May 30, 2014

It’s not a sin to be awkward.

Posted in Marginalization, Schooling and unschooling, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 2:02 am by chavisory

I’m was in the office at work with my boss and a coworker, and I do not even remember how the topic of conversation has turned to public schooling vs. homeschooling.  But it has.  My coworker starts in on an anecdote, and I have a bad, bad feeling about where this is going.

“We had a homeschooled girl in my high school chemistry class.  She was like 12.  She was just so far ahead.”

(Maybe not.  Sharp intake of breath.  Slightly too-long pause.)

“But she was so awkward.  And it made the whole class awkward, and it was just awkward to have her there.”

And here we are.  At the moment in which, prior to this, I had actually thought that my acceptance in this place, to these people, wasn’t based on me passing myself off as the right kind of person instead of the wrong kind.

The awkward kind.

But it was.  And I am.  She hadn’t realized, in the way that people usually don’t stop to think whether it’s possible that the people they’re about to mock or denigrate are actually the people they’re talking to.

Oops.  Fuck.

And I don’t want to start a really nasty fight right then in front of my boss, so I say something moderate and reasonable-sounding about how what really matters is not whether a kid is homeschooled or not, but whether they’ve been isolated or allowed to have outside social opportunities.  How some homeschooling families actually just isolate their kids, and that’s wrong, but as long as they’re giving their kids chances to interact with other groups…choir, scouting, church groups, music lessons, art classes…

…instead of “Fuck you very much.”

And I didn’t say what I actually should have, either…in the interest of starting my shift on time and also…not having an awkward argument in my boss’s office.

It’s not a sin to be awkward.

Can we stop talking about it like it is?

A 12-year-old girl hasn’t done anything to you by being awkward, or by taking advantage of her legal right to a free and appropriate public education while awkward.

While we’re at it, can we also stop using “awkward” as a euphemism for incompetent, irritating, immature, overbearing, invasive, inappropriate, or probably autistic but we can’t be seen as scorning someone for being actually disabled so we’re gonna say they’re “awkward” which is obviously just a personal failing that’s fine to use an excuse for their ostracism?

Here’s another newsflash:  I know a lot of people who in fact went through 13 years of mainstream public schooling, who are still awkward people.  Because it actually isn’t being confined in a cell-block building with a limited number of people, exactly your own age, for over a decade, isolated from your community and adult company, and subjected to sufficient peer pressure to just stop being different, that makes you non-awkward.  It’s already possessing a manner of speech, body language, common interests, and gender presentation that’s consistent with those of the vast majority of other people.  It’s having a native language of social engagement that is the same as most people around you.

I served my full term in the public school system, I went to the second-largest high school in my state, and I followed that with four years at one of this country’s most regularly top-ranked party schools.

I am still an awkward person.  And if you thought I wasn’t, you just haven’t seen me in the right—or the wrong—situation.  But I guarantee you it wasn’t lack of ridicule or social pressure to be anything other than what I was that caused this.

It also isn’t being allowed to do your academic work outside of a classroom setting, at a pace that works for you, that makes you awkward, because plenty of non-awkward people do that.

I’d really like people to consider, before the next time they scorn a kid for being awkward, or homeschooling or unconventional schooling for making kids awkward, that they are likely committing a fundamental chicken/egg fallacy.

A homeschooled kid probably isn’t awkward because they were homeschooled.

They are probably homeschooled because they are awkward.

Because they have probably already been forced out of the school system by bullying and abuse or discrimination, or because the school couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their academic needs.

(Being academically precocious: also not a sin.)

I mean, mandatory, universal public school attendance wasn’t even a widespread thing in this country until the early-mid 20th century.  Were we really just a nation of incredibly awkward people until the 1920’s or so?

Even if it really were homeschooling that caused awkwardness, I would so much rather a child of mine be awkward than a whole lot of other things that are nowhere near as socially stigmatized as awkwardness:  Mean, bigoted, superficial, callous, snide and scornful towards people different from or more vulnerable than themselves.

I’ll take awkwardness any day.

13 Comments »

  1. merelyquirky said,

    Reblogged this on Merely Quirky and commented:
    Wow, so well said. I’ve been in that situaion so many times , where I wanted to say something but didn’t. I have no trouble standing up for other folks– then the most effective (scathing) words just flow out in complete paragraphs.

    But when I’m the one being put callously dismissed? Then suddenly I’m not sure of the correct/acceptable/ useful thing to say on my own behalf, I freeze up. Deer in headlights, at most I might stammer something polite that allows for my hasty escape. And I feel like a coward, and rehashing it in my mind later just cements that feeling in my mind.

  2. sonnolenta said,

    Reblogged this on sonnolenta… and commented:
    After several years of constant difficulties my Son was having in public school, along with severe bullying from other students, I took him out of public school and we began homeschooling.

    We’re about to complete his first year, 6th grade!

    One of everyone’s greatest concerns since I started homeschooling was that I “made sure to have him around lots of other kids his age” and “properly socialized him” so that he didn’t become… AWKWARD.

    Yes, that awful word, AWKWARD. So this blog from Chavisory really hits home with me! I just spent the last hour typing up an addendum to my Son’s enrollment packet to the local Behavioral Pediatrics unit, and I actually just spent a great deal of time writing about his public school experience, bullying, his sensory issues, and why I chose to finally homeschool him.

    This passage from Chavisory’s post really hit home with me:

    “A homeschooled kid probably isn’t awkward because they were homeschooled.

    They are probably homeschooled because they are awkward.

    Because they have probably already been forced out of the school system by bullying and abuse or discrimination, or because the school couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their academic needs.

    (Being academically precocious: also not a sin.)

    I mean, mandatory, universal public school attendance wasn’t even a widespread thing in this country until the early-mid 20th century. Were we really just a nation of incredibly awkward people until the 1920’s or so?

    Even if it really were homeschooling that caused awkwardness, I would so much rather a child of mine be awkward than a whole lot of other things that are nowhere near as socially stigmatized as awkwardness: Mean, bigoted, superficial, callous, snide and scornful towards people different from or more vulnerable than themselves.

    I’ll take awkwardness any day.”

    • Carlee said,

      Awkward is awkward — and not a crime, particularly in a kid in grade school. Taking a kid out of grade school, to homeschool. so that the child can be 1) kept away from pesky mandated reporters, 2) miss out on the social skills they should be acquiring*, 3) miss out on developing the coping skills they should be learning* and 4) kept wrapped in proverbial bubble wrap, “protected” from they will be spending the rest of their lives in.

      Homeschooling a kid also means minimal exposure to views and activities that differ from those of their parents — which is, of course, the point. Is every single kid in a public school mean, bigoted, callous, snide and scornful towards people who are different? Probably not. Everybody goes through life feeling like an idiot. I do and, um, pretty much everybody else I know does too. It’s a whole lot easier to embrace it than fight it.

      Last but not least, it’s helpful to keep in mind that nobody is OWED friends. No kid, no grownup. Each and every person is entitled to be treated politely, period. Civility stops the world from descending into anarchy and is the bare minimum required by the social contract. Classmates must be polite to each other, period. They aren’t and cannot be compelled to LIKE other kids. Or a particular other kid.

      (As a 28 year old, nobody expects me to like every 28 year old I meet on sight. Some are nice, some are horrible. Kids? There’s a messed up expectation an any given 8 year old will adore any other 8 year old they encounter, simply because they’re both 8).

      I was half-homeschooled and would never, ever do that to my kid. Wanna keep your kid awkward? Homeschool. Wanna deny them the ability to make or keep friends? Homeschool.

      Wanna make sure your kid grows up with a chip on their shoulder and superiority complex? Homeschool them.

      * the older you get, the harder it is. Folks are, understandably, more forgiving of a 6 yo than a 17 yo.

      • chavisory said,

        So, did you read the post?

        Do you know that there are a whole wide world of options for homeschooling, unschooling, and non-traditional schooling experiences that *don’t* consist of keeping a student isolated at home with only parents for company?

        And I’m speaking as someone for whom, honestly, homeschooling would probably NOT have been a great option. But I’m real over the scare tactic that if you don’t send your kids to THIS institution for 12-13 years, horror of horrors, they’ll be AWKWARD!!!

        ‘Cause yeah, I did that.

        Still awkward.

        And it pretends that there aren’t real other ways to develop social skills and social communities. And ***seriously,*** what do you think we did before the 1920’s, when compulsory universal public education started to spread? People had communities outside of school buildings, and they grew up integrated into those communities. Like we do now…and we arguably have a far greater richness of possible communities for kids to form connections to outside of school now.

        “Homeschooling a kid also means minimal exposure to views and activities that differ from those of their parents.”

        But it doesn’t, necessarily and intrinsically. Many people homeschool in such a way as to deliberately not do that. And institutional schooling doesn’t necessarily and intrinsically do better; in some cases it does far worse.

  3. chavisory said,

    And good lord–no, kids are not “owed” friends, they are not “owed” other people to include them, but yeah, I kind of firmly believe that they are entitled to not be abused and bullied for being different. Much long-term harm has been done to people by the philosophy that it was better to leave kids in that situation in order to toughen them up or teach them about “the real world.”

    I really think that parents seriously hoping that just subjecting their kids to enough peer pressure to make them just not be so different are…ignorant of how things are really likely to go.

    • ischemgeek said,

      Yes, this.

      I also went through public school. The full thing. I begged my parents – literally begged on hands and knees – to take me out of that hellhole. They sent me back. I am still furious with them for making me go back to a place where I was ambushed, beaten, spat upon, called names, and generally made to fear for my life and feel certain that I was lower than bedrock and more disgusting than leech-infested pond-scum.

      And they sent me back. Every day. Even though I begged them not to. Because if they home schooled, I might “be awkward.” Even though they knew damn well I already was.

  4. adarc said,

    Very well said Chavisory! I am not an awkward person. I am in fact a very social person, but my husband tends toward the awkward (despite his 13 years of public school), as does my son. My daughter is a social butterfly – with three (count ‘em three) prom dates for her Junior year. Both of my kids are those “chicken/egg” scenarios you talk about. Both started in public school. My daughter was so advanced there was absolutely nothing the school could/would do to educate her on her level. So we pulled her out, and let her go at her own pace, and yes take Chemistry at 12. She never cared one way or the other, if she made the other kids “feel awkward” she was there to learn. My son is the “other” kind of egg. He is awkward. Asperger’s awkward to be specific, and no matter what he did, he never seemed to be “normal enough” for the kids in public school. So we pulled him out to homeschool. Which has been great for him, he now has a great group of friends, some with Asperger’s, but most of them “normal” kids who don’t seem as worried about his awkwardness as the public school kids did. So for the first time in his life he feels included and loved and wanted by people other than his family – and I do think that no one is “owed” that – but it is such a little thing to do, to include someone who is “different” or “awkward” and it costs you nothing – why are so many people too self-concious or afraid to it?

    • chavisory said,

      Yeah, I really think the social environment in school, a lot of the time, imposes a pressure to seem normal or cool or only have a certain kind of people for friends, that is far less present in the world outside. It seems like a lot of the time, kids can be more laid back about being friends with a diversity of people minus the pressure of being *confined* with them.

  5. paisley said,

    When I was a kid, my friends didn’t go to the same school I did. In fact, I think that’s why they were willing to befriend me — they didn’t have to worry that hanging out with me would make them unpopular at *their* schools, because no one else at their school knew who I was or that I was “weird.” Also, I was more social outside of school, because being at school overloaded me. So it was easier to make friends when I *wasn’t* at school.

    I find it so bizarre that people think you’re required to make friends at school, or that it’s impossible to make friends outside of school. But it’s totally possible. So homeschooling is not necessarily going to prevent kids from socializing.

    Going to public school didn’t make me normal. It did, however, give me seriously high amounts of social anxiety and depression.

  6. melin2011 said,

    Loved, loved this piece. I’d like to add, though, that many of us do not homeschool because the child is/was *awkward. It is our first choice.

    Why is sitting in a room filled with kids your age/socio-economic back group a socializing experience? Homeschool kids interact, all day long, with real life during real life hours. I personally do not know any homeschoolers who attempt to do “school at home.” Homeschooling is so much richer than that. We travel, we do apprenticeships, we serve,
    we work, etc. Public, private schools could not begin to offer what we have exposed our kids to. And yes, as a two physician couple we do have resources to plop our children into the “finest” schools.

    Our oldest child is at an Ivy School, the middle is in pre-olympic training, the younger two have a joy for love and learning that is uncommon. In fact, she is obsessed with horseshoe crabs this year and just got done volunteering at a NJ Shore nature conservatory :) (I saw your recent post about horseshoe crabs).

    My oldest child spent one year in public school and commented that the only other place where you need permission to eat lunch and use the restroom is prison. Out of the mouths of babes.

  7. bbshepherd said,

    I excelled at school work through junior high in spite of my differences and the way people treated me, but I was scared of school itself. By my second year of high school I’d given up and dropped out. It’s been a long road to return to school as an adult and try to build a career. I chose to homeschool my own three children and they thrived through elementary school with wonderful friends and hobbies, becoming incredible and talented people. The two oldest struggled in high school socially but I don’t think it was due to homeschooling. We now know our family is affected by autism, and we’re still figuring things out. No amount of socializing and conditioning would change that.

    Yes, we’re awkward. And that’s okay.

  8. stimmyabby said,

    “Were we really just a nation of incredibly awkward people until the 1920’s or so?” Oh my god. :-D
    I strongly agree with your post. Public school actually made me more awkward… and even if it had made me less awkward it’s still wrong to put people in a bad environment so they will be less awkward and make you less uncomfortable.

  9. bbshepherd said,

    Reblogged this on Lost and Found and commented:
    I relate very much to this article. I struggled badly (socially) in public school and chose to home school my children until their teens. Some or all of them may have been diagnosed with ASD if they had gone to school earlier. Or they could have just suffered badly like I did and never understand why. They in turn had their own difficulties anyway.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 287 other followers

%d bloggers like this: