Homeschooled boy with nerdy grin

"Cole, what the fuck are you doing?"

My editor-in-chief, Court Sullivan, looked at me in shock as I sat on the impressively large desk he kept situated in his office.

"I'm waiting for you, my friend. Just here to pitch you the idea for my latest article." I hopped off the desk and took a couple of steps forward.

"Wait, didn't you move to Germany?" he asked, backing away as I approached him.

"Yeah, this commute is really getting to be a bit of the B-word," I said, scratching my chin.

Did we watch mom make meatloaf for Home Economics? If we had to take a shit, did we get hilariously unnecessary hall passes? "Commute?" he asked, looking like a guy who was contemplating calling the police at any moment. "You don't have to, I mean… Email… you don't have, to…. Ah, screw it. But why the hell are you in here?"

"What do you mean, Courtney?" I asked, taking a bite out of one of the several apples that he kept in a bowl on his desk.

"Don't call me that."

"Right. And I always come down to your office to pitch my articles. Okay, so maybe sometimes I just record the pitch on a tape along with some sexually threatening messages and then hide it somewhere around here. But today I figured I'd get some face time in with my ol' buddy Court."

"Cole, I'm not going to beat around the bush. Points in Case has no physical offices. At all. You're in my kitchen, mostly naked, and it looks like you ate a sizable amount of drugs. Like, just gobbled up a whole mess of drugs. Hell, you're taking bites out of what looks like a bowl of cocaine."

I snapped my fingers. "Knew something seemed a little off," I nodded.

"Right, well. I won't call the police, because at this point I'm pretty sure that it's not teaching you anything."

I nodded in agreement.

"Will you at least tell me who the large Ecuadorian guy sitting on my couch is?"

"Your weird ability to notice the nationality of Hispanic men on sight aside, that's Topeka. Me and him were playing Magic The Gathering while waiting for you, but I got fed up with how easy it is these days to exile things. Used to be a super special ability but now it's like every other card can exile something, ya know?"

I wiped a bit of cocaine off of my lips.

"…right. Well, I know telling you to stop breaking into my home probably won't help with much, but can you at least stop bringing in people who dress like luchadors?"

"Oh, no, don't worry, he's totally relevant to my article."

"…is your article about what happens when you give a very large luchador a lot of cocaine in my apartment?"

"Hahaha….nah. Although damn, man, props on the idea. Don't think he'd be into it though. He's pretty straight edge."

"Will you just tell me what you want?"

"Right, the article. Well, me and Topeka met at a luchador speed dating event last week, and we got to talking, and it turns out we were both homeschooled, which I thought was neat. And then, I figured, hey, fuck it, that sounds like a good idea for an article. Talking about what it's like being homeschooled."

"But why did you break in here to tell me about that?"

"Because I couldn't think of a good way to start off the article, and I thought I'd just write down what we say here."

"That's a really stupid idea."

"Yeah…yeah, it is."

* * *

Hi, I'm Cole. I was homeschooled my whole life. Sometimes when I tell people this, they're interested, or very rarely they just don't give a shit at all, but more often than not, their response is more along the lines of sympathy.

"Oh, so you were all socially repressed, right?"

Because really, we homeschoolers don't get a lot of pop culture airtime, and what little we do doesn't exactly paint us with the best colors, so I understand why people have some preconceived notions in their head.

So, was that episode of South Park right? Are all homeschoolers a bunch of weird, super smart, religious, socially repressed freaks?

The answer is a resounding "read the fucking article you impatient brat."

Here are your most common questions about being homeschooled.

Being homeschooled isn't like, a real education, right?

I mean, it's your parents who teach you, so if they aren't smart, then you're fucked, right?

I'll go ahead and take care of that, and a whole lot of other notions about homeschooling by typing out the next couple of sentences.

Homeschooling is legal in the USA, but the government still has certain guidelines about what to teach and credit hours and all that fun stuff. What you teach and some proof that you've been teaching has to be shown to someone with the legal ability to say, "Yeah, shit looks good" on a semi-regular basis.

So no, it's not just my mom writing down arithmetic on a chalkboard and calling it a day. It's really flexible, but there are curriculums to follow. We've got books and shit, yo. We be learnin' for days, mofo.

I was lucky to have two very intelligent (and ludicrously patient) parents, but even they found their limits on certain subjects. Sometimes it was as simple as doing research or re-learning some topics and then teaching it to us, but other times, not so much. As you might have figured out the second you left school (or strongly suspect, if you're still in school), you will never use a majority of the math that you learn after middle school unless you wind up in a job that specifically requires it. It's true. So when it came to things like Algebra II and Pre-Calc, stuff that my parents have had no use for in decades, they would get a tutor to help out.

It was a fairly orderly experience the whole time. Both of my parents worked, but they always managed it so that we had enough facetime with our learnings. The actual hours varied day by day, but more or less it was around the same amount of time that you Normals got, but it did change a bit depending on how fast I worked, or the specific lesson plan that week. Did I sometimes get to do my school work in bed without any pants? Damn right I did, and you are a foul liar if you said you wouldn't do the same if given the chance.

So did I turn out super smart? Anyone who has met me will tell you, and in fact will likely go very far out of their way to do so, that I am very much not smart, or remarkable in any vaguely intellectual capacity.

In reality, I graduated a bit early due to some focused credit-hour management, and I walked out the door with a moderately respectable GPA. Ta-da.

But what was school like day to day?

Like, did we watch mom make meatloaf for Home Economics? Did our parents wake us up each morning with a 14-minute long, largely improvised bugle solo? If we had to take a shit, did we get hilariously unnecessary hall passes?

I really like the direction your imagination takes you, but those questions were all stupid. Here's how things went down.

Year to year our routines changed, because as things went on, we needed less physical oversight, and our parents' work schedules fluctuated. So we adapted as we went on.

For the earlier years, one of the parents was there for pretty much everything. We had desks, yeah, but we moved around to different places in the house for different things. No, not to run a simulation of changing classrooms. It was because for one, some studies were best performed in different places (we didn't have our own computers when we were little, so sometimes we'd go where the computer was, but it would be dumb to sit at that same spot to do math). But for another reason, it turns out that being confined to shitty chairs and shitty desks and being reprimanded for moving is a shitty learning environment, so we had options. For things like the reading portions of English you can bet your award-winning ass that we could sit on the couch or a chair in the living room. We had the option, so why not?

As far as schedules went, we had a certain time we would start school, which was later than you guys, because we didn't have to factor in any travel time or locker time or anything. We just walked downstairs. Did we want breakfast? Then we made breakfast.

Right, food. Sure, our parents cooked a lot, but we could cook. So we did. To answer that dumb question from the beginning of this entry, Home Economics was doing actual shit around the house. And we didn't call it "Home Economics." Why the fuck would we? We called it "Shit around the house everyone should know how to do." We took turns cooking meals for the whole house once a week. Appetizer, entrees, desserts. We picked the meals, our parents bought the shit to make them, and we made them. And now I can cook (ladies). When things needed cleaning or fixing we were shown how, and then we knew how to do that shit. Practical, yeah?

Did we get breaks? Yup. Breaks are healthy. We'd usually have a couple of short ones a day, plus lunch to help clear our heads and get us ready for more learning. At least when we were younger.

As we got older and moved more into "high school" territory we were sort of given our own leash to manage. Our work for the week, and day to day, was decided on Monday, or sometimes the Friday before, and then we could sort of do the work at our own pace. Obviously we weren't allowed to do things like hang out with friends or play video games until the work got done, but we had flexibility.

How did we teach ourselves? Well we did and we didn't. Again, for things like math, we had books to learn from and tests to take, which our parents had the answers to (again, there's a whole industry for making learning materials for homeschoolers). History? We can read books and write reports on our own time. Again, it varied subject to subject, but trust me, we got shit done.

How long did it take? Well, as I'm sure you might have guessed, not as long as you poor bastards. One on two teaching really helps streamline and focus the process. It changed day to day, though. Especially as we got older and could manage our own time tables. If I wanted to, I could double up some of the schoolwork and have less to do later in the week. Neat, huh?

What was prom like?

Fucking magical.

Cole cross-dressing in a blue dress

Do you have a high school diploma?

Yes and no. Yeah, I'm registered with the state as having completed the necessary learnings and what have you in order to have completed high school. I don't personally have the paperwork for this, because really? I'm me. But it exists. So I'm legal. (Ladies.)

So what do I have? I have a fake diploma that my mom made as a present for my last day of school. And fuck you, that's adorable, and I will fight anyone who says different. Send me your addresses. I'll paper-cut you to death with my own fake diploma.

Did you have things like PE, detention, or homework?

Of course we had PE. Shit's pretty much required by the state, although we would have gotten plenty of it regardless, due to a combination of both living in the country, and our parents.

Again, there where general credit hour based outlines to follow, but once again, we were allowed to have a lot of breathing room in what we chose for our PE. Does this mean that I got to try and claim that it counted when I played Guitar Hero so long as I did some really bitchin' power slides? No. That would just be silly. That was a silly thing of you to ask.

Again, we walked. A lot. Even after my brother got his license, there was much walking. Because gas costs money, and we were close enough to town (and hence, friends) where walking was feasible. Of course, there were plenty of other, more focused things that we did. Yoga and weights where on the table, as well as some other basic stuff. It was pretty neat, I guess.

As for detention, that wasn't really a thing. Don't get me wrong, if we didn't get our school done, we didn't get to do anything fun, and if we were shitheads, we had punishments, just like your parents doled out. So no, we weren't sent to our rooms as a sort of pseudo-detention, partly because our parents where smart enough to know that that's where all of our video games where anyways, but also because what would that have been done. If our school didn't get done, then we had to get it done, and they would help us get it done.

As for "homework," no. Obviously. The closest thing that we had to "homework" would be things like projects that we had a set amount of time to get done on our own, but those weren't regular and it wasn't things like, "Oh fuck here's more math or English or some shit." No, if we needed to do more math, we got the math done in the "normal schooling day."

So no, we didn't have homework, at least not really. Jealous?

Were your parents religious nutjobs?

Currently, neither of my parents are particularly religious. When me and my brother where much, much younger, they were both Christians who attended church, but gave us the option to go or not go, because they realized that forcing an entire belief system and way of life down the throats of two children who are too young to understand much, if any of the things they are being informed about is kind of a fucked up thing to do.

I went to Sunday school for a little while there. I know the stories. I'll tell you all about Jonah and the fish or Noah and the ark. Hell, I've read the whole damned bible, although that was after the church phase. But really, the choice between sleeping in on Sunday or waking up early to have an old man tell me all of the ways the things that I like will send me to hell, is an easy choice to make, especially for a child.

Not long after my parents sort of decided that it wasn't really their scene, so they dropped the mic and walked out.

These days, neither my parents nor my brother are really religious, and I of course spend all of my efforts worshiping our lord and savior, The Legend of Zelda.

But you were socially repressed, right?

No. Turns out most non-sociopathic parents realize that human beings, even—no, especially—children, need social interaction. It's kind of a big deal.

Even in Fuck-Nowhere, Ohio, there are quite a few homeschoolers, and they network and socialize. There are events and whatnot. And even outside of church and the homeschool groups, my parents did their best to make sure we were in groups and social situations, although I did my best to ignore that, as I naturally find people to be a disgusting phenomenon that must be cleansed in a holy bath of fire. But that's me and my natural introverted-ness, not a result of being homeschooled. For example, my brother is actually a fairly outgoing guy (ladies).

We lived in a small, shitty town, yeah, but there was still a town. And we could walk into town and hang out there, which yes, at least for a while was pretty much just walking to Walmart and spending way too much time on the Guitar Hero display. (We got our own copy later. It was pretty sweet.)

More or less, I got the same or maybe a little bit less socialization then the average public schooler. I had people who were mentally unwell enough to call themselves my friends, just like all of you.

Do you think homeschooling was a good idea?

In my specific situation? Yeah, it turned out fine. Pretty good, actually.

But if I managed to secure enough opiates to efficiently sedate the entire adult staff of a small- to medium-sized orphanage and abscond with one or more children, would I homeschool them? That's a strong maybe. It would come down hugely to my immediate situation at the time. Where do I live? Can I work from home? Does my spouse work or can they work from home? Do I even have a spouse? Are there good social opportunities around? Am I less fucking stupid then I am now? There are a lot of delicate things to balance and consider.

But honestly, it would have to be a damned favorable situation to make me want to homeschool my kids. Because most of K-12 is learning how to socialize and not be a fuckstick around other humans. Yes, there are core concepts and studies that you absolutely must grasp, but a lot of the whole ordeal is largely irrelevant to the real goddamned world. Learning to be around people, and how and who you are, that's the important shit to walk out of the other end with (also a high school diploma. You really need one of those).

So as long as your kid does alright in school, the real world doesn't give a shit about the specifics. They don't care about their permanent record (adults, show of hands: has anyone asked about yours outside of school, assuming your record doesn't involve murder?), and they don't care about your GPA (again, ever been asked for that in a job interview?), and they don't care if you were class president. As long as you didn't completely bottom out, most of it isn't important in the real world.

Companies and businesses need things. People need things. As long as you can do things, and not alienate those around you, that's what's important. It really is.

So, in the end, learning how to become a decent goddamned human is the important thing here, and socialization and learning how to act around other people and learning what you like and how to develop what you like, that's the important stuff. So ideally, I would publically school my children, but take a healthy, active role in their life, helping to guide them and teach them in every way I can.

Again, assuming I'm less of a fucking idiot in the future.

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