Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Question of Socialization

One of the most common, and annoying, questions homeschoolers get asked is, "What about socialization?" Despite the amazing growth of homeschooling in the last decade or so, many non-homeschoolers still retain the image of the shut-away family who rarely ventures out-of-doors or encounters anyone they don't live with. There's a perception that proper socialization requires school, that children won't learn how to interact with their peers unless they spend six to eight hours a day, five days a week, cooped up with a random sampling of them.

I often point out that the type of socialization one encounters in the school setting is actually quite false and unnatural. When, in your life, will you be segregated with people more or less exactly your age, to the exclusion of all others? Even in college you begin to encounter a more mixed group of people: older students, adults who are continuing their education, and the like. But that slight increase in the diversity of ages is nothing compared to what you will encounter in the workforce; few places of business hire people in their early twenties in large groups.

As to the teaching of basic social skills, I'd argue that these are easier to instill at home than at school. It may be the teacher's job to make the students in her care behave, sit down, be quiet, and focus on the lesson at hand (though in many schools teachers struggle just to accomplish this much), but it certainly isn't the teacher's job to teach children to greet adults politely, to open and hold doors for each other, to eat with attention to table manners, to be generous, kind, thoughtful, concerned, cheerful, hygienic, trustworthy, and diligent. Some exceptionally good teachers may inspire their students to learn these behaviors, but it's really the parents' job to teach these things, and to teach them primarily by example.

Still, having attended many schools in my educational career, I have to admit that there is a type of socialization my homeschooled children will not experience until they are much older. It is the one form of socialization schools are really good at, and which is sometimes encountered when you've left school behind. This is the type of social structure known as the clique.

The clique is popularly associated with high schools and teenagers, but it is being found among younger and younger groups of students in the present day. In fact, I'd say that the average school contains many different cliques, and woe to the child who doesn't manage to fit into at least one of them! Most of us remember the different cliques: the popular kids, the athletic kids, the artistic kids, the troublemakers, the smart kids, the 'losers,' and so on. But even the lowest-ranked clique was 'higher' in most schools' social strata than those kids who were outside of them all. In the merciless cruelty schoolchildren are capable of, some kids were permanently excluded from the social world for the 'crime' of not fitting in.

Sadly, adults sometimes exhibit this behavior, as well. Homeschooled children may get to skip the cliques of school just to encounter this sort of thing later in life. Some of them may experience it in the workplace, when as Catholics with strong family values they don't 'fit in' with the latest politically-correct agenda of the corporation; some of them may encounter it at their parish, when traditional-minded Catholics may not 'fit in' with the more vocal, liberal laity who run every committee and faint in horror at the sound of Latin; some of them, sadly enough, may find it in Catholic homeschool groups, where a particular activity or suggestion doesn't 'fit in' with "the way we've been doing things for years."

Cliques may be a part of life, but they're a nasty example of our fallen world, not an ideal of socialization to hold up to our children. I don't think it's necessary to send our children to school to learn how to socialize in this way, any more than I think it's necessary to send them to school to expand their grasp and use of common expletives. Some kinds of behaviors don't deserve to be taught.

6 comments:

AnnonyMouse said...

I just love this blog! We homeschool too! We have the same problem with eXplaining to others (when did it become their business) how our children are not going to suffer socially because of homeschooling.

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you so much, annonymouse! Isn't it funny how so many people think the purpose of an education is to socialize your kids?

annonymouse said...

Yep. And the fact that some are TRULY convinced that we are "misfits" because we homeschool. Our two year old is Mr. Social and DD and DS relate better and behave better NOW than they used to, in my opinion.
This is a funny I thought fitting although it is long..


The 14 days of Homeschooling( sung to The 12 Days of Christmas)

On the first day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can you
homeschool legally?"

On the second day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Are they
socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the third day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Do you give
them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fourth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about
P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool
legally?"

On the fifth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "YOU ARE SO
STRANGE! What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they
socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the sixth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How long will
you homeschool, YOU ARE S0 STRANGE, what about P.E. , do you give
them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the seventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Look at
what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO
STRANGE!, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they
socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the eighth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Why do you
do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool,
YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E. do you give them tests, are they
socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the ninth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "They'll miss
the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long
will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E. do you give
them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the tenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about
graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what
they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!,
what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you
homeschool legally?"

On the eleventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "I could
never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do
you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you
homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E., do you give them
tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the twelfth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can they go
to college, I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll
miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how
long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you
give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the thirteenth day of homeschool I thoughtfully replied: "They Can
go to college, yes you can do this, they can have graduation, we
don't like the prom, we do it cuz we like it, they are missing
nothing, we'll homeschool forever, WE ARE NOT STRANGE!, We give them
P.E., and we give them tests, they are socialized, AND WE HOMESCHOOL
LEGALLY!

On the fourteenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How can
I get started, why didn't you tell me, where do I buy curriculum,
when is the next conference, WILL PEOPLE THINK WE'RE STRANGE? I think
we can do this, if you will help us, we'll join a sports team, and
we'll homeschool legally.

Red Cardigan said...

LOL! Very funny! Where did you get this?

annonymouse said...

I belong to a Catholic Yahoo group and someone during the Christmas time posted it. I thought it was funny too.
Thanks for the blog. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

stef said...

What makes me go "huh?" is when people look at my daughter and comment on how _____ she is (insert positive adjective, e.g., nice, kind, thoughtful, poised, confident, etc.) and they say -- directly or indirectly -- how they're so impressed with her being like that *despite the fact that she's homeschooled*. It's like she's this anomaly they can't explain. If they can think one homeschooled child can be so well-adjusted, why can't they make the mental leap to thinking/considering that most homeschooled children can be the same?