Confessions of a one-time homeschooler

Caitlin Brown

In the distant, foggy past of my fifth-grade year, my parents, in a fit of rage, wrenched me from the clutches of my school and whisked me away to the safety of my own home.

Well, maybe not exactly. Actually it wasn’t like that at all.

I was home-schooled in the fifth grade, but it was a decision brought on by curiosity, not outrage or necessity. More like a, “Caitlin, you want to try home-schooling next year?” and a “Sure.” I’d been going to this school since kindergarten, and there was no reason not to try it.

I was excited — told all my friends. They weren’t outwardly sad — after all, they were by this age working themselves into their pre-teenage state of “whatever.” It’s not like I was a recluse, though. I still came to school for band class and some other programs and things. I still “played” (hung out?) with my friends.

My mom was responsible for teaching me. I had a certain list of things to do for the day, and either got them all done in the morning or took the whole day and just had short breaks. I could play outside, play with my little brother, read — anything I wanted, anytime. The work wasn’t hard — though I hated math. The only distinct day I remember of that year was my last day of school. I had worked a little bit ahead so I could finish a day earlier than public school, and when I was done I went outside and did cartwheels in the grass.

Hey — it was sunny out.

I went back to school the next year. I missed my friends, and I’d had my year to see what it was like to be a home-schooled kid. Kids here and there wondered where I had gone, and those who had started going to the school while I was at home thought I was a new kid. Of course everyone wanted to know why — I heard “Why were you homeschooled?” again and again. “Just because I wanted to,” was my constant reply. One kid apparently missed that whole 180 days — I found out later, as a senior in high school, that he never knew I was homeschooled. A kid I had known since the age of my Beauty and the Beast lunchbox and matching thermos. “No you weren’t,” he said, serious as can be. “You’re just trying to trick me.” You try convincing someone that you were in fact missing.

Eleven, though, is right on that edge of memory where you’re really starting to leave the baby stuff behind — and a lot of childhood memories with it. You may have watched the occasional “Arthur” here and there, and maybe you still didn’t fuss over your mom’s goodnight kiss, but sixth grade was just around the corner — boy, that was big stuff. Looking back, fifth grade may have been the perfect time to be home-schooled — bridging the gap between elementary school and middle school. Young enough for kids around me to bring me right back into their group, and old enough so that I still remember the experience. It’s true that I was still involved with the public school, and that it was only for a year — but anyone who’s been home-schooled for any length of time can appreciate the freedom of wearing your pajamas every day for school, eating breakfast and doing history at the same time, and trying to convince your mom that watching a nature show was in fact educational and, therefore, school was not necessary for that day. I tried it, I liked it and I was able to go right back into my accustomed public school, and my fifth grade year was added as another memory — though not foggy — of my ending childhood.

Caitlin Brown is a freshman nursing major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]