The time has come, the walrus said… Since we began blogging folk have been asking me what I think about socialization and homeschooling. I keep putting it off – because for some folk it is really a contentious issue and for me it just isn’t!
Now I do have high expectations of that word socialization. Socialization, for me means being able to interact with people from all walks of life, in all age groups and across all sorts of cultures. It really is our job to teach our kids the social skills needed to get on in life: The basics from posting a letter to communicating their hopes and dreams to a close friend.
I have got better at providing places for them to master these skills. But there is a learning curve – and like most mothering, you do get better at it as you go along. Also teaching life-skills including socialization is all about giving them the tools and enabling them to master the skill for themselves.
Here are se7en socialization questions that I have been asked in the last while, from non-homeschoolers, homeschoolers, teachers and moms in general. Please keep in mind that this post is entirely my own opinionated opinion so as usual take what you need and leave the rest.
- Will home-schooled kids have the necessary communication skills for life: I have heard that they won’t have had the daily practice of interacting with peers. As a home school mom I am a little less dependent on the idea that my kids need to be in a classroom with a couple of other kids, their own age, all day every day to master these skills, especially since hopefully most of their time in school is spent doing some work. Similarly with extra-murals most of us pay for extra-murals so that they can try out new skills. Most of us are not paying a fortune for extra-murals so that our kids can master social skills (and if you are – there are more frugal ways!). For example my kids have music lessons and any “socialization” they get is a bonus but primarily I want them to learn music! I think that it is unrealistic to think that when they are in a learning environment that they are actually learning social skills, when I want them to master social-skills I need to place them in an environment that they can socialize in.
- What about loneliness: We had a friend I hadn’t seen in a while stop by last week, her kid is in school all day every day and is terribly busy with activities. Her biggest worry is that he is lonely. He never has time to play with friends he is in so deep with commitments and spending his days launching from one event to the next that he doesn’t have time to make friends. I really think that leaving kids amidst kids they will find a friend. One of my kids will come home from an afternoon at the beach with ten new “best” friends. Another child of mine may have made one good friend. Left to their own devices kids will make friends if they are given the time. It is our duty to provide them with the skills they need to interact with all sorts of folk and we need to give them the tools required to select friends as well.
- What do you do if you have a terribly shy child: When my kids were little we had a teacher friend who said she would never homeschool because she had a previously home-schooled child in her class who was dreadfully shy and hardly spoke. Frankly everyone has their own personality and being in school or home-schooled isn’t going to make the difference. Some kids are madly gregarious and some aren’t we need to be aware of our kids personalities and encourage them whoever they are. One of my kids is really gregarious, one is really precocious, another is more reserved. One is great at one-on-one friendships and another is thrilled to be immersed in a crowd. I have to account for that in our social interactions. We invite folk round for each of our kids and if there is someone they especially show favor towards then I make sure we invite them most often, simply because relationships take time.
- What about the kid that needs other kids around them to survive: Just like we need to be with friends we also need to spend time doing things on our own. I think it is a life-skill that will stand by them throughout their life if our kids have learnt to be content with doing things on their own. Like most things in life we need to find the right balance between socializing and down time. My concern is for kids that are totally launched into a whirlwind social life and they don’t have tome to just be… it is not very realistic and is unlikely to lead to contented adults, happy to spend an evening home alone from time to time!
- Can homeschool kids get enough social interaction: I would have to respond and say YES, even more than enough in this mad world I have found homeschool mom’s that completely over-compensate in the socialization department! I get this from so many homeschool mom’s who are wondering how to fit actual schooling into their mad schedule of social engagements. It is the one topic that homeschoolers in general seem to feel a need to defend yet it is one of those areas where they go totally mad and spend their lives trying to get more and more “interaction” for their kids. I am satisfied that my kids are getting the right mix and variety of people interactions. They don’t need more and they don’t have time for more. But there are a lot of homeschool moms, especially moms of one or two kids, that are swamped with guilt that there kids are not getting enough time to “interact”. Signing up for every homeschool morning or every “mom’s at home” activity is just not the answer!!! I found out very quickly that spinning from one homeschool event to the next group meeting became a nightmare… They were all about educational activities (guilt bells ringing: My child might be missing a great learning opportunity), the activities were at best flimsy and the amount of rushing and scheduling was just ridiculous. I declared an outright ban on homeschool collectives and meet-ups. Frankly we have never looked back!
- Homeschool mom’s are so-overprotective, they don’t seem able to let go of their kids: I got this one from a teacher friend and what can I say, except she is right. I have found that kids in school get dropped off here and there and left to their own devises. I have also found lots of home-school moms who go into their child’s extra-mural activities and sit with them, or worse sit at the back with other moms and chatter and generally disrupt!!! And for me there are few things worse than an adult interacting for their child: Before the child has a chance to greet you the mother says: “Say hello, Johnny”… before the kid can exercise his manner skills: “Say thank-you, Johnny” – poor kid – no smelling the roses for that one!! I have found leaving my kids to sort themselves out builds much better long-term relationships between teachers, other parents and peers. Yes, they make mistakes, yes they forget themselves, yes they make idiots of themselves. But when they get it right, and they do that a lot too (!), what a pleasure for them!
- I feel so isolated as a home-school mom – I spend all my days with small kids and I need adult time too: The reality is that especially for moms with very young kids it is not so much the kids social needs in question but the mom’s. So in the name of endless rounds to “extra-murals” for preschoolers where the moms sit on the side chatting… There should be a big extra-mural club for moms to get together and have coffee and a chat while their kids play! I don’t think mom’s should be made to feel guilty of their need to interact and socialize. I think mom’s should call a spade a spade and find ways to meet other mom’s and interact with them. I would much rather go round and visit friends and let the kids play and chat away an afternoon than have a weekly extra-mural to dash to, to pay for and to schedule all in the name of meeting up with a mom friend!
I have had a mom say she won’t let her kids do private lessons without her because she was worried about abuse and I have to say abuse comes on little cat feet and happens most often in our own homes under our very noses. I suggest that if you are concerned about abuse give your child the tools to react to it in good time. Teach them what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Play “what if” games… You don’t have to spell out every possible hideous scenario but you do have to tell them what they can do if they feel worried or afraid… and that some people nice as they look are actually baddies out to get them. Kids get that… Mine know if it doesn’t feel right, if they are told to keep a secret, if you are offered a puppy/candy to get into someone’s car for example, then scream the world down – and they have no trouble practicing either!!!
That’s enough I actually have to attend to our house and home! But I am sure that this post will just raise more questions! Fire Away I will try and answer in the comments but if there are a heap then I will happily do another post for you.
If you liked this post then you may well like our other post that covered lots of socializing interactions: Se7en Reasons Why Children Don’t Play Anymore…
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.