The "S" word - Rookie Home School Review part 1

We're winding up another school year so I decided I should write down some of what I'm learning as I go.

A topic on my mind today is the "S" word...socialization.

As a family that chose to begin home schooling a couple years ago, I hear the word "socialization" quite often.  Usually in the middle of an concerned observation, or line of questioning.  Over the past few years my internal reaction has ranged from fear "oh my, I had better make sure my kids are properly "socialized", to wondering "what the heck is socialization anyway?", to irritation at the continuing myth that somehow children who grow up being home schooled lack the ability to function as part of society.   

I grew up in conventional public schools, so did my husband.  We knew few people who home schooled and it seemed very foreign to us.  Very fringe. It brought up mental images of denim jumpers and awkward children in high water pants.


 As we continued in our adult life and began meeting all kinds of new people we began to realize that some of the most incredible young adults we came across had been "home schooled". We met real families that home schooled and noticed something different in their dynamics, priorities and structure.  This really caused me to question the stereo types I held in my mind.  

We began our own home schooling adventure 2 years ago, not out of fear or judgement of the public school (in fact our kids attended a very good small school), but out of desire and necessity.   The only "fear" involved was the dread of all the responsibility for our children's education being placed back on our shoulders.

We wanted something different that better suited the unique needs of our kids, our family based priorities, and our flexible lifestyle.  

After being in the "system" my whole life, and having my children in it for 4 years...It took a solid year to shed my own in the box thinking about education.  It is a scary place to venture out of, but at the same time so freeing.  Home schooling has become more than the place we "do school" but an entire lifestyle of learning and a new philosophy of education.

The first year was a transition year for all of us, and I have the ulcer to prove it.  My kids never, ever asked to be put back in school but I did find myself fantasizing about it on occasion.  This second year has been so much different.  The biggest change is we're relaxed.  We certainly don't have it all figured out, but I'm so much more relaxed and confident.  We're figuring out what works for us...not for any family....but for us.

So back to my question about "socialization".   I decided to look up some definitions of it.  

socialization - the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture; "the socialization of children to the norms of their culture"

That definition causes me to actually question if this is a good thing.  Have you seen the behavior patterns of the our surrounding culture?  Seriously?  Have you watched the news or reality tv?  Have you noticed the adults stuck in endless childhood? ... the selfishness, the sense of entitlement, the whining, the dysfunction all around us?  Have you ever hung out with a whole pack of kids and observed the social structure and behavioral norms?  The rampant bullying, bratiness, disrespect, manipulation, lying, and rudeness?  These aren't just isolated examples.  It's human nature.   As Christians are we supposed to be conforming to the patterns of this world...to be blending in seamlessly?  I think not.

So that being said, although there are many exceptions in our society and schools, I would dare say that the "norms" and the pattern of our world culture isn't something I want deeply ingrained into my child's development.  Socialization as a way to conform to society doesn't seem like a virtue to aspire to.  

I'm far from a helicopter parent and I don't "shelter" my kids from the harsh realities of the world.  The difference is I am with my children walking them through it. My children have soothed drug addicted babies, visited Mexican rehab centres, befriended children with lice filled hair living in cardboard houses...not exactly a "bubble".

  Another difference is that they are not immersed in and being shaped by the values and the "norms of culture" day in and day out.  

v. so·cial·izedso·cial·iz·ingso·cial·iz·es
1. To place under government or group ownership or control.
2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable.
3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society.
To take part in social activities.

social·i·zation (-sh-l-zshn) n.

I think the first definition although arguably a different take on the word "socialize" kind of hits the nail on the head.   Who is doing the bulk of the training, the molding, and shaping of my child?   Is it the world system, the government, the professionals, peers....or is it the parents who love them?   Where is my child's time spent?  Have I unknowlingly relinquished my own responsibility over to the government, or group ownership? 

Once again, I know this will ruffle feathers and put people on the defensive so I will say again that i am not out right opposed to conventional schooling...in fact my youngest son is signed up for kindergarten this fall...but as a parent (especially one with a different value system than the world) these questions must be asked.  We have to question the things that are assumed.  Of course home based education isn't ideal or possible for all families or all children...but that is something each family has to decide for themselves with as much knowledge as possible. 

the establishment of socialist government; the nationalization of industry and other national resources.

Socialization is thus ‘the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained’.[1][2]  (Wikipedia)

"Socialization is the means by which human infants begin to acquire the skills necessary to perform as a functioning member of their society, and is the most influential learning process one can experience"

This last definition is one I can hang my hat on.   From the time infants are born they are learning, absorbing, and discovering.   As a parent what is my role in that learning?  Where does that end, where does it begin and what is that going to look like practically?

With the understanding that my children do need to learn social skills, and develop character, I have had to ask myself (as I weighed our options)  is conventional school and classrooms the only or even ideal place to learn those skills?   When, in history, did our modern "schools" develop and why?   Are there other ways for children to develop healthy friendships and learn to interact with their world?

 Every parent might answer those questions differently but they are important questions.  So before we assume that children need classroom "socialization" which by definition is conforming to culture, talk to and observe some freakishly unsocialized home schooling families.  What you see might be surprising, chances are they don't even wear matching denim jumpers.

Over the last couple years since bringing my kids back home,  there are a few things that have surprisingly discovered.  

My children still have friends.  A benefit of home schooling is that we can choose to spend time with the people that we enjoy.   "Friends" no longer mean classmates who are "friends" one day and cruel bullies the next.  Friendships are deeper and more meaningful as my kids social circle has become more intentional and somewhat smaller.   We have many family friends with kids of all ages,  my children go to other children's homes, play with neighborhood kids, and have activities outside our home. 

My children are each other's best friends.   I once had someone shake their head in pity that our children's closest friends seem to be their siblings.  Of course like anyone else we have off moments, and off days, my children like myself are little sinners who sometimes struggle to put other's needs ahead of their own.  On a whole, one of the most surprising and refreshing changes in our family dynamics, as a direct result of our home based education, is closer sibling relationships.  They learn to take care of each other, to be loyal to each other, and to interact with (tolerate, make peace with, and enjoy)  a house full of different personalities and ages.  It seems to me that this practice at home reflects the skills they will need in the big wide world.  They are gaining the ability to care for others who are weaker, learning from those who are more mature,  and to learning to engage and resolve conflict in a healthy constructive way with people of different ages.

My Children are learning about the world by being in it.   Rather than being in a classroom every day, they have time to ride along with Dad as he works and does business, and spend time running errands with mom while interacting with various adults in a variety of situations.  In reality, home schooled kids learn a variety of social interactions by being out in the world in stead of cooped up with a group of 30 kids their same age all day.  We have even more time and freedom to travel, to volunteer, to be involved in society.  I was so worried a few years ago that my children would miss out on "socialization" by not being in school...but in reality healthy "socialization" (defined by me as having a healthy foundation of character qualities, conflict resolution skills, and the ability to function as a productive member of society)  ,can happen in a variety of ways, in a variety of places, and most effectively by interacting with a wide range of people.  

My kids are a work in progress.  When they avoid eye contact, chew with their mouth open, or ask much too loudly in a grocery store why "that man is so fat".....I must remind myself that there is no quick fix when it comes to children.   Etiquette and social graces are no different.  It will take many years of correcting, reminding, encouraging, correcting, reminding and teaching...and more reminding and more correction and even more encouraging.

So there you have it,  just a few of my thoughts on the dreaded "S" word  and my discoveries as a relatively new home school mom.   

In reality I don't think much about the "S" word we're too busy living out our lives in the naturally social environments of home and community...to stop and ask "did I socialize my kids today?"

Here's a pretty cool article I found while looking for some funny pictures for this post.

{This one is just because life is best when we have the ability to laugh at ourselves!}

1 comment:

Sherri Davidson said...

I just started homeschooling this year and it has been a huge adjustment. Our two oldest went entirely threw the school system and our daughter went until grade 7. It has been interesting for sure. Some amazing times and some interesting times. LOL
I am curious are you teacher directed or parent directed?? Do you find your children help each other? Do you do 'school' trips with other homeschooling families around you? I am sorry to be such a pest. :)