“So, how do you meet other kids?” This is, hands-down, the absolute most common question people ask you when you’re homeschooled. It is usually closely followed by “So, how do you learn stuff?” and “How late do you get to sleep in?” As a homeschooler for almost all my 16 years, I will try to answer those questions! Please know that I speak only from my own experience, and that the answers definitely depend on whom you ask.
Socialization. Ah, the wonderful socialization question. I don’t know many homeschoolers who don’t roll their eyes just a little bit when they hear this. Truth is, homeschooled kids meet other kids just about the same way school kids do – only not in school. There are homeschool groups, homeschool resource centers (where you can take academic classes), extracurricular classes, sports teams, neighbors, and events. We like to hang out, have sleepovers, make stupid jokes, and yak on the phone, too.
One cool thing for me about being homeschooled is that sometimes I get to be “out and about” a little more, since I don’t spend the entire day in school. Museums, farmers’ markets, bookstores, library time during school hours when the computers are free, trips to the Emergency Room with grandma… Another difference is that I sometimes spend more time with adults than other kids my age do. It might sound weird, but I like talking with adults, too. It seems to me that, in some ways, adults are a lot like teens – I think most people like to laugh, feel good about themselves, and get to know other people, no matter how old they are.
Are there disadvantages? Of course. I’m in classes with friends three days a week, but sometimes I wish I spent every day with my friends, like kids in school do. Sometimes being with your parent for most of the day isn’t the easiest thing – for either party!
Learning Stuff. There are a bunch of different ways to homeschool, depending on the needs/interests of the family. At one end of the spectrum is the super-flexible, unstructured “un-schooling” approach, where the kids aren’t required to do a certain amount of work a day. At the other end is the very structured, more classical approach, where the kids follow a curriculum and basically are in school, except they’re at home. I think most families are somewhere in the middle. There are other variations, too. Some kids work for a certain number of hours of schoolwork a day (I asked about 10 middle/high school-aged homeschoolers and those who were required to do a certain number of hours did about 2-4 hours a day); others do assignments. Some kids take outside academic classes; others have parents who teach them everything at home.
One of the advantages of having a parent teach you is that he/she knows how you learn best, and can explain things in ways you understand. There’s lots of one-on-one time, so if you don’t “get it” at first, there’s someone to explain it until you do. For me in homeschooling, another advantage is getting to pick your own subjects and study what you’re interested in. One disadvantage is that in the more independent, kid-directed homeschooling, there’s more room for slacking off!
Sleeping in. Well, it really depends on the family, but yes, there is the potential to be able to sleep past 7 a.m. (say, until 8, 9, or 10) when you don’t have to catch the bus to school!
A good look at homeschooling for teens can be found in Homeschooling by Heidi Williams.
Here are a couple useful web links for homeschoolers also:
www.seattlehsg.org Seattle Homeschool Group
www.washhomeschool.org Washington Homeschool Organization
Maia Sebek, age 16, teen blogger