Monday, September 14, 2015

"But What About Socialization?"

My neighbor asked, her eyes widening slightly. Ah yes, the number one question all homeschoolers get upon disclosing their status. Yes, what about socilization? We were at our annual neighborhood pig roast (because my neighborhood is cool like that) when I encountered this question, and not for the first time. Amist good food and chatting, my next door neighbor asked me how my first grader was doing in school. This is a friendly, straightforward, small talk type question. I responded that he is doing well, and oh by the way I don't know if I told you this but I am homeschooling this year. She said I hadn't told her, and what led me to this decision? I shared some of our struggles in kindergarten and some of the factors leading to our decision. Then came the question I was expecting:

"Well, you should get him back into school next year, because, you know, what about socialization?"

I looked across the blocked off street to where my six year old was digging and running around with several other neighborhood kids of varying ages. Hmm, yes, what about socialization.

I was going to make this a mad Mondays post, except I relized that this question doesn't actually make me mad. Aside from the fact that I love my neighbor and I know she has the best of intentions, I think this common question most often comes from a lack of knowledge about and exposure to homeschooling. After all, homeschooling isn't mainstream although it is becoming more common, and aren't homeschoolers just a little weird, a little, extreme, a litle rebellious?

Before I began looking into homeschooling my own child, I didn't know a single person who homeschooled or who was homeschooled. I had neither positive nor negative opinions regarding benefits or drawbacks. It literally wasn't on my radar. Deciding to homeschool for me was like deciding to move to outer space. People either admired and supported me, nodded and smiled the way you would at someone who has lost touch with reality, or openly worried for my sanity hoping that this was a phase that would pass, like my college days of drinking cheap beer and wearing graphic tee shirts. Realizing I needed additional information and additional support, I sought out other homeschooling moms. Turns out, they do exists! *Channeling Santa from M&M's over played Christmas commercial.

I found some wonderful moms through the church where my son attended preschool and when I shyly asked if I could pick their brains, they set up a homeschool Q and A session over coffee. They showed me curriculum materials and shared the ins and outs of their homeschool days, even inviting me into their homes to see homeschooling in action! One mom had just finished her first year of homeschooling and she assured me that it was normal to feel overwhelmed in the beginning, that when she started she felt as though she'd jumped into the middle of the ocean without a life vest. I couldn't have come up with a better analogy (although my outer space analogy was pretty bad ass). Both of these moms have first graders. I would have expected some competition among homeschooling parents. I saw the opposite. They were falling all over each other telling me how smart the other person's kid was! I am now part of their weekly social group and they welcomed me with opened arms. Both of my boys get to play with kids their own age since as it turns out they all have toddlers as well. I have found the homeschooling community to be very supportive. They believe strongly that homeschooling is best - not for every family - but for their family. Also, I think they like chatting with people on common ground. My first grader also attends a co-op eight hours a week where he learns, prays, plays, and eats with first and second graders in a smaller classroom. He also takes two elective classes at a local church on Fridays. These classes are multi level which give him a chance to work with older and younger kids. After all, how many offices or companies do you know of that segregate people by age? Learning to interact with people of all ages is definitely a useful social skill.

Aside from co-ops, cub scouts, religious education at our Catholic Church, and karate, he also sees his long time best friends often, which means I get to see my friends often. Win-win. He has known these kids since preschool or earlier, and he knows the value of maintaining long time friendships no matter where life takes you. Besides, his "girlfriend" lives just across the street and we live in a neighborhood full of kids.

Now, I don't like to make waves. I am not excited by controversy and believe it or not I hate arguing. Often times it's easier for me to smile and nod in a let's agree to disagree fashion in these situations. This was my first instinct when my neighbor asked me the socialization question. But I felt like I had to show my confidence in my decision to homeschool my son. Also, I know I can express a differing opinion politley, after all we were just two neighbors shooting the breeze at a barbeque. I told my neighbor that in traditional school socializing is limited to a forty minute lunch and recess, and then after school play or activities. I shared with her all of our activities, the wonderful, diverse people we have met, and our unwavering relationship with "old" friends. I also told her that homeschoolers are afforded far more resources than I had even imagined, and that homeschooling does not mean we sit in our house by ourselves all day every day. I mean, if that were the case I am pretty sure I would eventually resort to inviting Jehovah's Witnesses and solictors in for margaritas and adult converstion. (Both of whom are perfectly nice people, don't get me wrong.) After listening, my neighbor's gaze drifted over to my son, who was recruiting a gaggle of neighborhood kids to help him with his construction work, and ditch digging in our front yard, much to my husband's chagrin.

"Well," she responded, looking back at me, "Well, he sure does seem happy."

That's a good enough answer for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment