Thursday, May 10, 2007

Surviving High School...

RegularMom had a great post about the high school cafeteria. It got me thinking about how readily (and sometimes openly) people downplay my choice to homeschool. My grandmother, a wonderful and respectable woman that I admire more than anyone else, dislikes the fact that I homeschool. Maybe even hates it. A lot of my friends say they think it's a good idea, but they say it in that uncomfortable way you might tell a good friend, "You're right. Eating dirt IS a good idea. Get your minerals right from the source. Good thinking." and as with homeschooling, end it with, "I could never do it myself, but that's great that you are." In other words, I get the feeling they don't really mean it.

Sometimes though, people are outright critical. They bring up the "S" word. They talk about high school dances and sports, and most importantly, friends. They almost always say, "Well, you and I both went to high school, and we survived just fine." Surviving is something you do when you're involved in a plane crash over the Alps and stranded in a frozen wasteland with nothing to eat but other "survivors." Surviving indicates something you managed to live through, despite the odds against you. Surviving is something that disregards other things like happiness, security and contentment.

What these critics fail to see is that, like other survivors, they remember a lot of the good things and tend to block out the bad things. In the case of institutional schools, it's a pretty successful tactic. In a few short years, long enough to finish college and start having children of their own, people have almost completely forgotten everything but the few good things that kept them holding on through high school. High school dances, sports and friends are how teenagers cope with the trauma of high school. And just like a lot of finely tuned coping skills, they're hard to let go of, and become so deeply ingrained in their brains that they start thinking all kids need to have them. They've forgotten that dances, sports and friends are what they are - coping skills for an unhealthy environment - and that if you're not IN that unhealthy environment, you have no need for a way to cope with them. That's why so few high school friendships last beyond high school. You no longer need them to cope with your life.

I don't suffer from trauma-induced amnesia. I still very clearly remember that hot, sick feeling that starts in your stomach and moves through your head, brought on by someone else's laughter. I remember hearing "slut" and "bitch" coming from the seat behind me, not-so-cleverly disguised in a fake cough. I remember holding my bowels until I thought I would explode so I could use the bathroom at home rather than stink up the school bathroom and people would know it was me (God forbid I poop like everyone else does). I remember what it feels like to have a ball of paper, wet with someone else's saliva, stuck in my hair. I remember the feeling of complete elation at the realization that it was Friday and I wouldn't have to be in this horrible place for two whole days, and the subsequent feeling of depression on Sunday night. I bet if you think about it, you can remember these things, or other horrors, too. Like those critics, I survived high school. Thank goodness for my friends, or I may not have made it. Not everyone does.

My kids aren't involved in group activities, they don't go to many birthday parties, and we aren't involved in any playgroups. They won't go to prom. But my kids don't need coping skills. They possess qualities I never had in my childhood, like confidence, self-respect and a sense of security. My kids are fun-loving, independent and most importantly, happy. They're not just surviving. They're thriving.


RegularMom said...


People look back at high school with some weird sort of rose colored glasses on. The prom - what a drunken mess! Sports - um, not for everyone. Friends - yeah...with friends like that, I don't need enemies.

For whatever reason, our culture really likes to glorify the high school years.

Tonight, I'm gonna post an invitation to others to write about their real high school experiences, like you've done here.

Robert said...

I agree with you. Not everybody maintains high school friendships, because they cannot cope with many peer pressures. But life is always a mix of bitter sweet memories. However, I was lucky to have at least one or two great high school friends whom I cherish till date.