The Upside of the Downside

Just spent a fantastic weekend in Austin with the incomparable Nova Walsh and her fam.  We fiddled with WordPress (I’m a noob but she has mad skillz) and drank a respectable amount of vino.

She was also a homeschooled kid, and while our experiences have a lot of similarities, there are big differences, too.  Homeschooling is by nature eclectic and dependant on the values and goals of the families involved.

I’ve written a good bit so far on what I see as the blessings of having been homeschooled.  And in my case, they have been innumerable.

I want to meditate for a bit on one of the aspects that I find more ambiguous.

What got me thinking about this was (what else) a podcast that I listened to on the drive home.  Because of the Red River Shoot-Out  + ACL, the traffic on I-35 between Austin and DFW was even more craptacular than usual.  But, thanks to that, I got to listen to this one twice.  And since it’s a Tim Ferriss joint, that should give you an idea of just how bad the traffic was.  Maybe that’s how TxDOT can start measuring traffic delays-  Belton to Temple: 2.5 Tim Ferriss Podcasts.

Anyway, this episode was truly remarkable – it featured Samin Nosrat, whose book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, Nova had actually given me for my birthday this year.

Among the many topics that Samin tackled in a truly disarming and vulnerable way was this idea of being an outsider.  She was the child of immigrants from Iran, and was born in San Diego.  Her family kept the traditions of their culture alive at home even as Samin was doing all the normal stuff any other California kid growing up near the beach would do.

It got to me because, I’ll just say it — homeschooling was alienating.

I didn’t get pop culture references, and had to work hard as hard as Lisa to learn the canon of The Simpsons (am I doing this right?).

I didn’t learn as early as others how to persevere through tough subjects, difficult teachers, or uncomfortable social situations, because I didn’t have to.

I couldn’t swap funny/humiliating prom stories with peers, because I didn’t go.

I still never quite feel comfortable in my own skin.

And yet…

There is power in being an outsider.  Detachment gives perspective, even as it can take away the ability to engage emotionally.  I think that’s what I found really compelling about the interview with Samin – the idea that as outsiders, we have to work on that area of disengagement from our emotions and in doing so, turn that weakness into a strength.

Homeschooling is getting less weird.  And that’s all to the good, I think.  But there is a small part of me that is a little sad about that, too.



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