by Logan M. Giannini
I am currently a junior in high school, and as one who has been home-schooled my entire life the question I hear the most often is, "So, do you have a hard time socializing with other kids?" Almost every time a non-home schooler finds out that I am home schooled this question comes up sooner or later, and I know my mother hears it quite often as well. Although Iíve always answered with a simple, "No, not really," I confess I was never truly sure of that until recently. Itís been about five years since we were active members of a home school group, and I rarely see students my own age (which is quite all right with me) so I wasnít really sure how I would get along if cast among a gathering of other people my own age. But in this, my sixteenth summer, the answer came loud and clear.
My first real foray out into the "Real Worldí came in June when I signed up at a local high school for a Driverís Education class. For a period of two weeks I studied with forty people who were my age for three hours a day. It took me about ten minutes on the first day to realize that Iíd rather be almost anywhere else in the world. Most of the kids were rather vacant. When I say vacant I mean that, although not bad, they would have nothing to do with me. The few that were actually willing to interact did so only to ridicule and try to bully me. It was a local class and all but two of the forty kids there, besides myself, were from the same local high school. So, naturally, it was with these other two students who did not know anyone and who were also out of their comfort zone that I ended up spending my hours. However, even they would have spent their time alone sitting by themselves had I not said the first Ďhelloí. It was quiet at the start, but by the end of a week we could sit together and poke fun at the class. Although I did get along with those two kids, I would never want to do it again.
Nevertheless, a few weeks later I found myself in a community theatre production with a cast of about 70 people, over half of whom were under the age of twenty. Going in, I assumed it would be a great atmosphere. After all, here was a bunch of people who all loved theatre and acting all brought together with one goal in mind: putting on a good show. But instantly, the same old cliques formed up with all the kids who knew each other talking amongst themselves. Should I offer an opinion or witticism they would barely acknowledge me, and then would turn back to talk to each other without a word in my direction. Ironically, the one person I found at the play with whom I got along well was another home-schooled boy. But for over two months, the only people at rehearsals who I could have a conversation with, besides the one boy, were adults over the age of thirty. So the question wasnít, "Can they talk to people comfortably?" Sure, most public schoolers can. But can they walk into a strange place, sit down next to an utter stranger, turn to them and begin a conversation? As far as Iíve seen this summer, no they absolutely cannot. They cannot even return banter when you initiate a conversation.
After this summer, any desire I ever had to attend a public school was driven out of me. I had, and I think many home schoolers have, a curiosity about how the other half (okay, perhaps a bit more than half) lives and schools. But the only time when I ever really would have been willing to go would have been on a particularly terrible day at home, after my best friend enrolled in public school. To be accepted at public school, I now believe that one would have to be there for quite some time. The groups are established; the cliques etched in stone. They have friends, why do they need some ex-home schooled kid to hang around with; after all, that wouldnít be cool would it? Apparently not, or so it would seem to me now.
My answer now to the "Socialization Question" is a firm "No." I have no problem whatsoever in socializing with people. I can sit down next to a stranger and (on the exterior at any rate) appear perfectly at ease and talk to them like a friend. No, itís the youth of the public school system that truly has a socialization problem, and who cannot relate to people outside their group. So the next time I am asked, "So, do you have trouble socializing with other kids your own age?" Iíll answer, "No, itís the other kids who have the problem."
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