teen homeschooling in Australia
I read an off-the-cuff remark about the strangeness of homeschooled and unschooled children this week on social media and wanted to wholeheartedly and publicly respond to the lovely random person who labelled all of our children as 'strange'. I actually completely agree with you. In my internet searching of creative definitions of strange, I came across 'atypical, unexpected, remarkable, curious and incongruous' - in my experience of children (and I have had quite a lot) that explains just about every child that I have ever come across. Not just homeschooled children - ALL children!
Children are crazy, and erratic, and so creative that sometimes they say something or create something that, as an adult, just completely blows you away. In fact, in psychological studies, it is ascertained that according to psychological mental health markers, all children have many traits that would be considered mental illness if they were seen in adults (but are most often just part of the magic that is childhood). Anyone who has ever been in public with a child that has suddenly decided that they want to be a butterfly and pretend to eat invisible cupcakes that are coming down in a shower from the fairy Godmother of Wednesday, would certainly understand what I am talking about. At the best of times, children are 'atypical, unexpected and incongruous'. Children are the most unexpected and incongruous human beings on the planet. They see magic where we see repetition. They see infinite possibility where we see lines in the sand. They see alternatives when we are stuck in traditions.
And the reason that homeschooled children in particular can appear 'strange' is that without the introduction of school, the imagination that allows visions of cupcakes falling from the sky and fairies running rampant in the herb garden, is given a little more room to grown. Without the introduction of an institution that requires conformity to a certain way of dressing, talking and behaving, the crazy that shapes early childhood, begins to become refined and takes shape in older children who are more likely to babble incessantly when they come up with a brilliant idea. Or dress in 6 different shades of out-there, when the mood takes them. Or memorise 50 different ways to cook eggplant (because they spent 5 days straight googling it, and trying out the recipes with the big box of eggplant from Grandma). All of the same things that most children have the chance to do after school and on school holidays - but all of the time.
And it is not that homeschooled and unschooled children are different to other children, they just have a whole lot more time to develop who they are as a person, and to do things that they are interested in, for days, months and years at a time. So whereas you or I may have found our stride in our late 20's or early 30's, a lot of children who have not attended school for any length of time, reach that point of knowing who they are, and what they are passionate about, much earlier. Hence the 10 year old who is a miniature Marine Biologist and could probably give a 4th year uni student a run for their money, or the 14 year old vegan animal activist who has years of experience volunteering at Amnesty International or the 11 year old who is building Minecraft servers and selling their creations to grown adults through their own website. They are not superhuman. They are not any different to any other child. That's just what happens when you give these curious, creative and innovative creatures time and space and a few hundred hours of talking to young and old people (and free internet). Strangeness. Lots of wonderful strangeness.