He was tall, but thin. Hardly more than a 110 pounds. At just over 6 feet he resembled a twig. His giant XXL t-shirt only reinforced his skeletal form. The 80 pound backpack caused him to hunch.
He was headed to class.
A larger boy with a familiar face approached him. Something was wrong. The larger boy threw his shoulder into him, causing him to stumble against the wall.
The other boy walked on. The skinny kid watched him go and wondered what his name was and why he was mad at him.
I doubt I'll ever know.
I hadn't thought of that experience in years, but it came back to me when I read Danielle's post on the difference between homeschooled and "traditionally" schooled kids. Why, she asks, do homeschooled kids behave better?
First, allow me to dispel a myth: I wasn't a little angel when homeschooled. I specifically remember dropping my sister on her face once when she made me angry. She must have forgiven me because she's never brought it up. That, or the memory got knocked out of her...
But even though we fought like siblings, we were pretty good kids. We worked hard. We enjoyed the Sonlight books. We poured our blood, sweat and tears--lots of tears--into our writing assignments. And while I was a little shy and awkward in groups, I never hip checked someone into a wall. That simply was not something you did to those outside your family. Your little brother when he was driving you crazy... sure, but not someone you hardly knew.
For whatever reason there is a different set of social rules in a "traditional" school. Picking on people is common. Making fun of others is socially acceptable. Physically assaulting another is just a fact of life.
Which is so very odd to those coming from the other world, the world where socialization has kicked in and constructive criticism, encouragement and mature behavior is expected of you even if you're still at the stage in life where the only recourse to your rage is throttling your punk little brother.
Second, I listened to my teachers. I played their game. I followed directions. And if I disagreed, I spun their demands back on them--completely complying without doing what they wanted.
Perhaps it was the freedom of homeschooling that opened me up to this possibility. I knew I needed to follow the rules, but that didn't mean that I needed to agree with them. And that didn't mean that I had to be silent about my disagreement. But those "in the system" don't always know that. At least for those kids--like the bully in hall--who didn't care much for school, the only offensive move was to tune out, drop out, opt out. Not so with me. The way to respond was to so perfectly adhere to the rules so as to show the insanity of them. There was always a creative solution to push back, if I only had enough energy and time to make it happen.
So are homeschoolers the well behaved bunch?
Yes and no.
There were days when I know I was an unholy terror for my mom (sorry, mom). I know for a fact I was a defiant little punk by the time I got to public school. But my defiance took a different form from that of my peers. Rather than based in an apathetic tuning out, mine was rooted in an indignation at the frivolous nature of my work or assignment. So I became more engaged. I put more effort into my work. I dug even deeper.
That may be a sign of maturity. But at the moment I think the difference is taking personal responsibility and doing what you can to overcome the obstacle.
Homeschooling taught me that I had options. It was my responsibility to learn. It was up to me to set things right. And that didn't happen when I picked on others. It happened when I took things head on.
Filmmaker, Writer, Surrogate Father