Friends With Boys - Page 39

 

First of all! There is a contest! One in which you might win a copy of a book drawn (but not written) by me! Exclaimation point! Sorry, the possibility of free books is something that excites me. Over at Goodreads, First Second is giving away five copies of Brain Camp, a horror comic written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan and drawn by me. It is probably the grossest book I’ve ever been a part of, and I include the zombie book I wrote/drew in 2007 (Zombies Calling) in that statement. So if you like gross scary books about creepy summer camp, check out the contest.

I wanted to blog a little bit about the most difficult part of going from homeschooling to public school: the fact that you (a homeschooled kid) have not spent the last 9 years or so dealing with your peers. As I’ve mentioned before, I was homeschooled. Now I’m an adult, one that has managed to graduate from college, find a job, carry out various successful adult relationships (both with friends and a significant other), draw thousands of pages of comics and generally contribute to society (well, except for all the comics). For the most part, I successfully navigated the treacherous waters of adolescences and emerged on the other side a proper grown up. Well, as grown up as one can be when you make a living drawing comics.

High school was problematic for me socially (to put it mildly), and it wasn’t because I was awkward or shy (I am both, but no more than everyone else), but because I was completely unable to interact with my peers. When I drew Maggie walking through the halls of her high school, terrified and overwelmed because there were just so many people, people who seemed completely different from her, doing things she didn’t understand and acting in a way that seemed completely bizarre, that’s how I felt through two thirds of my high school experience. I avoided my high school’s locker bay because I couldn’t bear the thought of going in a wide open space full of so many of my peers. It was even worse when I was forced to interact with my peers one on one; I had no experience with any of the things they talked about. I didn’t watch any of the TV they watched (I grew up without a TV), knew none of the music they talked about, and completely lacked any of the conversation skills necessary for making friends. Because I was homeschooled I had spent my entire life removed from the social circle of my new classmates. I was a smart kid. I got As in every subject and my teachers adored me (I was polite, worked hard and handed in my assignments on time. What’s not to like?), but I couldn’t carry on a conversation with anyone my age.

It was especially difficult with girls. I wasn’t the typical girl anyway (I was a tomboyish nerd more interested in horses than boys), but I found the subtlety of the social interaction of girls to be really tough … I couldn’t even say hello to people in the morning. I remember a girl who would walk into art class every morning during my grade 10 year, cheerfully saying hello to the boy she sat beside, then talking to him easily. I marveled at how she could do that, just talk to someone. I wished I could do it. But I had no idea how to.

I feel the ultimate problem with homeschooling is that it removes you from the realities of dealing with people. I really like people. I’m not some hermit out hiding in a shack somewhere; I love hanging out with friends and crave social interaction. But there are some skills (like basic conversation, if you can believe that) that took me ages to learn how to do properly, and I was long out of high school before I learned them. School is not only about learning, grades and all that education stuff, it’s also about dealing with the ups and downs of being a part of society, of constantly dealing with people, which you will have to do as you move into adulthood and beyond. Even now, I often get very stressed in social situations, as I worry about not knowing how it actually works, this interacting with my peers. I do really love being with people, though, so I try and overcome it. I’ve even learned to speak in public! … that was a big step, and one I’m very happy I made.

In the end I did manage to eventually find some semblance of a social circle in high school. My final year there I painted the sets for the school plays, a couple of them if I remember properly. We went to the Sears Drama Festival, and I got to run around onstage setting up everything in exactly 10 minutes (the whole thing was timed because it was a competition. I got very good at scurrying around, pushing large wooden blocks into place).  Of course, the only reason I was included in that drama group was because one of my brothers turned out to be very good at the musical theatre thing, and high school play productions are often short of decent male actors. So he got to be the star of the show, and I got to paint sets and eventually even have conversations with my classmates. It was nice. So for a little while during my last year in high school, I got to feel like a human being.

I don’t mean this essay to be a condemnation of homeschooling. It’s really not. I have very fond memories of homeschooling, of the hours I spent reading and writing, and I don’t think I would be as enamored with storytelling (and becoming a storyteller) if I hadn’t been homeschooled. It has shaped me into the person I am today, so I can’t dismiss it. But those early years in high school, feeling completely disassociated from my peers, unable to even make simple conversation with them … the social issue is potentially a big problem with homeschooling, and one that doesn’t seem to get mentioned very often.

The stresses that Maggie goes through on her first day, and this particular moment, when she doesn’t quite understand the awkwardness between two boys, is very much my experience. A few readers have kindly dropped by to say the comic has been similar to their own experiences moving from homeschooling to the public school system. Maggie did better than I did. I hope you all did too.

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27 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Contest is only open to the US :(

  2. Paul Rose says:

    Heavy…

  3. CLR says:

    I wasn’t homeschooled, but my family moved a lot and I wound up in a new town in the middle of junior high after being out of the country for a year. I totally had the same socially inadequate vibes going on.

  4. Wai-Jing says:

    This sounds a lot like my own experience – social awkwardness, lack of common ground with peers, no conversation skills, check check and check – and I wasn’t even home-schooled!

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Oh dear. ^^ Did you eventually find people you were comfortable talking to? I always feel like there’s two versions of social me: the talkative opinionated one who comes out when I’m around people I’m comfortable with, and the shy quiet one that’s around strangers.

      • Wai-Jing says:

        Ha yeah I’m kinda like that too!

        It comes and goes. I had a few tough times at high school – not really bad, but bad enough, and they left me with social anxiety. On a good day, I can be the life of the party, but I’ve always been a shy person, so I often retreat within myself. Let’s face it – people can be scary, and even the most comfortable social butterfly always has something they can still learn about dealing with others. I just try to push myself to deal with social interactions, even when I’m not 100% comfortable. I can’t hide from the world forever! I think I’ll always suck at small talk though – I’m hopeless!

        I’m okay with just being how I am – not everyone in the room can be a loud-mouth! I like to think I add to the social diversity. People seem to like me because I’m such a good listener – my friends and family think of me as the resident therapist :P

  5. Tim says:

    It is good to read this comic online as it is tough to get comics in some places especially from abroad (for example, in Russia, where I live).
    I’ve had similar problems with my classmates as you describe here, though I haven’t been homeschooled. I’ve just changed schools often. And getting used to new stuff, new people around you was always difficult and even uncomfortable.
    However, I can’t create a comic based on my experience, so here you win :)
    Forgot to mention – your comic is great and realy nice to read!

  6. Cam says:

    I was homeschooled, and I was pretty anti-social as a teen, but reading your “rant” there I realized I wasn’t too socially backward after all. I guess this is because I was always around my peers at church and stuff, I didn’t just stay at home all the time. I think homeschooling can be really great, but you do have to find other social opportunities so you DO learn how to talk too non-family-members. :)

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yeah, I think that’s the key, getting in enough social time outside of your family. I suspect (this is just me talking) that gender may also have something to do with whether or not you can integrate into social groups once you get to public school: my brothers, although they had their issues with high school, didn’t have the same level of social problems I did, and managed to crack their way into social groups and even have things like girlfriends and popularity in high school. I’m not really sure why they did so much better than I do, but I do wonder about the gender thing. There’s a lot more subtlety in female social groups, whereas male social groups seem to focus much more on a common thread (ie, bonding over sports/hobbies). It’s something I wish someone would do a study on…

      Anyway, I think homeschooling is a wonderful way to learn, and I don’t think kids burn out on it the way they burn out on public school, but I wish the social problems that arise from being taught at home were addressed a little more … thus, this essay! :)

  7. Tara says:

    Whew! I had a hard time with being social and I wasn’t home schooled, just really shy, and particularly had a problem with getting along with girls. I got along better with boys but I didn’t really date anyone until college–I had that awesome androgynous thing that ALL the boys loved. /sarcasm

    I also painted sets for the school plays, that was probably my only school activity, and being covered in paint most of the time didn’t really draw the crowds.

    Anyway, :) really enjoying the comic so far–especially the page-a-day, it’s really inspirational, makes me want to keep drawing comics!

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Thank you! Haha, I didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was 21. ^^ And then didn’t have my 2nd until 8 years later. Wow I am glad that dry spell is over! ;) I was always friendly with boys & had a couple of close male friends, but as romantic partners they were really hard to crack. Not that I didn’t try … repeatedly. ;)

  8. Lightlybow says:

    Faith, I just read Brain Camp and Chiggers and really enjoyed them. As an aspiring webcomic artist myself, I was very excited to see your new Friends with Boys project! Any process-related tidbits you might care to add in your posts would be much appreciated. :)

  9. Kat says:

    My brother’s kids and all of my godchildren are being home-schooled, I think the system has become much more sophisticated as more people catch on to the benefits, which are many – my brother’s kids are just the best kids in the world and I know home-schooling had a lot to do with it.

    But once a week they go to “Home-school Co-op” and have group classes with other home-school kids, so that along with church helps them socially. That kind of thing doesn’t seem to have been around 10 years ago.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Homeschooling, if done right, does produce awesome kids! It’s the ultimate investment in your kid, both through the hours spent with them, and the financial investment (I’m assuming that at least one parent remains at home to do the teaching, as was the case for me. Thus, the family is single income…). We had a homeschooling co-op when I was being homeschooled, but unfortunately there were no girls my age (a couple of boys close to my age, but they were more my brother’s friends), so it didn’t end up being as social as I needed. I still feel, even with things like co-ops and church and all the other social things one does as a kid (sports, girl guides, etc), homeschooled kids end up being short shifted when it comes to the social aspect, simply because even with all those social events, you’re just not exposed to the same level of social interaction as you would be in public school. Again, these are comments based on my own (and my brothers’) experiences, so if you disagree, you’re welcome to. :)

  10. staticgirl says:

    tbh I think it’s more about how socialised you are in your early years. I had all the social anxieties you describe and worse and I was public schooled all the way. However, my mother is intensely shy and I think that transferred over during my toddler years.

    Still our life experiences give us so much food for our creative endeavours don’t they. :)

    This is a great comic – lovely characters that you really care for already and I love the facial expressions and body language you draw. Great backgrounds too.

  11. Emily says:

    I’ve just started college, and my new friend is very much like that. She was homeschooled through high school, and you can tell she’s really shy. She doesn’t like to meet anyone new, and won’t partner up with anyone but me and a couple other people. She won’t stay in dorm on the weekend either to socialize.
    I don’t think it’s bad, but I see the same thing you described in her.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yeah, that was definitely me at the early stages of college. Fortunately I did find friends who were okay with my social awkwardness, and now I feel I’ve grown out of some of my shyness (now I like being around people/going out). Hopefully your friend will too!

  12. Anne says:

    Interesting insights. I’ll admit I don’t know much about homeschooling, but most of what I’ve read on the matter seems to be from angry and defensive parents who assume you’re criticizing them when you aren’t. You don’t hear much from the actual kids about their experiences.

    “It was especially difficult with girls. I wasn’t the typical girl anyway (I was a tomboyish nerd more interested in horses than boys), but I found the subtlety of the social interaction of girls to be really tough … I couldn’t even say hello to people in the morning. I remember a girl who would walk into art class every morning during my grade 10 year, cheerfully saying hello to the boy she sat beside, then talking to him easily. I marveled at how she could do that, just talk to someone. I wished I could do it. But I had no idea how to.”

    Heh, this was me exactly (still is really) and I was state-schooled all my life, as with other commenters. I guess some of us are just born awkward. :]

  13. Lea says:

    I’ve been trying and trying to write a comment, because this means a lot to me, but I get too upset and write a massive rant. Basically: I wish SO MUCH that I had been homeschooled, because school did absolutely nothing for me other than ruin my social skills, my confidence, and my interest in learning. I am so glad that those years are far behind me. My younger sister is lucky enough to be homeschooled, and she is so confident and talented. Education isn’t one-size-fits-all.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      You’re right, it isn’t. But this book is based on my experiences, and what I found is that homeschooling was problematic for me, socially. Others may disagree (as you do), and feel that homeschooling would have been a better option for them than public school. Which is perfectly fine, of course. Our experiences differ.

      I’ve had a couple of people get upset at me because they feel I am criticizing homeschooling. I realize that people who homeschool or had a bad experience with public school and wish they had been homeschooled have strong opinions on that, but again, let me stress: this comic is based on MY experiences. I can only write about what I went through as an ex-homeschooler. It is not a reflection on homeschooling in general, nor is it a condemnation. It is my personal experience.

  14. Abby says:

    This is such an interesting thread! I was homeschooling my kids until last year and then I decided to send them to “real” school. It’s really interesting to me to see how opinionated everyone is on the subject! Lots to think about.

  15. Drake Hunter says:

    It probably depends on the person. In my family, child 1 (me) can’t talk to people without shaking, while 2 and 3 have about a thousand friends and are always going places. 4, 5, 6, and 7 are a little more reserved than maybe they would be otherwise but still have plenty of friends, and though 8, 9, and 10 mostly stick together, there are definitely some littles they like to play with. None of us have ever been to public or private school, though 2 is going to community college now. (And getting married in a month or so. Still not quite used to the idea of that.)

  16. Nick Perkins says:

    My oldest son has Asperger’s syndrome and spent about 3 years being home schooled. Now he’s in middle school and it’s so far kind of a rough transition.

    I am totally loving this story so far! So glad I discovered your work!

  17. MC says:

    Woo, Sears and the 10 minute timer! yeah, we did that too with my school at Stratford – I wrote the music with a friend for our mini musical, and we had to set up the computer and sound system in that chunk of time – scary! I remember the computer crashing 3 minutes into it – aaaa!

    I was also one of those girls that hid away in the corners for lack of TV and different music tastes despite having gone to public school all my life, but projects and groups like that were what gradually got me to meet those others who were, well, basically “the others”. Best group of people I could ever meet. Now if I ever see someone that’s slightly outside a group, it’s almost guaranteed they’re super awesome because they have something new and different to offer, so I always beeline for them. That’s basically how I met some of my closest friends.

  18. kat says:

    You’re pretty much exactly describing my experience with socialization and public school. Only I did it backwards: I was homeschooled from seventh grade on. Public school, and the feeling that everyone else had hold of some code of social interaction from which I was excluded, came first. :P In my case I think it had to do somewhat with being a very bright kid who was used to socializing mostly with adults out of school. Trying to talk to my “peers” was thus pretty awkward. It didn’t help that my school basically sucked; it was too small to have more than one social clique (to which I did not belong) and I was discouraged and to an extent disciplined for seeking out people I was comfortable with (boys, and kids a grade or two ahead of me) because that was seen as “weird”.

    Then I graduated, went to college, and had to deal with the awkwardness all over again… only I was older, thicker-skinned, and basically a lot more ready for the whole mess than I had been at ten. But yeah. Wincing sympathetically through a lot of this comic. Oy.

    (I am loving the comic, by the way, and in no way trying to criticize. Just comparing your experience and Maggie’s with mine. I don’t run across a great many other homeschoolers so it’s always fun to mentally compare notes… especially since I have a kidlet of my own now and will be making the school decision for her All Too Soon.)

  19. Dave says:

    I found your comics last week through Mike Holmes, and I found his the same day as yours through Gemma Correll. I read through SHG, and now I’m going through FWB, and I’m enjoying it a lot.

    I too can relate to feeling socially awkward. I wasn’t home schooled, but I did move around a lot through out grade school. I had a girlfriend briefly when I was 18, but had to wait 13 years after that to meet my current girlfriend. I’m actually glad now that I had to wait because we get along together perfectly, more so than anyone else I’ve ever met. She was home schooled until going into public high school as well.

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Friends With Boys, webcomic edition!

Hello readers, new ones just discovering the comic and those who’ve been with it since the beginning. Friends With Boys is now complete online. You may read it in its entirety, all 200+ pages, for free, for the next eight days. Then the image files of the comic (except for a short preview) will be taken down. While the comic was being serialized online, I blogged a lot about my comic making process. I did write ups about how I make comics, what my opinions on what makes a good comic are, and pointed out various Easter eggs throughout Friends With Boys. That stuff will all remain up, so if you buy a hard copy of Friends With Boys, you can still read along with my thought process.

And now (today!), Friends With Boys is a published book! Yay! I hope that if you’ve read the web version and liked it, and want to support me as a creator, you’ll consider buying the book.

I’ve really enjoyed serializing Friends With Boys online. If you’re new to my work, I started out making comics online before moving into print. I posted the very first page of my very first online comic on my very first website back in August, 1999, and wow, was that page ugly. Here it is! Notice a weird similarity to the first page of Friends With Boys? Yeah, that was not deliberate, I promise. But look how much your drawing skills can improve if you draw thousands of pages of comics over a ten year period! Anyway, I’m really thrilled my wonderful publisher First Second Books has allowed me to return to my roots and put Friends With Boys online as a lead up to its publication. As a reader and purchaser of comics, I have bought quite a few hard copy versions of online comics, because I enjoy the reading experience of having the whole thing collected, and I want to support the author. I hope you will too. :)

Otherwise, there are a few upcoming events I hope to see some readers at:
Book signing! At my local comics shop Strange Adventures, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 3rd (Saturday), 2-4pm (EDITING TO ADD: The book launch has been moved to the following Saturday due to the books not shipping to Strange Adventures on time. The launch will now be March 10th from 2-4pm. Go here for info).
Comic convention! I’ll have a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 6th-7th. There are a few other conventions I am trying to attend, but everything else is up in the air at the moment. For updates, please follow my twitter or join my Facebook fan page.  I’m pretty good about updating those two spots.


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