The most discussed aspects families considering homeschooling encounter:
1. Are homeschool academics adequate? and 2. Will the children be socialized?
Years later, my top two questions are:
1. If I’m homeschooling, how do I ensure time for myself, because parenting every moment of the day expends a LOT of goodwill energy (it can be an honest-to-goodness Mother Teresa effort sometimes)
2. How do I peacefully parent? (an extension of the role of parenting we take on as parents of newborns—just maintaining the responsibility post-five years in being their continual companion, prime educational adviser, social organizer and interpersonal counsellor, besides all the typical stuff, making sure there’s food on the table, cleaning, laundry, prepping for extracurricular activities, and the rest of the stuff we do.
These do come to be the most pressing questions for many homeschoolers when the family has lived the life for more than a year or so, but the first two questions, socialization and academics, usually get the most interest and attention.
Today, I engage the socialization worry.
I’ve heard it repeatedly from non-homeschooled people that homeschooled kids are different (much to the chagrin of most homeschooled kids). When at first I was quick to insert why I thought this was so, I listen more intently now, curious as to others’ observations. And they are interesting. (Funny that when my kids were in school, complete strangers didn’t ask about my children’s socialization or make comments on how my children were different then, yet at the core all kids are different).
Curiously, homeschoolers are actually remarkably ‘non’homogenous. Perhaps because we have had to come to grips with our not-so-typical ways. You might imagine Amish folk surrounded with nine kiddos, milking the cows in the morning and doing their sums on tree stumps in the afternoon sun, but in the homeschooling world, we see diversity.
I know families of eight or ten or thirteen. And I know the classic families of four or twosomes or even singletons. I’ve met the Muslim family, and if they didn’t study the Qur’an instead of the Bible, looked very much like a Christian homeschooling family in their academic and moral approaches.
The only homeschool family I haven’t seen were couples without kids…ha ha ha. Wait, no, I’ve seen that aspiring homeschool family too (so studious!)
I’ve read of ‘off-the-grid’ families, know farm families, know computer coding urban families, 4H families, travel round the world families, I’ve heard of acting and Olympian children families, and computer-based highschool homeschoolers and unschoolers canning kombucha with composting toilets and acres of wanderland. There is no homogeneity here.
The seasoned homeschoolers know this. In the beginning, I didn’t know this. I expected a similar social club as I had understood existed by grade in the schooled world. I knew when my kids weren’t in school that we weren’t identical, but we all showed up for the same events, signed the same consent forms, helped our kids with the same homework.
As a homeschooler, I know we’re ‘different’ compared to the common culture because people ask about it ALL THE TIME.
Everyone, homeschooled and schooled alike, come from different homes, have different focuses, we laugh at different things, work at different things. The act of solidly establishing ourselves as independent from the common culture does indeed make us independent, and therefore, different and we get plenty of time to think about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and if it’s worth all the effort swimming upstream.
This is probably why our children look different.
- Our kids are learning that they are different now. I personally didn’t figure out that I was unique until much, much later in life than my kids, like at thirty. No we’re not aspiring to be different. We are honouring the differentness that we know we are and just BEING it. Everyone is different. We all know that. We all feel mistreated when we’re young’uns and told that “if you’re cool, you will…”a. wear GAP, b. date the cool guy, c. be smart and achieve, d. not be smart, rather, be sassy and the life of the party, e. do drugs and party, f. don’t do drugs, go to youth group, g. wear lime green, h. have sex before we’re married, i. whatever, you fill in the blank (I know you have an answer—we all do).
- We’re okay if you’re different too. Actually we kind of like it. It’s interesting. How am I going to learn more about the world if you don’t tell me what you really think about 1. The existence of God, 2. Donald Trump’s candidacy (ok, most of us are homogenous in this;( 3. Wheat free diets, 4. Geothermal heating, 5. Or none of these things, but rather the things you think are important and like to talk about. Be you! The world is better for us all just being ourselves. Henry David Thoreau’s community thought he was a nutjob disappearing into the back 40, but he did come up with some inspiring observations of the world (my favourite, and first quote memorized ever: Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…ain’t that the truth?)
- Be it Muslim or Christian, Shambalah Buddhist or Hindu, most of us, minus an occasional psychopath, aspire to teaching our kids to be kind to one another–arguably, the most important lesson in socialization. To treat each other as we would have others’ treat us. To love one another. To be patient in Starbucks line-ups. To not cut lines. To not shoot four year olds in the car next to us because their parent cut us off. We teach our kids to understand their siblings’ frustration with them. We teach them how to speak, how to argue respectfully (though we mess with that ourselves), we teach them to listen and not interrupt. We teach them they should be listened to; they have something to say too. ALL THIS right here is REAL SOCIALIZATION that we should be teaching our kids.
- Social opportunities aren’t the same as socialization. In an effort to rant only a little bit, attending youth groups and religious observances, sports activities, art and music lessons, birthday parties and Christmas socials, summer camps and family BBQs, and visits at the lake with friends, and vacations and trips around the world—really, how many social opportunities does one child need? That six hour a day, five days a week, nine months a year, class of twenty five—that’s the magic socializing bullet? I don’t think so. Nuff said.
- Learning to be productive citizens of their society, charitable and community involved, not just focusing on our desires for attention and money and entertainment, we help to tailor an education that will enable our children to be who they were meant to become and contribute meaningfully. What will that mean for our particular four? I like to muse, but only time will tell. Only they will make the choices in their life, plots of their lives unfolding, perhaps influenced by me, and certainly influenced by the One who made them. But because we teach them how to live, how to engage their worlds, they’re accustomed to doing it now, so they’re going to do it all growed up!
- By far, the most difficult aspect of socialization is teaching our children, not by the words we use, the consequences we respond with when we’re trying to teach them to do things differently, or deciding how to help teach them character, but rather recognizing that…they’re not taught by our words, but lessons and attitudes caught by our lives. Who we are rubs off on our children. By far the toughest work of home educating our children is understanding how intricately we affect their souls with the stories of our lives and the attitude of our hearts. It also happens to be one of the most compelling reasons to home educate: to imprint on our children the stories of our lives. Whatever work we put in to their little lives, we will surely reap!