Homer’s Odyssey: A Tale of Pajamas and Bowl-cuts

Written by Jeff Langley.

Now, I don’t want to brag, but…nah, forget that—I’ll brag. Every year, grades 5-12, I was number one in my class. It’s true. I was tight with my teachers—I was, without question, their favorite, and we’d often hang out on the weekends. I got away with a lot. More often than not, I’d show up for school in pajamas. I’d keep a coffeepot going all day and take naps as needed. It wasn’t uncommon to check out by noon and go biking along the Lake Michigan shore.

At this point, you may be experiencing one of two things…possibly both: 1) Green-eyed jealousy. 2) A suspicious levitation of the hairs on the back of your neck, a tightening in the side like the remembrance of a war wound, a sick feeling and the tenseness of muscles preparing for fight or flight. Either is understandable. Either might well be your response if you have figured out that I mean to say I WAS HOME-SCHOOLED. There. That’s out. Now what are we going to do about it? Are you disappointed? Disgusted? Not all that surprised? (That latter reaction is what I’m most accustomed to.) The word invokes a lot of more or less positive or negative associations. In my experience, more negative, less positive.

Photo by Dublin Unified School District

Comb-overs. Homemade, ankle-length skirts. Bible-thumpers. Recluses. Socially inept. Either ultra nerdy or dumb as sofa covers. Oblivious when it comes to pop culture.  I have often drawn the following distinction: There are those who have been “home-schooled,” and then there are “home-schoolers.” This is an attempt to distance myself from those who admittedly give the rest of us a bad name.

Let us examine the stereotype, and for the purposes of this analysis, let us adopt the neutral term “homers” to refer to those whose education was or is centered around the home.

Yes, many homers have less than glamorous fashion awareness. Many people who go to “normal” school do as well. If there seem to be a greater number of offenders in the home-school ranks, perhaps it is because peer pressure weeds out individuality in the public sector.

Poor, silly-looking home-schoolers…they have fewer people to bully them into conformity when the standards for “cool” change each week.

Another supposition: Home-schoolers are sheltered, namby-pamby, seven-day-creationist Jesus Freaks. Recent statistics do seem to indicate that the majority of home-schooling families identify with conservative Christianity. Parents in these cases, it is assumed, wish to exercise a degree of control over the influences in their children’s lives. This impulse is not exclusive to Christians, however; other parents, of varying or no religious affiliation, choose home-schooling because of violence in the public system, screwy standards for academic achievement and character development, lack of opportunity for hands-on experience, and to spare their children from “Olga’s Surprise” dishes in the cafeteria.

Poor, sheltered geeks…we don’t know what we’re missing.

A little more personal confession: I am- in addition to having been home schooled- a PK. So, yes, for me, religion had a prominent place in my curricula. In addition to Spanish, I studied New Testament Greek.

I was also required to memorize fairly sizeable portions of the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount. 1 John. James. Philippians. 1 Peter. Exodus. (Okay, just kidding about that last one.) If you don’t see any value in this on its own merits, here’s a nice ripple effect—it is really easy for me to memorize, which is nice for an actor, and comes in handy during finals.

Moving on. Homers are often classified as a) nerds, or b) lazy imbeciles. From what I know of home-schooling, there do seem to be trends that support this view. Home-schooling has risen in popularity partly because homers are cleaning up scholarships and awards in college. Many home-schooling communities take the whole thing very seriously, and hold students to rigorous standards. Or maybe because they are in a supportive environment, where learning- not a grade- is the real goal, students are motivated to great achievement. On the other hand, I’ve known homers who don’t do diddly-squat. I’m pretty sure this issue is not particular to home-schooling. Educators and/or students can be more or less dedicated to excellence in any setting.

Lastly, homers are most often accused of being socially awkward. This can happen, it’s true. If they don’t have an outlet somewhere else for healthy social interaction, homers can seem…well, awkward. Most of the homers I’ve known, however, do “have lives” outside of the home/school. In fact, they are often involved in more extracurricular activities than the average “normal” schooler.

So how shall we then live? My suggestion would be the same as for how to handle people who smell funny, go barefoot more often than seems decent, study Elvish, enjoy musical theater, or engage in whatever other behavior that may strike you as odd: don’t be too quick to accept and apply labels. Get to know people.

Give homers a chance.

And just admit that you’re jealous of us.

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Video by RealWorldPrep

Interview by Sean McFarland and Jenny Cayo.


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