A friend of mine recently posted her frustration with her local public school via a Facebook status update. Her full-day Kindergarten child was expected to be in school from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Wow! She was naturally sad and dismayed about this. Her Facebook friends offered sympathy, and a couple suggested that she consider homeschooling. One of the comments, from a grown man in his forties, was a simple "Home schooled kids are weird!"
There it was, in black and white. A prejudiced, uneducated, closed-minded statement made for all the virtual world to see. When he was challenged by a couple of homeschoolers (who mostly retorted with "MY kids aren't weird!") he backpedaled slightly with, "Most of the home schooled kids I have met have been a little odd. Not science, just my experience."
That got me thinking. First, it got me thinking that this man was an adult bully, who was probably raising snarling bully children. Then I calmed down a little and expanded my thinking a tad. Of course most homeschoolers are just like other kids, facing the issues common to all kids, but in a different environment. But this man doesn't really know any homeschoolers, he's only met some. So why is Mr. Drive-By Facebook Slam so negative about them?
Well, homeschoolers challenge the status quo. That's weird by society's standards. Homeschoolers sometimes judge public schools harshly, and this man may be defensive of the educational choices he made for his children. And homeschoolers are sometimes "weird".
What does it mean to be weird? I suggest it could mean different, unusual, nonconformist, individual, atypical, eccentric, uncommon, extraordinary. Weird is a negative word for an often positive trait. What was the "weird" behavior that this man noticed? Was the homeschooled child talking comfortably with adults instead of huddling in the texting circle of teens at a social event? Was a child not athletic? Could one of these "weird" children possibly have a learning disability or other condition that makes it more difficult for him to interact in the way this man expected him to? I can only speculate, but I can think of many more reasons why a child might be considered "odd", especially by a middle aged man from a different generation, with a different educational and family history, with a tendency to make negative snap judgments.
There are kids of every type, in school and outside of school. Some kids are "weird". In schools, the weird kids are engulfed by the masses of "regular" kids, and may go unnoticed. A weird homeschooled child stands out, because people make a mental note that they are homeschooled. Many people (homeschoolers included) want to know how the homeschoolers measure up to their schooled peers.
Sometimes a child who is different, who learns slower or faster than the other kids, or who marches to the beat of his own drum has a hard time in school - a hard time learning and a hard time being accepted by the other kids. Kids can be cruel, and schoolyard bullying can lead some concerned parents to pull their weird child from school and bring him home, where he will be safe and can learn in a positive environment.
Concurrence is not causation. Weird kids are not weird because they are homeschooled. Some kids may very well be weird AND homeschooled, however. They may be homeschooled because the institutional school was torture for them and their unique characteristics.
Homeschool parents shouldn't feel like they have to prove that their kids are cool or "just like everyone else". They may be, or they may not. We should embrace both our commonalities and weirdness that makes us individuals.