Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The S Word...

Recently, I watched a report about homeschooling from CBS Sunday Morning on Daryl's blog. The report was mostly good, and showed some non-traditional homeschooling in a very good light. Within a few days, I'd seen the same video on several other blogs (to be fair, I'm not sure who found it first, in case that matters to anyone), and almost everyone who posted it mentioned that when the topic of socialization came up, it was handled well. I really don't agree.

In just about every report or newsy article I've seen, there is some expert insisting children need to socialize. They're missing out on prom/sports/clubs, and they need that. They won't have friends, and they need them. They won't be involved in social networks, and they need those. The common way for homeschooling advocates to address these issues is to insist, as in this recent CBS report, that homeschooling support groups and social activities exist, and are used diligently within the homeschool community. You silly people, can't you see we have it covered?

Not once have I seen or heard an expert explain WHY kids absolutely and unequivocally NEED regular activities with children their age. Never have I seen or heard anyone explain why children NEED social interaction with other children at all. I know it's important for children to have social interaction with other people. I'd just like to see the evidence that suggests those people must be children. The "experts" say interaction with other children (preferably in a school setting, of course) teaches kids they can't get their own way all the time, that rules must be followed, and all about the complicated experience that is friendship. They suggest this is the only way children will learn how to interact in the "real world." And the rebuttal from the homeschool community is: they DO get social interaction with other children. They list all the recreational classes their kids take, the clubs they're involved in, and the social activities ad nauseum, even saying exasperatedly that, "we homeschool, but we're never home!" Never once do you hear a homeschooler say, "Socializing with other kids? What makes you think they need to do that?"

There are problems with defending your homeschooled kids' social development with a list of their activities. Not only does it reinforce the idea that children somehow NEED other children around them to be mentally healthy, it makes attaining that goal seem like an exhausting task. One that requires a huge amount of your time, energy, and probably money. And one that could be easily attained without all that effort just by putting your kid in public school. The seemingly overwhelming burden of meeting their kids' social needs intimidates people that might consider homeschooling otherwise. It suggests that homeschooling alone is risking social detriment. It instills guilt in homeschool parents who can't keep up, or don't want to. Because most children are involved in lots of social activities, we quickly and blindly accept that it's necessary for proper development, leaving the door open for accusations of neglect when we don't provide it. As long as homeschoolers continue to agree with the educrats on the importance of child social groups, we allow ourselves to be criticized by their standards.

I understand that children play together in ways adults can't comprehend, and that children, when playing together, reach levels of imagination unfathomable to adults. But aren't they already getting more time at imaginative play than their public school counterparts with their siblings at home? A neighbor kid or two? Can they not learn they can't always have their way from their parents? From the fact that they're all out of blueberry pancakes at the diner today? From the car repair that prevents them from going to the amusement park? LIFE doesn't let you have your own way all the time. Can they not learn about rules and how to follow them from their parents? From the "No Running" sign at the swimming pool? From watching Mom get a speeding ticket? LIFE shows you there are rules that must be followed. Interacting with other children, in school or in homeschool group playdates, does not teach kids about the real world. Interacting with the real world does.

Emotional bonds with other humans is necessary for proper mental stability. That those humans be unrelated to you is not. We homeschoolers need to stop agreeing with the experts in the necessity of socializing with justifications, explanations, and excuses. Socializing with other kids? Who the hell needs it?