Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Homeschooling: What About Socialization?

"What about socialization?"  I believe this question is probably made the biggest deal out of.  And it is a big deal, but not the way people think.  Let me explain...

The definition of socialization from is as follows: "noun 1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position."

Based on this definition of socialization, do I want the current public educational system to be the standard for which my children acquire their personal identities, norms, values, behavior, and social skills? Not really. Except for a few individuals within the government and political arena, our government of today is void of standards and values that reflect my worldview. (I'm not saying they have no standards or values~they just certainly don't reflect my own.) Even with all of the Christian teachers and leaders that are in the public school system, their hands are mostly tied behind their back when it comes to bringing any of their worldview into what they are teaching. I personally don't want my children learning to base their identity, norms, and values on a system void of any reflection of Christ.  I have the wonderful opportunity to show Christ in all parts of my children's education. That Christ is part of it, not something separated from it. The study of Christ isn't something we should just be learning at church or aside from school work. It should be integrated into all parts of it. I can't force my children to choose Christ. Ultimately, that is their decision alone. But, I can show them how Christ is in everything we say and do, every part of our world.

In the public school system, evolution is taught as the norm, as if it is fact, not theory. As Christians, we believe in Creation, which isn't even allowed to be discussed in most public school systems.  Sex Education, and the various lifestyles surrounding it, different religions, and  other sensitive subjects are being taught and exposed to the children at younger and younger levels.  It should be my decision on when my children learn about different lifestyles, beliefs, and certain facts of life, as I believe they can handle it, not the government's.  It should be my decision, not the government's, on how and when I teach them about the world around us.  What message then, are we sending to our children when we send them to an 'expert' to educate them, but then tell our children when they get home, that what they are being taught is wrong, according to what we believe ? Or try to explain something heavy to them that they were exposed to at school, that, as a parent, I know they are not ready to shoulder yet?  No wonder children don't have a firm foundation on who they are or what they believe. Perhaps I home school because I don't want my child 'socialized,' not in this way.

What most people mean by the word 'socialization' is the interaction with others and opportunity to make friends with others. Most people want to label home school kids as 'weird', or 'loners', 'socially inept.' I dare you to take a walk in any public high school hallway, or even a junior high school for that matter, and see how long it takes you to spot the 'loners' and 'weirdos'. You can even spot a few already developing in elementary schools. I would be willing to wager money that it won't take you very long, and I don't bet. I believe home life and/or school peers have more to do with being a 'loner' or a 'weirdo' than where or how a child is educated. School shootings and killing sprees are evidence of that. That being said, my children, as well as most homeschool children I know, are far from being lonely or being socially inept. 

That thought brings me to the next point. I'm far from convinced that it is necessary for children to be forced to deal with bullying, teasing, and being stereotyped into a specific group, which often stays with you through the rest of your graded school years, as a 'normal' part of school and of growing up. In my own experience, it has no positive benefits. I was a skinny, buck-toothed girl growing up. Though my parents loved me very much, I was often made fun of by my school peers for being so skinny, among other things, to the point that I remember crying both during school and after school and it only got worse in the junior high grades. Once I hit high school, it wasn't so bad. But, because of the ridicule and rejection I had experienced for so many years, I constantly doubted myself and what others saw in me. I carried these feelings all the way through college. In fact, it made for a rocky start when I first started dating my husband and through his efforts and the wonderful grace of God, I have been finally able to shrug that lack of confidence and self doubt.  (Although it tries to creep back in every so often.)  I don't believe for a minute that any of this was necessary, except that I might have more understanding for others in that situation.

One of the frequently asked questions on the Focus on the Family website is, "Do you think home schooling might negatively impact the socialization process?" James Dobson had a lot to say on this issue, but this quote sums up my feelings on the current matter, "If acquainting them with ridicule, rejection, physical threats, and the rigors of the pecking order is necessary to socialize our children, I'd recommend that we keep them unsocialized for a little longer."

For the most part, (just as there are 'weirdos' in the school system, there are a few being home schooled too,) home schooled children are very well rounded and adjusted among their peers. Home school students are privy to all kinds of activities where they can learn to interact and become friends with others. They are usually busy with some kind of sport activity, music, dancing, 4H clubs, Boy/Girl Scouts, name it, they do it. Home school kids are exposed to a wide variety cultures, backgrounds, family dynamics, and other situations that will help expose them to the wide world we live in. There are home school cooperatives, known as 'co-ops', that many home school students attend with others in a class-like setting. In fact, studies conducted over several years are now showing that home school students are actually more confident with themselves, more socially adjusted, and less peer dependent than their traditionally schooled counterparts. Contrary to popular opinion, home school is more than just sitting at the kitchen table. It is a very busy and active lifestyle that takes education out of the doors and into the real world. While traditionally schooled students are put in a class, behind a desk, for several hours a day with same age peers and not given much opportunity to interact with different ages, home school students often take classes and participate in activities with many different ages, giving them the social advantage of learning how to interact with peers of different ages and interests from early on, which I'd say is better preparation for the 'real world.' (I've yet to work in a job where they separated us by age, have you?)

To wrap up all the questions, I am in no way saying any of this is true of EVERY public school student or EVERY home school student. There are always exceptions to the rule, both for the good and the worse of the situations. I just want you, whoever you are reading this, to know that there is more to home schooling than what is on the surface. It is hard work, but, so is everything worthwhile in life. Even if you don't feel a calling to home school, educate yourself on it. There are a ton of good books out there on the subject of homeschooling. I will try to post a list of some of my favorites that you may find helpful to understanding this way of life. I'm sure you can find them in your local library, or from a friendly home schooling parent, so you don't have to purchase them.

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