Thursday, November 18, 2010

The "S" Word: Socialization

I have heard homeschoolers tell of the uncomfortable questions about socialization, but I had never really experienced that much of it.  Most people do ask about how we get it, but no one ever assumes they don't get it.  Most of the time they are just asking the question becasue of the misinformation they have been given and I am happy to clarify how homeschool socialization is actually far superior to public school socialization. A couple of weeks ago I had to attend a funeral for a great-aunt. After the visitation some of our family went out to eat dinner. I sat next to a cousin I don’t often visit with. She is a very nice woman, lots of fun as far as I can tell. It came up that we homeschool our children. She leaned in close, shielded her mouth with her hand, and whispered “But what about socialization?” It was as if she was cursing without regard to my children’s presence. However the “S” word was just too much for their innocent ears to hear.

I told her, without regard to my children hearing, that we do a lot of socializing through church, sports, and clubs. The children get as much socialization as is good for them. I also mentioned that unlike school, I can control the socializing. I told her that homeschool isn’t like it used to be when homeschoolers were relative shut-ins. (Was it ever really like that? I don’t know.) Overall, I didn’t do the argument justice, but I just wasn’t in the mood to explain basic child sociology to her.

She seemed to be relatively understanding after I explained it to her, but she obviously had more on her mind she wanted to say but didn’t. It wasn’t really the time or place to go too deep into the subject. However, it just keeps popping back into my mind, the way she said it as if it were a dirty word. I think it was probably innocent enough, but what possessed her to behave that way? Has she heard stories about homeschoolers being backwards? Has she heard something about my children specifically? Now I am getting all weirded out by it.

I am coming to the conclusion that non-homeschoolers look at us, hear our opinions on education and socialization, and assume that we are criticizing them personally. Instead of them hearing, “My child wasn’t learning good social behavior, she was learning to follow the crowd,” they hear “Your child is one of the ones who were leading my child astray” or “You are doing a disservice to your children by not homeschooling them.” In reality, I could care less whether other people homeschool or not just as long as they do not take my right to homeschool away. I do believe that most families could benefit from homeschooling, and that society in general could benefit from more homeschooled children. However, my job right now isn’t to change the world—it is to prepare my children to live in but remain separate from the world. Sending my children to public school was working in conflict with that goal, but that is only in reflection.

I feel the need to clarify…again…why we homeschool.

Our decision to homeschool had more to do with academics and less to do with the social aspects of school. We could see that there were going to be some problems in the future, but overall, the children our daughter went to school with were mostly good kids. We were having issues with institutional learning in general. They were not able to address our child’s needs without making her feel like she was not as intelligent or that there was something wrong with her. We felt we could address her academic needs in less time, with less hassle, and more effectively than they could, plus we were in a position to do so. We were right!

School became her god. I haven’t been able to put that into words until now, but that is exactly what it was like. Her life revolved around school completely. When she got home she had homework to do, a lot of homework, too much homework for a second grader who just spent 9 hours away from home (one hour bus ride to and from although we only live about 7 minutes from school). She was usually very tired and had a hard time focusing. She behaved for the teacher better than she behaved for me. She wanted to be with her school friends more than she desired to be with family and other friends. She was socialized, all right – socialized to function in school only. School invaded our family time through after-school functions and homework. School not only was her god, but it was becoming our whole family’s god. We had to schedule every aspect of our life around school. My husband’s work interfered less with our home life than school did. However, even knowing this, it was very low on our reasons for homeschooling because we were still stuck in the mainstream mindset that accepts public school as a god. I knew I didn’t like it, but I just accepted it as the way it was.

My husband and I simply decided to reject that model. Call us rebels, anti-establishment, or whatever. We have a saying around our house: If it doesn’t work, don’t participate in it. Life is too short to waste time on things that don’t work. From everything I have observed institutionalized learning doesn’t work in the long term, and often in the short term. You have seen the news reports so I won’t go into great detail here, but our school system is ranked very low in math and science, our children are killing one another in those schools, and they can’t even answer basic history facts that are crucial to understand if the American dream is to stay alive. That isn’t “working”, it is failing. What about how the American family is so dysfunctional that we call dysfunctional normal now? Our children spend the better part of their day in school. Why don’t we look at that model and question whether or not is at least partially responsible for these problems?

Why would I continue to participate? Somebody explain to me why it is good to keep supporting a system like that?

“OH, but the children! What will they do all day long if we didn’t have public school?”

Get a job! Work on the farm! Learn at home! That is significantly more productive than what they are doing now.

Are homeschoolers judging? YES! We are judging that we don’t want to participate in that system any more. Does that mean we think we are smarter than my cousin who asked about socialization? Maybe, maybe not. What we ARE is willing to reject what doesn’t work in our lives. Why does it have to be any more than that?

How many kids do you know that come out of public school being totally socially retarded (this probably isn’t PC)? Why is it that if they aren’t social butterflies that that means they are less than those who are? If you are a Christian you will love them regardless of whether they know how to appropriately schmooze. You will see the beauty of their soul and be thankful society hasn’t ruined them yet.

In our culture we spend entirely too much energy judging people on their social potential. That is what this comes down to, doesn’t it? If they aren’t socially gifted, regardless of how smart they are, or how good of a person they are, they won’t be able to live an upper middle class life, or maybe they won’t have beautiful friends, or maybe they might marry someone ugly. Who the heck cares? How about this? You worry about your family; you work on preparing your children to be Godly wives, husbands, and parents and I will do the same for mine. When you have it all figured out, write a book.

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