Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bad Words of Homeschooling: Part 1

This little series (at this point it will be 6 parts) was prompted by a text conversation I had with one of my best friends this week.  It went something like this....

Friend:  "Are you 33 yet?"
Me:  "Thank you so much.  I turn 34 in a couple weeks."
Friend:  "I don't even know how we are even friends then since we aren't the EXACT same age"
Me:  "I know.  It is amazing I can tolerate your unbelievable immaturity!  So, what started this anyway?"
Friend: "I was talking to someone about homeschooling who is hesitant because of socialization and that there weren't any kids in the area EXACTLY her kids ages"  

(again this is my paraphrase of this converstation---if it is wrong my friend can correct me)

But it got me to thinking, there are several "bad words" that people use that make homeschoolers with ANY experience want to roll their eyes (at best) and figuratively smack some sense into the other person (at worst)

So, today I write about the first "bad word of homeschooling"  THE S WORD!  = socialization.  Oh, how I HATE that word.  First, in true school ma'am fashion lets define it.  

Definition of SOCIALIZE

transitive verb
: to make socialespecially : to fit or train for a social environment
a : to constitute on a socialistic basis <socialize industry>
b : to adapt to social needs or uses
: to organize group participation in <socialize a recitation>
intransitive verb
: to participate actively in a social group

So I'm not sure which of these definitions of the s word people are referring to specifically, but I'm going to guess it is the VERY last one :to participate actively in a social group.  And I'm going to address WHY this word used in this context (as well as some of the others) is frustrating, judgmental, and makes us want to scream.

First of all let me count the ways that my kids participate actively in a social group....just to put any nay-sayers doubts to rest.  This is MY family's list....and I think there are other families who are way more social than mine.  In short, I think you would be hard pressed to find a homeschool mom (with a year or more under her belt) that worries about socialization.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I think several of us worry that we won't be able to keep our homeschool schedule because of socialization.  Off the top of my head I can think of MANY MANY MANY instances of true and healthy socialization that my children experience regularly....
play with friends at homeschool play days....where kids from 5-15 (or older) may arrange, play, and referee their own game of kick ball and play without trouble.  I think one day this spring there were something like 40 kids there (very rough estimate)
momma play days....where a couple of my close friends come over (or we go there) to visit and/or sew and all 10 of our children play together despite the fact that their ages range from 4 months-11 years (admittedly the 4 month old doesn't get in on much of the action) - sometimes there are more ladies/kids and sometimes kids bring friends too.  And during the summer, we add public school kids to the mix.  We offer equal opportunity fun!  ;)
they order their own meals at restaurants interacting with waitresses and service staff.  they also chose, check out and pay for things they'd like to spend their money on working with the cashier (with my help) to get the correct change.
library days, organized field trips, lunch with daddy at his office, visiting with grandparents (and great grandma).  
Baseball, soccer, basketball camp, tai kwan do (we will be starting this soon). 
church and sunday school, Awana, VBS (at several different churches), church camp.
And the list goes on and on and on and on.  The biggest risk for us (and most families would agree I think) is buckling down and saying no to the many opportunities to socialize and getting school work done.  My children are able to socialize with people despite the fact that they aren't in the same grade or even classroom.  It matters not what anyone's name is or if they wear the "right clothes".  It also doesn't matter if they are public schooled, private schooled or homeschooled (although they are often frustrated with the rigidity of the public school schedule :)  )  My kids are incredibly social.

This question also raises the apparent thought that public school socialization is better and somehow more desirable for children.  I, most emphatically disagree (and I think most other homeschooling families would as well).  It implies that my child is awkward and without friends and they would be better off in a public school setting.  But is that true?  We all know of "that kid" who is mercilessly bullied or labeled (sometimes by staff) as the bad kid.  I ask if it is possible (or even likely) that my slightly aggressive, likely ADHD kid with sensory issues is at risk of being the target for such things.  And I'll answer and say I think it is not only a risk but likely.  He reacts to any little taunt and it is fun for some to get a rise out of him....until he gives them a bloody nose trying to defend himself.  (should have seen that one coming) The King was "that kid" as well.  Picked on relentlessly in school because he didn't come from the "right family" or wear the "right clothes."  We also want to protect them from becoming the bully.  We want to protect them from evolutionary science and safe sex talks.  We don't want them threatened on the school bus (and I've heard horror stories) or to learn language that would make a sailor blush.  We don't want them to feel like having a girlfriend in 3rd grade and sex in 8th grade is normal. (Disclaimer: Our oldest has had a couple "girlfriends" but since he has never spoken to any of them we think we're safe on that front-HA!)   These are not the social skills we want our children learning....ever.

So we keep them home, with us.  And we teach them, not only their studies but how to interact with people of all ages, backgrounds, and with all variety of experiences.  We try to teach them manners and respect (sometimes I feel that I am failing horribly at this but I love them so I keep at it-YIKES!)

We're the parents, that's our job.  And your job as parents is to do what is best for YOUR family.  Although it may seem as thought I am judging public school parents....I am NOT!  I am, however, judging what I believe to be a failing system.  As a homeschool parent, I feel judged often.  I sympathize with those who are struggling to help their children while in that system (and I think most homeschooling families do).  School should be a safe place where kids can learn....but sadly it isn't always that.  Because of this, the negative socialization found in an institution like public school is part of why many homeschoolers do not concern themselves with worry over it.  I see the struggles that so many post about on facebook. If the "s word" is a genuine roadblock to a family's choice to homeschool then PLEASE talk to a homeschool family.  Friend me on facebook and ask me as many genuine questions as you'd like.  I will answer them.  I can tell the difference between a genuine question and an attack disguised as a question. :)

I'm going to throw in ONE SHORT thought about the first definition (short only because I don't think this is the concern of most who hide an attack in this question)  The definition is :to fit or train for a social environment.  Quite frankly, I don't want my children to "Fit" into this world.  As a Christian, we believe that we are called to be set apart, that is different, from this world.  (Romans 12:2-read it here).  I am training them to "fit" into a Christ centered life, fitting in with Jesus...that's the kind of "fitting" I want my children to learn.  Not the kind that "Mr. Abercrombie" preaches or the kid on the school bus or the playground...but the kind that they will learn spending time in their Bibles and with other Christians.

One last thing, if your cousin's wife's next door neighbor was homeschooled and socially awkward and that is who you are basing your opinion on, then I'm sorry for you (and for that child).  There ARE socially awkward homeschooled kids.  There are also socially awkward public school kids.  And socially awkward adults.  It is a part of this world....and not exclusive to homeschooling.  So please don't judge all of us on account of the one socially awkward homeschooled person you know of. 
And although my texting friend from the initial conversation is not old enough to be in my class, I think I'll still let her come over and hang out.  :)

And for the record, most of us also have a rather well developed sense of humor (or we're going crazy-it's a fine line)....check this little bit by my good buddy Tim Hawkins and I'll prove it.  :)

I hope to address the next homeschool bad word next monday.....somebody remind me.  I might have trouble getting it done cause we're being very social this week.  :)

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