Homeschooling - What does the general public want out of "socialization?"
(Fort Sill, OK)
When I was a child, my parents homeschooled me until I was in the 6th grade. Up until then, I was the life of the party when it came to the neighborhood children. In every neighborhood I lived in (we moved often because of the military,) the other kids would literally flock to my house after their school bus dropped them off so we could all play.
I didn't have many electronic gadgets, or very cool clothes, or a swimming pool... what I had was more imagination than the others, and I had the ability to turn essentially anything into a toy. I also was willing to be friends with anyone and everyone, and treated every other child like they were special and wonderful, since that is all I knew--that everyone has indefinite value. I had to teach them, initially, how to play (that is the sad part) but once they learned how to play like a child is supposed to, we all would create these elaborate scenarios of games like house, dog-pound, wild horses, Mermaid and Pirate, etc...the list goes on for quite a while. It was the most fun and imagination-filled time of my life.
Once I joined public school, all of a sudden, I was among strange, boring, rude children who were concerned with things I never really cared or knew about: clothes, hair, the opposite sex, electronic games, who had what, who hung out with who... and I learned a new language I had never heard, or at least, never considered acceptable to use. Attitude toward authority and "weaker" kids was also new. All of a sudden, certain people had more value than others, and this was learned quickly, after a few public taunts and snickers, and after a few times of being pushed around in front of the lockers and in the lunch line.
There were several times when I would want to use recess for what it was meant, and play... I would run around barking like a dog and chase random students, who would look at me with disgust and call me names. I admit, that was a bit weird, but that's what I considered fun, and for a long time, I couldn't figure out why the other kids thought it wasn't.
I can also remember that it was never, ever cool to raise my hand, or answer too many questions. I was constantly made fun of for knowing too much, or being too eager to show how much I had learned. The worst part: even some of the teachers would roll their eyes and tell me to "give other students a chance" to answer, as if I were an embarrassment to the class. Eventually, I became the student who knew a lot, but was afraid to answer, and melted into the rest of the children, trying to be just as "socialized" as the rest of them. A sad, lonely zombie.
It did get better, and toward my Junior year in high school I did regret caring what other kids thought, and decided to bid the "social scene" good-bye. I graduated at the top end of my class with a few good friends, many awards, and a few proud teachers (my dad happened to be one of them, as he taught upper-level math). Again, those last few years of "unsocializing" myself were some of the best years of my teen life. The college scene was also enjoyable, since many students there were creative and respectful individuals, and classes encouraged learning, not "socializing." That was done on one's own time, in one's own way.
I am now a very well-adjusted, knowledgable (at least comparitavely speaking,) considerate, and very "sociable" 25-year old woman, with two daughters of my own-- one is two years and one is five months old. My two-year-old is extremely active, bright, polite, and happy, and I plan on homeschooling her at least until 5th grade. My husband, who also is concerned about "socialization" is willing to try it out until then, but has doubts about the middle-school and high-school years. I am hoping that either my girls will be strong enough to be okay with public school and, at the same time, not lose their confidence or self-respect. Either that or I'm hoping my husband will see how beneficial the right kind of homeschooling is, and will allow me to continue their education beyond then.
I guess my point is that I believe the best and most beneficial "socialization" happens when children grow up around and imitate polite, ethical, mature people, while also being allowed and encouraged to nurture their true inner child with imagination, creative play, and the arts.
Homeschool, to me, is one of the absolute best ways to do that, as long as the children enjoy it. (Just to be fair, I did often wonder and daydream about "real school." I would envy the kids in my neighborhood as they marched up to the bus-stop and filed into that pretty yellow school-bus...I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. School was an exciting adventure for me when it began. There are a lot of things about public school that I enjoyed and definetely learned from, and many things have been tucked away in the "happy memories" section of my mind. Maybe it is good that I learned some of the negative aspects of other kids. It did help me develop a thicker skin. I used to wonder if I would have been "cooler" if I had started in public school, but now I just wonder if I would have been "happier" if my parents had kept homeschooling me. Just a thought.)
I believe the whole argument about "socialization" is when a person pictures a scared, pale, brainwashed child, who has been kept in her parents' bomb shelter all her life, and taught that the earth is flat and that the outside world is full of radioactive mutants.
Or something like that. Is that really how we're seen? Well, I guess I can understand, since in Hollywood that's how we're portrayed.
Here's a little info...I've never met a homeschooler who fit that discription, and I have no idea where or why it originated. Every situation does have its extremes, though. It all depends on the parents, I believe.
Good luck to all who are thinking about homeschooling, and I hope you stay tough and loving to the end. Trust me, it will be worth it.
Katy, thank you so much for sharing your viewpoint about homeschool socialization. It is very interesting to hear from someone who was homeschooled as a child, and then went to school.
I am sure your daughters will cope beautifully however things may go. Especially with you to guide and support them.
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