I love it. It is so true that the number one question and/or comment from anyone that finds out you homeschool is about the socialization of your kids. I will just add my response to that topic: Public school does not equal "socialized and normal kid." I think we can all think about kids we know or knew growing up that have/had socialization issues in various ways. And secondly, homeschool does not equal "socially awkward kid that never gets out of the house." All we are doing is teaching our kids during the day, which actually usually only takes up about an hour or two instead of 8-9 hours sitting in a class. We're not boarding up the windows and creating a compound where no one may leave or enter. In fact, we often do school OUTSIDE, possibly while even out in PUBLIC living a normal life. Scary, I know. Anyway, here is the post. And sorry, but you will have to put up with the author writing in the annoying third person.
The Oldest One in the Book
Mrs. G. has been in the homeschooling business for fourteen years and she has taken great pleasure in watching it become more mainstream and garden variety. She can’t visit a Barnes & Noble to this day without stopping by to visit and admire the homeschooling section. Back in the day, Mrs. G. ordered some homeschooling how-to books out of the back of Mother Earth News that were photocopied and stapled. We’ve come a long way friend.
And yet, Mrs. G. notices that it is still, all these years later, almost impossible to have a homeschooling discussion without more than a couple of people (usually blood relations) bringing up that one question, the question that has plagued homeschoolers since that first brave mother threw on an appliquéd denim jumper and sent the school bus on its way without her children on it:
What about socialization?
Mrs. G. has dealt with this question so many times that she is going to have to take a moment to whack her head on her desk three times to call herself back to order. Hold on a sec…
What about socialization?
Mrs. G. is going to start out by taking you back to a crisp fall evening in the early nineties. The G. family was invited to dinner by a woman named Linda who was in Mrs. G’s food co-op. Linda and her husband had four kids, ages 7, 9, 14 and 16. The two families sat around a big table eating lasagna and talking. Dinner and conversation went on for over two hours, and Mrs. G. couldn’t help noticing that Linda’s kids, particularly her two teenage boys, were the most polite, interesting and respectful kids she had ever spent an evening with. They were comfortable discussing all the things they were up to (writing and illustrating comic books, gardening, filming high school football for a local cable access channel, playing guitar, dismantling computers) and seemed so confident and at ease. When Mrs. G. brought up how she was looking into kindergarten for her daughter, Linda mentioned that her kids had never been to school though her oldest was off to college in the fall. Mr. and Mrs. G. were slightly scandalized. No school school. They had never heard of such a thing.
Driving home that night, Mrs. G. remembers thinking that she hoped her kids, small potatoes at 5 and 1, would turn out half as likable as Linda’s crew. A couple of months later, she found book of essays on homeschooling at the library and that was that.
Mrs. G. isn’t sure when “socialization” became such an urgent and determining concern in shaping a child’s future, but she’s got to tell you, loud and clear, that she thinks the idea that a public school setting fosters a higher caliber, gold standard set of cultural skills, habits and norms is a used and tired bill of goods. It’s a crock. She’s feeling unusually strident and squawky on this subject, because last night she had to swill a gin & tonic to come to terms with the letter her son brought home in his backpack, yesterday, on week three of his first-time-in-public-school experience.
And just because we’re all friends here and this has nothing to do with the topic at hand and this is the way Mrs. G’s mind works, Mrs. G. is going to confess that she has some serious misgivings about her son wanting to give their local high school of 1700 students a try. She isn’t concerned about the quality of his education. He’s loving his classes and all of the opportunities a huge school has to offer. She’s concerned that his fourteen years of experiencing the luxury of the freedom and time to become who he really is is going to be undone by four years in a school where pop culture and cliques rule the roost. Laugh if you want, but Mrs. G. has invested years in raising a young man who is gentleman and she knew exactly what some of his homeschooled girl friends meant when they registered alarm that he was heading to the big leagues of high school. I hope they don’t ruin him, one of them whispered. His own older and wiser sister bit her lip at the news and said, oh lordy, he is in for some culture shock. He doesn’t do the whole crude thing.
Mrs. G. isn’t suggesting that children can’t thrive in public school, because, of course, she knows they can. She did. And she knows that public schooled kids are perfectly wonderful in general. Kids are just plain wonderful in general. She has spent a considerable amount of time living and working with kids of every educational stripe and she knows there is no one formula to successfully raising and educating children, there are infinite formulas. And here’s the rub: she and homeschoolers at large are only asking for the same benefit of the doubt…don’t assume it takes a school to produce a kid capable of successfully functioning socially in the world.No doubt, the socialization question is the byproduct of not understanding that most homeschooled children aren’t spending their days chained to the kitchen table with their fourteen other siblings while their overbearing, oversheltering mothers drill them all day with grammar or math facts, making special efforts to assure they have no thoughts of their own. Mrs. G. can’t speak for all homeschooling mothers, but she has to tell you that along with the work they did at home and the planned and spontaneous field trips they took weekly, her kids took classes, volunteered at the Humane Society or food bank, played with friends, babysat, dogsat, lived at the library, glued things, grew things, the list is endless. At least once a month, Mrs. G. would stomp her foot and say, we are not going anywhere for two solid days. We need to get some stuff done around here! Mrs. G. had to occasionally curb socialization.
Mrs. G. isn’t sure when we decided that it was more important for kids to spend most of their time with their peers rather than society at large. She’s got to tell you that in this arena, she thinks homeschooled kids are the victors; they tend to be unusually comfortable and secure in dealing with people of all ages. When homeschoolers get together, you can be sure that there will probably be babies, toddlers, little kids, big kids, bigger kids, moms, dads, grandparents, a crazy aunt… and Mrs. G. loves seeing all of them interact. She remembers many sunny homeschooling play dates at the park where at any given time you might see a group of teens playing football using a toddler as the ball (they never spiked the little cuss) or a group of silly girls teaching someone’s Papaw how to braid a friendship bracelet or a couple of seasoned moms giving a young mom a tutorial on how to deal with tantrums at the grocery store. This is life, healthy life—interacting with all people, not just 300 of your peers, 300 kids all trying to grow and figure out life at the same time.
Mrs. G. is going to bring this communique to a close, because she know she’s been all over the place in this post. She’s hotblooded on this subject; she gets worked up. There are some legitimate reasons to be skeptical of homeschooling but the issue of socialization is certainly not one of them.