Socialization in homeschooling
When we go for a check up at the ENT and he asks my five year old, "What grade are you in?" and "What is your teachers name?, my son snickers and points to me.
"We homeschool, so he better know his teachers name." I answer for my son.
"Oh." The physician responds and the subject is dropped.
As a homeschool mom you run into this in various situations during the day when you show up with several school aged kids during school hours.
After several years of this line of questioning, I have concluded there are two types of responses to this statement.
My favorite reply is something to the affect of "Good for you! I wished I would have done that." or "That is great, my neighbor does that too." To me it is a kind gesture, a little pat on the back, keep up the good work type of validation. It is also good for my kids to hear positive responses regarding homeschooling from others.
The second response is the same answer, but has two meanings.
The deer in headlights answer "Oh". This means they are completely shocked by my answer. Maybe we don't look like the "typical" homeschool crew to them, so they respond in amazement and speechless to reply with anything more than an "Oh".
The other "Oh" response has a different meaning.
This "oh" answer indicates they have their opinions regarding homeschooling so they are going to be polite and just acknowledge my comment and move on.
And that is ok.
With all responses, I usually smile and we go on our way.
The ENT was doing his job; building a relationship with his patient, testing the patients speech, testing his hearing, it is all great. But I was curious to know which "oh" was he; the shocked or the opinionated one?
Occasionally, someone will ask why we choose to homeschool. I go into my usual elevator speech and 99% of the time they follow up with something to this effect of, "That is all great, but what about socialization."
By far the most common concern of people is that homeschool children are not "socialized".
This makes me question the definition of socialization in America. Is the accepted definition of socialization placing thirty or more students of the same age together? Would bullying in public school decline if there were more mixed age groups to allow for a variety of roles not based on age or gender? The Google definition of socialization also promotes this early school philosophy and uses the word in an example sentence, " Preschool starts the process of socialization." Socialization starts long before preschool, but I won't argue with Google right now.
My husband is a physician and when some of his colleagues find out he was homeschooled they say something like, "Really, you were homeschooled? I would have never guessed...(big pause).... you are so normal."
And that's it.
That is what the curious onlooker who questions socialization wants to know.
Why are we choosing a different way of interacting and educating?
Why are we choosing a not "normal" way to educate our kids?
When people say, "But what about socialization?" I think they are saying, but why don't you want them to be "normal" or give them a "normal" school experience.
Homeschooling provides a variety of differences than traditional schooling, not only in education, but more importantly in socialization. Perhaps, we should start asking the public school system, "But what about socialization?"
Charlotte Mason writes about socialization it in volume one. On page 191 in "Home Education", she writes, "...for everyday life, the mixed society of elders, juniors and equals, which we get in a family, gives at the same time the most repose and the most room for individual development."
We have experienced the benefits of the different aged socialization in our family. This summer, we were at the neighborhood park and a small group of boys joined my boys to play. About ten minutes into their time together I looked over and saw my eight year old walking towards a mom. Apparently, one of the younger kids that wasn't very verbal yet, was swinging a stick around and a threat to the other kids. My son couldn't get the stick from him and the other kids weren't going away from the stick kid. My oldest found the boys mother and had no fear in walking right up to her to get her help. The mother said my son was so sweet about it and she was impressed with his wherewithal to come and get her.
A few weeks later, at the same park, my five year old helped a toddler down the slide get to his dad. He was so tender with this little guy it melted my heart. I knew it was because of his relationship with his two year old brother.
Learning with a two year old has taught my eight year old patience and kindness (me too in all honesty); my five year old feels motivated to learn when his younger brother wants to sit and learn too. My eight year old enjoys reading books to the younger brothers and testing his kindergarten brother with recognizing letters and numbers.
One of our values as a family is to expose our children to the world through a variety of experiences and people. These experiences, give them a variety of socialization opportunities in various settings.
With the holidays coming up, I think this question and honest curiosity regarding homeschooling comes up frequently as we gather family and friends that are unfamiliar with the concept.
Do you have a great example of how mixed age socialization has benefited your kids? Share it with them. Expose those who are not sure about homeschooling to the benefits it provides you and your family specifically regarding socialization.
The more we express the idea that healthy socialization is not the traditional thirty students of the same age; the more we are able to break down the barriers of "normal" and change the "oh" responders to be more supportive.