Are homeschooled kids weird?

Are homeschooled kids weird
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.

About SarahS

Sarah has graduated one child from homeschooling and is happy to have miles left on the journey with her 11 and 15 year old children. With a master’s degree in English/creative writing, Sarah enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her co-op and blogs about learning at SmallWorld at Home.

Comments

  1. About the olives… The day my fingers could no longer fit inside olives without them breaking in half was the day I realized I really dislike the taste of olives. I haven’t touched them since. Haha.

    About weirdness… Boy, was I an odd child. And I’m still quite odd as an adult, though I’ve definitely started to master the knowledge of when it’s inappropriate to let my weirdness run unleashed. I’m excited by my kids’ weird tendencies, and even by their lack there-of in some cases. I try to encourage being themselves as much as possible, and I hope I’m a good example of that.

  2. Love this post and so true!
    The lack of personal inhibition gives creativity room to grow and frees the individual. I know if I had been homeschooled in at least the lower grades I would have been a more liberated person!

  3. Grandma Rose says:

    My five grandchildren are homeschooled by their super intelligent, organized, funloving, christian mother. They constantly amaze me with their creativity and self discipline. All children should have the oppurtunity to be so “wierd” One proud grandma :)

  4. “Do you harbor a secret fear that people think your kids are weird?”

    No, I don’t. But my wife does.
    I love that my kids are weird. Helps keep the eyes off me ;-)

  5. Melissa R says:

    Eating olives from your fingers isn’t weird, it’s part of life!! It’s just got to be done!

    My homeschool son IS weird. But no one among his friends notices because, as you said, they are weird too. And LOVING IT.

    People are weird. At heart. They only “conform” because others conform. Natural tendencies, IMO, are weirdness. I am so glad that my son gets to be his own person without anyone telling him it’s not ok.

    BTW… he just turned 10 and still has ZERO idea that Santa isn’t real. It simply has never crossed his mind and no one has told him otherwise.

    I love that he gets to be himself, in so many ways.

  6. My kids are most definitely weird. One of them would have been, even at public school. He is that set in his ways and has been since we pulled him out of public at age 10. My other two… they would have caved. I know it. The pressure to conform would have kicked in and they would be way too concerned in fitting in to allow their weirdness to shine in public.
    tracey’s latest post: She’s ALIIIIVE!!!!

  7. Thank you for posting this! I loved it. :) I want my kids (4, 2 & 3 months) to grow up free to be who they are in Christ. I love the picture of the little girl picking her nose, that could be my 2 year old any day!
    Jessica @ Zinck Family Missions’s latest post: Out With the Old

  8. Its ok to be quirky and fun as long as your not hurting anyone. Im not sure how I feel about a 10 year old living with the fantasy of Santa but… not my kid so whatever. What bothers me is, if you dont have a problem or think there is a problem with your kid being weird then why is it a posting? Its not ok to be a weird-O. Its ok to be whatever you want to be as long as its not breaking the law. …” name-calling, cliquish behaviors, and threatening people you don’t like with physical harm anti-social behaviors? Somehow, those behaviors thrive at public school, …” they thrive all over doll, you gotta get used to how to deal with it not run away. Its called life.

  9. the comments on this site prove homeschoolers can be bullies too! lol
    <- not homeschooled and can recognize a bully at 50 ft…. calling themselves Christian or not
    LMAO

  10. I’m a grandma now and my three children were public schooled. I have two weird homeschooled grandchildren and they’re terrific! Mismatched socks and sometimes even shoes are not uncommon and it goes from there. I think this blog post is spot on. Sadly the majority of children have their creativity and individuality quashed early on. Having been a stay at home mom, I wish homeschooling had been as prevalent when my children were growing up. I think it would have been right up our alley. :)

  11. Definitely have weirdos at my house. I love it. I think some of my relatives have more fears of the weirdness, but we just finished a long trip, and those relatives expressed delight in my little troop of weirdos. They’re really neat kids, and fun to be around, and easy to have conversations with. We had so many fantastic experiences, and continue to have them!
    Liz C’s latest post: NotMolly at Real Intent…

  12. Absolutely! This is exactly what I hope to teach, or unteach, with home education! I have known many special children and teens in life, my past self included, that possess amazing uniqueness and creativity. To see it dimmed simply for the acceptance of educators and classmates that were never taught acceptance or respect of differences is a disgrace that exists every day in many areas of \’big-box education\’. I simply wish for my young, brilliant, silly, awesome kids to grow into adults that understand that we are all worthy of our own choices and opinions without ridicule. If I can teach that lesson, I have successfully added to a humanity worth inheriting.

  13. Oh my gosh, I love this. There are so many times my daughter, 5, is playing with public schooled kids and she does the weirdest things and they all look at her like she’s a “weirdo.” She’s crazy, silly, sweet, loving, caring and quite the drama queen all mixed together into a wonderful little person. Thank you for giving me some peace of mind to let her be her own person and not insist on stopping all of her weirdness.

  14. If others want to call our kids weird because they’re home schooled, I think we may need to look back at a fairly recent history of our nation when education was not institutionalized. Prior to that, was our country run amok with strange beings and weirdos? Or were these the people who pioneered our country, developed our nation, and made us the great success that we are today? Granted this is my own impression of our country as a whole, but I don’t see that ingenuity come through today except for the rare few.

    Now, if this is the case and our country was not filled with weird people in the past, what does this say about our educational system today? I would say that our home schooled children are not weird, but rather they are non conforming, individual beings.

    I’ve been pondering this post for the past week, and I hope to use my response to this issue to all of the nay-sayers I meet in the future. Fortunately, because of all the parents who decided to home school before me, I have met mostly supportive people who think that home schooling is great!

  15. It is ironic that how children are forced to act and behave as per the so called social norms which in turn curbs their creativity and when they grow up following a strict lifestyle, they are motivated to think out of the box.

  16. Love this post. I am the mom who tells her children that they are weird. I want them to love and accept that quirky part of who they are. Being weird just means you are being exactly who God uniquely created you to be.

  17. Lol. What a great post! One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that my kids and their HS friends are so “free to be me”.

  18. Helen Saunders says:

    Oh I love this! I home educated my children for 2½ years (they and I miss it dreadfully now that they’re back at school) and my 12 year old prides herself on being weird. Her best self-chosen ensemble when she was younger was a Snow White dressing up outfit, wellington boots, sunglasses and a furry penguin hat that velrco-ed under the chin. I wish I was as “weird” and bold as her!

  19. I love this post! My husband and I pride ourselves on having “weird” kids LOL We feel the same way as the author – our kids are free thinkers who don’t feel they have to follow the crowd but rather can be proud of who they are and can celebrate what makes them unique.

  20. I have three children, ages 15, 11, and 4. My eldest, a daughter, was homeschooled from grade 4-7. My middle child, a son, was homeschooled always until this year. My youngest, another daughter, will be homeschooled until we decide (if we decide at all) to send her to brick and mortar school. My eldest daughter has always been bright and hardworking, and very eclectic; but never really seemed to be particularly weird to others. I believe it is partially because of her personality and partially because she has always just been very perceptive and adaptable; she has always managed on her own to determine how she should behave in various situations. My son has embraced his ‘weirdness’ the most of all of my children, though. He is probably the most outgoing and hilarious of the bunch, and when someone calls him ‘weird’ (at Scouts or baseball or now at brick and mortar school), he smiles, thanks the other person, and proudly says, “Yeah. ‘Weird’ is a side effect of being awesome!!” Hopefully, my youngest daughter will grow her personality similarly to both of her big siblings’ personalities, and just be proud to be herself!!

  21. I grew up homeschooled and loved it and am now homeschooling my children. So I am a fan of allowing kids space and letting them have their quirks!

    But the weird that is talked about in this article is not the weird that I worry about. As I said, I am a fan of homeschoolers. However, I have known a few too many who have not had the awareness or whatever is needed to teach their children basic comfortable social interaction. This is a stereotype, thankfully not the norm for most home schoolers. Unfortunately, it does exist.

    What I am concerned about is not the ‘weird’ of wearing a kilt (that is quirky), but whether my children know how to interact socially within their culture. We make efforts, as my parents did, to ensure that this is the case. But the weird that you describe here is not the social awkwardness that concerns me.

    I worked with a large (300+) church youth group of mostly school kids for a while and noted that often oddly dressed, quirky kids can be the cool ones. It depends on their confidence and social skills, not so much on what they wear. I want to give my kids the chance to develop that confidence and social awareness, the kind that lets them present themselves and their quirks confidently to the world, knowing how to forge relationships with people no matter what their outfits.

    • Yes! I too, grew up homeschooled and am now homeschooling my children. You are right on in assessing the difference between quirky and social awkwardness. I don’t think that being socially awkward is a homeschool norm (nor is it non-existent in those who were traditionally schooled!) but that is the root of the “weird” label that homeschoolers get, and a lot of homeschool parents don’t seem to understand that. They are proud of their kids “weirdness” when it’s actually necessary to teach culturally appropriate social interaction.

  22. Carol in NM says:

    I know my quirky 7-year old son would be labeled “weird” if he were in school. Personally, I find that a boy his age whose favorite colors are pink and purple, and whose interests are nuclear energy, writing a “movie script”, building spaceships out of recycled materials for said movie, playing with his doll house, watching Star Trek, playing the piano, and lots of other “strange” things, to be quite interesting and a fun person to be around. Thank God for the freedom to homeschool so that these “weirdos” can fully blossom into the fabulous free-thinking odd-balls who will change the world. :-)

  23. Thanks for yet another great post. Honestly, I am on a lot of mailing lists (via e-mail) and most of the messages I get, I delete. But not yours. Because I know that what you share will be relevant, practical, applicable, helpful and reassuring. :)

    All kids ARE weird…and so are adults!! Who really wants to be a cookie cutter of everyone else. Besides, “normal” (whatever that is!!) sounds really boring.

    However, maybe you could give some practical tips for helping your children not to feel abnormal. I grew up in Christian school. I always felt like other kids thought I was weird and that my education was second rate. My self-image suffered because of it. How can I help my sons to avoid those feeling or at least deal with them in a healthier way? So far, homeschool is way cool in my 1st graders eyes. Would love to keep it that way. :)

    Thanks again for sharing such wisdom and encouragement here, time after time!
    Rachel Beran’s latest post: Comfortable

  24. Beautiful!

  25. As someone who was constantly called weird growing up in with a public school education, I’m enjoying watching my homeschooled kids explore their weird sides without hesitation. Once I understood being weird was bad, I kept myself under wraps for many years; trying to fit in with all the cliques. Only once I embraced my uniqueness was I truly happy. I love that my kids aren’t tucking away what makes them special but sharing it, and on the off chance someone calls them weird, they just don’t care.

  26. yes. We are ‘weird’- my kids are very normal, but they have never heard a Bieber or One Direction song. The teens watch Horrible Histories and Dick Van Dyke show- They can lead the singing at a funeral. They ask to hold babies. They walk slowly in a museum because they are interested in the art/history. They do not bully. They are not perfect, but they have benefited from staying as a FAMILY most of the day

  27. Can I just say, I am a homeschool mom of four and teach at an enrichment school for HS kids one day a week. I have 15 1st-3rd graders in my class and none of them are really all that weird.
    I think a part of the school environment has the tendency to amalgamate the population- in other words, being together creates a certain amount of same-ness. In public school, some of that is peer pressure and cultural influences and such. But the other part of it is that as a whole, they’re all smiling faces and you can’t really examine them for the individual differences.
    That may be what happens when homeschool kids are at the library at 10am on a Tuesday. They’re not seen as part of a whole, but on their own, away from the crowd. If you were to take a few public school kids and deliver them to the same place, out of context, the librarians might also be able to pick out their weirdness just as easily.
    All that said, my own kids are totally weird. Heh.

  28. Ha Ha … Love this! It makes me want to encourage “weirdness” more!

  29. My husband and his siblings were homeschooled. His siblings dislike all out of the box thinking and now they hate the idea of homeschooling. He, however, has always moved to the beat of his own drum and would never dream of squishing his kids into the public or private school box. I was public schooled, even in day care starting at 6 weeks and i too have always been a weirdo. I spent SO MUCH of my childhood trying to fit in, i just didnt!
    This article is making me wonder if homeschoolers, at least some of them, are attracted to this way of life simply because it allows them to be odd without being attacked for it?
    Ps, my husband lived in a scratchy wool poncho from mexico at 13 :)
    Man i love homeschooling. :)

  30. I LOVE weird! I encourage weird! Ok, within reason. My son HAS to wear pants when we go out… but often he wears his spiderman costume to dinner. My daughter dresses in princess dresses and crowns to go to the store. And we wear our pajamas to “school” (our kitchen table) on a daily basis. I can’t imagine it any other way! I dread the day that my kids are too cool to be weird (hopefully that day never comes!).

  31. Absolutely agree. Suppressing our passions, our identity, and our inner promptings to fit in deprives the world of the fullness each person can bring to it.

    Sharing!
    Laura Grace Weldon’s latest post: No Parrots Here

  32. Myself and everybody in my family eat olives that way…. Then again, we’re a pretty weird bunch even though we’re all grown up and we love it that way. I was the only homeschooled one out of four kids so you can’t blame it on homeschooling lol.

  33. There are definitely some weirdo homeschooling families. I am not talking about the kind the eat black olives off of their fingers. I am talking about the kind that think they are better than everyone else because they shelter their children from the real world. Their kids often grow up to be socially awkward. That is sad and real.

    I am glad homeschooling works out well for your family. I love all children and love when they can grow to be great human beings in whatever setting their parents deem best for their education.
    Life with Kaishon’s latest post: baby toes & bad jokes = a perfect start for your Monday!

  34. I agree with a previous commenter: I began to really like myself in college, which was when I finally embraced all my weirdness and was surrounded by other confident weirdos. :) This is one of the things I love about homeschooling! (and we’re just confidently weird enough to try it!)
    Mary’s latest post: The Slow Club

  35. Totally proud to be a weird homeschooler. We know how be ourselves, and we also know how to allow others the same respect. I have some WEIRD friends, every shape, size, color, religion, school type whatever. They are all awesome people who God made special. And I love them ALL.

  36. Usually when people make comments to me about the weirdness of homeschoolers, I respond with, “Are they weird because they are homeschooled or are they homeschooled because their parent felt they may be pre-dispositioned for being weird?”
    Crystal’s latest post: Welcome Home! Our New House

  37. When we go to the library, there is one librarian in particular who greets my children and then studies their reactions. My son doesn’t always reply “hello” if somebody he does not know well says hello to him. He is 6. He is still learning to say good morning back to me when we see each other around the house for the first time. :) I asked her, “Did he greet you?” Because I was not paying attention to their exchange. This librarian sighs loudly and says, “No” with this look on her face like, “You are destroying his future by homeschooling him…” She has made other comments in the past about “school pictures” – that somehow we don’t get school pictures… because we homeschool… :)
    Adriana Zoder’s latest post: Fall Traditions – Canning Applesauce

  38. My fear is that someone will somehow actually think my kid (and his parents) *aren’t* weird.

  39. Being weird implies that there is a standard of what isn’t weird. All groups of people – workplace, church, school – have their own set of what is acceptable and whatever falls off this unspoken but rigid standard is deemed weird. I remember kids in school that were considered weird. I now wish I had gotten to know them better because after growing up I realized they were the interesting kids!! :) With that in mind I’ve never encouraged my kids to “normalize” while we homeschooled. I might have explained what others do, but never with the implication that they should veer towards that way of being or doing. With my kids now 19 and 15 I love the individuals they have come to be!! And I love their friends!! They all are who God and Nature intended them to be without the peer pressure all through the years. As an example, on Halloween night they all gathered at one of their homes and at some point in the evening the 21 year old host pulled out an Elmo puppet and, doing the voice, had everyone in belly laughs!! One girl, rather than being a sexy anything, made herself a narwhal costume….classic!! I just am so impressed with their creativity and spirit!! So, whatever weird is, I think it’s great!!

  40. I read this yesterday and loved it so much. Thanks for the freedom to be weird!
    Amy’s latest post: Motherhood Isn’t Your Highest Calling

  41. My kids are definitely weird – and I LOVE it! Part of why I homeschool is so that I get to experience as much of their weirdness as possible. It’s a wonderful gift and I won’t let anyone squash it :)
    Vanessa’s latest post: Garlic

  42. Oh I KNOW my kids are weird…and I know that their father and I are also and I embrace it! I was bullied when I was in middle school badly and I think if I would have been able to embrace my “outside of the box” thinking earlier on I would have been better off. :D WHY BE NORMAL? ;)
    Joy’s latest post: The Blessings of Special Needs Siblings

  43. I’m pretty sure there is no way to make my kids normal! lol Although I am pretty sure the olive thing is normal; all my kids do it, all my nieces do it, and all of us did it as kids. Or maybe our family is extra weird! :)
    Ashley’s latest post: DIY Light Table

  44. Rebekah Smith says:

    I think this is such an interesting topic of conversation…especially since there are no children in public or private school who are “weird”. :) Happy that my kids can be creatively themselves and grow and develop as individuals! Thanks for this article.

  45. I think many home schoolers lack social skills. This has been our experience when socializing with other home schoolers. Weird I like..

  46. See, I do want my kids to be weird! I want them to be who they are, without peer pressure and all that other junk. Thanks for the post, it was a great read. Blessings
    Ann’s latest post: What we are learning this year

  47. I loved this post!! It should be mandatory reading for everyone ;)

  48. I was a ‘weird/odd/quirky’ kid at school and learnt very early on (around age 7) that I had to act like everyone else or be beaten up for being different! We are a family who are very much outside the box and I love that my five year old daughter loves to go out in her big brother’s snow boots. She may not be able to walk properly in them but she’s smiling so much that I simply don’t care what people think :)

  49. This article made me smile. I’m a homeschool graduate and (normal) people tell me I’m weird all the time. They’re usually surprised when I cheerfully agree. Hopefully someday I’ll have kids of my own to homeschool, and they’ll get to enjoy being weird too.
    Leah E. Good’s latest post: I Know… (Two Poems)

  50. As both a former homeschooler, who married another homeschooler, and is now a homeschooling mama, love this. I am a bit “weird” with my out of the box thinking, but I’ve realized that everyone is weird in their own way. And it’s ok! In case people aren’t aware, the public school system churns out some real weirdos too. ;) PS When I tell people I was homeschooled they always seem shocked… “but you seem so normal!” bahahahaha

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