Monday, August 04, 2008

And what ABOUT socialization?

Every homeschool parent who has been at it for a while gets the "socialization question." Songs, magazine articles, and piles of blog posts have been written about how to answer. Some parents obsess about finding other children of the exact same age for their kids to hang out with, trying to recreate the socialization model of institutional schooling. Others worry that they aren't doing enough.

I've always been dubious about the value of the socialization model embraced by those who ask the question. Do I really want my 12 year old son learning his social skills from other 12 year old boys? Nah, didn't think so.

Instead, we've exposed our kids to people of all ages. They've had friends and hung out with kids who are older and younger than them, but their main influence has been us. We sometimes hear the story about the homeschooled teen who can't fit in when inserted into a group of his peers, as if this is proof that there is something lacking in his social training. Well, I'll take that anecdote and raise it one.

(An aside--as pointed out by my very wise 18 year old son--you don't take a kid from the nerd table in the local high school lunchroom and throw him in with the jocks. Or vice versa.)

Last week my middle son, Jonathan, went to a music camp in another state. He only knew one other person at the camp, a female, three years older than him. The first day he was a bit put off--groups of teen boys just aren't very civilized--but he managed to get along and by the end of the week was looking forward to going back. (And won an award that will partially pay for him to do so!)

The friend who invited him to go was also a homeschooler. We have known Mary since she and Patrick were in the same Kindergarten class. They followed us into homeschooling. Mary is an only child, and more than any other homeschooled young adult that I know, has mainly hung around with adults. When she was around her peers it was mostly because of her music activities, not because of any contrived opportunities for social interaction. Mary is a lovely, poised, well-spoken young woman, and apparently we adults aren't the only ones who think so. When kids would ask Jonathan why he came so far to go to camp he told them that he was Mary's friend, and all would be clear. Everyone knew Mary!

Last year Mary won two awards at the camp that spoke to her high skills and the impression she had made on the adults. This year Mary won the Leadership Award, because she was also highly regarded by her peers.

So take heart homeschool moms. It isn't necessary to drive all of the gas out of your tank to get to group events. You don't have to make sure that your child has a large crowd of age appropriate buddies. Of course, this doesn't mean you want to lock them in the basement, either. But there is much to be said for teaching our children how to behave and to respect other people.


Michelle said...

Well said!!

RPW said...

You said it!

Elephantschild said...

The usual answers by homeschoolers to the socialization question often revolve around sibling relationships... so sometimes the answers aren't answers for us, since were an only-child family.

So, I'm glad to hear about Mary!

About the homeschooled teen who "can't fit in with his peers" - People tend to conveniently forget that there are LOTS of conventionally-schooled teens who don't fit in with their peers!

GreenJello said...

People tend to conveniently forget that there are LOTS of conventionally-schooled teens who don't fit in with their peers!

***raising hand***

That was me.

My 20th high school reunion just happened this last weekend. I didn't go, but some old friends did. What they described reinforced the fact that I *still* wouldn't get along with them.

I just used to roll my eyes at people who brought up the socialization argument. My kids were very well socialized with people of ALL ages.

Michelle said...

greenjello - you are so right! I ended up not attending one of our class reunions after spending time on the class website and chat board and realizing that I still did not fit in with that crowd! I figured my valuable time would be much better spent with those who really know me and care about me!

I have much closer friends who span over many ages. And somehow I fit in with them!

Jane said...

Thanks! You're all adding some of the points that were in my head that didn't make it into the post. :) Some of us did manage to largely fit in, but at the cost of much misery to ourselves and others.

Kris said...

Excellent post! I love your wise 18 year old's thoughts, as well. As I often try to explain to people who wonder about socialization, most kids are what they are -- introvert, extrovert and everything in between -- because that's just who they are, regardless of how they are educated.

AmusedMomma said...

Very well put! I think in the future I'll just refer folks to this blog post when I get the dreaded questions about socialization.

Unknown said...

What you said about not depending on a group is so true. I manage a large group, and the point isn't to "socialize", but to come together when and if we need one another. To force frequent participation is counterproductive in my opinion.

And I agree with the comments about high school reunions. I did attend mine, and it was laughable. Everyone just slipped right back into their old roles. I was supremely uncomfortable the whole night.

Unknown said...

Oh, and I meant to say thank you! You submitted this post to the Carnival of Homeschooling. I hosted it and really appreciated your participation.