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A Kitchen Table Education
By Katelyn Jolley
When I was a small girl approaching school age, my parents had given little or no thought to the prospect of homeschooling. At some point, however, the decision was made that I would not attend public school.
It would be a lie to say that I never struggled with their decision. During my pre-teen years, when peer pressure was a relatively new but hugely effective thing, the fusillade of comments from my friends seemed endless and overwhelming. Among the most common questions I would hear were these: Do you actually like being homeschooled? Don’t you know you’re missing out? How do you socialize? I assumed that these questions would die down once I graduated; however, today, as a homeschool graduate, the questions are still coming.
While I’m completely used to those kinds of questions now (I’ve come up with some pretty witty answers too), in the past I let them get to me much more than I should have. During my middle school years I begged my parents to “let me” go to a “real school.” But they always succeeded in convincing me not to go, assuring me that one day I would thank them. I doubted that I would.
The bottom line of the story is that I stuck with it. I sacrificed the experiences of lockers, bells, and mystery meat and accepted myself as a bona fide homeschooler. I’m incredibly glad that I did.
The thing I loved most about my homeschool experience was how much I discovered about myself. I was able to devote copious amounts of time to making music. I was able to read what I wanted when I wanted. I was able to build strong relationships with my siblings (we spent every waking moment together, after all) and with my parents.
Because I am self-motivated and extremely ambitious, homeschool suited me well. My parents continuously encouraged me to implement my passions into my school days, and I continuously did so.
I have always loved learning. In fact, it was not uncommon for me to ask for more schoolwork. Having said this, I did experience an occasional longing for the more structured school days of my peers. I felt, for some reason, that I should have been doing math when other people were doing math, doing history when they were doing history, and doing homework when they were doing homework. Along with this, the pressure of “socialization” was always acutely present. After all, public school was where all the kids were; that was where they made connections, hung out, and had the “awesome” experiences that they later gossiped about. Meanwhile, I was at home (in my pajamas more often than not, I might add), doing geography on the carpet next to the family room piano. I felt as though I was missing out on something.
In hindsight, however, the fact that I wasn’t doing what my peers were doing when they were doing it was a good thing. And as for socialization, some of the best relationships I’ve ever had and probably ever will have came into existence through networks of homeschoolers. I wish I had appreciated this sooner.
My family has always loved traveling. When I was growing up, we would often take trips during times of the year when most kids were in school. That was normal for us. There were no parent-teacher conferences to schedule around (my parents could hold those with each other at times of their choosing), and we wouldn’t get a tardy slip if we were late for English class. Many of my childhood memories were created on the road.
Homeschool provided me with a custom education unlike anybody else’s. I was always told, “The world is your classroom.” I had no idea what that meant. Now, looking back at the family field trips, backyard science experiments, mini-vacations, and memories, I do. The world was my classroom. It’s where I learned to live.
I wasn’t “average.” I didn’t spend my diurnal existence in a school building filled with kids who had to be my age by September 1. I spent it elsewhere, with people of many ages. Because I was homeschooled, I was able to take advantage of numerous unique, wonderful opportunities.
I don’t know what the “box” is, but I’ve always been taught to think outside of it. I am now a thoroughly homeschooled high school graduate. My homeschool education has given me the tools I need to be independent, to dream big dreams, and to achieve success. I thank my parents regularly for the decision they made to give me a kitchen table education.
If you are at a tough place in your homeschool career, please know that it does get better. If you find yourself being bombarded by questions such as “How do you make friends?” please don’t pay attention to those questions. If you feel as though you are “missing out,” please realize that other people feel as though they are missing out too. I believe that you will look back fondly on the memories you are making today. I have the right to say that because I’ve lived it. I can honestly tell you I’m glad I took the road less traveled, because it has made all the difference.
Stick with it.
Katelyn Jolley is a homeschool graduate, writer, and musician from Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2012 she released her debut album, Many Miles, which is available on iTunes and http://katelynjolley.com/. As an autism awareness advocate, Katelyn has written for Autism Speaks and Autism Spectrum Quarterly Magazine and is the founder and administrator of the Facebook page Siblings of Autistic Kids. You can contact Katelyn directly at [email protected]
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.