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Are Homeschoolers Different? I Hope So!

I didn’t see the friendly stranger approaching us. Instead, I was distractedly walking with my family through Mesa Verde National Park, talking about the amazing homes built right into the rock and helping my kids think through the questions on the Jr. Ranger Badge worksheets. This curious tourist meandered up to us and casually asked, “You homeschool don’t you?” At first I felt a twinge of pride.  “Why yes,” I purred, “We certainly do.” Secretly my ego puffed:  We must look thoughtfully engaged with our children.

But then I began to wonder, do we have a look? –and I don’t mean blue denim jumpers (That homeschool fashion statement has come and gone, thankfully, since at my height I simply looked like a pup tent with feet.).

The subject of a homeschooler type has been raised before, and usually with some controversy. The image of a nerdy or socially awkward kid or one who shows signs of perpetual isolation is the typical negative stereotype we’re sometimes assigned. (Although that “isolation” one always makes me chuckle. For most of the homeschoolers I know, isolation isn’t the problem; finding a day when you’re not going to be out with a large cluster of other homeschoolers is. Most of us are struggling to put the “home” back in homeschool.)

Our image has been evolving over time. Just when I thought maybe the less-appealing images had passed, I see a Connecticut Magazine article with the title, “Homeschooling: Not Just for Social Outcasts Anymore.” Aren’t you relieved?  But be prepared, there’s sure to be a stampede since now all the cool kids will want in. Big cynical sigh

There truly are homeschooling families who are indistinguishable from any typical American family. I’ve seen kids perfectly trendily dressed, pop-culture-lingo-spouting, heads down, texting away over their handheld devices, even in homeschool circles. So I know it’s possible to have a homeschooler who looks “mainstreamed”. But I must also admit to you that there are times when I’ve casually nodded toward a family and said, “I bet they homeschool.”  There are just some characteristics that you almost never see anywhere else but in homeschooling circles. Things like. . .

  • five year-old boys holding hands as they run off to play because they’ve never heard it wasn’t cool
  • fifteen year-old girls who exude not the slightest bit of awareness of how or why to flirt
  • a decided lack of cynicism that gives way to a range of expressions that would be out of the question in an environment that puts great value in being cool
  • teenagers with a willingness to play board games, act in skits for fun, and dress up in period costumes.
  • comfortableness talking to people in their 80’s, 20’s, 50’s, and even preschoolers with an untarnished belief that everyone has something interesting to say
  • having only seen movies because their family doesn’t have cable
  • and of course, anyone who names their pet “Gandalf”, their treehouse “the Shire”, and looks intently at any object saying, “My precious. . .”, is likely to have a homeschooling background.

I’m not saying all homeschoolers exhibit these qualities. I’m just saying that when you do see lovely qualities like these, they often come from within a homeschooling dynamic. I’m glad that those who want to combine homeschooling with a more mainstream life can do so. In fact, I love the one thing that homeschooling does so well: provide choices. But I’m also glad that it allows another choice, one in which little boys can walk hand in hand, just because they’re friends, and no one even thinks a thing about it.

What do you think? Is there a type? Have those days passed? Do we want a type?

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About Carol Barnier

Carol Barnier is a homeschooler of 17 years, author of four books, mother to three children, and wife to one husband. She’s been on numerous radio and TV programs, and is a regular commentary provider on Focus on the Family’s Weekend Magazine radio program. Her objective is to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed with the depth of C.S. Lewis, but admits that on most days, she only achieves a solid Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato. In 2004, she started www.SizzleBop.com. At Sizzle Bop, Carol Barnier and the thousands of members have dedicated themselves to finding those different ways of learning that work for distractible kids. If you want to find a bazillion ways to do this, see the many ideas on our SizzleBop Blog. This is a place where that distractible mind (the child’s and the sometimes the mom’s) has community. Whether speaking about her first born son’s 13 surgeries, her homeschooling challenges, her family’s many ADHD challenges, or her own walk from being a God-denying atheist to the most grateful recipient of God’s amazing grace, this woman speaks from the heart. She knows why she knows what she knows. To learn more, visit www.CarolBarnier.com and find out why her business cards read: Delightful Speaker, Entertaining Author, Adequate Wife, Pitiful Housekeeper.


  1. It’s funny that you write this article. Recently I took my kids to a homeschool class at our local zoo. As we were standing in line to register I was looking around to see who else was attending. I could immediately spot the other homeschoolers as they walked through the building. In Kansas it seems that the jumper is still the homeschool moms go-to outfit.

    I’m a very mainstream mom who wears primarily jeans and (feminine looking) t-shirts. I hate dresses or skirts so the chances of ever catching me in a jumper . . . yeah, not happening. My boys are mainstream too. I don’t sew, have no desire to crochet; finding anything homemade on my kids just isn’t going to happen unless its a gift from someone else. I’m highly impressed by some of the creations that other homeschooling families can create with needle and thread, but it just isn’t something I’ve ever wanted to pursue.

    If there were any way to identify us as a homeschooling family I’d like it to be in how my kids pursue knowledge or ask questions. Better yet in how they talk to and treat other people. One day I was running into our local bookstore to grab a book we were using for classwork. My four year old was with me asking the cashier all sorts of questions and talking up a storm. The cashier looked up at me and said, “He’s homeschooled, isn’t he?” Why yes, yes he is!

  2. Pretty much if you are out and about between 9 am-3 pm ( other than dr, appointments) you are easily seen as homeschooling.

  3. I had to laugh out loud at all the LOR references, my 7 year old calls lots of things his “Precious….” I too am glad to see the days of the jean jumper finished. My husband and I are quite the experts at picking out homeschool families, as were are both 2nd generation homeschoolers. It’s nice to see the stereotypes moving in a more positive directions.

  4. Trend or not to Trend?

    Be careful what you wish for! I’m not personally offended by the jean jumper of the past, or the present. It was a wonderful time for many of us to recollect that we are “his workmanship” living for an audience of One. How far we have come, ’tis true. But to celebrate the demise of the jean jumper is a trend I’d rather not partake in. Consider what it represented: Modesty and set-apart femininity. We women are so susceptible (and gullible) to trends. Why do we care so much what others think?. As I look around at the “new” home school moms, I see hip-hugging, form-fitting skinny jeans, that leave nothing to the imagination. Is this where we’ve arrived? How is it we celebrate immodesty? I wish we could go back to the denim jumper and stop desiring to “turn heads” other than our husbands. Shame on us for so willingly joining the world’s trends. Are we not, as the author suggested, supposed to be different? Live for Him, not for them.
    Please don’t forget that many of those jean-jumper moms paved the way for you to home school in freedom. They were leaders who cared less for how the world saw them and more for how their Creator saw them. Let’s not despise their season and their contributions. What bricks are we laying for the future home schoolers? I hope it resonates of renewed modesty and boldness to dress, speak and act apart from the world. God bless your trend-setting!

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