Today, we’re travelling deep into the rural United States in search of that most elusive of education forms: homeschooling.  There are several different breeds, but there are several identifying characteristics that one can use to instantly pick out the most likely suspect from a lineup.

Universal Characteristics:

Academic achievement:  For anyone below high school level, ask if they’ve ever cried over a grade lower than an A.  For high school ages, lower this to a B (Not B-, B).  If the answer is yes, consider it a seventy-five percent probability that you’re observing a homeschooler.

Facebook:  Powerful tool.  If you’re lucky enough to gain access to the subject’s Facebook, you can ferret out most of their secrets in mere minutes of economical stalking.  For the average male, look for friend counts below one hundred.  Average female: below one-fifty.  That one carries fifty percent probability.  Correct grammar in status updates and all other aspects of the page gives you a seventy.  Using words that normal humans don’t see in a normal year — in correct context, mind you! — means a ninety-five percent chance that you’re dealing with a homeschooler.

Habitat:  A mile’s walk from their house will bring you to a cow herd and/or large, empty fields.  Suburban, and even urban homeschoolers are not unheard of, but a rural setting is the most common haunt.

Piano:  Do they/have they ever played the piano?  This one carries only a thirty percent clout with it, because piano lessons are common enough.  But if they’re in high school and they still play, that ups to fifty.

Creativity and/or Overachievement:  Does your subject have a propensity to write music, novels, or both?  Are they involved in ten thousand extracurricular activities — being the president of five thousand?  Homeschoolers are often known for their propensity to write or be musically gifted.  They are also known for their tendency to be insanely good at everything and go to colleges for brilliant people.  Usually you’ll run into either the novelist or the Mary Sue/Larry Stu you never thought existed until you went to a homeschooling convention and saw them getting out of the white minivans.  It’s somewhat rare to find both in one person, but not unheard of.  The just plain brainy homeschooler can be considered the norm, though there are isolated cases of homeschoolers with lots and lots of brains not belonging to either the creative or overachiever category,  but going rogue and becoming mad scientists.  Finished novel/song = sixty percent; Insane overachieving = seventy-five percent.

Once you’ve finished your preliminary investigations and are ready to swoop in for the kill, keep this in mind:  Homeschoolers are ready to defend alternative education to the death, and they have Thomas Jefferson quotes to help them.  Be very wary, as one of their possible reactions is to lunge for your throat upon any suggestion that “public schoolers” (The natural enemy of the homeschooler) are in any way superior.  The other common reaction is:  “Yah, I’m homeschooled.  Yes, I totally wear my pajamas all day.”

This is how the average homeschoolers see themselves:

Because, yes, we rock.

Use this handy guide to help you identify the person you always want on your side.