What about prom?

 

No really, what about it? Do you worry about what your kids are missing by not attending a conventional school?

My husband and I were not homeschooled. 35% of our lives thus far have been spent as students in public school, on different coastlines and with different cafeteria ladies. Our school experiences greatly shaped us both and shaped us very differently. 

School is not a holding tank to prepare for life, though many see it as such. Our lives were ticking by whilst we sat within those walls. And so it is no wonder that we parents who attended school, year after year, have a hard time letting go of what we were taught must be experienced to have a fulfilling life.

While pondering the notion to homeschool, we worried about silly rights of passage like:

  • Prom
  • Learning to use a locker, a lunch card, and a well-timed sneeze to pop a piece of gum
  • Getting bullied and living through it
  • Requesting permission to pee, sir!
  • Making friends/acquaintances to socialize with and increase their numbers on social media later in life
  • Self-discipline and responsibility without mom around to find their (insert lost item).
  • Learning to dress, walk, talk and swagger like the cool sheep kids

Really, was there anything better than that first day in college where you suddenly realized you could get up from your chair in the lecture hall and head to the restroom without having to ask permission? For a minute you may have had to think hard to get those muscles to relax. Possibly you had to visualize a hall pass, or contemplate running back to get the professor to nod in your direction.

But wow! Could you have appreciated that moment quite so well had you been homeschooled? (**This is a sarcastic exaggeration meant for humor and not to undermine the detrusor muscle functionality of conventionally schooled individuals such as myself. So laugh or move on.)

 

What Are Homeschooled Kids Missing

 

Recently, I dared to think about homeschooling more than one year at a time. (Gasp!) Now that we are on the brink of a twin teenage apocalypse, I have started to think that, yes, I can probably brave the gauntlet that is homeschooling high school.

And since there were no homeschool critics around at that moment to ask dumb questions like, “How will they learn to get up early and follow a schedule?,” I really allowed myself to ponder the question:

 

If I were homeschooled, what would I have missed out on?

 

I wanted to list what would have really been missed if I had not gone to school; other than the obvious, leaving home five days a week for 8-12 hours/day and enjoying those rectangular slices of cardboard pizza.

Because, if I am going to commit to homeschooling until college-do-us-part, I owe it to my boys to fully understand what I’m asking them to give up.

So, I went to the peanut gallery asked my readers on Facebook to answer this question as well  in order to gain some cumulative thought (as is common amongst us publicly schooled folks to do to ensure proper crowd approval). There were positive and negative responses. Clearly we all had individual interpretations of our experiences in school.

And strangely, it seems we tend to mostly focus on what we would have missed in high school rather than the elementary and middle school years. Perhaps because it is the freshest in our minds? The most influential?  But those early years sure can set a child’s mood about learning and life.

 

The Early Years

Looking back on my early school years, if I were homeschooled I would have missed:

  • being paddled in front of my entire kindergarten class for doing cartwheels in the back of the classroom.
  • the happiness that accompanied the TV cart as it was wheeled into a classroom on a random Tuesday morning
  • being frozen in horror and writhing internally to get home to my family when the excitement of a shuttle launch went terribly wrong and exploded in front of my 7-year-old eyes.
  • being scared of my 1st grade teacher to the point of an anxiety related illness, even after being reassured that she wasn’t yelling at me and the principal did not actually have an electric paddle
  • feeling overwhelmed with joy when my mother was actually at my school, and fighting back tears when she left

Some of the things other parents said they would have missed were:

  • all of their childhood friends
  • being bullied for being different, poor, or for no reason whatsoever
  • their favorite loving teachers
  • the loss of recess by 5th grade
  • class parties
  • being teased for carrying a brown bag lunch
  • learning to hate math because everyone else did
  • getting up terribly early to catch a bus
  • riding the bus and learning way more info (good & bad, but mostly bad) than they learned in school some days
  • awards ceremonies
  • assemblies, field days, field trips and talent shows
  • being hungry all afternoon
  • feeling like part of a team on spirit days
  • hours upon hours of wasted time

There were good and bad experiences to be missed by being homeschooled in early elementary. These were the memories and encounters that laid the ground work for how we would come to view education and our place in the world long before we got to high school.

Funny, no one mentioned much about what they learned, or any memorable projects or achievements. It was more experiences wrought with emotions and feelings. I know if I had not had to contend with those feelings and my ever growing shyness, I may have enjoyed learning then as much as I do now.

 

High School

Because most of us have absolutely no desire to revisit our middle school years no one specifically responded about missing anything from middle school we shall press on to high school.

So what did everyone say they would have missed not going to high school?

You know what? Not one person said prom. After all the times we homeschoolers have been asked how we could possible negate such a life altering night of stuffy cheap suits and glitzy-girdled fun, it ranked nowhere in the list of things to be missed.

Here is what readers said they would have missed:

  • lifelong friends
  • forced association
  • sports
  • being bullied nonstop with no help from school authorities
  • Friday night team spirit
  • getting pregnant
  • always trying to be someone they’re not just to fit in
  • getting out of the house
  • so many wasted hours
  • academic recognition/awards
  • stolen property
  • that one teacher that made all the difference
  • not enough sleep
  • independence from parents
  • being questioned about beliefs and morals
  • Nothing at all (haha!)

 

And the #1 thing parents said they would have missed was…

 

Being in the Band.

Seriously, every other comment mentioned band or something to do with it. And it got me thinking. What was it about being in the band that left such a happy mark on so many people’s high school experience? Almost all of the other comments that didn’t include band, were a negative memory.

As I reread the comments I looked for clues from those that had elaborated on their answer. Words like trips, like-minded friends, excitement, camp, meaningful, competition, fun, and family were there. All the things one might include if they were describing not being at school, but rather doing what they loved with the people they loved. And it made all the difference in their high school careers.

Basically, they had found a home away from home. A band family. With many of the attributes of a homeschool family, plus a brass section.

 

Turning The Question Around

 

Now that homeschooling is growing, prom really is a nonissue. There are many homeschool groups across the country offering homeschool end-of-the-year formal events.

On top of that, there are an array of sports organizations, academic groups, 4-H clubs, homeschool bands, social meet-ups, volunteer efforts, art lessons, dual credit programs, and an assortment of lets-just-hangout-and-be-weird-together clubs specifically for the homeschool crowd, and others willing to include homeschoolers.

These homeschool activities may not be packaged conveniently under one roof and funded by tax payer dollars, but their existence allows homeschoolers to experience the best of both worlds.

Homeschooled teens can make lifelong, like-minded friends, play sports, sing in a choir, play in a band, avoid bullies and questionable influences, get enough sleep, take trips with family on their own schedule, all while tackling math in their pajamas from the comfort of home. And because their activities are interest driven, they can use these precious years to decide who they truly are and what they want to become.

 

And so homeschooling in 2017 begs a new question:

What would today’s homeschooled kids miss out on if they had to go to school?

 

And I believe the answer is…their life. A life not pre-molded by expected high school rights of passage, but of individual interests and ambitions. A chance to seek their own path.

 

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