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I haven’t spent a lot of time around home-schooled kids, because, why would I? Home-schooled kids in my hometown (and I imagine all towns) were always at home. They weren’t involved in any after-school activities, and no one in their peer group really knew they existed. The most immediate experience I have with home-schooled kids is that episode of South Park where they have the spelling bee and the homeschoolers sweep it. There are two of them in the episode, I think, a brother and sister. They’re both freakishly knowledgeable, but socially awkward and twitchy.

That is the reason that I am vehemently anti-home-schooling. As painful as public school is, the socialization element is crucial. My public school education was woefully sub-par (there was a lot of coloring and other assorted art projects), and I was tortured by the other kids, but I would never take it back or change it (well, I would like to have had a better education, but I had a lot of downtime to read, which was really all I cared about) because it made me the well-adjusted adult I am today. My thoughts are, educate your kids at home as well; don’t expect the schools to do everything, and make sure they learn how to learn and love learning while they get the invaluable and unteachable social lessons that come with formal education.

It doesn’t matter how much you know, if you can’t have a casual conversation with someone, and/or deal with life if it’s less than rosy.

At the public library, we’re in full-swing with the summer reading program. The way it works is that kids sign up, they read and report the reading to us, then we give them prizes– pretty straightforward. A couple weeks ago, I signed up a whole family of home-schooled kids.

One of the other elements of the SRP is that kids set a reading goal, somewhere between 15 and 50 hours that they commit to read before the big finale party. Many kids get terrified when I tell them that 15 hours of reading is the minimum, they start to second guess whether or not it’s all worth it, but eventually give in and sign up anyway (usually with prodding/orders from mom). A lot of kids who have done the program before realize that 15 hours over the course of 2 months is nothing and commit to 20-30. These home-schooled kids– all of whom have odd, religious names– just blinked at me and said “50 hours, I can’t read more than that?”

“Of course you can,” I replied, “We just record only up to 50 hours.”

A couple weeks later, I was at the desk when they came in to report. Each of the reading log sheets has nine hours worth of boxes for the kids to check off– oldest home-schooled kid had filled one and half sheets, in one week. Most kids do about two to three hours of reading, he had done twelve and assured me he would have done more had the family not gone on vacation.

“I’ll give you two more sheets then, for next week.” I told him, “Do you think that will be enough?”

“Maybe.” he responded with a dorky horsey-sounding laugh.

I love kids who love reading; I get excited to talk about books with them and make recommendations– but this kid, I wanted to beat up and take his lunch money, which is probably what would happen to him daily if he actually went to real school.