I was homeschooled all the way through highschool.
For 14 years I was at home. My siblings were my classmates and my mom was my teacher. We half-jokingly called my dad the principal, and my mom would threaten to call him to get us to stop complaining about schoolwork.
I was ahead in school (one year ahead in math, two years ahead in everything else, I would say to people who asked, and people did ask). Everyone would look surprised when they found out, say something along the lines of "you must be very smart", and I would haltingly have to explain it away; explain how my Mom just bumped me up to the same grade as my sister because it's easier to just teach one thing to two people (and what's the difference between 1st and 2nd grade history and reading anyway? Nothing), and so the only grade I really skipped was kindergarten, and that was barely a grade anyway. It was really about convenience, that was all.
No one ever really looked impressed when they found out I’d skipped grades. They looked nervous. Like they suddenly had to be very careful. I didn't like telling people.
We moved a lot when I was a kid. Until we settled in Oregon we would live for exactly four years in a place before moving again. By my ninth birthday I'd lived in four different places, (three states and two continents), even if I only really remembered two of them and only felt at home in one.
We all agreed that made homeschooling a lot more convenient than regular school (“Public School” we would say with an exaggerated shudder; none of us had ever even been inside a public school), but that wasn’t why we were homeschooled.
My dad explained it once as “to keep us safe from Wormtongues”. Which is a very appropriate allusion to reach for when explaining why you homeschool.
It was to keep us apart—keep us safe—from people who would seek to be an undue influence, to keep us from falling in with the wrong crowd of the wrong people.
Both of my parents had siblings where this had happened. “He was such a nice boy—he just made bad friends”. For my mom’s brother, that meant briefly ending up in prison. For my dad’s brother it meant a messy divorce with a wicked woman, and was probably the reason he didn’t go to church anymore.
It was to keep us from being corrupted, to keep us from people who would try to drag us down, just to make themselves feel better, just because they could. It was so that my parents could keep a closer eye on us, and be more involved in our lives. To keep us safe. It made a lot of sense. I would nod along whenever this was explained, I and all my siblings would talk about how nice it was, to be safe from all the drama of highschool and middle school, to be insulated, to be confident that everything was under control. I would nod along, and feel an uncomfortable prickle at the back of my mind.
When people asked me why I was homeschooled, I would tell them it was because we used to move a lot, and the benefits of learning at your own pace. My Mom had a teaching degree anyway, and had taught first grade. It just made a lot of sense.
Until I was in highschool we weren’t allowed to watch anything rated higher than G without my parent’s okaying it first. We weren’t allowed to watch Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon (except for Scooby Doo and Rugrats, respectively). We had to ask special permission every time we wanted to watch The Little Mermaid, even though we owned the VHS. It was because she was a very rebellious mermaid. I don’t remember my parents ever saying no, but we still had to ask.
Kids in youth group would talk about TV shows, their voices would change and I would realize they were quoting something I’d never seen. They would say something that didn’t make any sense and everyone would laugh and I would realize “this must have been on TV”. And I would get very quiet, and hope—pray—that they wouldn’t look over at me, wouldn’t try to get me to say the next line, wouldn’t realize I wasn’t laughing, wouldn’t recognize the blank look on my face.
I asked my mom once why we hadn’t been allowed to watch so many different things. She didn’t remember ever saying we couldn’t. I’m not sure now if she ever did, or if me and my siblings just watched portions of something and inferred that we weren’t allowed to watch it; banned it for ourselves: (“Dexter is too mean to his sister, this is Not Allowed”, “CatDog burps too much, this is disgusting”). Or maybe my Mom did the same thing, and has just forgotten. Maybe it was both, there’s no way to know now.
By the time I was a senior in college I watched Wolf of Wall Street with my roommates. The movie had orgies, drugs, swearing—there was a scene of Leonardo DiCaprio walking naked through a plane full of passed out nudists covered in cocaine like snow—and by the time it was over all of my roommates were almost shaking. Me and my other film major roommate just thought it was a good movie. All my other roommates couldn’t stop going over the movie, all the things that happened, how insane it had been, this slightly shell-shocked look in their eyes. The two of us just looked at each other. By that point we’d seen Shame, Requiem for a Dream, Goodfellas. This couldn’t faze us.
And I felt this trickle of pride. I hadn’t been allowed to watch Cartoon Network. Now I watched drug-fueled strip scenes and just nodded along. I’d made it. I’d grown up. I wasn’t a homeschooler anymore.
All of those friends had met my parents, at one point or another. The college I was in was five miles from my parent’s house. My Dad was a professor at the same University where I was studying film so wantonly. I visited his office at least once a week just to talk. I was still homeschooled. I just watched movies now.
Well not anymore.