I think every homeschool blogger on the planet writes a post about the Big S-word. You know the one…
Even in these modern times when information is so much more readily available and people are so much more aware, there is still this preconceived notion that being homeschooled today is like it was 20 or 30 years ago. Too many intelligent people still have this idea in their heads that going to school Monday through Friday for 6 hours a day with our peers is the only real way to learn to function in a social society.
It baffles me that my Mother, an educated and intelligent woman, still feels compelled to ask me every time we talk whether or not the kids are getting enough socialization.
My favorite blog post on homeschooling that I’ve ever read is a post (that I can’t find now but if I could, I would totally link up to it) that goes on about how “unsocialized” her kids are because they went to the post office where they proceeded to talk up the postal lady about mail travel; they went to the grocery store where they engaged both the lady in line behind them as well as the cashier in conversation; they went to church where they helped in the church nursery and attended their Sunday school class. The list goes on and on of all of these people the kids talked to, engaged with, etc. in a single day. People of all ages, genders, races, economic backgrounds…
This post is probably the most quintessential Homeschool Socialization post I’ve ever read. Next time I find it, I’m going to save it so I don’t lose it again. Or if you find it, please send it to me.
Anyway, I thought maybe today was as good a time as any to maybe put into perspective some of the socialization observations I’ve made in my 21 years as a parent.
My Public School Child
My oldest daughter went to private Catholic school Kindergarten through half of the 5th grade, then went to public school the other half of 5th through 12th. She is now entering her 4th year at UNC Asheville. She’s played basketball, soccer, and run track. She’s taken art classes and ballet. She was in the student government and the orchestra. She is very outgoing and friendly and personable. One can reasonably say, that she has all of the makings and opportunities of a social butterfly.
(Pictured here with friends.)
But, despite her willingness to be friendly, she has been plagued with problems with friends. There were friends in 4th grade that all of a sudden decided they didn’t like her anymore. Then there were the girls in middle school that excluded her from their sleepovers. By high school, I thought she had found a good crowd, but still, she sat at home alone on Friday and Saturday nights. In fact, this has gone on for years, and only very recently has she found a small group of friends that she has been able to connect with and forge long term relationships with.
Now let’s backtrack a little here. When she would get in trouble at school for talking, or playing at school (which often happened) do you know what happened? My mother popped right out of my mouth and said, “I send you to school to learn, not to socialize!”
Ummm….. So, how was public or private school so much better of an opportunity for socialization?
Isn’t that the assumption when people ask about homeschool kids being socialized?
Let's take a look at us. Adults.
As an adult, I have friends that range in age from about 20 upwards of 60+ years old. In fact, I joke with my Mom and Dad all of the time about how the older I get, the closer in age we become because we are closer to being peers. (My parents were quite young when I was born, but that may be beside the point.)
Why do I have the friends I have? We are friends because of common interests and/or goals, similar lifestyles, or sometimes just because it’s convenient. Whatever the reason, it is rarely because we are forced to spend 5 days a week, 6 hours a day with the same 30 people. We may make acquaintances in those circumstances, but rarely true friends.
Now Let's take a look at my weird, unsocialized homeschool kids
As I’ve mentioned before, we spend a lot of time partying during the school year. What I mean by this, is playing. We spend a lot of time playing with friends during the school year. We go to the park and play. We go to the museum and play. We have friends over or go to their houses and play. Sure, there might be some school activity involved, but we usually rush through all of that learning so we can play.
All 3 kids have friends the same ages respectively, but they also have friends of all sorts of ages. One of my Little Man’s favorite friends is an 11-year-old boy. And let me tell you, that 11-year-old boy will play with my Little Man just like they are the same age.
One of the most wonderful things I have found about the vast majority of homeschooled kids is that when it comes to “socializing” they have no worry about talking to anyone of any age. While most kids look at an adult warily and speak uncertainly, homeschooled kids have no qualms about it.
I’ll leave this post by sharing a story about a little boy I had the pleasure of having a conversation with. I was sitting outside of co-op one afternoon with the Baby while The Princess and The Little Man were finishing their classes. This adorable little 7-year-old boy came up to me to warn me about the fire ants in the grass behind me. I thanked him for the warning and returned to watching the Baby. About 2 minutes later, he came back up to me and so ensued the most hilarious, yet intelligent conversation I have had in a long time.
“See this?” he points to an obviously old scratch on his upper arm. “A fire ant bit me there.”
“Oh really?” I must have looked quite skeptical.
“I’m just kidding. That’s old. But a fire ant really did bite me on my hand.” he points to his hand where there was clearly no bite.
“Oh wow! So, are you going to get superpowers now?” Ok, maybe I was being a little silly. I am, after all talking to a little boy.
“No. That’s not real.”
“What about Spiderman? He’s real.”
“No. He’s not real. That’s just make-believe.”
“Oh. So… what do you do to cure a fire ant bite?”
He thinks about this for a minute, then responds, “You have to stop eating meat.”
“Yes. You can’t eat any meat. Or any junk food.”
“What about steak?”
“That’s meat too.”
“What about ice cream?”
“Only if it’s vegan ice cream. You have to become a vegan.”
“I have to become vegan now?”
“Yes. If you get bit by a fire ant. You have to become vegan and you can’t eat meat. I’m vegan, but only at home. When we go out we are just vegetarian.”
“So you don’t eat meat?”
“Did you get bit by a lot of fire ants?” Yes, clearly I’m taunting this poor boy, but it was all in good fun.
“No. My mom just decided we were going to be vegan so we are. I don’t like meat anyway. Sometimes when I visit my Dad he gets us chicken nuggets, but I don’t eat them.”
“But you do eat ice cream.”
“Yes….. If it’s vegan.”
The conversation sounds silly I guess, as I type it out, but the confidence with which this boy talked to me was like nothing I’ve ever seen. He held his own while I was teasing him, never losing his cool, always just pleasantly playing along with me. I can think of so many adults that went to school all of their adolescence and well into adulthood that couldn’t have a conversation like that, much less one so deadpan. This will forever be the conversation I think of when I worry about my kids being socialized.
Well, that and the 50 million things on our social calendar….