Thursday, March 28, 2013

In Which I Talk About Socialization

I home school. I have home schooled from the beginning, and I am addicted. I will home school my 4 children up through high school. Maybe I will even home school them through college (okay, maybe that is a little extreme). Here's the thing, though, homeschoolers have this stigma. There is this looming cloud over the homeschooling community that is just waiting to erupt from anyone who has not had a "regular" interaction with a homeschooling family. It is SOCIALIZATION.

I must preface my thoughts. This post is in no way a criticism of any of you; it is simply me sharing my thoughts on the negative comments homeschooling families receive about socialization. For those of you who home school, you know the question? The question that we balk at, the question that makes us secretly laugh at home (yes, we do laugh at this): what about their socialization? Well, you (an adult) just spent five minutes carrying on a very normal conversation with my 7 year old, and you are still asking me about socialization???

I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me that question. I understand....when we have no experience with something, we just accept the ideas that have either been fed to us or embrace our initial reactions with one particular person, rather than looking at the group as a whole. This can also happen on the flip side where homeschooling families have certain ideas about "public school children." But, I digress.

So, how do I answer that inevitable question. Do I list all the extra-curricular activities that my children do with other children, or do I list all the free-play dates that we have with other children, or do I list all the activities that my children do with adults, or do I list all the activities that my children do with the family, or do I list all the activities that my children do to service the community? That is one approach, but not the one I choose.

 Socialization does not come from activity. Socialization does not come from being contained in a room with 20 other children of the same age. True socialization is a process and is something we are constantly learning. To be a healthy "socialized" being, a child needs authentic relationships. These relationships can be with children of any age, or even adults. My children can sit down and have a meaningful conversation with adults but also play with children 3 years younger than they are. My children all have friends that are close in age, but they also have friends who are years younger or years older. I do not look for opportunities to "socialize" my children. I look for purpose-filled relationships. I look for opportunities to teach my children how to love and honor others. I use potential negative situations to teach them problem solving skills.

 Wikipedia tells me that socialization refers to "the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society. Socialization is thus ‘the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained.'"

It seems to me that this can be done pretty well at home. Sometimes I wonder if what people really want to ask is, "Are your kids normal?" But they choose the more "politically correct" route by asking about their socialization. Imagine if it were reversed, and I asked all of you who send your children to school (and this is how it has been said to me), "Well, my goodness, what do you DO about their socialization?" We do NOT lock ourselves in our homes, barring all windows, shutting out the rest of the world. Most of us are very regular, normal people who are very active in our communities. We simply choose to educate our children at home (for many different reasons).

For those of you who are already homeschooling and know what I am talking about...just respond with a polite, "Johnny, quick, run!!! Someone is trying to talk to us!"

For any of you considering homeschooling, please know that your child will be fine. Your child will get all the interaction that he/she needs especially if you are paying attention. Your child will grow up healthy, loved, eager, and as normal as any other child. I mean, they look normal to me....

Some very normal interaction with the cousins

And for those of you who don't home school, just don't ask. Assume that I am, just like you, making the best decision for our family, and that all of my children will most definitely grow up with flaws, quirks, and oddities but full of passion, honor, love, and a desire to learn.

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