First, the disclaimer. As I mentioned in my last blog, this our path, and I am not judging your path. When you choose an alternative path people ask a lot of questions and sometimes they are not very polite about it. I’m going to address that. Quite honestly, home school is better for us. That’s why we are doing it. There are plenty of reasons it might not be better for you, and I am not attacking you for that. These disclaimers may seem over the top and unnecessary, but I see too many arguments born out of defensiveness. You do not have to feel defensive here. Finding the right path is hard and I’m not questioning your direction.
Home school faces a lot of criticism, but the most frequent (and annoying) question is that of socialization. I searched “define socialization” on Google and, no joke, there’s a picture of a school bus.
Sometimes our friends, but more often people we meet in public (you know, society) are very concerned about how my home school children will get socialized. Some people mean, “aren’t you afraid your kid will be weird?” Others mean, “how will they learn the rules of society, like sitting still and listening to the teacher?”
If you never go to school sitting still and listening to the teacher aren’t essential skills, but I assure you, kids still figure out how to do it. Sharkboy had never been forced to sit still and quietly before he started kindergarten and yet his teacher raved about how great he was at it. He might be an over achiever, but I have no doubt that any home school student that chooses to go on to college will be able to sit still and listen to a teacher or future employer. It’s not something you teach. You can encourage it with captivating lessons, or by threat of discipline, but they already know how to do it. Schools don’t hold the key to this skill. (Research shows that sitting all day isn’t good for you, anyway.)
(While some people think sitting still and listening to an authority figure is a necessary part of the workplace, my life is very much the opposite. I am on my feet most of the day and I don’t have anyone to keep me on track but myself. Mentally ticking through my friends and family I can come up with over 20 occupations that do not involve sitting still and listening to an authority figure all day. Even those with employers have to be self disciplined most of the day. The skills I find most necessary, critical thinking and problem solving, can be learned outside of a classroom.)
Children learn the customs and values of society by being part of society. A public school classroom is one small part of society. Children of the same age (and often the same race and economic status) sit together and are taught the same material. Far more actual socialization takes place on the playground and after school. For some reason, this statement, more than any other, pisses people off. I don’t feel it is a negative statement. We don’t learn the norms of society at a desk, especially if that desk is surrounded by people just like us. Society is not made up of people just like us. It’s made up of all kinds of people and we all need to learn how to respect and interact with people of various backgrounds.
Home school kids do not actually sit at home all day. We are part of society. We go on field trips. We shop. We go to the post office. We go to movies and parks and the fair. My kids meet and interact with a variety of people everyday. I’m rushing to write this so we can get to a play date. I know, I know, you knew a super religious family that kept their kids home all day and never let them watch TV. I don’t care. If you think that’s the norm you are the one with a socialization problem, not me. I assume that is where the misconception that home school kids aren’t getting socialized comes from. Welcome to 2016. I’m sure some people do still try to shield their children from society and I can’t really blame them, but that’s an outdated view of how and why people home school. Some people do still home school for religious reasons, but most of them still seek out social opportunities for their children. I think that if the worst thing you do for your kids is shield them from the parts of society that you find vulgar or violent, you’re probably an okay parent and people should mind their own business about it.
When I try to make these points in conversation with people who want to convince me my kids will lack social graces I always hear about the home school family they encountered that had no manners. Everyone has met this family and I’m starting to wonder if it is one family, traveling the nation, on a mission to make home school families look bad. There are always several children and at least one of them is in pajamas. (Accurate. Or a costume.) One kid always throws a fit in public. Another budges in front of the speaker’s polite, well mannered child in line for the slide. The big kid uses foul language. Right? You’ve probably met this unruly band of home school hooligans? Pardon me while I roll my eyes in to next week. Bad behavior is not a home school construct. I went to public school. I sent my daughters to public school. Don’t tell me those kids don’t cuss and cry and budge. Or tell me, but stop trying to convince yourself that, 1. one family represents them all, and, 2. only home school families behave that way.
A lot of people who ask about socialization actually mean “home school kids are weird.” Ya know, that’s definitely true. Home school kids are weird. Today, at our home school play date, three kids were picking up another kid by his arms and legs and dragging him around as part of their Angry Birds/Pokemon game. That’s weird. Little S likes to drink the water at splash pads and Sharkboy is carrying around a lemonade bottle full of water with red food dye, calling it his energon. They are really freaking weird.
Beauty and Goldy are weird, too. This blog isn’t anonymous enough for me to tell you all the reasons, but trust me, they are. All my kids are weird and all my kids would be weird even if I paid top dollar for the best private school in the area, or sent them to public school, or bought them UGGs.
Kids are weird. My kids might be extra weird. I’m cool with that. I hope they stay weird. I hope they never strive to fit in so much that they lose the part of them that makes them stand out.
I don’t want to make it sounds like it’s us against the world. We meet a lot of people that are genuinely curious about how we do things or why. I welcome that conversation. I welcome the misconceptions, too, but it can be frustrating trying to fit all of these points into a conversation with people that are openly insulting your parenting choices. This blog is one of many on the topic of home school and socialization. I could have posted one of the others, but sometimes I need to write down what I am thinking, and hopefully if we flood the internet with information people will start to read some of it.
This is our path, and it is working for us. I hope you find yourself on the right path, too.