Homeschoolers and the Popular Kids

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I really like Paul Graham's essay on Why Nerds are Unpopular. I think it's spot on. But a mere two paragraphs into Matt's post comparing church and junior high a thought struck me: Who are the "popular" kids? Or, put another way, "I don't think the popular kids are very popular."

We all know who the popular kids are. We may be able to name them, even after all these years. It's possible we could tell you, in painful detail, how they helped make our lives miserable--assuming we were important enough to be a target.

Important. Target.

Those two words connected in my mind: The popular kids, for all their "popularity," were wildly disliked by the majority of students I knew. In other words: The "popular" kids were severely unpopular. They were important enough to be targets. The same thing happens with celebrities; the tabloid industry is built on such things.


Me? I was popular in high school after I got out of my awkward stage. I was good at sports, but sports no one cares about like swimming and cross country. I wasn't unattractive, but my wife says I have much improved since those days. I took advanced classes with other kids interested in winning the grade game. I ate lunch with a group of students who preferred sitting on the floor to the cafeteria tables. We were popular because we liked each other. And our relatively small group was larger than that of the "popular" entourage.

I'd be interested in hearing from a popular kid. What was life like as the alpha? I doubt it was fun.

Far better to realize that the friends you have are what make you truly popular. And even there, the numbers aren't what matter. Do you have people who love you and encourage you to become the person you should be? That's what matters. That matters far more than how many people despise you for being good at everything and looking good while doing it.

Homeschooling allows our kids to not have to worry about being popular at school. Instead, we can focus on loving our children and encouraging them to become the people they should be. And, don't worry: There are still plenty of opportunities for them to learn how to navigate the petty worlds of cliques and circles in sports and church and band and the rest of life.

But with the lengthy reprieve not offered their friends in school, may our homeschooled children recognize the truth of popularity and make better, stronger friends for it.

How popular where the popular kids you knew in school?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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