I am going to violate the sacred, unspoken trust that exists among all homeschoolers, everywhere, at least the imaginary ones who populate my Internet. I am going to admit to something so profoundly unsettling that it will rock homeschool-vs.-not-homeschool dialogue to its core. I am risking it ALL, man. This is RAW HONEST BLOGGING.
I am just going to SAY IT.
I’m just…I’m just gonna PUT IT OUT THERE, okay. Just LAY MY CARDS DOWN.
Just TELL IT LIKE IT IS.
(enjoys medicinal brownie)
YES, I WORRY ABOUT SOCIALIZATION oh, wait, I guess I already said that in the title.
Okay, well – yeah. I do. I worry about socialization. We homeschool, and we occasionally ask ourselves, “are the kids learning how to interact with other people? And can we send them places to go learn more about it? For at least an afternoon, once a week? Do we have to sign up or can we just send them? Do we need to prepare a healthy snack, or will there be treats provided? Is there curbside pickup? Do we have to schedule this ahead of time? Is a car wash extra?”
Now, I think the answer I am supposed to give, when asked The S Question, is as follows.
“Gosh, no! Why would I ever worry about that, when there are opportunities to socialize outside of artificially created peer groups by age, which isn’t realistic, right, I mean, are all your friends the same age as you, of course not, so why do we have this expectation of our children, and also socializing can mean socializing with bullies, or mean girls, or drug dealers, and besides, we are constantly socializing when we go to museums, and performances, and science demonstrations, and church, which isn’t to say there aren’t secular homeschoolers, you’d be amazed at how diverse the homeschooling world has become, in fact I think my children interact with a MORE diverse slate of people BECAUSE we homeschool, it’s amazing ANYONE thinks we would EVER worry about THIS! Let me tell you about our latest spelling bee scores!”
In reality, not only do I worry about socialization, but I also don’t think it’s a horrible, ignorant question to ask of a homeschooler. Maybe it’s because I grew up Catholic in a part of the country without a whole lot of Catholics, but I’m used to people thinking my lifestyle/beliefs/decisions are kind of…off. Not necessarily bad, but – what’s up with that? Why do I do things the way I do?
So, as long as the person isn’t being completely rude about it, I don’t take offense when asked about socialization. I also, truth be told, have the perfect “out” for any questions about the weirdness of homeschooling. I say, “well, I was a teacher, so…” and then scootch away from the actual question. It gets me out of a lot of jams, the former-classroom-teacher thing. Sometimes people read too much into that and think I’m saying “…I saw all of the problems and got the heck outta Dodge.” Really, that’s not why we homeschool (more about just having more time, in general, to do the things we want to do.)
Anyway. But I worry. For those of you who do not worry about socialization, I applaud you. As a member of the Fear-Based Community, I do worry. Of course, then I tell myself I’d worry no matter how perfect the school setting:
- If they went to Earth Blessings Hopeful Montessori school, I’d worry they wouldn’t be equipped for our high-tech society.
- If they went to Phaser Stun Technology, Science, and Magnetism Magnet School, I’d worry that they would lack appreciation for the natural world and the generations who came before them.
- If they went to Every Class Is Pre-Ap Preschool Prep, I’d worry they saw themselves as an intellectual elite and couldn’t relate to “regular” kids.
- If they went to Regular Kiddos, Regular Classes – a Holistic Learning Environment, I’d worry they weren’t being challenged enough.
- If they went to Serious Reform-Based Agenda Charter School An Hour From Our House, I’d worry that they’d make no friends in our neighborhood.
- If they went to Global Visions International Academy for the Study of Languages and Unusual Foods, I’d worry that they’d move halfway around the world after graduation and never come home to visit.
- If they went to La Sorbonne du Houston Ecole des Beaux Arts That’s French-ish for Art, I’d worry that they would never be able to make small talk about sports.
- If they went to Super Sports Slammin’ Jammin’ Rammin’ School, I’d worry about head injuries.
I believe I have made my point, and these are not even my top-tier worries when it comes to my children. I just came up with this off the top of my head. Imagine how profoundly worried I could be if you gave me a good six months to work up a proper anxiety complex. I mean, does anyone seriously think there’s an option available to you for educating your children that is 100% without drawbacks?
So yes, I am concerned about socialization, and I’m not even going to say it’s been an easy thing to navigate. We have accepted that this particular concern is a potential downside of the way we currently choose to educate our children, and we have taken measures to overcome this.
At times, it’s meant signing up the kids for things they didn’t necessarily want to be signed up for. That’s fun. Being asked The Socialization Question while your child lurks on the sidelines, glaring at you, muttering about not knowing anybody. And then, after a few weeks, the child does know people, and it gets better, and we’ve overcome that hurdle for the time being.
I watch the child who glares, who hates being signed up, and I remember exactly how that felt. New to the group, didn’t know what I was doing, having to make friends. Feeling like I would rather be swallowed up inside the earth than try to fit in.
And I wasn’t homeschooled. I was just kind of this intense, talks-better-to-grownups kid. But you know, every once in a while, my parents threw me into the deep end – signed me up for summer camp, sent me off to visit my grandmother in another state for a few weeks, made me talk to the saleslady when buying clothes*. And I got better. It was not the end of the world.
You can find things to worry about no matter what decisions you’ve made. And the worrying doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. So join me in answering The Socialization Question not with “NO, that is ridiculous!” but rather with “yeah, sometimes, but we do (insert strategy) and I feel happy with how the kids are doing. I mean, nobody’s perfect.”
Then, if they keep badgering you, whip out “Well, I was a teacher, so…”
* (I still get nervous talking to salesladies.)