I've just deleted my most recent post concerning homeschooling and socialization. I realized, while thinking about it today, that it wasn't exactly what I wanted to say. It was more of a rant on people's misconceptions and it was aimed at the people who have made ridiculous judgments about homeschooling. That is not the group who I intended to write to. What I want to write is a post that creates more understanding for mothers who sincerely want to know about homeschooling but worry about socialization, and that should not be written in rant form. So, maybe in a few days, when I've had time to organize my thoughts, I will write the post I should have written today.
Ok, I'm putting my rant post back up, now that I have written the one I should have written, because I do feel strongly about this. I have had people tell me that public school will "fix" my kids. I've had people tell me that without public school my kids will be socially handicapped. And I've had people tell me that kids need to be bullied to learn how to function properly in the adult world. This rant was written in response to these ridiculous statements.
Yesterday's post led some of you ask me about the socialization worry that people seem to have about homeschooling. Here is my take on the whole thing:
(warning: this post may sound defensive. No one here has given me reason to be defensive. I am a mother and thereby claim the privilege to be Mamma Bear defensive when talking about children) =)
A conversation between myself, my children, and a stranger while watching doughnuts being made at Krispie Cream two years ago:
Stranger: My, you have such lovely children. Hi, how are you, little guy?
Pablo: I'm fine. (He shakes her hand)
Cookie: Are you here to watch the doughnuts being made too?
Stranger: Why, yes, I am. (Stranger Lady continues to talk with my children about various things)
Stranger: My goodness, your children are so polite. It is rare for children to be able to hold conversations like that with an adult.
(We talk for a bit and she continues to converse with my children. At one point it comes up that my kids should be in school and I mention that we homeschool)
Stranger: Wow, that is so brave of you. (then in a loud whisper) But, what about the whole socialization thing?
I get that so often it makes me want to shake some people. This woman had just been talking to my children, complimenting me on their social graces, and yet she couldn't see the ironic humor in what she had just asked. She didn't even know they were homeschooled until I had told her.
Several years ago there were some attempted studies done on homeschooling to try to determine whether it were a good thing or a bad thing. Not being able to prove that it was bad, or at least worse than public school, someone decided to throw in the argument that the only thing homeschool had going against it was the worry that there might be a lack in socialization. Read this to mean that homeschooling might make your kids weird. So, now that homeschooling has gone rather mainstream the only thing people can seem to find to say about it is, "But what about the socialization?"
To this I like to ask the question, "Does public school fix socialization problems?" If so there would be no nerds, no bullies, no lonely kids, no kids coming to school with their heads bent low, their clothes unwashed, and their hair uncombed. Did every kid you know in school have lots of friends, or know how to behave themselves perfectly in new social situations? I don't know what public school you went to but mine even had kids who were so socially handicapped that their one solution was suicide.
Yes, some homeschoolers can be "weird" but it isn't because they are homeschooled, it is because of the child's unique attributes and those of the family they were born into. Whether you are homeschooled, public schooled, private schooled, or have personal tutors, it is really your own personality and your home life that determines your social ability or acceptability.
If you come from an abusive home, a reclusive-sheltering home, have a learning disability, have neglectful parents, live in abject poverty, come from a family of eccentrics, or are just shy it is likely you will have "socialization problems."
Now, though I've seen a few attempts here and there, I've yet to see a public school actively reach out to individual children in these cases. There are programs in place and they are working in small degrees, but I personally never saw a teacher step in and tell a group of kids to be kind to the dirty boy (that is vastly different from telling them to leave him alone). I never saw teachers encouraging the cheerleader to ask the nerdy girl to sit with her. I never saw a principle take a child aside and show them the basic steps to making new friends and then hold their hand through it as the child practiced this skill. (And even when teachers do try this, they aren't the parent and can't tell a child what to do) But I have seen all this and more at the homeschool group activities I've been to.
*Edited to add: Admittedly, not all homeschooling parents teach these social skills. And while public teachers may not teach them there are certainly parents of public school children who teach their children these values and skills in the home. Again, home life plays the key factor. I'm just pointing out that it is the parent and not the institution that teaches these values and skills and therefore it is a bit easier to do when the parent IS the teacher.
It makes me sad when I hear adults say that teasing from their peers can get a child to behave or mature (and yes, I've heard this many times). Sure, teasing can make a child want to change (or run and hide), but if no one is there to love them and show them how to change all they do is get hurt. (I'm NOT saying that public schooling your kids means they will all grow up to be bullies or snobs! I'm just saying that the family life a child comes from makes all the difference in the world. I know that all you who read my blog are great parents!)
Sure, kids will be kids. Kids need to learn to stand on their own. Kids need to learn how to deal with the bullies and the snotty mean kids. But please, do not try to convince me that they can only learn to be decent, outgoing, strong, sociable, friendly, and "normal" by going to public school. At least, not until you can show me a public school without a single hurt and lonely child in it.
Look not to the school, but to the family and the individual.
Are you sorry you asked me? Now, I'm going to go eat some ice cream and cool off =) On the lighter side of things, here are some funny answers to the socialization question.