, ect. Dressing up is something that is done when you are showing respect for others, and demonstrating that you care about what you’re doing. So when homeschoolers go out (and we may get extra excited about going out, even if it’s for something small) then dressing up is just one way to show that enthusiasm.
4. Our sense of style is individualistic.
Fashion may or may not be important to your particular homeschooler, but I do think it’s generally true that homeschoolers don’t dress so much for other people, but for themselves. Sure, this can result in some weird outfits sometimes, and in styles that don’t always fit the norm. Sometimes we homeschoolers (and former homeschoolers) “stick out,” for better, and sometimes for worse. Regardless of how the rest of the world perceives homeschooler fashion, though, I think that there is value in being able to play and experiment with a personal sense of style, especially for kids and teens. It’s one more way to learn about who they are, and who they are becoming.
When I think about this concept, I remember this particular girl that I went to youth group with as a teen. Like me, she was homeschooled. However, she was way ahead of me in the sense-of-style game. This girl knew what she liked and she rocked it. Her style was very West-Coast-1970s in an Early-2000s- Southern world, and didn’t look like anything the other girls wore. Regardless, everyone always loved her sense of style. It fit her fun, cool, friendly personality. She was confident and obviously knew what she loved, and her wardrobe choices showcased those things. At the time, and as I developed my own sense of style over the next several years, she inspired me. My style was and is very different from hers, but I always remembered how she actively brought her distinct personality into her wardrobe choices, and that’s what was most inspiring. While not all homeschoolers pull this off as well as that particular girl (I didn’t), I think that a really great thing about having the freedom to be individualistic with your wardrobe is that it can help you get a bit ahead of the game in terms of understanding who you are and what you like–that’s something a lot of adults have to take some time to figure out!
Ultimately, you can’t necessarily always “spot a homeschooler” by their outfit. However, I do think that homeschoolers (and I group myself into this) have a slightly different attitude about clothes. We like what we like because we like it. We dress based on our values, based on how we feel, based on eclectic things that catch our interests, far more than we dress to be cool for anyone else. Maybe for you or your homeschooler, this means wearing pajamas or t-shirts every day, or maybe it means your homeschool teen has a distinctly rockin’ sense of style. The main thing is, homeschooler fashion is unique and free to be whatever it wants.
Drop a comment and tell me how you’d define your homeschoolers’ sense of style!