Growing up in a homeschooling family, I heard all too often:
You have poor social skills because you were homeschooled.
People usually said this when I expressed confusion as to why I didn’t have a lot of friends my own age.
I partially believed them for years, but there were holes in the logic that niggled at my brain. For example, if I was poorly socialized, why did I relate so well with people older than myself? Growing up, I counted many adults among my friends, some of whom were old enough to be my great-grandparents. Almost unanimously, they pronounced me to be one of the sweetest people of my generation, largely because I sought out their company and showed genuine interest in what they had to say.
I was an oddity amongst my generation, but a welcome one. Many of my adult friends would lament to me how their own grandchildren didn’t want to talk or spend time with them. I also found that I related well to people younger than myself. I enjoyed joining children in their games, roughhousing and “playing pretend” with the best of them.
It would be more accurate to say that I didn’t socialize well with people my own age, instead of with people as a whole. For several years, I pondered the question: Why?
A Generation Divided
Some of the disconnect resulted from my faith: I had difficulty relating in a casual social setting with non-Christians. It wasn’t a matter of tolerance, but rather of common interests. I had no interest in drinking, going out to bars, chatting about how hot so-and-so actress was, or engaging in crude humor. My refusal to participate in what I viewed as juvenile and corrupting behavior left me out in the cold.
Conversely, my peers had no interest in discussing scholarly issues, philosophical questions, or current events and their implications. It was “too deep” for them (their words, not mine), and as such, we had little to talk about on any meaningful level.
Although disagreements of faith distanced me from many of my peers, it didn’t explain everything. If the disconnect was solely an issue of differing faiths, then why did I struggle to relate with those in my youth group?
A girl in my church group said that it was too much effort to get to know someone whom they hadn’t known since kindergarten. Again, while a partial answer, it didn’t explain how I could enjoy the company of younger and older people, even if we hadn’t known each other for long.
It’s Not Me – It’s You
This process of elimination led me to consider an option that flew in the face of common wisdom:
The problem was not with me, but with everyone else.
The issue was not that I couldn’t socialize, but that my peers struggled to relate to anyone outside of their own age group. Before you accuse me of possessing an uncommonly large ego, hear out my reasoning:
One of the common complaints foisted against me by my peers was how I spoke. They told me on multiple occasions that I talked like a book, and this made them uncomfortable. They accused me of arrogance for bringing up intellectual topics of conversation, like I was showing off my (homeschooling) education. I was considered a snob for my lack of interest in anything sports-related, and weird for how much time I spent reading.
In short, I was an enigma, something unfamiliar and confusing, and I left kids from the public school unsettled. With younger children, I was an older playmate who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty playing with them. With adults, I was a pleasant change: a teenager who addressed them as an equal and enjoyed their anecdotes and memories.
With my peers, I was outside of their context, and transcended their comfort zone. I believe my peers’ discomfort can be traced back to their education.
The Homeschooling Difference
Homeschooling is more flexible than the highly regimented environment of the public school. It was not uncommon for my family to complete classes by noon and pass the rest of the day working around the property, reading, playing, or exploring. My three siblings and I spent time with people that we would have never met, had we spent the majority of our time in school or doing homework.
As a homeschooler, I learned that life was about more than just having a career: It is about living life to the fullest, to serve and bless others, and spending time with our loved ones. Most of all, I learned what it meant to be a good man, and to live for a higher calling in life than just pursuing good grades.
Looking at my generation, all I can say is, I may have dodged a bullet insofar as “socialization” is concerned.