Ellis and I have 4 kids. If we want to attend a function together, that means taking all 4 kids along, even if it is an “adult” (read: “boring”) event. Repeatedly, we are complimented on how well our children behave and interact with others. So, imagine our surprise when one of these complimenters asked an offhand question: “Don’t you worry about socialization?”.
This is THE question that makes most homeschoolers cringe. What is “socialization,” after all? Is it succumbing to peer pressure in order to “fit in” with our age-related and socio-economic peers? Or is it learning to interact with people of different ages, from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of personalities?
First of all, it’s not as if we have a single child that never leaves our house. Our 4 children represent all ends of the personality spectrum, providing opportunity for what one might call “in-house” socialization. Secondly, our kids are involved in all sorts of outside activities with other children. They’re also fortunate enough to have private music and art lessons. They each have a special relationship with these “outside” teachers, who are adults in the community.
One of our favorite extracurricular activities is an all-ages Contra dance class. Children under 8 work together on simpler routines and songs; children 8-18 are thrown together into more complicated dance sequences. My oldest kids are on the younger (and less experienced) end of this spectrum, and the patience and consideration that I see the older children providing when they end up paired up with my kids pulls at my heartstrings. This absolutely WOULD NOT HAPPEN in the age-segregated school system, where older kids belittle and ridicule those younger and less experienced or skilled than themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, we homeschooling parents are constantly worrying, wondering if there is something our kids might be missing by not spending 8 hours a day under the government’s thumb. And when I really start analyzing that, I realize that they are in fact missing some things: violence in the form of school shootings; bullying, and its new sibling, cyber-bullying; low-quality food that is passed off as “nutritious school lunch”; substandard textbooks and teachers; pointless busywork; the government’s version of revisionist history.
Our kids do have considerable exposure to other people, but our family does spend a lot of time with just ourselves. I read something about child-rearing once that became an “aha” moment: We are not raising children, we’re raising adults. The point is, yes, they are children now, but we are preparing them for lives as adults, not lives as children. Our kids have a lot of exposure to adults and are learning how to conduct themselves appropriately in different situations. Too many parents have the attitude that “kids will be kids” and let youngsters get away with behavior that is completely unacceptable. Don’t get me wrong, our kids are allowed to be “kids” when it is appropriate. And, when it’s desired of them, they have the social skills to confidently interact with nearly any type of person.