I recently watched a video in my English class about how we tend to judge people through the “lens of a single story”. If you would like to know more about this, I have embedded the video (which is a speech given by Chimamanda Adichie at a TED conference). It is rather long, but it is well worth the time. I know I sound like a total nerd recommending stuff I learned in class, but I enjoyed her speech and I believe it is very relevant.
I would like to talk briefly about being viewed by someone, through the lens of a single story. I was home educated from first grade. Over those years, I heard many different people’s views on home education. I was forced to be polite when people said I didn’t really do any work at home. The stacks of essays and scrap sheets filled with mathematical equations must not have been enough to convince people of my work. I couldn’t help but laugh when someone asked me if I had any friends at all. I was constantly bombarded with comments on my social interaction as well as question about wether or not my mother was a certified teacher.
All through elementary school and middle school I put up with these views. I tried my best not to take any of the insults to heart. I pretended to laugh when people called me “socially awkward.” But it wasn’t until my freshmen year of high school, that all of the insults and so called “jokes” really affected me.
The school year was just about to begin and I was faced with the decision of wether or not to enroll in a public school. I struggled with the decision for several days, always coming back to the same question: would I “fit in” with the public schooled students? I tried to tell myself that all of the things that people said to me over the years weren’t true, but no matter how hard I tried, I felt as though I would fail if I attempted to integrate myself into a public school.
When the time came to make the final decision, I opted to remain at home for the school year, and for each subsequent year after that. Now, with high school in the past, I have come to regret my decision to remain at home. I feel that I failed to learn many of the social skills needed to function in today’s world.
I am not trying to blame any of my problems on anyone else, but I do feel as though being seen by others as a “socially awkward” individual caused me to doubt myself. While there were positive aspects to being home educated, the negative aspects greatly outweighed the positive.
I feel that a child needs structure in his/her life that home education can not provide. It is my believe that if a child grows up surrounded by others and is forced to become “socially active” that child will fare a much better chance at being successful later in life.
Speaking as a previously home educated student, I feel confident in saying that, if you are thinking about home educating a child, you should reconsider your decision. I think children should be required to attend a public school at least through elementary school. At this point, I think the decision should be left to the child.
I am not here to condemn home education, I’m sure it does have it’s place in society, I simply believe that children should be exposed to a structured and socially active environment at a young age.
I do not mean to offend anyone who has poured their life into home educating their child. I have great respect for those who are willing to sacrifice their own plans for their lives in order to do what they think is right; I just think that education should be left to certified teachers. If you are a certified teacher and you want to educate your child at home and that child is willing, I have no problem with that. And again, I’m not here to tell you how to run your life, I’m just expressing my feelings.
But to get back to my main point, I believe that being viewed through the lens of a single story greatly impacted the decisions I made in high school. People constantly expecting me to be awkward or in some cases, smarter than average, caused me to think that I had to become the stereotypical home educated student. I know that it is my life and that I can’t blame who I am on someone else, but I feel that the choices of “who I could become” were limited.