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The Real Deal 

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about homeschooling (from a biased source)

When someone says "homeschool," what's the first thing that pops into your head? Is it one or two desks parked in front of a blackboard, where Mom, dressed up in a flannel dress and hair up in a bun with a pencil through it, is smacking a wooden pointer against a map of Africa?

Or is it something different? Homeschooling is something that's becoming more and more popular in the Springs, and yet, only a few people actually truly know what it is and what goes on.

Today, I simply cannot picture myself working in a room with 20 other people. For all of the nine years I've been in school, eight of them were spent homeschooling. That one year I didn't homeschool was the year I first moved here to the Springs. Things were still a little hectic, and the move was made to put me into a little elementary school five minutes from where I lived.

From what I remember of the experience, I can now cherish the fact that there is no "typical day" when you're homeschooling. Public school got a little monotonous with the never-changing schedule the school had worked out. When you homeschool, you don't have just one basic, boring schedule that applies to every day. Of course, you have to keep things organized and plan, plan, plan -- like when you anticipate an exam coming up or a week to work harder so that you can take a vacation the following one.

The point is, there is no typical day.

My "usual" day (and I use the term loosely) starts at about 8 in the morning. My alarm clock goes off, or someone pounds on my door, and I go through the usual "getting dressed and eating breakfast" routine. This in itself is nice, because hair and makeup is not on the agenda. I could do school in my pajamas if I wanted to, and nobody would care!

After I eat, it's off to do the simplest of all my subjects, and also my personal favorite; done first: reading and literature, otherwise known as language arts. I usually read for one to two hours, depending on whether or not the book is really good.

It used to be that in the period of time between language arts and history, I would do math. However, when I entered high school, the math became suddenly very confusing, and the only person who could explain it within my limited reasoning was my dad, and he has a full-time job with a software company. So we worked out a schedule that works for us (most of the time): Do school during the day except for math, and then when Dad gets home, do the math I didn't do during the day. This works for me: The less math I have to do, or the more time between math lessons, the better.

So, if it's a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, then I'll do history after I read. I personally find history to be quite boring. To remedy this, my mother decided to do it with me by reading a passage and then discussing it, which, in fact, did cure most of the boredom.

If it's a Tuesday or Thursday, then I'll do science after language arts. Last year, I was supposed to do biology, and since Mother didn't want all those dead critters in her kitchen, she sent me to a class composed of about four other students like myself. The teacher, we'll call her Mrs. Franklin (name changed to protect the innocent), found an empty conference room downtown in an office building and somehow got the company to give her the conference room once a week. She brought in all sorts of things (yuck!), depending on what we were studying that particular semester, and we dissected them toward the middle of class.

First, there were the simple-to-complex creatures, starting out with a starfish (never again) and ending up with a frog. Then, we did human anatomy, for which Mrs. Franklin went down to the slaughterhouse and got the eyeballs and hearts of lambs, and once she even picked up the bones of a dead cow from you-don't-want-to-know-where. The heart wasn't so bad, actually. It was like a piece of steak, only shaped weird, with some arteries and veins sticking out of it. The eyeball kind of got to me.

Finally, we did shark dissection. I won't give you the specifics, but let's just say that we had to cut the tail off of the thing to get it to fit in trays so that we could cut it open. But cutting creatures open wasn't the only thing we did: Mrs. Franklin also lectured us and wrote on her white board for a lot of the time, and we got worksheets for homework, which I did every Tuesday.

So far this all sounds like a normal high schooler's day, right? What's the difference? I'm hungry, so I'm going to go and make a peanut butter sandwich! You can DO that when you're homeschooled! You don't need to ask the permission of a teacher who would never in his right mind let me. The difference here is that not only do I get that sort of leniency, but I also get to study what I want to, not what the teacher wants me to, and I get to work on my own terms, at my own pace.

Plus, I don' t necessarily have to start at 8 a.m. and get done by 2:30 p.m. I could get done at 11 a.m. if I wanted to, which is very handy. On a condensed schedule, I have free time to work on my Web page, work on writing some stories I keep on my hard drive at home, or maybe go shopping or go on a field trip. Maybe I'll go to a friend's house.

Another advantage: When you're homeschooled, you get to read all the cool books you want to. For example, I recently finished reading Thomas Pynchon's The Crying Of Lot 49 (a very good book) and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, which I read during lunch one day. It was Ernest Hemingway's 100th birthday, and my mother remembered reading the book in high school. She convinced me to read it, so I picked it up, sat down with a sandwich at the kitchen table and read for an hour and a half. By the end of lunch, I had finished the book.

This is a great example of the luxury we homeschoolers have: We can read any book we want, any time we want. We don't have to have a teacher say, "OK, read chapters 1 and 2 for homework." We could read one chapter, or the whole book. It's up to us how much we want to read and when. The only requirement is that we read something. The requirement for my house is that my younger brother (who is also homeschooled and will be going into fourth grade this year) and I always have a book going.

Another benefit: no more embarrassing moments in front of your class, such as messing up on your oral report by mixing your words around or losing your voice.

Someone told me that you need to experience screwing up in front of your class to gain confidence. Um, no. It doesn't work that way. Trust me, I know. I spent one year in public school, and I screwed up in front of my class of 25 plenty of times, and I'm here to tell you that it does not give you confidence. In fact, it takes away your confidence. You only gain confidence when you do something right, not wrong.

In homeschool, you've always got the best everything in the school, whether it be reputation, attitude, grade-point average, hair, etc., etc. You could be flunking everything (which is not possible, but bear with me), and you'd still have the highest GPA in the school. Wait, you say, hold on just a second. You can't flunk everything? How is that possible? It's very simple: If you don't get it, you stop and go over it with whoever is teaching you until you do, and you don't move on until you've got a firm grip on it.

Schooling at home, you suffer no more inedible cafeteria lunches. You have a homemade meal for lunch every day, not the stuff that passes as food in school cafeterias. I was listening to the news a few weeks ago, and they announced that they were going to make school lunches "healthier" by putting, I swear this is true, pureed prunes in the food!

A major concern people raise when they think of homeschooling is, What about socialization? Excuse me for a moment while I scream into my coffee cup. I have been asked this question, in one form or another, ever since I started homeschooling, and I will answer it once more. But before I answer the question, you need to figure out what you mean by "socialization." Webster defines it as "to make social; adjust to or make fit for cooperative group living."

What it means by today's standards is to be around people your own age. Socialization means something else entirely when you're homeschooled. It means to be around people of all shapes, ages and sizes, all the time. Often, I've found that I'm more at home with people of all shapes, ages and sizes than with my peers, because they reflect more my level of thinking. My peers, and here I refer to my female counterparts, are basically concerned with the following: hair, makeup, guys. My style goes something like this: Hair is nice, makeup is nice, and so are guys, but I refuse to let these rule my life! I've got better things to do with my time than check every five seconds to make sure my eyeliner is straight.

Most people would think that since I'm home all the time, I would hate being around my parents so much. My mom runs a homeschool support group, and she continually gets the same question, but reversed: "Don't you hate being around your kids so much?" In her own words: "No! I happen to like my kids. I think they're really neat people. If I didn't want to be around them, I wouldn't have had them." Likewise, I don't hate being around my parents. I mean, sure, they get on my nerves sometimes, but that's normal. I think that since I have been around them so much, it has made us closer than other kids and their parents.

Homeschool-curious people often wonder how you get your diploma. There are a variety of different ways, but I use a correspondence high-school curriculum, which means they send me the course (or courses), and I have a maximum of one year to complete each course they send me. For each completed course, I receive one credit. When I have earned 21 credits, then they send me my high-school diploma, and I am done with high school.

Do not think that getting the required course work done in a year is the only requirement for homeschooling, however. I plan on going to college, and the requirements for acceptance are different with each school. I went to one university's Web site, and it listed all the things that were needed for me to get in -- so many years of math, and so many years of science, and so on. My requirements, then, are what the college or university wants.

If I didn't plan on going to college, then I wouldn't have to worry about it, but it's impossible for me to not go to college -- my mother gave me a choice: Go to college or die. I chose college.

The school year rapidly approaches, and as I see it looming in its black enormity over my head, I can't help but wonder what happened to summer. But as much as I am not looking forward to school this year, things could be worse. I could be a freshman again this year. Or, I could be a freshman in public high school -- my condolences to those who actually are going to be freshmen in public high school.

But here's a tip: Remember, when all else fails, at least you can bring food from home.

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