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?

15 comments:

Alex said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. It came at the perfect time...

MOM #1 said...

The truth shall set you free. You sound very free, and your post is very truthful.

Well said.

Mama B said...

Woo Hoo! Go you! I popped by the day you posted but ran out of time to comment. Then I've since been sent here by two of the other blogs I read - that's so cool :D

JoVE said...

Came over from Andrea's link... You make a very good point. The other thing I would add is that it depends on the kids. Some kids are introverts and need lots of alone time and will maybe only form one or two deep friendships -- siblings and neighbour kids are probably BETTER for those kids than group activities which might make them very anxious and withdrawn.

Other kids are extroverts and need lots of that kind of social interaction. Mine is like this. She maintains several friendships though she also is fully capable of being alone well.

I think that challenging the idea that the need for kids to interact with large groups of other kids (which is what those arguments are) can also be about paying attention to your own particular kid. Parents of introverts should never feel guilty about meeting their child's needs by NOT doing all of those activities.

Jacqueline said...

Excellent points!

Lynn said...

Great post. I'm inspired to go write a similar post about the eagerness to cite our "better than thou" standardized test scores :)

Suze said...

Thank you, for saying that better than I could (and I've tried).

And, yes, Lynn, right on about the test scores as well. Exactly the same issue.

Sara said...

Good point.

Alasandra said...

Considering public schools didn't exist for most of history I think the answer should be obvious.

robinellablog said...

Very well put!

I have one of those "social bunnies". He asks everyday if we are playing with anyone. Luckily, I can keep him busy with his brother and HS activities.

It does wear me out sometimes, so we just take a break. It gives "Pete" a chance to learn to entertain himself and interact more with his family.

Luke said...

Excellent point!

~Luke

dawn said...

Absolutely!!! Wonderful post and a point I will be making in the near future.

We were at a carnival an month ago and a jester came up and was using all the cliches on us as he found out information on our family, all in good fun, and our kids worked their humour and magic for 20 minutes. Of course socialization came up when he found out we home school. My 15 year old son said; "We are not socialized, but we ARE social people". The jester was impressed with his comeback.

It is so true; home school families are often on the defencive and as a group, we need to start putting the mainstream on the defencive or at least help them question the mainstream beliefs they hold dear but haven't actually thought about. My sister gets annoyed when people ask if she is going to home school her now grade 2 son when he gets to high school. She wants to shoot back, "Are you going to be married to the same guy in 10 years", "Is your son going to get a hockey scholarship when he graduates", "Are you going to be living in the same house in 10 years", "Are you going to be working in the same place in 10 years"? Where do people get off asking that question anyway? She was also commenting on how people take such an interest in our kids education, even if they don't meet them. Do we ask if their children are reading at grade level, or if their child is working at par with his/her peers? AAhhhh...sorry, I just ranted here in the comments. I do think we should start asking about their kids education next time we are asked if our kids are working on par and how do we know.

Anne said...

I suppose, starting out with young children, it is easy to say that socialization is optional. But some of us have to deal with the results. My husband was homeschooled (unschooled, I suppose) and he is lacking in some very basic common sense, and doesn't know or understand many social norms. Why? Because his parents are homeschoolers like you, and they're of the mind "Why would he need to socialize?" They went a step further and made it extremely difficult for him to socialize even when he wanted to, due to their personal aversions to socialization (a frame of mind that often seems to be coupled with unschooling). They still do this with his younger siblings. I feel as though they have sent him into the world with a huge disadvantage, because they weren’t willing to put in the effort. You have to enable your children to have the social life they desire or they may have an unusually hard time later in social situations. It simply comes down to happiness and practice. Older children are much happier when they have friends and groups of people like them to talk to. Practice is also needed or else you simply won’t know what is acceptable.

Heather said...

Anne, obviously you've gotten the wrong idea from my post. I'm not advocating sheltering children from the world. I'm saying organizing social activities simply because you think kids need to constantly be around other kids to be normal, is silly.

My children, much like a lot of homeschooled kids I know, are quite capable of handling social situations. They know how to make new friends, what kind of information is necessary to share and what isn't, when to speak and when not to, etc. And they have plenty of opportunity to practice these skills in our day to day lives. We shop in stores, go to yard sales, birthday parties, family dinners, community events, concerts and museums... we're out there being socially involved all the time. I just see no point in deliberately manufacturing artificial social situations in order to teach my children how to behave in the world. They learn it from being in the world.

Some people that are NOT homeschooled never figure out how to react "normally" in social situations, and that's just their personality - so possibly your husband is one of those people? Or possibly his parents were into sheltering kids from the world entirely? I don't presume to know anything about either. I'm just saying, regardless of upbringing, some people just don't socialize well.

Lori said...

bravo - excellent post.