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Are homeschool stereotypes true?

Updated: Apr 24


Have a little fun!

I’ve always loved the late comedian, Tim Conway. He was one of the greats. His dentist skit remains one of my favorite comedy sketches of all time. He titled his autobiography What’s so Funny? My Hilarious Life and it is a charming glimpse into the qualities that we grew to love in his on-screen persona. If you ever decide to read it (you can find it at this link) prepare to literally laugh out loud because he really was THAT funny. His physical comedy, impish facial expressions, and ability to laugh at himself made me love him.

 

Of course, you can imagine how many people on social media responded. Some homeschoolers pointed out that it wasn't that long ago that Harvard’s own professor, Elizabeth Bartholet, called “for a presumptive ban on homeschooling [because she believed] homeschooled children are less likely than their school-attending peers to receive a ‘meaningful education’ and more likely to be subject to physical abuse or indoctrination by ‘extreme religious ideologues.’"(Case and Chen, 2021). Several commenters on social media that reacted to the research study results mocked Bartholet and even called for her to retract her statements.

However, it struck me that Bartholet’s statements indicate that some weird stereotypes still exist regarding homeschoolers. Even when their own research disproves the stereotypes, I think some people still hear the word “homeschooler” and conjure up the image of an organic-food eating, chicken-raising, essential-oil using, gun-toting, off-the-grid isolated homesteading family in the remote wildernesses of our nation who spends their days studying for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

However, instead of fussing about it and trying to demand apologies, I think I’m going to take a lesson from Tim Conway and have a little fun. This may not do a lot to change the reputation of homeschoolers in their communities, but I’m going to poke a little fun at my homeschool culture by sharing some of the funniest stereotypes I’ve heard about us over the years and see how I stack up.

Let’s start with the notion I just mentioned.

1. Homeschoolers are a bunch of organic-food eating, chicken-raising, essential-oil using, gun-toting, off-the-grid isolated homesteading family in the remote wildernesses of our nation who spends their days studying for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Gulp, well drat, much of this stereotype is true for us. We spent nearly a decade living off-grid in a remote jungle of Papua New Guinea. We cut down trees, built our own log home, caught rainwater for all of our drinking/bathing needs, and used solar power and batteries to generate our electricity needs. I never owned any chickens, but I once looked into raising them. I’ve also never had much of a green thumb and have never grown much of my own produce, but we do try to eat more clean and organic foods. My husband has Crohn’s disease, and clean eating has been a game-changer in controlling his health. And, yup. I do like some essential oils.


In fact, I take this stereotype a step further because when we lived with the Papua New Guineans (who had never had medicines) we learned a lot about the herbs they used to cure various health issues. I found out that those herbs worked and still use some of them today. I will say that the one part of this stereotype that was not true for us is the time spent studying for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Spelling was always a tough subject for our girls - no spelling bee champions in our crew.

2. Homeschoolers go to school in their pajamas.

Ummm, okay, this one is actually true - at least some of the time. Okay, most of the time. All I have to say on this one is that it is AWESOME! It is a definite perk of homeschooling, and just think of all the money we saved not having to buy the latest greatest fashions to keep up with the popular kids at school! No uniforms for us either, not to mention that it saves on laundry too, because when we finally did get dressed for the day, we often wore the same thing more than one day in a row. Shocking, I know.



3. Homeschoolers don't actually do any school work. They do whatever they want and call it school.

I suppose this one comes down to the definition of the term "school work." A December 6, 2021 college newspaper article I just read led with the exciting cover story stating that their college students "may soon find themselves participating in a new kind of education labeled experiential learning." At first, I laughed because I thought it was a joke. But the more I read, the more I realized that to traditional educators, the educational methodologies of discovery-based, inquiry-based, experiential learning approaches promoted by Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, and many more have NOT been a regular part of their "school work." And, conversely, the "school work" of many of us in the homeschool community embraces that approach. Our constructivist models have proven highly effective, and there is actually a push to return them to the traditional classroom. A different Harvard study (Kotee and Ngyuen 2021) found that “an increase in mind-wandering during lectures was associated with poorer performance.”


And since the traditional lecture-style teaching is a passive form of learning, most homeschoolers (and many classroom teachers) have abandoned it as the primary method of instruction for their students. Yes, we enjoy our backyard ballistics. We take advantage of the “following directions” and “fraction skills” that can be learned through cooking and baking.


We teach business and consumer math principles at very early ages because we heavily promote entrepreneurship teaching our kids to DO, not just learn about DOING.

Homeschool teens have started small and successful businesses at significantly higher rates than their traditionally schooled counterparts for years. For students like Richard Lorenzen, who founded a multi-million dollar PR firm, those businesses have been highly successful. A recent CNBC (2018) feature explained how Lorenzen founded his business when he was in the 10th grade and noted that the” strict timetables, generic lesson plans, and constant assessments are, for many, more likely to inspire boredom than the next great business idea." When Lorenzen developed an interest in business, his mother could go beyond the typical school curriculum and help him focus on the ins and outs of the business world. By age 15, “he’d launched an internet marketing start-up,” and since then, he’s grown it into a thriving “business with clients including Expedia and the United Nations” (Gilcrest, 2018).


In our family, the stereotype was true in the sense that we did not use a lot of traditional school curriculum. And it is also true that much of what I counted as “school” for the day was anything but traditional school work. But, make no mistake, intentional learning took place nearly every day, and it was NEVER in the box of the typical 8:00am – 3:00pm school day. It went year-round and the learning and teachable moments were 24/7. It included internships, shadowing opportunities, and hands-on experiential learning. When my oldest, for example, was 10-years old, she was interested in healthcare so she helped me clean and stitch the wounds of many of the nationals that came to our door. So, while many would not call all of the learning tools I used "school work," I would not necessarily label much of their methods "school work" either. Either way, our discovery-based experiential learning must have worked to some degree because my kids graduated college with honors and have launched successfully into their careers without debt and with a stable foundation for their future.

4. Homeschoolers never get recess and can’t do other group activities like prom.

Since that last one got a little long, I'll just say to this one, bwah hahaha! My kids got recess every time I needed a minute to b-r-e-a-t-h-e! "Kids, go outside and play," was a favorite phrase of mine. As for prom, we danced around the house nearly every day, hehe. But, lest some of you think that homeschoolers are somehow crazily disadvantaged for not having a prom to attend, just be assured that prom options are available to homeschoolers all over the country through lots of different options. My fashionista youngest, for example, not only attended prom at our co-op, but she also designed and made her prom dress and her epic necklace.



5. Homeschoolers are awkward, socially inept weirdos.

Yes, I guess we are. Just take a look at some of our more famous representatives. Hmm. Let’s see.

Bethany Hamilton – Professional Surfer, highly-sought motivational speaker, inspiring overcomer – yes, what a socially-inept weirdo - NOT.

Kylie Jenner – dubbed the “youngest self-made billionaire” by Forbes magazine at age 21. Definitely an example of a socially inept weirdo.

J.R.R. Tolkien – Successful writer of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, poet, university professor. Okay, this homeschooled author may not have been a socially inept weirdo, but those of us who love his books definitely are!

Joey Logano – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racer and the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR race. What a weirdo loser.

Tim Tebow – of course you know I would put him on the list. His Heisman trophy, national football championships, successful broadcasting career, philanthropic work, Night To Shine events, husband of Miss Universe – seriously, this poster-child for homeschoolers is such a weirdo.

Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Jaden and Willow Smith, and more – these highly successful entertainers are so awkward and socially inept that the poor things may never be able to launch out on their own . . . oh wait. . . never mind.

Miley Cyrus – okay, this one really is a weirdo with no sarcasm written into the word.

More than a dozen US Presidents

I can keep going as the list is long and impressive, but suffice it to say that for our family, we are the weirdos among the weirdos because we really don’t have all of the world-renown that so many others in our community have achieved.


 

I guess I can see why some of those stereotypes still hang on. Our homeschool family embodied small pieces of each stereotype. I feel like we're pretty normal, though I recognize that we are a bit nerdy at times. Sometimes we are awkward, sometimes confident. Some social groups we easily fit into and some we don't quite connect with. All in all, I think we are just members of our community doing our best to love God and love others.


 








PS: If you haven't checked out my little curiosity shop lately check out some of our bestsellers below.


And, if you'd like to know about some of the books we used to add to our "experiential learning" I've added a few favorites below.





 

References:


Case, Brendan and Chen, Ying. 10 November 2021. “What Home-Schoolers Are Doing Right.” Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/home-schoolers-schooling-are-doing-right-education-parents-bartholet-harvard-parenting-11636577345


Gilchrist, Karen. 19 July 2018. "Being homeschooled helped this entrepreneur build a multimillion-dollar business" Make It. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/19/advice-for-entrepreneurs-habits-from-homeschool-ceo-richard-lorenzen.html


Kotee, Torsor and Nguyen, Casey. 16 July 2021. "Instruction vs. Discovery in the Business Classroom." Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. https://www.aacsb.edu/insights/articles/2021/07/instruction-vs-discovery-learning-in-the-business-classroom


Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you. Please read the full disclosure here.


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