Homeschooled kids are weird

I think we all know it’s true that homeschooled kids are different. Before I was homeschooling, I used to read tons of blogs by kids when it was my job to glean trends for the younger set. And I could always tell when I landed on the blog of a homeschooled kid.

They are not distracted by stuff they don’t like. They tell you exactly what they’re doing because they are used to adults around them caring immensely about what they are doing. The kids have a lot of opinions because there is no one telling them The Only Correct Opinion.

Here’s an example: a blog where the girl is reading all the Newbery  winners. I can’t imagine doing this on the side with the amount of homework I had as a kid. And any kid in school, reading tons of books that are not assigned, is going against the grain so they would not want to communicate that with other people. Kids who go against the grain at school keep it to themselves.

I see that my kids already are a little more outspoken than their in-school peers. They are a little more comfortable with adults. They’re the kids with sand on their feet during school. And it’s been only two months. I see they are going to be weird because they are not going to be conditioned to conform. That’s what weird is–free of common conditioning.

To be honest, I’m not sure if they would choose to be weird. I am making the choice for them by homeschooling them.

41 replies
  1. LJM
    LJM says:

    The idea that homeschooled kids are fundamentally different from kids who go to school is a common misconception.

    Homeschooled kids might get to have more freedom in regards to what they choose to do during the course of any given day, but after 10 years teaching and 10 years in the homeschooling community, my experience is that there are just as many freaks, geeks, conservatives, liberals, wallflowers, extroverts, narcissists, bullies, heroes, artists, financiers, leaders, and followers learning at home as there are learning at schools.

    Kids are the same everywhere, in that they are individuals and will be who they will be, no matter what their parents do with them.

  2. Bernie
    Bernie says:

    Weird or free? Maybe both. You might like this. “LearningAnyWay: How to be… The fewer who run with the crowd the better I think. #unschool #homeschool”

  3. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    I love to see day by day that you are learning what homeschoolers know from really being in it. Not that others don’t know homeschoolers are weird, for example, but how and why.

    You are describing subtleties that I see in the homeschoolers I’ve known. They are not considered weird by the adult community but sometimes can be thought so by their same age peers.

    It’s not that they’re social misfits. It’s the lack of intense pressure not working on and shaping their personalities and behaviors.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh. Right. I think it IS that lack of pressure. It’s really a big deal in terms of how pressure teaches kids to relate to the world.


  4. redrock
    redrock says:

    from my very own life-experience I am absolutely certain that being homeschooled would have left me less outspoken and much more inwardly focused, certainly it would not have taught me to think freely. Some families are emotionally and intellectually confining and do not provide the diverse wonderful learning environment which is painted here as characteristic of homeschooling. It is good that your kids benefit and have this supportive environment, but not all do.

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    You know what’s weird about this post?
    There’s no links!
    I think I may pass for weird even though I wasn’t homeschooled. Therefore I think it’s necessary to also factor in a person’s personality when gauging weirdness in addition to their upbringing (the parent factor) and environment.
    Trivia – The spelling of weird is one of the most noted exceptions to the I before E except after C spelling heuristic.

  6. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I love homeschool kids. If weird is being able to express yourself without the fear of being made fun of, or for pursuing what you love without wondering if it’s cool or not, then bring on the weird. :)

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      You seem to live in a dreamworld. The wonderfully free homeschooled child who can follow all the interest he/she loves and pursue them. Offer any opinion because they are always free to do so with wonderful incredibly caring parents who give up everything for their children to homeschool. Parents who guide them mildly to their next wonderful interest and observe and support always. And then all these children grow into adults who have found their deepest innermost interests and know how to find their place in the world while all the poor public or private school children watch in awe. The pressures, often considerable of a tight knit family are discounted as if they do not exist. And while I truly hope that the majority of homeschooled children live in an environment which lets their spirits bloom, I think it is an illusion.

      • Hannah
        Hannah says:

        No, actually I live in a world where I have interaction with many homeschooled children–including my three. How many homeschooled kids have you had a conversation with? It seems that maybe you had a tough childhood where the very idea of spending more time with your family of origin makes you feel sick. Maybe I’m wrong, but we often speak out of our own experiences, and you seeem to be reacting out of some past difficulties in your family. My experience was a good childhood, loving but imperfect, and I’m now homeschooling my kids. They have tons of friends of all types and nationalities.

        I commented on the fact that I love homeschooled kids because, in general, they are articulate, confident, look people in the eye when they’re speaking, and can think logically. If you’ve had another experience with homeschooled kids, then I’m sorry. If, on the other hand, you’ve had little to no experience with them then you are simply being prejudiced.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          I find the very same positive view of the world, the ability to think logically and to look others in the eye when speaking in many not-homeschooled kids. The dreamworld was referring to the assumption that homeschooled kids automatically are better prepared for the world. As I said, they might be, but they also might not be. It depends much more on the individual circumstances than the simplifying category of homeschooled versus non homeschooled. I strongly agree with what the first commenter said in this sense. If homeschooling is good for your kids, by all means you should do everything to keep this good thing going. But I simply do not think that the general idea that homeschooled kids are this and that (usually in this blog comments better in many respects) is true in this absolute manner. This generalization also applies if you would compare kids from different school-types. They might learn one or the other task, behavior or so better than others, but they also might not learn certain other things. You might not value those, but that is again a very personal decision.

      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        The author and his siblings were unschooled before John Holt coined the term and he discusses their experiences in feeling “weird” as a result.

          • Jennifer
            Jennifer says:

            I said I think he has an interesting perspective because he was unschooled, is now an adult, and he talks candidly about feeling weird around his peers after unschooling.

            I’m not really sure what you are getting at here. I don’t think the article is controversial…the guy is just telling his story. But I do think he has an interesting perspective on the topic at issue.

            Do you disagree?

          • Lori
            Lori says:

            i thought the article was mildly interesting, but it doesn’t shed any light on homeschooling in general. his parents dumped him and his siblings back into the school system with zero preparation or experience with other kids, and the results were predictably painful. there are many essays and articles written by adults who were formerly homeschooled/unschooled, so if one is interested in reading stories told from that perspective, they’ll have plenty of choices.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      See, this is where we differ. I enjoy exploring education (including unschooling) as a whole–what works, what doesn’t work. To that end, the article is very interesing. The author has authority on the subject and if the lesson of his story is that once you start on the path of unschooling it will be painfully difficult to reenter the school system later, should that become necessary, then that is important to the discussion. (I think there was a lot more to the article than that, but that seems to be your takeaway so I will use that example).

      There is a lot about unschooling that I love, but it is really too simplistic to say that if someone unschools, then that fact alone guarantees that their kids will have a great experience and become well-adjusted adults. If this discussion devolves into a forum to continually repeat that message (and read only articles supporting that narrow message), then it isn’t helpful…or interesting…anymore.

      • Lori
        Lori says:

        i don’t think the author has authority on anything other than his very individual experience. that’s the point i was trying to make. the only thing i took away from the article was .. actually, i didn’t take anything away. anyone who isolates their children and then dumps them unceremoniously in public school should expect a similar result, but common sense would tell you that.

  7. Kim
    Kim says:

    It’s not the “weird” factor that concerns me; it’s the “snowflake” factor. (“I’m a special snowflake!”) Many years ago I had a job where I had frequent and fairly significant (ie, lots of time to talk) contact with homeschooled kids. They were astoundingly articulate and confident — with adults. They were painfully shy around traditional-school kids. But the homeschoolers also had something you’ve hit on here: A sense that the adults around them “cared immensely” about what they were doing. While I firmly believe that every kid’s parents/guardians should care immensely about what their own kids are doing, I wonder how the expectation that most adults will be interested in what they’re doing, and/or the expectation that they should be able to do whatever they want, plays out in adulthood.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      My observation has been that they do what they want, within the law as far as I can tell. They do find ways to work around systems that seem to oppose them.

      And they have great self-worth, but they extend this to valuing others! I love them.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      go spend five minutes on the internet and you’ll find a mass of people desperately trying to figure out how to tap into their interests, make a living, make a life, organize their time, organize their junk, change their priorities, do their own thing, find themselves.

      these kids have a better chance of both figuring out their own interests and abilities AND figuring out how to make that work in the real world. a real world, mind you, that they have much more experience with than their schooled peers.

      • Kim
        Kim says:

        But where is the evidence of this? One can find anecdotal success stories about homeschooled kids who started a business or designed a video-game, but there seems to be a lack of evidence that long-term outcomes are better. And there’s no evidence on kids/parents whose homeschooling plan is unsuccessful causing the kids to return to traditional school. And maybe there just hasn’t been enough time and broad-based study of this.

        I have no doubt that homeschooling can be a fantastic path for lots of people. I just don’t see the support for the extreme position that everyone, or even most people, should do this.

        • Lori
          Lori says:

          there’s evidence, but who cares? you don’t need evidence – you only need common sense. a curriculum that is completely customized to one child, that meets that child exactly where they are and focuses on helping them achieve no matter how long it takes or what form, that focuses on that child’s abilities and not only their deficits .. how is that NOT going to be a better education?

          “there seems to be a lack of evidence that long-term outcomes are better” – no offense but can you google? homeschooled students score better on standardized tests. more of them attend college, they have higher average GPAs, and more of them earn a degree. i’m too lazy to go to my office and pull journals and stats for you, sorry. i’ve worked as an educational consultant and ran a school, so i’ve done my research. i’ll let you do yours.

          • Lori
            Lori says:

            hahaha – and therefore, again – why ask for “evidence”?!

            if a person is worried about homeschooling and wonders how “successful” homeschooled students are compared to traditionally schooled students, there are ample statistics to give them encouragement.

            of course, most homeschooling families have a wider definition of “successful” – they are thinking from a whole-life perspective rather than just about grades/test scores. they already feel more successful – they’re happier with their lifestyle.

            common sense would indicate that the more personal education is, the more tweaked to fit a person’s needs, the more successful it would be. homeschooling offers the opportunity for customized education. ergo, better education.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      for the opposite point of view — that it’s schooled kids who are “snowflakes” over-sure of their own importance and up for a rude awakening, see bruce springsteen’s “glory days”.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I give speeches about what makes generation Y unique at work, and how to manage them. And I can tell you that the whole generation has that “snowflake” factor. For example, 80% of generation y thinks they are in the top 10% of performers at work. And one of the things that makes generation Y really difficult to manage is that they expect concentrated, individual attention from the older people at the office.

      This all comes from parents of gen Y being all over them about their education, extracurriculars, self-esteem, etc. So it seems that it doesn’t take homeschooling to churn out snowflake kids. It only takes a lot of attention from adults. And it seems hard to argue that attention like that is bad…


      • Lori
        Lori says:

        is it only gen Y that thinks they’re in the top 10%? i remember reading articles about how we all think we’re the better drivers, the good kissers, etc.

        i’m sure you could argue that from a evolutionary point of view, confidence is a good thing.

  8. Don Calbreath
    Don Calbreath says:

    I taught college chemistry (from freshman level to senior courses) for twenty-two years. Some of my best students (i terms of being able to work, get things in on time, and be responsible) were homeschooled. Now I’m retired and teaching some on-line science courses for homeshoolers. Most of them are really great – articulate, creative, easy to communicate with.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Jennifer Soodek
    Jennifer Soodek says:

    Your use of the description “weird” connotes a negative tone. Why do that? You seem to be proud of what you are doing with your kids, and proud of the steps they are making in discovering what they want to learn about.
    I wish you would consider selecting a different word to describe a perception of your kids. It sounds to me like they are kids who beat to their own drum, think outside the box, etc.
    There are many people, including me, who value people what are able to think differently. It is often what makes the difference between the doers and the creators.

    • Lori
      Lori says:

      i assumed pen used “weird” because “weird homeschooled kid” is an incredibly common phrase/trope.

      i have had friends – otherwise intelligent friends – say things like, “you don’t want your kid to be the ‘weird homeschooled kid’.” this means – as you know, i’m sure – weird *from the perspective of “normal” people*.

      there are plenty of us who value kids who are outside the stereotypical norm, but then we’re by definition not people overly concerned with fitting in.

      without the pressure to fit in, without fear of being shunned, these kids are much more relaxed, able to be themselves, openly passionate about their interests, just cheerfully flying their freak flags. but even though you can escape middle school and high school, you’re still stuck with living in a world that prefers people who conform – thus, “weird homeschooled kid”.

  10. Susan Lapin
    Susan Lapin says:

    When my children want to get my goat they point to someone in an elevator or mall and say, “homeschooled.” They say that they can pick it up with their weird detector. But they are also a great advertisement for homeschooling. Now that they are grown, they are some of the finest young adults I know. This is true objectively as well. Their social and academic achievements post-homeschooling are amazing, be it in the businesses they have started and been employed by, their academic awards in college, and the leadership roles they attain by votes of their peers. Are they weird? If weird means not average, you bet they are. We need a lot more of them in the world.

  11. Jeanette
    Jeanette says:

    What makes homeschoolers ‘weird’ is the lack of peer dependence. Many times my ‘weird’ homeschooled kids look at their public schooled friends and wonder ‘What is the big deal about _____?’ (Fill in the blank…Hannah Montana, High School Musical, etc)

  12. KR
    KR says:

    I am married to a product of homeschooling. While it is a challenge at times, it can also be rewarding. When asked, “Honey, does this blouse look good on me?” I know I will get a straight-forward answer – not the answer most guys are trained to give their wives. And I subsequently change into a different one.

    But I do find that he is socially awkward because of his lack of filters. Many people, like myself, who have gone through traditional schooling know the right and wrong time to speak your opinion. He, however, never misses a chance to say what he’s thinking. And this has made it harder for him to connect and make friends. But if I explain to people that he was homeschooled, many nice, kind people get it. And I did – and I love him for it.

    Penelope – you have enlightened me through this blog. I am a product of traditional schooling, but also my mother was a teacher. So my views were slanted significantly. But now I find myself unschooling my daughter, when I can. As she is on a year-round track system, I take the times when she is off-track to “unschool” her. Right now, she is home with my husband watching all of the Star Wars movies. And learning about roman numerals and space exploration…because she asked. And next week, she will be at my mother’s house, baking and learning about measurements…because she asked. I see the power that letting a child decide their destiny has and I am grateful that while my mother was a traditional teacher, it was during our breaks that I really learned who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. And my husband was able to figure out what he wanted to be when he was only 7 years old, so his mother paved the way for him to do it from that moment forward (and yes, he is doing it now).

  13. candis
    candis says:

    Great observations Penelope, but be cautious about the conclusions. You make friends by doing all your kids activities with them and with other families. Don’t have a homeschooling group? Start one. Find a good orchestra to play in with your kids. Suzuki is for moms too. Remember that socialization is never neutral and age-specific peer groups are artificial. Find a good place to worship God and you’ll find some good friends

  14. Chase Miller
    Chase Miller says:

    I love the title “Homeschooled Kids are Weird”

    I was homeschooled from 2nd Grade through the end of Junior High and by social standards, I was weird.

    I enjoyed school, started a surfing website which I have know been running for the past 3+ years and was comfortable talking to adults.

    I was able to see learning as something much more than just sitting in a classroom, which was nice considering I am very kinesthetic.

    I am now 18 years old and will graduate High School this spring. Looking back I wasn’t “weird’, merely successful and driven to do what I loved.

    Chase Miller

  15. Jason
    Jason says:

    The one thing this article fails to mention is how these individuals fit into corporate America. In my experience, they don’t. I have worked around many individuals who as a result of being homeschooled have no idea how to socialize in a business environment. They tend to be laughed at behind their backs and avoided during team projects. By the way, my wife was homeschooled, so it is not a personal judgement.

  16. marta
    marta says:

    I live in a country with virtually no homeschooling. I follow the homeschool movement through the internet and some John Holt books. I was not homeschooled nor are my 3 (4th due in some months) kids. I don’t personally know any homeschoolers. Yet, I’m interested in some of the philosophy and some of the real -life examples – applicable to both schooled or homeschooled kids.

    I do have a big experience of school – private and public. And I do feel that generalizations about school are as misleading as about homeschool. It is not the system – institution or home – that is wrong or right. There are individuals, schedules, interests, contexts, professionals, parents, children, non-professionals in both systems. And they come in as many shades and tones you can get.

    My 3 kids are all so different from each other that it would be ridiculous to pinpoint to which school they go to just by looking at their characteristics. Or whether they are schooled or homeschooled, I’m sure. One is cool, very self-assured and self-driven, “different” and yet popular with all the kids he konows. Another is outspoken, loud, never hiding her opinions whilst among people she knows, but immensely socially smart with those she doesn’t know well. Yet another is a trully happy-go-lucky, kind, very sensitive, shy and bright kid.

    Their whole upbringing – their family (both our home and the extended family), their friends, their neighbourhood, their schools, the adults and children they meet everywhere, their genes…, their existence has so many factors weighing it seems very reductionary and delusional to attribute this or that trait to the system with which they “learn”. They learn&live everyday, everywhere, in or out, rain or shine – as most homeschoolers, or at least unschoolers, so much like to point out.

    As much as I like a lot behind the philosophy of unschooling – following one’s interests without a schedule, a plan or a grid, among others – another lot really gets on my nerves.

    Namely, unschoolers, and some homeschoolers, contradict this theory constantly when they state that a life&education that experiences the school system is not worthy/happy/fulfilling.

    Why are the 5+ hours a day at school any worse than the 5+ hours a day playing unrestricted videogames/watching tv/ staying-up-til-you drop-off-at-2am?

    And, as another commenter put it, why should an adult be immensely engrossed by some 8 year old kid’s intense passion and monologue about guns, soccer, videogames or cooking?

    Most kids I know – smart, funny, happy kids -may have some strong, occasional interests. What makes them smart, and funny and happy, though, is their innate knowledge that there are so many things to explore, and live, and know that they’d rather try it all, touch it all, than stick to only lego-building or insects-dissecting or whatever. My kids feel life has so many possibilities and that each one – and each person – is unique. That is healthy. It does not mean they are schooled, or that they are homeschooled. It means they enjoy living.

    One last thing I both enjoy and am wary of in homeschooling/unschooling: the sense of being different as something valuable and worth fighting for. Yes, it is, but only to a point. If you have a childhood where each babble or doodle is hailed as a self-driven masterpiece, one of your parent’s life revolved around you and your “interests” (what about double-income families that do have to be double-income families?), you’ll surely feel you’re a snowflake. What that means in later life, when you meet/work/live with different people, is another matter.

    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      You seem to be confused..
      Many homeschool families don’t even own TV’s and i my self minimize it in our household.

      Many days computers, games, and TV are not allowed to be used in our home and i have used whole summers as an opportunity to unplug the TV (yes for the whole summer).

      I promise you we aren’t the only homeschoolers who don’t like Televisions.

      On another note i do not spend every single second of my day consumed by my children.
      I often sit and read (or do my own things) and tell them that they are to let me be because Moms are humans too and need time to themselves. In this and many other things i do i teach my children to respect others opinions and interests and support others in what they care about.
      I cant speak for other homeschool Moms IM probably a little weird my self having been unschooled for 6 years.

      Sorry for poor punctuation and such IM on my tablet

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