Monday, November 4, 2013

Homeschooling vs. Public School

There was this odd kid in middle school, a girl with reddish hair, glasses, and crooked teeth. She lived in her own little world full of spaceships and aliens, cartoons, and especially cats. One of her dreams was to make a movie about superheroes, but she changed her mind when her main interest switched to pirates. While she was at school, her endless chatter about her dreams and stories was the extent of her social interactions. During class, she'd meow in response to questions, which the teachers found to be disruptive. She was hardly ever aware of the strange things she so often did.

Would you believe me if I told you that kid was me?

Well, it was. I had previously been homeschooled since the first grade, so my strange behavior had been passed off as mere eccentricity since I wasn't in many typical social environments. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in middle school, where these behaviors seemed strange and disorderly. I was given an IEP and put in special education classes. If I was ever picked on or criticized for my differences, I don’t remember it because I wasn't entirely aware of my surroundings at the time, and I have a terrible memory as is. After a month of high school, I wasn't receiving the help I needed since the school couldn't provide it, so they referred me to another school an hour away. It was a choice between enduring long and stressful days at this other school or going back to homeschooling. I chose the latter, so my mom started to homeschool me again until college.

One question my friend Linda asked me was how homeschooling impacted my development, and how I felt about the possibility of going to public school.

To be honest, I wouldn't change how things happened if I could, because it may have resulted in a different me. But if I were to really assess the pros and cons of public school, I could find things about it that may have impacted me positively.

Preparation for college
For one, public school may have prepared me better for college. The deadlines for public school assignments are stricter than those in homeschooling, so I may have learned to work more efficiently under pressure. Public school may have taught me the skills for managing a schedule and completing my assignments on time. I never took my assignments seriously in middle school though, since I could hardly comprehend the instructions given, and I didn't understand the importance of education overall. As a result, I'd often doodle in class and write silly things on my papers. Some of these doodles were of certain boys that really annoyed me, even if they weren't pestering me directly.

        Worksheet gone wrong

Annoyed doodle

However, even without public schooling, I've quickly adapted to the educational system at my college and am doing well. Prior to college, I was in a transition program called SAIL (Students Attaining Independent Living) that teaches young adults basic life skills like cooking and cleaning, paying bills and balancing checkbooks, and being a valuable member of the workplace.

SAIL Diploma

Thriving vs. isolation in public school
Public school may have helped me increase my social skills and confidence, and I would have probably had more friends. On the flipside, I may have isolated myself and "survived" school alone. I spent a great deal of time alone when I was homeschooled too, but there is a difference between isolation in public school vs. homeschool.
Homeschool solitude: I enjoyed being at home and made the most of it, and if I hadn't been homeschooled, I wouldn't have had the time for things like my first amateur film, my novel, and other hobbies (which I will elaborate on in future posts).
Public school isolation: This is just an educated guess, but I think I may have been a very anxious and depressed individual throughout high school if I had failed to make friends, which seemed to be 50% likely since I often have to sacrifice a social life to focus on managing my energy. At best, I'd be a zombie if I juggled friends and school.

Vulnerable faith

Also, whether I had friends or not, I would have likely lost my faith in God due to peer pressure. Being raised in a Christian home has strengthened my faith, even though being sheltered was a consequence of it. However, because I was so impressionable when I was young, I believe it was actually good for me to be sheltered for a while, at least until my late teen years, when I’d learn all the hard lessons I needed to. If I had been in public school any earlier than that, I get the feeling that negative outside influences would have been my ruin.

One last point I’d like to make...
If I had gone to public school, successfully made friends, and become socially “typical”—if not exceptional—from the experience, I don’t think this blog would exist. I probably wouldn't have started my disability support group either, or even pondered the idea of making a documentary film on Asperger’s and autism. I’d just be another human being enjoying life, unaware of all the other aspies out there who couldn’t adapt as well I could.

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