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Monday, October 6, 2008

Rambling thoughts on socialization

There are a few things you always hear as a homeschooler.

One of them is, "I just don't think I could DO that. My child is ___________ (fill in the blank with any adjective you like...gifted, impossible, lazy, a dreamer, too smart, you get the idea). And I just don't have the _____________ (intelligence, patience, enthusiasm, dedication, diligence) to meet their needs." Those are people I usually don't even try to respond to, because they've already decided the matter, and nothing I say is going to convince them that my child(ren) can be every bit as gifted/impossible/lazy/dreamy/smart/smart-aleky etc. as theirs and NO, I did not get the superhuman gene for intelligence/patience/enthusiasm/dedication/diligence...I just am doing my best to do what God has called me to do, and I am fairly certain there is not a teacher on earth who will love/care about/invest in/understand/prod/be patient with/and sometimes want to throttle my child(ren) nearly as much as I do. Nor did any teacher on earth get the super human gene for intelligence/patience/enthusiasm/dedication/diligence EITHER, and certainly not enough to meet the needs of an entire class full of children better than I can do for my four. Which is not to say it is evil or wrong for people to send their children to a "building" school, but is to say that this decision is about me being obedient to God, and His desires for our family, not my desires to sit around in a totally clean house eating bon-bons. (Ok, I confess even if I stayed home all day WITHOUT my kids here, my house would not ever be totally clean...that is NOT one of my God given talents.)

But that's not even what I wanted to blog about.

Today, it's about socialization.

For some reason, the other thing people ALWAYS ask about is, "Well, aren't you worried about socialization?" So I thought I'd share a snapshot of our week.

Let's start with last Thursday, when we took advantage of a beautiful fall day and after a morning appointment with an oral surgeon for Scott (no, we don't need a note for school, we homeschool, :-), we decided at the spur of the moment to head to Sea World. We got down there around 1:30, and the park was blissfully not crowded (the advantage to being able to go any time you want). We did one ride, and then as we were walking to our next destination, my son TJ said, "Hey, there's my friend." And sure enough, there was another family from our homeschool group that we had just seen the afternoon before at a library program. This family we don't know very well, but my kids instantly assimilated their family into our experience, and for the rest of the afternoon we spent more time together than not. No problems moving from the acquaintance stage to the friend stage, the kids just picked up with them like they've known them all their lives. We said our good-byes as the park closed, and then went to dinner...at IKEA. My youngest 3 BEGGED to go into the childcare (Please mommy, it's so much fun!) and they played just great with all the other kids there while Scott and I took advantage of some unplanned shopping. He helped me get what we needed, and then stayed with the stuff as I pulled up the car, and stayed with the car when I got his siblings.
On Friday, we did schoolwork in the morning, and then headed to the park for our weekly "park day" with our homeschool group. We got home, and then Scott went to a sleep-over birthday party, and the other 3 went with my husband to TJ's cub scout Pack meeting.
Saturday we did work around the house, and then TJ and my husband went to sell popcorn for scouts out in front of a local grocery store. TJ sold 10 tins of popcorn, more than anyone else, at the ripe old age of 7. He sold 10 last week too. He asks people if they want to support scouting, not "buy popcorn" AND he says "thank you" whether they buy or not. He has collected more donations for the troop than anyone else because he is polite...and cute ;-).
Sunday, we went to church. My husband and I both serve, so we get there an hour early. The kids are largely on their own, and I sign them into their classes (usually before the teacher ever gets there), but they get themselves there when the time is right, and typically I get good reports about their conduct in class. We also end up being one of the last families to leave, and the kids see that serving God and others by serving in the church is important.
Today, we did school work in the morning and early afternoon, and then Scott had piano. He plays quite well, and is very comfortable playing in front of an audience. His teacher is a homeschool graduate, college attending BOY, and is a wonderful role model. He doesn't always work his hardest to practice everyday, but he has learned that he reaps what he sows in terms of practice, and I prod, but the responsibility is his. He is getting more diligent every week. The kids also spent their evening working on the rest of their Precept lesson with their Daddy while I had a UIP practice.
Tomorrow, we will go to Precept at 9, and everyone is in class until 11:30ish. Then we'll run home for a little while, and we have a field trip at 1:30 at the court house where we will meet with a judge. When we are done there, TJ will have his picture taken by a friend of ours-hopefully for a local magazine cover (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).
Wednesday, we will be home in the morning and we'll work on school and get ready for AWANA. We'll also get our stuff together for a yard sale. Sari will go to my sister's for a while, and then my nephew will come here. Wednesday evening the younger 3 kids (and Bam-Bam) have AWANA. They are responsible for their own progress or lack there of (except Sari-I work with her). Scott will have Boy Scouts in the evening. They are planning their next camping trip-with a 5 mile hike INTO the camp site!
Thursday, we start a 3 day yard sale with friends. Also, my older 3 will be going to a 2 part golf clinic in the middle of the day. Sari and I will go to Marie's to babysit the baby she watches until she returns with my kids, and then we'll go back to the yard sale. Mimi and her friend are planning a lemonade stand for the yard sale. Thursday night we have church. The kids are learning 2 songs to sing and sign for the church service in just a few weeks. Scott is excited about a new class for the kids his age that will start soon, maybe this Thursday.

And that's just a small glimpse into our weeks.

One online site defined socialization as "The process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitation as well as group pressure." And I think that's the definition most of society uses...especially in relation to the "socialization" question for homeschoolers. And while my children have plenty of opportunities to learn to get along with other people in a group (Scouts, church, Precept, AWANA) they also learn that to behave similarly is not ALWAYS a good thing. Sure, in a class, you need to conform in terms of compliant behavior. BUT, there are plenty of instances of group pressure leading to, well, the wrong sort of socialization.
I prefer this definition from Merriam-Webster, "the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status." Socialization begins as an infant, and NO ONE (in normal, functional situations) ever questions whether the home is the best place for a baby to learn stuff. My kids are definitely learning about the habits of society...and how they line up with the Bible, and whether they are good or bad. Today, over lunch, we discussed whether girls should wear bikinis.
They learn about the beliefs of society-both in our secular world and in "the church"-that being our physical church and our experiences with the body of Christ in our other activities. We see the differences in beliefs and have the opportunities to discuss them AS WE EXPERIENCE them. And I'm there with them to guide them through that.
They learn about the accumulated knowledge of society. Not as it has been re-written through the years, but as our Creator has revealed it. And we then take non-Biblical events can try to look at them through that framework-things that public schools are no longer allowed to do.
They get "educated". Not according to a scope and sequence draw up by some arbitrary group, but according to what their God, and their father and I think they should learn. At a pace appropriate for them. And our family.
They get trained for adult status. Not a day goes by that I don't train them, in far more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. I teach the boys to hold doors open. I have trained them to answer the phone politely. I teach them to be focused on awareness of OTHERS when we are out. (For example, if we are shopping, whose way are they in if they stand next to the cart and block the aisle? ) I want them to be the kind of kids (and therefore adults) that cling to "old fashioned" standards-politeness, compassion, Christlikeness-in a world that tells them to focus on themselves and what THEY deserve.
So yes, I'm worried about socialization. I see the negative effects of it all the time. I don't want my children to conform blindly to the pressure of a group, especially a group of which I am not a part. So I invest my life into my kids. I direct their socialization. They are exposed to TONS of people...not just of their own age, but of every age, color, and creed. They learn FROM ME the appropriate behaviors, and none of it involves beating up kids for lunch money. They learn that they are part of a world that does not revolve around them. That they have a responsibility to work out their salvation and that means treating others right. They learn how to be in the world, but not OF the world. And they make mistakes, but I'm here to guide them through them. They also are not overly sheltered. They get opportunities to be part of things bigger than the microcosm of our family. But we monitor those, and invest in them ourselves (or feel very comfortable with the adults who ARE involved) so that we can stay on top of the experiences they have and step in at the first sign of trouble.
I understand there are some homeschoolers who truly are sequestered away either by remote location or specific intent. And they would have to answer for themselves that socialization question. But as for us, if socialization means spending time with others, we've got that in spades. We actually have to chose what activities to sit out of. And if it means teaching a child to conform, well then, I guess there is reason for concern, because we aren't doing that. But if it indeed means teaching them to be productive, comfortable, respectful, God fearing, members of society, then no, I'm not worried about socialization. It's an awesome responsibility, but we are committed to it, because we have to both live with the results and stand before a righteous judge someday for the effort we gave. And I fear Him far more than I fear the people decrying homeschooling over the issue of "socialization".
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6 comments:

Julie said...

This could be a magazine article...maybe the one with TJ on the cover:)!

DebiH. said...

This is a wonderful post! Can you write one similar to that every morning to remind me why I am homeschooling? :)

Emily said...

This is a great post. Thank you for writing it!

chewhi said...

very well stated!!

Leisa said...

Great post.

Might I add another idea. You could propose to these doubters, "aren't you worried about your children being socialized? As in educationally indoctrinated at these very young ages to meet standards and beliefs that are incongruent to the family."


Or not, just a thought

Tiffany said...

Ditto what everybody else said--great post. Thanks for the reminders of more of the benefits of homeschooling. I loved what Leisa said--I'm going to have to remember that one.
BTW--I think we need a pet update. You haven't said a word about Riley in a while.