family life / homeschooling / socialization

what’s the secret? the truth behind homeschool socialization

Power shapes what a person does, influence shapes who they become“. Erwin McManus

Apparently we were being watched. We had travelled to a new town and didn’t know many people, so we decided to wander around town. The roasted bean fragrance from the street lured me into a trendy coffee shop. Stranger-watching amused us, but the fireplace kept us there on this January winter day.

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I had finished my non-fat cappuccino. The kids finished their Schweppes. We were at the bitter end of our Professor Noggins ocean card game and a middle aged man walked up to our table. “These all yours?”

Common question I’ve heard repeatedly since my third was born. The fourth child took the curiosity to a whole new level. So I’d heard the question so often that I’d finally given up on my sarcastic reactions. “Yup, all mine,” with a smile.

Well, you have a beautiful family.

Surprised at his sincerity, I said a simple thank you.

You have to tell me how you’ve done it. They’re just all well-behaved and good to each other.

Ha. Not always, my friend, I think to myself. Wish his perception was my continual reality. Having said that, I could see that they considered each other, helped each other, spoke gently to each other lots of the time.

I don’t have a secret. Of course, you knew that.

But in my quest to socialize my children, I’ve learned…

1. Forced association is not socialization.

Why are people worried about my children being socialized? Do my children have routine opportunities to spend seven hours with twenty four other children? Would I be happy hanging out with another twenty five people every day if I could choose it?

Yes, I have to put an effort into connecting with others. But I get to decide who those ‘others’ are and how they influence my family.

One of my kiddos has learned how to come out of her shell. Others never owned a shell. Some have learned to give other kids a chance that they might not instinctively connect with. They are learning to be kind to others that aren’t always kind to them. Some of them are learning to curb their sharp tongues with the assistance of their mama (but probably also learning sharp quips from her too).

They’re learning to consider their siblings. They’re learning not to bicker, but rather talk things through, and to listen to each other’s perspective.

They’re exposed to a regular community. They regularly interact with adults, whether they’re my friends, kids of all ages, parents of other kids, service strangers (post office, grocer, café), and their music teachers. And they talk to them as comfortably as they’re talking to me.

We’re doing things differently, but we aren’t lone social islands.

2. Who I am, my focus, my struggles, my idiosyncrasies, and my strengths rub off on my children.

Who else was I hoping they would mirror? They were born onto this earth because I chose to bear them, because I wanted children. Who else should lead them, guide them, parent them? I didn’t have them to turn them over to the someone else to parent.

Having said that, it’s a misnomer to suggest my children are mentored just by me. There are loads of people in their family and their community that shape who they are becoming: youth leaders, dance teachers, choir directors, friends, and family.

Suggest that they are picking up too many of my bad habits? Frickin, yup (that might be me). But when I see something negative reflecting back at me, I consider if there is something inward I need to look at. Self-examination has been my constant companion as I parent my children. Sometimes it’s them, not me. They are separate people in fact.

3. Socialization and social opportunity aren’t the same things.

Social opportunities abound. My children, and most home educated kids I know, attend youth groups, hang out with friends, travel to new cities or countries, attend guitar and piano lessons, homeschool co-ops, college classes, dance classes, gymnastics, choir, swim lessons and soccer camps…I could go on and on. We’ve got more time to be with other people now that we’re educating at home.

Socialization opportunities also abound, and is an ongoing effort. Teaching kindness, patience, consideration, a sharing spirit–these get taught every single day. My children have siblings; therefore, constant opportunities abound.

They learn to be confident partly because I am also confident. But I think mostly because they are listened to, looked in the eye, spent time with in a slow, organic way: in other words, they know they’re important because they are important in our lives.

4. What you see isn’t what you get.

Nice kids aren’t always nice. Perfectly kind people don’t exist. There are stories behind the stories in everyone’s life. My husband and I have moments where our eyes are rolling, heads steaming, extreme deep breathing, trying to avoid yelling or throwing consequences around equal to my consumption of Lays potato chips once a month. But we get to work at our socialization as often as we help our kids learn theirs, so it’s all good.

Thank you random stranger. In the end, I accepted that stranger’s compliment. The hard work I put in every day is well worth the effort, and it’s nice to have it recognized.

So what’s the secret? There isn’t one. But you knew that too.

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14 thoughts on “what’s the secret? the truth behind homeschool socialization

  1. Really interesting post. During the teachers strike I tried to do some home learning with my little guy and I absolutely admire the parents who homeschool. I always used to wonder if kids who were homeschooled socialized as much with other people, but it sounds like they are, and quite possibly the potential for better quality interaction exists. It sounds like you have a great family, and it is always nice to have others notice and comment on it.

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  2. What a pleasant surprise, to receive a complement when expecting judgment! I’m always so nervous when out and about with my children during school hours – but I love hearing “You have beautiful children!” My husband often takes the kids out on his own Saturday morning and every time he hears “You’re brave”.

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    • Indeed! It doesn’t even register that we’re out & about anymore. With all the grocery store exposure, what we get comments on now is surprise that my kids shop with me. I even went to the other end of the mall when they were loading stuff at the cashier! The training has paid off.

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  3. Wonderful post! I’ve always said we should put an adjective in front of socialization. Everyone is socialized to some extent. The question is, what types of socialization are your children experiencing?

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  4. Homeschooling is the quiet revolution. Most homeschooled children are probably in Christian families. Though I did meet someone years ago that homeschooled his kids and they weren’t a Christian family.

    I seems like it is the same worldly mantra everywhere I go: “what about socialization?” I would much rather have my kids socialized to their Christian parents and to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself than with worldly people. Would you like to have your kids socialized in an inner city public school—socialized to be an illiterate gang-banger? Would you like your kids to be socialized in a wealthy suburb in America—socialized to crass materialism, the worship of money and worldly success and drug and alcohol abuse?

    I was talking with a friend in southern Idaho recently and they have their kids in a charter school in Gooding, Idaho. The public school in their hometown of Shoshone is considered to be the worst in the state. I told her that sometimes I think that putting your kids in public schools IS CHILD ABUSE.

    Homeschooled children will grow up and change and redeem our society.

    Here is a blog of someone who was homeschooled; this blog is a real blessing:

    Maid Arise!
    http://maidarise.blogspot.com/

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