What’s the most important thing new homeschoolers need to know?
Early on as homeschoolers, we most frequently hear the questions:
- Are homeschool academics adequate?
- Will the children be socialized?
Years later, my top three questions are:
- 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 at times, and learning to be Mother Teresa is even more challenging).
How do I ensure time for myself and also peacefully parent?
As my children’s continual companion, prime educational adviser, social organizer, and interpersonal counsellor (besides all the typical parenting stuff like making sure there’s food on the table, housecleaning, laundry, and prepping for extracurricular activities), how do I peacefully parent and ensure time for myself?
These questions are often the most pressing for homeschoolers who have been doing this lifestyle for more than a year or so, but the first two questions, socialization and academics, usually get the most interest and attention.
So what about socialization?
I’ve heard it repeatedly from non-homeschooled people that homeschooled kids are different (much to the chagrin of most homeschooled kids).
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 (just like their schooled counterparts). So lumping us all together into one giant group won’t accurately reflect us.
When you think homeschooler, you might imagine Amish folk surrounded with thirteen kiddos, milking the cows in the morning and doing their sums on tree stumps in the afternoon sun, but in the homeschooling world, diversity exists too. (Though I know that family with thirteen kiddos. I know that family who milks cows. And I definitely have seen my kids do arithmetic on tree stumps.)
I know families of eight or ten or thirteen. I also know families of four or two or singletons. I’ve met Muslim families, families that had marijuana grow-ops, families that podcast, families that live in RVs, families that go to church, and families that wouldn’t dare.
Surprise! Everyone is different.
The only homeschool family I haven’t seen were couples without kids…ha. Wait, no, I’ve seen that aspiring homeschool family too (so studious!)
I’ve read of off-grid families, I know computer coding urban families, suburban families, apartment dwelling families, 4H families, travelling round the world families, I’ve heard of acting and famlies with aspiring-Olympic athlete children, and unschoolers canning kombucha with composting toilets.
There is no homogeneity amongst homeschoolers.
In the beginning, I didn’t know this. I expected a homeschool social club where everyone hung out at the same time and same place each day. And they were like my family.
When my kids were in school, I knew that all families weren’t identical, but we all showed up for the same events, signed the same consent forms, helped our kids with the same homework, so there was some commonality.
As a homeschooler, I definitely knew we were considered different because people asked about our lifestyle ALL THE TIME.
But we’re ALL different, right? Every family, homeschooled and schooled alike, come from different homes, have different values, laugh at different things, and work at different things.
The act of doing something not-so-mainstream, like homeschooling, does indeed make us different though. (So different that we get plenty of time to think about why we’re different, why we’re doing what we’re doing, 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 because everyone is always asking about our different lifestyle.
Our family was not aspiring to be different. We were just honouring the differentness that we know we are and BEING it. We just wanted to homeschool for freedom: freedom to personalize our kids’ education, freedom to create our own social community, freedom to create our own schedule and to travel too. But get asked often enough, and you too will recognize that people see you as different.
We’re okay if you’re different too.
Actually we kind of like it. It’s interesting when everyone is different.
How am I going to learn more about the world if we don’t talk about the things that make us different.
Be you! The world is better for us all when we are just being ourselves.
Teaching kindness to our kids IS socialization.
Be it Muslim or Christian, Shambalah Buddhist or Hindu, most of us, minus an occasional psychopath, aspire to teach our kids to be kind to one another (arguably, the most important lesson in socialization).
Teaching kindness is learning to treat each other as we would have others’ treat us. To be patient in Starbucks line-ups. To not cut lines. To not shoot someone in the car next to us because they cut us off. We teach our kids to understand their siblings’ perspective, even if they’re frustrating them. We teach them how to speak, how to argue respectfully, we teach them to listen and not to interrupt. We teach them they should be listened to; they have something to say too.
This is socialization.
Social opportunities aren’t the same as socialization.
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—these are social opportunities. Our homeschooled kids get plenty of ’em. In fact, they get more because they usually have more time in the day to attend them.
That schooled six hour a day, five days a week, nine months a year, class of twenty five? There’s no magic sauce in teaching kids socialization there.
Learning to be productive citizens of their society, charitable and community-focussed, we help to tailor an education that enables our children to be who they were meant to become and contribute meaningfully.
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 them learn kindness, 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 and creates their greatest socialization lesson.
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!