Chicken Fried Vogue

For 15 years and most of her adult life, Bubblez lived in the suburbs of a major metropolitan city. She enjoyed taking her children to museums, parks, and dates at Starbucks. Then Bubblez moved to the country and her En Vogue attitude got chicken fried. Her yard is a park where the neighbor's rooster won't stop crowing, Starbucks is almost an hour away, and her large collection of fancy shoes is worthless. But, living in the acres of green has presented more opportunities for living "green" as Bubblez travels the path toward self-sufficiency (and bitches ((and prays)) along the way).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Socialization BS

The first question anyone asks when you tell them that you want to homeschool is, "What about socialization?" I guess this is a valid question. Nobody wants their kids to not have friends, and we all know how important it can be to understand and read social cues as adults, in the work place or otherwise. I suspect, however, that a lot of parents who bristle at the idea of homeschooling are really just hiding behind the idea of socialization to mask their own fears of inadequacy. Few people want to openly admit that they just plain do not want to be responsible for educating their own child. Admitting something like that makes a person feel like an irresponsible parent in a society that puts, possibly, too much emphasis on honoring children.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting someone else educate your child, but I hate, hate, hate it when people presume that if a child is being educated at home, then that child will have no social skills.

Is it possible to completely isolate your children and ruin their ability to function in society? Yes, if you are cruel and abusive. (I know a couple of adults who have trouble forming healthy relationships because their abusive parents refused to allow them a social life outside of public school.) Is it normal for homeschooled children to be isolated and socially inept? No. No, it is not normal at all. If you are choosing to homeschool, I hope I can assume that you are simply interested in doing what is best for your child. Part of home educating, is making sure your kids get opportunities to learn and play (because it's in the casual moments when our relationships form) with other children.

The idea that homeschool kids generally don't know how to make friends is pure, simple, bullshit. If you, as a home educator, are not careful, you and your kids will be so busy socializing and goofing off that you won't ever get around to cracking open a book. As soon as people realize that you are all at home during the day, every other person who is also at home during the day will start asking you to hang out with them. Lots of homeschoolers shut the ringers off on their phones between 8 and 3 to keep people from bothering them while they're trying to teach.

Also, once you hook up with other homeschooling families, you will be having holiday parties and book clubs and trips to see every damn thing in town. You'll want to do this stuff because it's fun for the kids and for you. There have been times when we all got together for an hour long lesson and then spent the next three hours letting the kids play while the grown-ups sat around gabbing. There have been times when I had to say, no, we can't do whatever today. We are falling behind on our schoolwork.

Homeschoolers in urban areas, especially, have scads of social opportunities. Rural homeschoolers might have to dig a little deeper or drive a little to farther to participate in these things, but then, they do that for everything (shopping, etc), right? So, what's the big deal?

First of all, you have all of the various local businesses that focus on teaching kids dancing, swimming, martial arts, gymnastics, or anything else. Gyms like the YMCA often offer special classes for homeschoolers. There are sports and theatre opportunities available through community resources or even through many conventional schools. Are you affiliated with a religious group? Most of those have classes and youth groups available. The local library probably offers interesting opportunities for kids to hang out together, too. Don't discount after school (latch key) programs for your homeschooled children, either. How about boy or girl scouts and 4-H Club? And I haven't even touched on the number of homeschool support groups and co-ops that exist, only that when once you get involved with them, they keep you busy.

Also, being free from the bullies and mean girls, the eat or get eaten attitude that is prevalent among children in conventional schools, allows a child to grow in kindness and confidence, and enables them to reach out to others in a friendly way without the fear of being belittled or shunned. Take my daughter, Teenie, for example.

Here she is at a slumber party, age 8, with red hair and rabbit ears.
And here she is on her 14th birthday, looking like she wants to kill me.

Teenie had been receiving her education at home from second grade on. This school year, she decided to attend the public high school. She was also new in town, so saying she was the "new kid" was putting is mildly. Teenie passed nervously through her first day. To say that she was strung out when she got home that day was an understatement. Do you know what the problem was? She kept getting lost in the new building and was worried that she wouldn't find her classes.

As her mother, I knew that this was a normal part of first day anxiety that happens with every student pretty much every year. What I was worried about, of course, was whether or not the other kids were mean to her. Well, Teenie, having only rarely been exposed to mean kids, just assumed that everyone was nice. As a result, she approached the other students with confidence, asking for directions to this room or that one, asking for assistance with her locker, and smiling at anyone who looked her way. She came home from her first day of school with two phone numbers of girls in her choir class and her first story of having been flirted with by a boy. Oh if only she hadn't been homeschooled! We could have avoided such trauma. 

Perhaps one is concerned instead about what happens to her delicate, carefully tended to, psyche when some jerk does come along. I wish I could say that homeschooled kids never have to encounter mean people, but if you have been that good, non-abusive, parent I mentioned earlier, your kids have. The difference is that when they do encounter them, the kids aren't left alone to navigate those waters, and chances are that if you didn't actually witness it happening, your homeschooled child feels close enough to you to tell you about it. Homeschooled children are used to working through problems of all kinds with their parents.

So, when Teenie got left off of the invite list for some girl's slumber party, we talked about how some people are more comfortable with certain kinds of friends. When Teenie got picked on for praying before meals when her friend didn't, we talked about standing up for our values amidst diversity. When she got teased for being too skinny by a friend who felt self conscious about her own weight, we talked about what it means to have a healthy body image and how we can validate other people and make them feel special. And when her best friend broke her heart and made her cry by saying that she didn't want to be friends anymore, I offered to kick the asses of everyone in that kid's family. 

It was the same stuff any parent would do for the same issues every child deals with.

We just dealt with them at home. 

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