Recently, in my local newspaper, there was a nice article about a homeschooling family with five children. They quoted the home schooled children and the author spoke statistics...when I saw it laying on my kitchen table, I thought wow how exciting and went on, with much enthusiasm, to read the article. Later on I checked my e-mail and saw lots of messages from local home schoolers who were outraged by the comments being left on-line regarding the article. I skimmed through those messages (a bunch had already been blocked by the paper) and noticed the one prevailing topic: socialization (what a shocker, huh ladies?). People who don't have a clue and have made generalizations about home schoolers think that we keep our kids in a closet (without windows) and don't allow them to go out and be "socialized". Which lead me to think about this a little further.
What you might not know is that I've been in the "formal" education world for the past 15 years, either as a teacher's aide, student teacher, substitute teacher, a teacher trainer, and a regular teacher in the classroom. I've been in the Catholic schools (two of them), charter schools, and regular public schools (three of them) and I've had my share of what it's like to teach and be in these settings. I've worked in pre-schools, elementary schools, K-8 centers, Middle Schools and even had my bouts with high school. So, let's just say...I've been there and seen it from a teacher as well as a parent's perspective (my eldest attended two different parochial schools from pre-k until 5th grade).
So what does the "socialized child" have over our supposed "unsocialized" home schooled children? Nothing if you ask me. From a teacher's perspective, the home schooled child is taught to live and work with people of all ages (in their family) For starters, they are exposed to BAD habits from other children. Children from homes that the parents aren't around most of the time because they are busy working. Children who see their parents about one hour in the morning and maybe both parents about three hours in the evening (that's if they are on schedule and putting them in bed on time). Children whose parents are sometimes hard to reach to set up conferences for because of grades declining or behavior. Now don't assume that I'm referring to the times I worked in the public or charter sectors, I haven't even touched that category yet. Now lets talk about teachers...I've had the privileged of working for a Federal Program training teachers to teach Reading and Writing. It was like pulling teeth...they didn't want to learn, I'd say about 15% of the teachers I worked with in those last nine years were open to learning something new, a better way to teach our children. A very sad number, if you ask me.
Next I looked up "socialization" in the dictionary, know what it says? Here is the online version:
1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires apersonal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
2. the act or process of making socialistic: the socialization of industry.
"A continuing process where by an individual acquires a personal identity"? Really, well if anyone is going to help a child do this who best than his/her mother and father? Next, "learn the norms, values, behavior, and social skills"...again mother and father, siblings, grandparents are the best teachers of this.
Let me be honest, I thought when I joined the home school community, I was coming with TONS of ideas and things to do...I was going to teach some moms some new things! Oh how wrong I was...lol! I've only learned from these moms with high school degrees, some with college degrees, only some with teaching degrees...here's what I've learned:
1. Children need to be taught to love learning and how they learn best (something very difficult to teach to 35 children in a 55 minute period, in only nine months of the year).
2. Children need to be taught how to learn on their own. "WHAT?" This was one of the hardest for me to understand...but I get it and it makes perfect sense....when you are in college and in life, you need the life skills to be motivated to learn something new each day.
3. Children need to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds. Home schooled children are the most polite and social kids I've ever been around. They say hello when you bump into them at the store. They offer to help without you having to bribe them, as it is often done in the classrooms.
4. Homeschooling is a lifestyle which, for the most part, teaches about time management, how to deal with situations you didn't plan for, how to be ready for new things, how to lead a more stable life, how to follow a schedule (and have the responsibility of staying on that schedule).
So, this lead to the idea of having a week-long discussion on the socialization of our Catholic home schooled children. In speaking with my friends who have more experience than I, the topic was more about creating community and in turn you will socialize your children. In analyzing this, it was very clear to me that our children are part of all sorts of communities in which they have ample and healthy opportunities to be socialized. Some examples of communities which your children might be involved in are: at church, play groups, neighborhoods, Co-Ops, teams, scouts, sports, music classes, etc. My children have involved in more activities since being home schooled than ever before. They are happier as well, and they are definitely social beings.
Not convinced? Just ask my next door neighbor, who is an avid gardener, about my six year old son who has NEVER been formal school setting! My little guy has long conversations with her about her gardening, asking her tons of questions about what she is doing, why she is doing it, and what will be the future out come of her actions. Bless her heart, she is so patient with him. We think he might even have pushed her in her faith a little as he told her the other day that he prays for her and her garden to grow beautiful flowers...she, in turn, was spotted at daily Mass a couple of days later (our first reaction, "she's Catholic?"). So yes, my six year old will not be "formally socialized" and miss the likes of knowing who Sponge Bob Square Pants, or High School Musical, or anything like that is from other kids his age. Instead, he is learning about Horticulture from my next door neighbor and walking around practicing words like "Gladiolas and Daffodils" instead of singing the obnoxious tune to some of the "supposed children's cartoons or movies".
So tell us, what do your children do to create community (AKA, be socialized little beings)???
I'd love to hear from you regarding this topic...and go ahead share this with all people that question you about homeschooling and "worry" about your children's socialization! ;) I dare you, lol!