Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The One With the Most Extracurriculuar Activities Isn't Socialized

When homeschoolers are asked the notorious question, “What about socialization,” they usually have a list of extracurricular activities that their children participate in.  “Johnny plays baseball in the spring, soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, takes piano year round, goes to youth Bible study every Wednesday night, takes co-op classes once a week, and goes on numerous fieldtrips each semester.”  Wow!  That’s an impressive list! It will certainly shut up any doubtful friends or family.  But it leaves me wondering, when does he really have time to socialize? 
Does Johnny get to ever hang out with his friends without an agenda?  Does Johnny ever have time to visit his grandma in the nursing home?  Does he have time to make new friends on his own?  Does he get to spend time with cousins?  How much time does he even get to spend with his mom, dad, or siblings, that doesn’t involve rushing somewhere or stuffy food down his gullet so he can get to the next event? 

Homeschoolers can fall into the same trap as any other family.  We can fall prey to the world of busyness.  We think we are checking off that socialization check box or maybe some academic or extracurricular check box, but as the saying goes, too much of one thing isn’t good.  In this case, too much time spent in extracurricular activities creates a life of superficial relationships. 

We’ve been there, done that.  We experienced that kind of lifestyle while our first daughter was still in public school, and continued that lifestyle after we began homeschooling because we were under pressure to check off the box that said “socialized”.  We tried to balance that kind of life with 3 children.  When we were finally overwhelmed and not able to keep up with the schedule, we wiped the schedule and started fresh.

We did a huge disservice to our daughter by enrolling her in these kinds of activities with the purpose of socialization.  I am not saying extracurricular activities can’t be beneficial, nor am I saying they shouldn’t be a part of your homeschool.  What I am saying is don’t participate in them with the sole purpose of socializing.  
True socialization is a set of skills that helps us build relationships. Without giving a dissertation on the word, let me just point out that there are different kinds of socializing that we need to prepare our children for. When the spot light is on homeschool they seem to mean cooperative skills like what you might learn in a classroom, playing sports, or scouting. However, that is only one spectrum of socialization. 
In our culture we often overlook three very important socialization skill sets: obedience, service, and intimacy (the emotional kind).  These social skills get squeezed out because there is just not enough time in the day to address them when your kids are in school all day and then have a full evening of activities and a weekend full of events.  Many people would say that they can tell a homeschool family from a mile away and that is because generally speaking they are so much more well behaved.  This is simply because parents have time to address these three skill sets, particularly obedience. They often have to out of necessity or they would never get anything done and have a miserable time homeschooling. 
My disclaimer: not all homeschoolers have well behaved children. It just happens to be more true than not.
I really could spend another hour writing on this subject, but what would I have left to write about tomorrow? One last thing I will leave you with...

The most basic socialization skill that everyone should learn to lead a productive life is this
Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31.
Every socialization lesson should be based in this command.  If it isn't, you are teaching your children to manipulate or be manipulated, not to socialize.  God's word will not return void.


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