Why Home-schooled Kids Are Weird

Eleven AM and we are trying to get out the door to go to Chuck E Cheese for PE today. (Hey – we’re experiencing rain of biblical proportions down here, and I contend that skeeball is as athletic as square dancing or calisthenics or whatever else they do in PE. And before you judge, let’s not forget what happened to those who mocked Noah’s plan to deal with the flood.)  As I’m grabbing the keys, an unnamed child of mine asked if he could wear his power ranger costume that he got from his cousin yesterday.

“No, honey.  We’re not gonna wear a costume today.”

He nodded assent, dropped his head, and walked away.  And I felt like a jerk.  Why exactly couldn’t he wear a costume?

The truth is that I don’t want him to wear a costume because I always fashioned myself one of the cool kids, and I want him to be cool, and cool eight-year olds don’t wear costumes to lunch. And, yes, I know it’s pathetic.

Still, I wondered how to respond. Let him wear it, and to hell with what other people think?  Help him understand why most people wouldn’t wear a costume?  Insist that he conform (as I had when he was two and wanted to wear black patent leather shoes with a pink flower attached)?

One of the loudest alarms sounded in response to our decision to homeschool has been, “But what about socialization?”

To which I always reply with the party line:

Socialized to what?  Sitting in rows all day with people the exact same age as you and filling out worksheets?  Have you seen any research that indicates that home-schooled kids are less well-adjusted than their institution-schooled peers? No?  That’s because there isn’t any.  And who is going to socialize them to have the character we want them to have better than we are?  And, by the way, just how do you think all of humanity was socialized for the gazillions of years before public schools came to be?

Here’s the problem with the party line:  Home-schooled kids are weird.

C’mon.  You know it’s true.

Jeff works as a chaplain with grad students at Harvard, and I can pick out the home-schooled kids among his flock from a parsec away.  (That’s 19 trillion miles for those of you who don’t know any weird home-schoolers obsessed with astronomical distances.) Sometimes it’s because of their tic, sometimes it’s because of their extensive knowledge of the Federalist Papers, sometimes it’s because they don’t speak unless they have something worth saying.  In some way, though, they are all a little different from the rest of the students.

But here’s the thing.  I’m pretty sure homeschool didn’t made them that way.  And in all of the ways that homeschool may have contributed to their lack of social conformity, I’m not sure it’s a bad thing.

First, lots of parents who homeschool are weird.  They always have been. School was torture for them, and they didn’t want to inflict it on their kids. So these weird parents raise weird kids and don’t put them in school. And they are having a blast.

Second, lots of weird kids with not weird parents get home-schooled because the parents can’t stand to see their kids ridiculed or bullied any longer.  Or, the weird kids who fail everything that doesn’t have to do with the War of 1812 convince their not weird parents to homeschool them so they can devote more time to writing their dissertation proposal.

Third, if you want to help your kids be cool, or at the very least fit in, they are going to need to face lots and lots of peer pressure to conform.  And homeschool just can’t provide that.  You can meet with plenty of other home-schooled kids at the park.  But those kids are too nice to make fun of your kid’s “unique” speech patterns or fashion sense or inept social skills.

It’s that last reason, the lack of peer pressure, that gave me pause when we pulled our kids out of school.  One of our kids, who shall still remain nameless but will be obvious anyway, is weird.  Always has been.  He’s sweet.  And smart.  And responsible.  And weird. He doesn’t pick up social cues.  He’s really anxious and so drives everyone crazy with rule enforcement and clock watching.  He doesn’t often understand jokes and his attempts at humor break my heart.  So of course I should want to keep him out of school.

But I feared that if we pulled him out, there would be no holds barred on his weirdness. Who would make fun of him for wearing those awful clothes he chooses everyday?  Who would roll their eyes and suck their teeth when he repeatedly interrupts their conversations?  Who would model for him what cool boy friendships look like?  And who would tell him not to wear the power ranger costume to lunch?

Fo today, I decided that it wouldn’t be me. I would resist my very strong urge to make him just like all of the other kids. (As if I ever had that power.)

I called him back and told him he could wear his costume.  He lit up and wore it with relish, face mask and all.

So I have no doubt about why home-schoolers are weird.  But I also know that they look really cute playing skeeball in a red superhero outfit.

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  • Shannah

    Your posts make me smile. Love you. Love your blog. Love your power ranger costume wearing son 🙂 And more love to Brenda, Nathan and the rest of the fam in VA.

  • Andy

    I think YOU are weird for thinking the unnamed child is weird. And even if he IS weird, he's a mini-me of his dad, so jeff is weird, too. which just means you actually really like weird people and don't realize it. and so you are, in fact, weird. Therefore you are actually a weird parent homeschooling a weird child. (no earnestness at all in this post). 🙂

    • tara

      All good points. But does the unnamed child's Godmother really have perspective on these matters?

  • guess

    Tara was I home schooled?

    • tedelschick

      No, Tiffany, but you could have been. Mos' def.

  • Theresa Mann Bouey

    I hope you are wrong about this weird thing. I think my kids are pretty "normal", but mayb I am too weird to see that they are weird. But really, are there any "normal" people at Harvard? Last time I checked, even the "cool" ones are still pretty geeky, snooty and strange by "normal" standards. Look at that Zuckerman guy. He might have started facebook, but he definitely does not come across as "cool" or "normal".

    I try to console myself with the reminder that we are supposed to be in the world but not of it. Maybe being weird is a sign of godliness. 🙂

    • tedelschick

      It's true. Your kids don't seem too weird. Yet! But you've just started. (If I knew how to put a smiley face here, I would.)

      And I'm praying that in our case, weirdness is a sign of godliness.

  • Syndi

    Tara, your 3-ness is coming out to me in this entry. 😀

    Just repeat to yourself when you think this way, "They are fearfully and wonderfully made!"

    I hope you feel better soon!

    • tedelschick

      Yes, I know, it's my 3-ness gone mad (that's enneagram-speak for those who may not have drunk the kool-aid). Like I said, I know it's pathetic.

      But really, am I the only one who worries about her kids fitting in? I mean, we want them to love God, to have honor, to be kind, to be courageous and generous. And we want that most of all. But I see how hard it is when you don't fit in. I saw it when I was in school. I saw it when I was a teacher. And I see it at the grocery store. It's one thing when you don't care – you've chosen a different path for one reason or another, often very noble reasons. But it's another when you just can't figure out how to get in there and be a part of the group.

      I don't really know how to think about it, I just know that I do think about it. Obviously, I've got some work to do…

  • Jeff Barneson


    I'm a little unsure how to respond to this post since I think that Zachary (just to identify clearly which boy you're writing about) is totally awesome. Objectively I mean, he is AWESOME! Here are some reasons:

    1. Popularity

    You'll remember that his teachers in first and second grade told us that he had as many classmates list him as a good friend as any other kid in class. His friends love him and they were sad (still are…) that he didn't continue with them at Escuela Amigos this year. And for the record, he loves his friends too.

    2. Enthusiasm

    Zach goes for it – totally. When he plays futbol he dives right in – even if it means he'll be drenched with sweat and have to go into the classroom in that state, he brings himself to the activities he loves.

    3. Friendliness

    You know how it is… The doorbell rings and Zachary dives for the door. He loves seeing who is there, loves inviting them in and making sure they know how to find their way into the house. He may not always be polite and use the manners we wish he'd display – I think that is more our fault than his – but he goes out of his way to welcome everyone in.

    4. Fashion Sense

    I don't know why you find his choice of clothing to be out of step. Seems like he fits right in with our household, right? I mean, if anything he is the more conventional dresser – well, maybe Ezra had a slight edge since he wanted to wear his suit every Sunday last spring. Certainly he does at least as well as I do – earlier this evening I was digging through my box of lycra tights to see if I could find my leg warmers for the cool weather ride with the Harvard Cycling Team in the morning. If that isn't weird…

    • tedelschick

      Oh my gosh. You are hilarious. Such a father.

      All of your points are true. But I wasn't writing about what's "AWESOME" about him. I was writing about what makes me nervous for him, and for each of your awesome points, I could provide a nervous-inducing counterpoint.

      You know I think he's great, right? Everyone should know that this kid breaks my heart with delight every single second that he isn't driving my crazy.

      • marnie

        Tara, Tara, Tara… I can still vividly recall one incident when you answered the door to greet one of my dates wearing an outfit (or not wearing) that was super embarassing for all involved except you! 🙂

  • Lydia

    Love it! Tara, I love reading about your homeschooling adventures! For the record, I was homeschooled for a year, and I loved it. And it's probably one reason why I turned out weird, also I was to begin with. I was totally that kid who was uninterested in worksheets, so I could focus on my dissertation research on the War of 1812!

    Miss you!


  • Samantha B.

    I am a weird parent who chose to homeschool my children because of the social conformity I saw pushed in public schools everyday. And, the fact stood out that, if you were even a small amount different…you were labeled, offered a different type of class or drug and shoved into conforming even more so. I love that my children are different and that we all wear costumes out and that we ride bmx instead of dodge-ball and the lists for the reasons that MY love for my children has made them weird is endless. But, lol, we get to be happy and weird together.

  • crystal

    This is absolutely crazy and if you wanna be cool then go ahead and fail at school while home school kids get into better collages and are way smarter and I am 12 and I am in 9th grade yeah and I have been home chooled my whole life I am not weird I have no issues but you do and I bet you have never even met a home schooled kid.