Years ago, I chatted with a public school educator who upbraided me on our family decision to homeschool our children.
“I can’t argue with you that what you’re doing academically is superior,” she said. “Your ability to give one on one time to each student, as well as your freedom to customize subject matter to their interests and learning levels, is beyond anything I could do in the classroom.”
At this point, I was thinking, “And the problem is . . .?”
“But,” she continued, and this is the big But that moons about any hostile discussion of homeschooling,
“What about socialization?”
I bet you’ve heard that one before. I heard it so many times that I was actually able to come up with a clever repartee:
“It’s because we want our children to be normally socialized that we homeschool them.”
That’s not just a smart retort; it’s something that I increasingly see as true.
At the base, as always, is the concept of “normal,” and what this animal really looks like. Because the bulk of our child populace attends public school, with its age-segregated, oversized classrooms, “normal” means dealing with peer pressure, conforming to a group standard so that you won’t get made fun of, seeking out the approval of the popular caste, and hiding hard work, ambition, or intelligence so you won’t be labeled a teacher’s pet or overachiever.
The goal is to fit in and not shake the boat, which trains people admirably for a later life of working under corporate cubicle infrastructure. For all we talk about creativity and celebrating our differences, when those two people walk into the room, we generally encourage them to leave.
My instructor friend went on to comment on her experience with homeschooled children who had matriculated into her classroom:
“They ask too many questions,” she said, “and they frequently want to know why we are doing what we are doing.”
What an interesting thing to complain about.
While at some point, in all of our lives, we simply must shut up and do what needs to be done, it’s sad that as an aspect of normal socialization, this process must begin so early, and continue for so long. Don’t we want a populace that asks questions, and wants to know why it is we’re doing what we’re doing?
It’s intriguing that homeschooled children — who are frequently accused of being raised in a “sheltered environment” — are known for a spirit of gregariousness, being willing to talk to people of all ages, from very young children to the elderly, and the major beef about them is that they don’t deal as well with a cluster of their peers.
So normal, in our society, is that you function — not necessarily thrive — in your peer group, but don’t interact well with those below or above you — sometimes as little as one grade level.
As I said, it’s because we wanted our children so socialize normally that we decided to homeschool them.
It’s not a simple matter of the public school system being wrong and the homeschoolers being right — no complex issue can be reduced to System A on one side and System B on the other. Many public school students are outgoing and friendly, even those who are quiet, just as many homeschoolers are as well. And within both public school and homeschool environments, there are children who seem awkward, shy, introverted — our society labels this abnormal, although what is preferable about a social butterfly incapable of establishing or maintaining deep, significant relationships, I don’t know.
It is a matter, however, of truly looking at this “diversity” word that a noisy, minority — yet powerful — segment of our society bandies about, and acknowledging that we’re really not looking for, celebrating, or even accepting the individual differences that make up human beings.
Mavericks, exhibiting a true independent spirit, are harder and harder to find in real life, and while we read about them in books and see them in Clint Eastwood movies, when they stand up in the middle of the crowd and say, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, is he?” the distressing response is,
“You’re so unsocialized. You must have been homeschooled.”
Keep it up, homeschooling community. We need this type of socialization.
When you truly put your family first, you will automatically
be outside the norm. As homeschoolers, you know what it’s like to live on less so that you can follow your principles, and I encourage you to look at my book, Live Happily on Less, for ideas on how you can improve even more.
I know — you’re the choir, and you’re already saving money. But I’m willing to bet that you haven’t gone as far as I have, and that our experience — in which we built our home on land we saved up and purchased, resulting in a mortgage-free life — has something, anything, to add to your arsenal of money-saving lifestyle activities.
Join me Thursdays at This Woman Writes for my articles on Homeschooling, based upon 20 years of math, reading, and cookie baking with my four progeny. Join me, also, at my Commonsense Christianity column at BeliefNet. The latest posts are Not All Homeschoolers Are Christian, Only . . . BELIEVE, and Three Halloween No No’s for Christians.