It doesn’t take long for people to ask the question. It’s usually the first one they pose after finding out my kids are home-schooled. Sometimes it’s more of a statement disguised as a question. My internal response to this question varies; sometimes I shake my head, roll my eyes, sigh or laugh. Now remember, I said those were my internal responses. Of course I am more careful when choosing my external responses.
So here’s the infamous question every home-school parent deals with on a regular basis:
“What about socialization? I mean the girls need to interact with other kids and people right? They don’t really get that when they’re home schooled.”
Just writing the words makes me want to roll my eyes! There are times when I hear this question that I feel like saying oh no, my husband and I don’t believe children should interact with anyone until they turn 18. In fact we don’t even talk to them when we’re at home. Or… Why yes, socialization is very important to us, that’s why we make sure they watch lots of TV. They learn a lot from the afternoon soap operas.
The reason why this question always make me laugh is because having to find time and ways to intentionally “socialize” my girls is the least of my worries as a home-school parent. And, because it was the social versitility of many of my teenage home schooled students at the college that made me first consider some of the benefits of home-schooling.
I realize however that many people just can’t imagine that the socialization of a little human being is not limited to sitting in a classroom with 20 other little human beings. For some people this is the only way a child will learn to function properly in the real world. What I find interesting is these people think we home-schoolers somehow failed to consider how very important social skills are when we decided to teach our kids at home. I guess that’s why they always ask about it and feel the need to remind us that we’re somehow neglecting our kids.
Of course not everyone who asks about socialization is implying that home-schooled kids are at a disadvantage. But for all those who think that somehow home-schooled kids are being neglected let me tell you about the lack of socialization my kids received this week.
Sunday: After attending mass as a family the girls went to their religious education classes (that’s Catholic speak for Sunday school) where they sat in a classroom setting with other children and learned about their faith. That afternoon Scott took them to a birthday party. Yes, home-schoolers do have friends and they even get invited to the birthday parties of their friends who “go to school .” (Oops, there goes that sarcasm again. Sorry!) This happened to be the second birthday party they attended that weekend. After the party they hit the beach with Connor, a young boy who lives in our neighborhood.
Monday: After schooling in the morning I took what I call my home-school mom sanity break at the gym. They spent an hour and half in the wellness center’s childcare facility interacting with children of all different ages, races and abilities. Later that day they headed over to their grandparents house for a visit.
Tuesday: After schooling in the morning we had a play-date in the afternoon with two girls who just moved here from Korea. After that we headed to the gym where they “socialized” with their friends at the childcare facility. In the evening they practiced sitting quietly, learning self-control and patience while I rehearsed music at church for an hour. If it’s not music rehearsal on Tuesday night, then they sit quietly while Scott and I teach the Baptism class at church.
Wednesday: After schooling in the morning we went to the park to meet with a large home-school co-op group. The ages of the kids range from infants to teenagers. [Note: Some of those teens are simultaneously completing their last two years of high school and their AA degrees at the local college. Two years of college under their belt by the age of 18 and its free… not a bad deal!] That night they headed back to the gym with their dad where they saw a different set of friends at the childcare facility.
Thursday: After schooling in the morning we went to church for a special 9/11 mass. The girls sat quietly (well, Ella tried to sit quietly) in the choir pews with me while I served as cantor. While at mass they’re learning how to respectfully interact in an inter-generational group setting. This diverse community teaches my children many differnt things about respecting authority and their elders. They learn self-control as well as how to be courteous and respectful of the needs of others in a formal group setting. And most importantly they are sharing their faith in a community setting and learning a lot about giving and receiving love to and from people of all ages and ethnic groups.
Friday: Assuming we’ve finished all our schooling Monday-Thursday, we’ll take the day off from school. Friday morning they’ll hang out with their cousin and grandparents. We’ll go to mass at 11:00. We have a play-date in the afternoon and they’ll probably hang out with their friends at the gym while I work out later that day.
Saturday: We’ll have our weekly family breakfast at the local bagel place where the girls will greet and talk with an eclectic group of adults who meet there for coffee each morning. Mr. Jim, a local businessman and community philanthropist, Miss Joyce the retired college professor, Ms. Debbie the elementary school teacher and several others engage my little ones in various conversations. After that we’ll probably head to the gym where once again they meet up with their friends.
This is an average week for us and it doesn’t even include the most important social factor of all, family life! Nor does it include all the typical fall activities that haven’t kicked into gear yet. I know, it’s sad isn’t it? You’re probably feeling sorry for my poor unsocialized kids.
What I find funny about even having to explain my children’s socialization to someone (besides the fact that in this day and age people believe the absurd notion that home-schooling means you never let your children outside of the house) is that nothing that we do is because I feel an urgent need to socialize my kids. We’re just “doing life.”
Of course, I can’t possibly explain all we do in a typical week when someone poses this question about home-schooling and socialization. And the truth is, most people don’t really want to know or change their perspective on the matter. I think for some people, it’s easier to just assume there is only one way to educate and socialize children and it’s in a formal classroom setting. Challenging that assumption tends to make some people uncomfortable. And so, whenever I’m faced with a question about my kids and their socialization I put aside my internal reactions and sarcastic responses and respectfully let the other person know we’re in touch with the social needs of our kids. But what I really want to say is: Socialization? What does that word mean? Hmmm, I guess I should look that up and make sure I learn it so I can teach it to my kids. 🙂