I’ve seen this quote on another homeschool blog–something along the lines of, “I’ve seen society, and I don’t want it raising my kids.” I can’t give you the source–and I can’t say it’s a direct quote–but it’s close and I agree. Please don’t get me wrong–I’m probably one of the few that remain who still sees the good in society. I really do value people and their ideas, I respect another’s right to think and believe differently from me, I truly appreciate the customs and creativity of other cultures, but at the same time I strive in our household to limit the influence of society on my kids. Like everything else, there are pros and cons to the whole “socialization” argument. This is just one of many factors that lead to our decision to homeschool. Maybe some geographical background and personal history would be good here.
We live in a small rural town whose school system relies pretty heavily on “new” teacher programs that basically get really inspired college graduates to come teach here while they either work on certification or take some grad school courses before moving on. It is not a place people often opt to remain–I, in fact, often wonder why God would have us put down roots here but regardless of why I’m sure He did. So–having actually taught in this local system and had a fair amount of interaction with the community I would still say, “I’ve seen society, and I don’t want it raising my kids.” No-I do not think it is the responsibility of society to raise our children, though it appears there are some who do. But the pull of this world can be so strong and our desire is to first be grounded in our faith. As this world forces its “alternative” lifestyles (Adam Lambert at the AMAs) and atheism (Winter Solstice, religion enslaves minds in Olympia) down our throats we just want to preserve our choice in what forms of socialization are valuable and which we should avoid. In any case–I’m including some response to some common perceptions and misconceptions about homeschooled kids and socialization.
1. “They are not prepared for the reality of the real world.” My response: We homeschool in our house–not in a cave. Again–with the world pressing in on all sides it would be pretty tough to remain ignorant of what’s out there. We don’t submerge ourselves in it–but we are aware, and in fact we use it all as examples of how sin truly blinds and how the devil is so sly he makes wrong things appear so right. Certainly there are probably some homeschoolers out there living under a rock or whatever, but we’re fully aware of what’s happening in the world and using every opportunity to prepare our kids for how to handle the reality of what lies beyond our front door–a mission field ripe for the harvest.
2. “They do not know how to make friends.” My response: Speaking only from the experience I have with my family and not for the entire homeschooling population–they make friends very well. My children have had the opportunity to develop deep and lasting friendships that are not based on being in the same class this year. Their friendships actually come about by having like interests and by being willing to learn from others’ experiences. My children are friends with homeschoolers, public-schoolers and private-schooled children. Despite the effort they have to put into it because they aren’t together in school, their friendships have come to be deeper and more lasting than any I remember having as a child. My children are interested in how other kids get their education, and other kids are interested in them. The common link in some of their relationships is that they are homeschooled, while in others it is their faith, in others it is sports or music–they are pretty well-rounded, outgoing kids who can decide for themselves who they like. Out from under the pressure of a peer group or a popular kid who dictates the norms, my kids choose friends without regard to the opinions of 20 other kids.
3. “Homeschooled kids are too dependent on their parents.” My response: Now you don’t really believe that it’s only homeschoolers who may be dependent on their parents. What about all the parents who do their kids science projects and book reports? Ya’ll know they’re out there. Now in my home we do have a child that would love to be as dependent as possible, and we do modify to get the most out of this student. But by no means do we tolerate dependence and laziness. Other parents talk about us I’m sure, saying we’re hard on ’em and don’t give enough chances and what not. I know for a fact, having taught in this local system, that my child would be labeled and passed through at the end of each year no matter how much work he completed. We’ve had years where we focused on him and years where we’ve pretty much left him on his own. Our goal is to turn out an independent child who solves his own problems and seeks out knowledge for himself. He may or may not do that when the time comes, but all of our efforts are geared in that direction. Now we’ve also got learners in our household that require no hand holding and pretty much take the reins and run with their assignments. I believe these type learners will be well prepared for independent studies and learning in a large university environment. They almost hate to ask a question knowing that it often leads to a trip to the library to find the answer for themselves. On the other hand I’ve taught in a co-op environment and seen children who really do not know how to share the spotlight, but this too I’ve seen in public school classrooms.
4. “Homeschooled kids are just weird.” My response: Well– I can’t deny there are some strange people in this world, but they are not limited to homeschooling spheres. Personally, we get many compliments on how mannerable and personable our children are, speaking to children and adults alike respectfully. Plus they’re just cute as they can be so… ha, ha. Anyways, I think weirdos come from all different backgrounds and weirdness manifests itself in many different ways. We really can’t pin that tag solely on homeschoolers now can we?
I guess the thing to remember is that we all choose what we consider to be the best we can offer our kids. Homeschooling works for us and has countless benefits, but I’ll be the first to admit that it is the hardest job I’ve ever had to do. Some days I wish I had 25 surly middle-schoolers instead. Then I recall the attitudes, the peer pressure, the bullies, the crowded classrooms, the awful lunch–that alone will make you homeschool. So we have to seek out our own music lessons and sports opportunities–but those are just opportunities for socialization. Socialization pros of homeschooling I guess would be the fact that my kids interact often with people of all ages and are not locked into their peer groups in a learning environment that some would argue is artificial and often mind-numbing. Having said that, I can’t really think of socialization cons for our family. We do the work it takes to give our kids experiences and interaction and sometimes even go beyond what others are able to do because they are locked into a school schedule. As they grow I hope to take on outreach and volunteer opportunities–but we have time to figure all that out.
I couldn’t begin to address all the issues in the homeschool vs. traditional school debate–I’ll leave you with a glimpse of some famous people that have been homeschooled at some point in life, if not all their lives. The list includes presidents, scientists, writers–even current athletes and celebrities. You’d be surprised.