Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home
Admit it. Somewhere deep in your heart, you’ve wondered, especially if you’ve ever heard someone say, “I know a homeschooling family at my church. Those kids are weird!”
Haven’t we all asked ourselves: are my kids weird?
Weird. Normal. We all have our own definitions. You might say, “I don’t want my kids to be ‘normal’ by today’s standards!” And you might also say, “But I don’t want my kid to be labeled as a weirdo!” So here’s the thing:
All kids are weird.
That’s normal. I mean, when I was a kid—in the privacy of my own home—I stuck black olives on all my fingers and ate them off, one by one. That’s weird, right? Of course I didn’t eat black olives at public school, but if I had, I would not have eaten them off my fingers one by one. I would have known that was weird because some kid would have announced to the entire cafeteria: “THAT GIRL IS EATING OLIVES OFF HER FINGERS LIKE A WEIRDO!” Even those kids that had a secret desire to emulate me would have shriveled and mocked me. I would have been forever known as Olive Girl.
Here’s what’s different about homeschoolers. At my homeschooling co-op, if one kid were eating black olives off his fingers, I can guarantee that the rest of them would be doing it within seconds. Because weird is good. Weird is normal. (And who doesn’t have a secret desire to eat black olives off his fingers?)
I eat black olives like a “normal” person now, although my husband would argue that no “normal” person even eats olives. But you know what? Without any coaching from me, I swear, my youngest son does this.
Because 99.9% of kids (totally made-up statistic) are innately weird, creative, silly, funny, uninhibited, and terribly clever—if they are allowed to be.
I remember distinctly a day when my firstborn son was in kindergarten in public school. He wanted to wear his kilt and sheepskin vest to school. “Sweetie, you can’t wear a kilt to school,” I told him. I hated to tell him why, but I had to. “You can only wear your kilt at home. Kids don’t wear kilts to school.” I squashed his weirdness. I had to, for his sake.
Fast forward several years, when this same kid was 13 and had been homeschooled since we pulled him out of public school after first grade. One day we found, stuffed in the back of a closet, a llama-hair poncho that my husband once brought back from South America.
My son was ecstatic! For months he wore that poncho everywhere, including our homeschooling co-op. He also wore John Lennon-type sunglasses and t-shirts with ties. And yep, I’m sure the kids thought he was weird. But they didn’t care because they were weird, too.
My son is a junior in college now. I asked him recently what some of the best aspects about homeschooling were. One of the things he said was this:
“I had the chance to be a quirky, weird, and creative kid without intense ridicule. I was then able to develop that all into socially acceptable quirkiness as a college student.”
“Socially acceptable quirkiness” usually translates to “outside-the-box” thinking. What is one of the top qualities that employers in most fields look for in employees? Innovation and creativity—outside-the-box thinkers. Childhood weirdos.
Homeschooling allows kids to be weird when it’s OK to be weird.
As your kids get older, chances are they will learn to corral their quirks and develop into creative young adults who refuse to accept mediocrity and challenge the status quo.
I think we need more weirdos in our world.
So ‘fess up: Do you harbor a secret fear that people think your kids are weird?
This post originally published on October 3, 2012.