Apparently my homeschool kids and I were being watched.
I finished my non-fat cappuccino and the kids finished their Schweppes at a cafe during a homeschool day.
We were at the end of our Professor Noggins ocean card game and a man with salt and pepper hair walked up to our table. “These all yours?”
This is a common question I’ve heard repeatedly since my third daughter was born. A 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,” I said 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. I 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 to socializing them. Of course, you knew that.
But in my quest to socialize my children, there are a few things I’ve learned that may surprise you…
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?
2. 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.
3. My kids have learned a whole lot about connecting with others.
But this might have happened in or out of school.
- One of my kiddos has learned how to come out of her shell.
- Other kids never owned a shell.
- A couple of my kids have learned to give other kids a chance that they might not instinctively connect with.
- My kids are learning to be kind to others that aren’t always kind to them.
- Some of my kids are learning to curb their sharp tongues with the assistance of their mama (but probably also learning sharp quips from her too).
4. My kids have been learning to consider their siblings and that has most definitely taught them.
They’re learning not to bicker, but instead, talk things through, and listen to each other’s perspectives and feelings. And they’re learning to share their own feelings too.
They regularly interact with…
kids of all ages
parents of other kids
service strangers (post office, grocer, café)
their music, dance, and curling teachers
And they talk to them as comfortably as they’re talking to me.
6. We’re doing things differently, but we aren’t lone social islands.
My kids might not be in the confines of a cement building with a few hundred other children for six hours a day, switching from class to class, being told to be quiet in class, and told to hush cause the teacher’s talking, but my kids have a whole lot going on.
7. 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 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
- other 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. Sometimes it’s them, not me. They are separate people.
Therefore, self-examination has been my constant companion as I parent my children.
8. Socialization and social opportunity aren’t the same things.
Social opportunities abound. My children, and most homeschooled 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 are an ongoing effort. Teaching kindness, patience, consideration, a sharing spirit: these get taught every single day. My children have siblings; therefore, constant opportunities abound.
9. They learn to be confident partly because I am also confident.
But I think mostly they’re confident because they are listened to, looked in the eye, spend time in a slow, organic way: in other words, they know they’re important because they are important in our lives.
10. 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 lives. 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 Miss Vickie’s potato chips.
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 to homeschooled kids’ socialization? There isn’t one. But you knew that too.
But if you need a little time away from the kids, you can take a mini-retreat here: the Homeschool Mama Retreat.
Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod