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How to Spot a Homeschooler by the Things We Say


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The other day, I was spending the morning with one of my good friends when she introduced me to a new friend of hers. Even though this new acquaintance was much younger than us (nineteen), it was very easy to hang out with her because she was friendly, fun, and conversational. Despite the fact that I’m a millennial, I know that this isn’t the case with a lot of 19-year-olds I’ve met– some won’t talk to you if they suspect that you remember a time before Netflix was streaming.

homeschooler talking and laughing

Written by Katie Gustafson of Write Where You Are.

It struck me why this much younger person was so easy to talk to when she pointed out a snail and said, “I think snails are fascinating. A few years ago I decided to make a study of them, so I collected them and listened to all the podcasts about them.” 

Ahhh. There it is. Click. Lightbulb. Bingo.

“Were you homeschooled?” I asked. 

“Yes,” she said, laughing self-consciously because she knew she’d said something that gave her away. 

“No, that’s cool!” I said, “I was too!” 

As a former homeschooler (who also spent a few years in public and private school) who is married to a former homeschooler (who homeschooled all the way through) and who is now a homeschooling mom, I have to say that there are definitely a few ways that we homeschoolers can spot  fellow tribe members.

As much as we know that we’re not (truly) unsocialized, it doesn’t mean that we homeschooled types don’t stand out in a few quirky ways (After all, sameness does not equal socialization! #soapbox). As a longtime member of the homeschool crowd, I wanted to talk about some of the key ways that we homeschoolers can recognize each other in a crowd in this series entitled “How to Spot a Homeschooler!” 

Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about how you can spot a homeschooler by the things we say.

How to Spot a Homeschooler by the Things We Say 

We Love to Talk About What We’re Learning

We homeschooled-types love to mix our fun, life, and learning, right? It’s kind of one of our things (and it’s honestly one of my favorite things about homeschooling!). However, it does mean that we tend to like talking about the things we’ve learned/ are learning (and we also wonder, “who wouldn’t?”).

There’s nothing wrong with this at all. In fact, it’s kind of great, especially when you’re among like-minded friends! However, it does make homeschooled kids and teens tend to stand out a little bit from some of their peers. For example, my 5-year-old has been learning about space (and is really into it). The other day at softball practice, she asked the other little girls on her team if they were “excited about the meteor shower,” that night.  She didn’t understand why she didn’t get much of a response.

I still come across this phenomenon as an adult. I discovered my younger cousin was reading Wuthering Heights a couple of weeks ago and got a little more excited about talking about literature than the rest of my extended family probably understood. But I’m okay with it, honestly, because an enthusiasm for literature is an important part of who I am as an adult. I’ve been confident about that for a long time, partially thanks to my homeschooling background. 

Maybe this love of talking about the things we’re learning is part of why a lot of homeschoolers get typecast as “nerds,” but -as one of my favorite authors, John Green, once said- “When people call people ‘nerds,’ mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

As a former homeschooler/current homeschooling mom, I can deal with that. How about you?

We Possess Atypical Vocabulary 

When you’re homeschooled and you read a lot, you tend to pick up words from a variety of time periods and contexts, and you may be in the habit of just randomly trying out your newly-learned, interesting words in casual conversation. I’ve noticed that a lot of homeschoolers do this. (It’s kind of hard to not notice, to be honest.) 

This can get particularly interesting if you’re, say,  into Shakespeare and walk around flinging Shakespearean insults like, “I bite my thumb at thee!” (Not that I’ve done this…) When I was about 12, some friends and I were also very into The Lord of the Rings books, and we all picked up some fantastical adjectives as well phrases from the fictional Elvish dialect that Tolkien created. (We even had a writing group that was heavily Tolkien-inspired.) 

More generally, I remember just being captivated by the interesting words I came across in books that I loved, like “ethereal,” and “dappled,” and I’d try to work them into conversations whenever they were even remotely relevant. Okay, fine, I probably still do this. I’m sure it makes me a little weird. But again: I’m okay with it. 

But homeschoolers don’t just have an atypical vocabulary because of being readers. I think another reason that we tend to use words that make people do “double-takes” is that we’re used to talking to people from a variety of life-stages and backgrounds. In fact, probably one of the reasons that homeschooling kids often come across as being more mature is due to the fact that they are very comfortable talking to adults. 

We Mispronounce Stuff 

I’m about to tell you guys a really embarrassing story, okay? I literally cringe every time I think about this, even though it happened many years ago. 

In college, I studied abroad at Oxford University for a semester. I’d always dreamed of studying there and was in sort of a day-dream state walking through one of the parks. I encountered a river, so I asked the gentleman next to me if it was part of the Thames river. I remember that I was excited to be able to do so, because I’d often read references to the Thames river in my beloved British lit, right?  I remember feeling pretty clever and pleased with myself, being able to ask that question. 

Except, here’s the problem.  I proudly called it the “Th-AMEs” river: long A sound.  As you may know, the very famous river is pronounced “Temz.” 

 The man just stared at me. And then he laughed. A lot. When I went back to the house where I was staying, feeling confused, and shared my experience with my housemates, they also laughed. A lot. (Insert facepalm). Someone said, “You must be kidding,” and then gently corrected my huge blunder.

(Picture of me in front of the Thames River in London,  grimacing as I recalled my recent mispronunciation humiliation.)

However, from what I’ve heard from many of my other homeschooled friends, mispronouncing words is a pretty standard homeschooler thing.

Maybe it’s because we’re so used to reading things in our heads without necessarily talking about all of them with other people?  Maybe it’s because our parents think our mispronunciations are “cute” and never correct us? 

Oh well, you can’t win them all. Luckily, I’m not the only homeschooled person I know who has been there, done that…and I never mispronounced “Thames,” ever again!

Hope you enjoyed this look at, “How to Spot a Homeschooler by the Things We Say!”  What are some other ways that you think the way homeschoolers speak makes them stand out? Did you (or your kids) ever nerd out about something with an unsuspecting public schooled friend? Have you ever spoken Elvish, or mispronounced something for years without knowing it? Leave me a comment below and tell the rest of us all about it! 

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Author profile

Katie Gustafson has been a member of the world of “weird, unsocialized homeschoolers” for a long time–first as an alumnus and now as a homeschooling mom to a fiercely fun little girl! She’s very into anything creative, especially writing, dancing, and painting. She’s also particularly passionate about literature and owns more books than she will probably ever be able to read. However, she reassures herself with the belief that, in the event of a digital apocalypse, she’s cultivating a much-needed physical library for future generations. Katie is happy to contribute articles to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Hip Homeschool Moms and Sparketh. She also has a personal blog on writewhereuare.com.

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5 Comments

  1. Yes to all of this!! I was homeschooled and am now homeschooling my kids. This made me laugh and also gave me, oddly enough, a little encouragement! Thanks!

  2. I love this! You look so beautiful in that picture! I’m from England and have never thought about how people would pronounce ‘Thames’ without having heard it. But you are not alone I am sure most Americans say it wrong.

  3. Yes yes! Phlegm. That was my word. Calvin (of “Calvin and Hobbs” infamy) told Susy he had a thermos full of phlegm for school lunch. When I repeated that he had “pel jum” to my Dad, he didn’t stop laughing for a solid 10 minutes….sheesh. That must have been 20+ years ago!!

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