When it comes to homeschooling, public perception is largely limited to a few, all-pervasive tropes. The first is that of the religious homeschooler–those who, like David d'Escoto of Christian website Crosswalk.com, see public schools as the “biggest morality corrupters and worldview warpers” in America. Less common, but still prevalent, is that of the self-proclaimed “hippie homeschooler,” inspired by texts like Grace Llewellyn's The Teenage Liberation handbook to practice an extreme version of free-range parenting, in which children are encouraged to determine their own curriculum in accordance with their passions. Yet, even as a full three percent of the school-age population in America embraces homeschooling, according to a 2012 New York Magazine article by Lisa Miller, homeschooling is all too often treated as a monolith: Homeschoolers are either fundamentalists or anarchists, religious extremists or hippies. Rarely, if ever, is it explored as a potential educational setting for so-called “gifted” children–those looking for an academic challenge beyond that which their local educational facilities can provide.
Yet, during the two years I spent on-and-off as a homeschooled middle-schooler (spanning what would have been the seventh and eighth grades), the opportunity to work at my own pace and largely develop my own curriculum provided me with a level of academic intensity and emotional as well as intellectual independence unavailable (and, indeed, unaffordable) through more traditional means. Part of the decision to homeschool was pragmatic—my mother's work took us to France, then Italy, in quick succession. Yet no less influential was my—and my mother's—desire to offer me a degree of challenge beyond that which the schools I had attended could provide.