I’m glad my parents homeschooled me. The experts can rant and rave all they want, I feel plenty well-adjusted, thank you very much. I can make friends just fine, and I’ve also developed the ability to think for myself as well as a voracious appetite for books. Still, there are times, however few and far between, that I feel every inch the part of the regrettably unprepared homeschooler.
The first area in which homeschooling leaves its wards completely defenseless is the dreaded morning class. Before I even set foot on campus, I’d already planned out my class schedule, and being a fresher-than-freshman, I had no idea what I was doing. I assumed that taking classes in the morning and leaving evenings free would be the greatest idea since putting Mentos in Diet Coke. At 7:00 AM, however, that illusion was utterly shattered. I never had to haul myself out of bed until I was good and ready at home, but here at college you start work when the school says you start, and if you don’t you take a cut from the class. It doesn’t matter if your head feels like it’s full of drunken bees, you have to sit through a lecture on the Church and its Doctrines whether you like it or not. This is especially killer on the day of the midterm.
Another issue that homeschooling doesn’t prepare you for is Physical Education. I believe firmly that when Satan is cast into the lake of fire, his punishment will not end with burning. The real torture is that he will be forced to run around in a circle endlessly, always being passed by faster, more athletic, and very inconsiderate people. God will place an angel of death to stand watch over the track and call out infuriatingly obnoxious “encouragements” to him and his demons as they gasp for air, all the while laughing inside because all he has to do is watch them be miserable. Then, at the end of the day, God will hand Satan a sheet with his running time on it, and it will always be five minutes slower than the next slowest person. After this thorough self-esteem trouncing is complete, Satan will have to do as many push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups as he can in five hours. Again, he will be discouraged by his insanely low score and then be sent out to run again because he spent all night on the exercises.
Knowing that he will have to face this punishment someday, Satan sought revenge by placing it in the minds of some educational professionals to replicate this hell on earth. They named it Physical Education and began extolling it as a way to encourage students to live more physically active lives. They only really succeeded in encouraging already athletic students to keep doing what they were doing and encouraging everyone else to inflict physical harm on their taskmaster/teachers. God has forgiven these well-meaning teachers for their ignorance, but they will certainly lose crowns in the final judgment for it.
For public school kids this is a fact of life, and they quickly grow to accept it, or at least put up with it. For homeschoolers, however, public humiliation is not a regular practice in their circles of family and friends, so their response to P.E. in college is often one of surprise, horror, and in rare cases retaliation via snarky articles.
The last way that homeschoolers are woefully unprepared for the college or public school appearance is in classroom politics. When you get to class on the first day, it’s a clean slate. No one knows one another, no one knows the teacher, everything is up in the air – until the end of the second or third assignment. By then people start drawing generalizations. He’s a suck-up, she’s an overachiever, he’s the teacher’s favorite, she’s the class clown. You don’t even have to try to earn most of these titles, they just stick to you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now you have a choice: do you change your approach to the class to make everyone happy? Or do you put up with the jealousy, disdain, or even ignoring of your classmates?
At home this was never a problem. You’ve lived with these people all your life! The teacher can’t play favorites, she’s your mom. It’s rare for her to even accidentally convince the other siblings that you’re somehow better than them, and even when she does she knows about it within the day and can correct it. After all, if you don’t come to her with your hurt feelings, you go to Dad, and nothing he hears gets by Mom.
Sometimes I’m tempted to bemoan my lack of preparation. I think of how easier all of this would be if I was already numb to it by the time college rolled around. Then I realize that life isn’t about doing whatever is easier, it’s about taking what comes and growing as much as you can from it. It’s about using morning classes to learn discipline, channeling P.E. into more confidence and longer-lasting patience, and taking good (and bad!) grades and people’s responses to them as a chance to learn humility, grace, and reliance on God’s opinion rather than man’s. Life isn’t about how well-prepared you are when messy situations come, it’s all about how you respond when they show up, and in that area homeschooling has served me very well, indeed.