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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  1. I just read an interesting book on this exact subject, "The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth" by Alexandra Robbins. I highly recommend it.

  2. Stephanie

    I was popular in high school in the generic sense of the term. Looking back it was more of a "misery loves company" sort of group. We were disconnected from our parents (my divorced mother was more interested in her love life and career than raising children), unbelievably insecure, and bored with everything. So we nit-picked on people to pass the time. Drugs were a part of the group but I was too afraid of being called "slut" to do anything with boys. I was known as frigid but that still was hurtful.
    Looking back I wish I would have put myself more into the arts like dance or music. However my friends weren't good at either so I held myself back from what I truly enjoyed to do.
    My prayer is always been to have the opposite family life of the one I was raised in. Thankfully those prayers have been answered.

  3. Jennifer S

    I started to write a reply but quickly realized it was too long for here, so I took my thoughts about this (they are a tad personal) over to my blog. If you are interested, here's the link: The Value of Popularity

  4. Thanks for the recommendation, Andrea!

    Stephanie, those are some fantastic insights. Thank you so much for sharing. As I suspected: Life isn't all fun and games in the popular crowd either.

    I appreciated your post, Jennifer. Thanks for writing that up!