Friends With Boys - Page 51


So a little while ago I came down rather hard on what I think it a huge issue with homeschooling (the socialization aspect). Now I want to bring up something that I think homeschooling does very well, which is allowing kids to be creative. Again, these are my opinions based on my own experiences as a homeschooled kid, so milage may vary.

As a homeschooled kid, I had a lot of time on my hands. While I had schooling assignments and homework and projects to do, my schooling wasn’t structured the way public school was (one HUGE difference: no tests!), so I seemed to have more hours in the day than the average 5th grader. Also, my parents were Luddites. I kid, but only slightly. While I grew up in a very ordinary suburb of  Ontario (technically in the Greater Toronto Area, although when I lived in this particular town, it was a proper small town, and not yet a suburb of Toronto), I lived in a house that had no television, no game consoles and no other electronic toys of any kind, which was a shock to everyone I revealed that information to. My entertainment was books and the library, which I absolutely loved (sidebar: I remember once being punished by being “grounded” from the library for a week. My parents decided a month’s grounding was too harsh).

So, combined with the abundance of free time, total lack of electronic toys, and hours that were different from local playmates, I had a pretty boring childhood. I was constantly bored. Once I remember lying face down in my parents’ living room willing a long Monday to be over with because Monday was the one day the library was closed and there was nothing to do and I was SO BORED.

The thing is, boredom is actually pretty great for creativity. Having a lot of time on my hands and not a lot of distractions meant I did lot on my own to entertain myself, things I probably wouldn’t have done if I’d had a television, game console or a regular 8-3 school day. Mostly, I made up stories. Epic stories. Stories that I knew I would someday write and would be beloved by children like myself the world over! I would be friends with CS Lewis (who was dead), Lloyd Alexander (who was not yet dead … sigh) and other badass authors! We would hang out and go on adventures together!

My favourite story was an incredibly long science fiction epic about an alien planet called Adron, which just happened to be home to things like flying unicorns, flying dogs (one of whom looked suspiciously like my own dog), an incredibly evil race of … uh, evil things called Dark Ones (wow, original) who wanted to destroy the world or something, and a heroic girl who saved the day with her very own army of flying unicorns and dogs.

EPIC.  I had about five books planned out. At the very end of the series Canada and Russia team up with Adron to take down the bad guys. It was … well, crazy. (Another favorite story: after seeing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for the first time, I wrote up an especially epic story about how a girl on the Canadian Showjumping Team saved the Olympics from Nazis. I guess these were time travelling Nazis or something, as the fact that there hadn’t been Nazis for about 50 years kind of escaped me.)

Yeah, I was no child prodigy. I didn’t write an amazing young adult novel, sell it for millions and become a published author by the age of 16, but I still did what most kids just don’t get the chance to: I made up my own original (well, except for the Nazis) worlds and told stories about them.

The structure (or lack thereof), of homeschooling gave me the enviroment I needed to become enamoured with storytelling at a very young age.  It also gave me an environment where I had the ability to self-start, although I was pretty bad at finishing the stories I started. I haven’t drawn all my life, but I’ve always had a million stories brewing in my head. This has lead to a life long love of writing , reading and movies, and pushed me into learning what I feel is one of the greatest storytelling mediums of all time: comics. I don’t think I would have the love of narrative that I do without that very boring homeschooled childhood.

I don’t mean this to come off as some kind of screed against electronic things, by the way. I love the internet, I love video games, and I love this laptop I’m currently typing on. But I think it’s very important that in our busy lives we find the time to be bored, to switch off the things that entertain us (and I do looooved to be entertained. Staring blankly at the internet is one of my favourite things to do after a long day of drawing comics) and create. I personally think it’s extra important for kids. Although I grew up without the pop cultural touchstones of my peers (something that caused me problems when I entered high school, as I mentioned before), I had an understanding of the importance and value of creating my own personal narratives.  And now I make my living from telling stories. It’s kind of neat how that worked out.

My feelings towards homeschooling are still ambivalent. I wish it hadn’t caused me so many social problems, but I credit it with giving me the foundation I needed to become a reader, writer, artist and real live comic book creator.

(Oh, and would you like to see a (somewhat) recent drawing of the main character from my epic science fiction unicorn story? Here she is. Fight those evil blobs!)


14 Responses

  1. Bettina says:

    Interesting thoughts on homeschool. I went to public school K-12 and always assumed my kids would too. But over time I realized what a massive waste of time most school was and that kids overall had gotten worse. When my oldest became the age of Kindergarten, he was NOT ready for 6-7 hours of classroom time (doesn’t help that his b-day is Oct). So I plunged into homeschooling. Mostly, I want to say how different things are today with the internet. Honestly I don’t know how people functioned without the ability to search for curriculum, find print-outs, and most important – find social groups. Oldest is now starting 2nd grade and he loves school. It takes us about 2 hours a day and I love the little man he is becoming. Of course we don’t ban computers(we have 5)/tv/video games and they hang out with kids who do go to school, and we don’t homeschool for religious reasons, so – so far – they seem to be quite well-adjusted, except smarter ;)

  2. Manuel says:

    Hi! new reader here, i really like the comic so far, and i love the fact that we can read the autor’s thoughts and experiences, its really cool.

    Sorry about my english, I’m from Argentina (a country in South America)

    • Neto says:

      Your english is pretty good!

      I’m from Guatemala, but I can totally relate with the author’s experience on being homeschooled in Canada. Her written thoughts triggered my own reflections and memories :)

  3. Kat says:

    I think you’re right about creativity and homeschooling, although I went to public school and still spent most of my time at the library – I read a book a day all the way from grade school through high school. My brother’s kids are way more inventive in their play than most kids their age, and they do have WAY more free time.

    The other thing I love is that even though the eldest is 17 and the youngest is 9, the kids still play together (although the 17-year-old has been going through some of that natural distancing thing they do). Sometimes I go over to the house and find four different Playmobil “cities” in the living/dining room, and hear about the complex social interactions between them…

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Oh man, I loved Playmobil. I’ve no idea why it was so awesome, but those little guys … amazing! Super expensive, tho, so I never had as much as I wanted. It seems to be the default toy for a certain type of kid. ;)

      • Kat says:

        That was us with the Star Wars toys when I was a kid – they were SO AWESOME but we couldn’t afford them. Fortunately the neighbor kids had a doctor for a dad and were trained to share. I don’t know that we owned any Playmobil ourselves, either, come to think of it.

  4. Kat says:

    P.S. It was a long, hard weekend waiting for the next installment after the cliffhanger on Friday. Wouldn’t you like to post pages on the weekends? C’mon, sure you would.

  5. Cynthia says:

    I kind of think that generally being isolated from your peers, I wasn’t homeschooled so I can’t really do a comparison. But I went to public school from K-12, but I didn’t connect well with a lot of kids my age from a young age. I didn’t have many friends that I could really connect with so consequently much of my free time at recesses and lunch breaks was spent reading books and in the library or making up stories and drawing.

    I would definitely agree that not having ready access to electronics probably forced me to be more creative. My brother and I were allowed only an hour a day of TV, but we had gotten so used to not having it that we really almost never watched it all.

  6. […] Friends with Boys is the other comic I recently checked out. This webcomic is about a girl and her three brothers who were home schooled  until high school where they were sent to public school, following the departure of their mother. The weird sci/fi bent is the main character is followed around by a ghost. This comic has great inking and backgrounds and is slowly building up to something awesome, I hope. I was intrigued because of the home school bent, having been home schooled myself. Check out the webcomic here. […]

  7. staticgirl says:

    Ha ha. You’ve just described growing up in the 70s in the UK. We didn’t even have daytime TV. :D

    I bet homeschoolers save a lot of time simply not commuting too!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for sharing your comic and your thoughts about homeschooling. I am homeschooling my kids and we have plenty of creative juices flowing, even with all the video games and TV still in the house (my hubby is a game programmer so that stuff will always be around.). Especially my daughter, she has also created many different universes (complete with character handbooks.)She is a very creative, sensitive, shy type desperate for friends. I’ve tried so hard to find friends for her but even the homeschooling families we know are too busy with activities to find time to cultivate a strong friendship. It’s frustrating. Right now, she literally is friends with more boys than girls as they have more similar interests (Legos, Star Wars, video games, superheroes) but I don’t know how long that can last as she gets older. I hope she can eventually find a girl friend who likes the same things but until then she has her nerdy mom who loves her stories. ^_^;

    • Drake Hunter says:

      Wow, that is so cool. Your description of your daughter reminds me of my little sister, Kid Number Four. She loves writing stories, playing video games, and watching mainly Doctor Who, but also Star Wars, Star Trek, Invader Zim, etc. It’d be great if she had a friend who wouldn’t go stiff with boredom when she pulls out her latest sci-fi/fantasy notebook… :P

  9. kat says:

    Hah. Yeah, I did that too. The only difference was that I had a younger brother I involved in all my stories (willingly or otherwise — though he did eventually go on strike from playing Queen of the Winged Unicorns, as I recall, on the grounds that he was Never Queen) and, as my parents were farming, I had a lot of acres to do it on, and so was rarely bored. That, and my mother treated the phrase “I’m bored” as “I would like to do lots of housework now!”, which cut down on use of the word, at least….

  10. Wynne says:

    Hmmm… I never did any homeschooling, so I can’t compare it to public education, but the boredom fostering creativity makes a TON of sense in hindsight. My TV viewing was generally limited to PBS and we never had video games, so much reading and daydreaming was to be had.

    My play worlds weren’t quite as epic or as thought out as yours, but man did they have continuity. I actually wrote down my beanie babies’ societal structure, and I can still remember all the ‘canon’ relationships between the members of my massive happy meal-esque toy collection, who was friends with who. And my friends and I definitely came up with plenty of intergalactic battles to fight on the playground, even if the games usually went by the descriptive title of “War.”

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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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