“I’m going to start school on Monday!” I exclaimed excitedly to my friend, Anna, as we decorated the sidewalk with colorful chalk patterns.
“I am, too,” Anna replied. “What school will you be going to?”
“I’m going to be homeschooled,” I declared proudly and confidently, wiping my hands on my blue jeans and smearing chalk dust into the denim material.
“Well,” Anna responded, and lifted her nose into the air ever-so-slightly. “I’m going to real school.”
I was confused. Wasn’t I going to real school, too?
Later, as my mom combed my hair after my bath, I asked, “Mom, why can’t I go to real school?”
“What do you mean?” she inquired.
I explained what Anna had said earlier.
“Lydia,” my mom said, “you are going to real school.”
Above is an excerpt from my very first research paper in college level English, entitled I Went to Real School. In spite of the confident title, it was my first semester in college, and I was trying to argue that my seventeen year old, homeschooled self belonged in a classroom with all of those people who’d had a real education. In fact, I continued trying to prove this for several semesters, in spite of being commended by my professor for going over and above on assignments (read: I did them and turned them in on time) and going on to take and excel in honors courses.
Then, I took an English Lit class, and received lower grade than I would have liked (read: it was a low B) on a critical analysis of a short story. The professor asked me to stay after class and essentially told me my paper was the worst she had ever seen before demanding the names of my freshmen English professors (one of them being an honors instructor) and my high school English teacher. She was puzzled hearing the names of my English professors, but when I said I was homeschooled, she seemed to have an ‘aha’ moment.
I. was. in. tears. (Not to mention my completely panicked state that this professor thought my low B merited asking me to stay after class. I was homeschooled, you guys, I’d never been asked to stay behind after class).
“You turned in a two page paragraph,” she informed me, exasperated.
That’s when I realized: this monstrosity she was referring to was not. my. paper.
When I explained this, the professor was horrified and apologized profusely.
That was the day I decided I didn’t need to prove the reality of my homeschool education anymore. In fact, it was the beginning of a journey towards realizing I probably never needed to in the first place.
So what’s the self-publishing connection?
Writers are all-too-often not seen as “real” authors, nor their writing as “real” work until given that stamp of approval by a “real” publisher. Even writers themselves hold this opinion. By this logic, even among some people I know, I’m not actually an author at all, despite my moniker being Lydia Thomas, Author basically everywhere you look. Some people are genuinely offended that I have the nerve to call myself a writer, let alone an author. (Google “famous authors on self-publishing” if you don’t believe me).
But the facts remain.
I am a real writer.
I am a real author.
More importantly than anything I can say about myself (and there is a lot I could say), the people I care about know just how real I am.
But this post is not about my very real accomplishments as a writer and an independently-published author.
This post is to remind us that just because a way of doing something is different, or maybe just not how we would go about it, doesn’t make it any less real. Perhaps it would be better to admit we just don’t understand, and maybe instead of oversharing our own opinions, we should ask good questions and try to grow in understanding.
Of course, that’s just me, being idealistic.
The sharper point is that whether people understand the decisions I make (and the decisions my parents made for me back before I had a choice) or not, I will never doubt my being a real writer and author. And since I’m not doubtful about it, I don’t feel the need to prove or defend the decisions I make as a writer and author.
Been there, done that. With homeschooling. Remember?
If I ever forget, here’s a little reminder from my freshman English professor on I Went to Real School: “If you’re writing’s any indication, home-schooling enhanced your educational process marvelously! Excellent writing as usual, Lydia. Keep writing – you don’t want that prodigious talent to go to waste.”