Monday, October 27, 2008

The Plus Side of Homeschool Socialization

This past week, I had a strong reminder of why I homeschool.

The socialization.

When I was considering homeschooling Chris, I went to the park with a friend of mine who homeschooled her kids. She had eight of them. I asked her why she did it. Lori pointed to her thirteen year old, who was busy scooting her toddler around on his skateboard.

“Look at Micah” she said. “How many thirteen year olds do you see playing with their baby brothers like that? And he’s not ashamed of it. He loves Ben so much. “

Then she went on. “He plays sports and goes to Scouts. The kids are pretty great, but they still do things that are wrong, and they cuss and such. “she said. “But Micah doesn’t feel like he has to go along with it, because he doesn’t spend eight hours each day with them. He spends most of his days with people who love him for who he is, so he doesn’t feel like his well being is dependent on making them happy.”

When I went to my first homeschool park day, I saw the same thing. Some parents were doing Scout activities, and other kids were running around. Some kids were playing strategy games at a picnic table…mostly older, but they didn’t disdain the younger kids, and they played fairly with them, pointing out better strategies…teaching them. Teenage boys casually scooted over so that 3 year olds could climb up on the bench to see what they were up to. It was beautiful to see.

I am blessed to be on a homeschool email list that I would say is truly unique. I’m on a few others, but they just aren’t like this. I have been on it for at least seven years now, and I count these women as my real friends, even the ones that I have never met. While we are truly diverse in our homeschooling approaches, we are all confessional Lutherans from all over the United States, and that has proven to be the stronger bond. We don’t just talk curriculum or field trips, we discuss a whole range of issues – from the best way to make vanilla to how to get that spot off the kitchen table….to how to teach the faith to our children and also to share requests for prayers in cases of pregnancy, a needed job, or family tragedy.

Occasionally, we manage to get together in real life. This past week, those of us in the Indiana/Ohio area (and one in Virginia) managed to get together here in Fort Wayne at a dorm (about ten or so moms, three husbands, and I’m guesstimating 20 kids). It is so amazing to see three days pass by with kids running, playing, worshiping, and enjoying games together like they do – with little regard to age or gender. Friday night, Barb, Sandy, and I watched as the kids (about twelve of them) spontaneously organized a game of charades…and the players ranged from as old as sixteen all the way down to age five (some of the other moms and older kids had gone to a Bach performance). No rolled eyes, no condescending attitudes from the older ones when the little ones tried to communicate their favorite animal or something of that nature. All had a great time. They hadn’t been socialized to believe that they needed to be with kids who were exactly the same age as they were. They just wanted to have fun.

In the mean time, Barb and Sandy handed their two-year-old granddaughter back and forth. A strong friendship between them had blossomed into their becoming family. Their kids were the first from this group to fall in love with and marry each other, and Barb mused with Sandy that they had already watched their own kids grow up playing like this. Now she was watching her own granddaughters playing in the midst of that crowd, the same way that her sons did ten years before…and Sandy’s youngest daughter was one of the oldest in this current group of kids.
And it strikes me that when you see the kids, you also see how it goes with the moms. This hasn’t been some closed off group of women who had families all the same ages and stages. They were always welcoming in new homeschoolers so that our group is constantly dynamic. It showed from the group. There are parents there whose kids are grown and they are watching their grandkids playing charades with my kids. Some can complain about missing an eldest in college while rubbing a slightly rounded belly, indicating the arrival of another to take that empty bedroom someday. Others who have kids are just starting the homeschool journey. While my oldest is twelve and youngest is six…some have their youngest as twelve or their oldest is six. Yet no one is looked down on for lack of experience or just being at a different stage in the whole process or life in general. The group hasn’t segregated into age groups or grades. All are welcomed in friendship and sisterhood in Christ. And, as long as there is chocolate (and maybe a glass of Baileys or a pumpkin latte)…life is good.

This is community—authentic community . Even though we don’t all live in the same neighborhood or town, there is real interaction, support, and love – and this applies regardless of age or life experience.

So, as a homeschooler, one of the first questions I always get is “what about the socialization?” I am always tempted to say “it is the most beautiful part of it all.” But I am not sure that I did it justice here- how could I explain it when I am on the spot?

10 comments:

Joy said...

What we see as a haven of sorts, others see as a cultish compound. I don't homeschool (yet), but my area is great about homeschoolers getting together for spelling bees, science fairs, field trips, PE, etc. When you consider the entirety of history, this notion of sending our children off to another building to be eduacated by strangers is very novel and unproven.

Marie N. said...

You've well-articulated how I treasure our community as well.

As for on the spot comments, I don't think a sound bite from any one is adequate to inform others of the benefit wrt socialization.

It is hard to capsize a paradigm in a sentence. Inviting someone along to experience it is best.

For my friends who are not Lutheran, I've encouraged them to visit other local home school groups that align more with their faith. They have been welcomed and felt at home too.

Melanie said...

I think you articulated it very well! The wide age range, not looking down on others thing is one of my favorite things as well. My heart just smiles when I see all those ages interacting together, whether it's my kids or other kids. :-)

elephantschild said...

I've got tears in my eyes, and it's not just because I missed out on the pumpkin latte....

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Joy,

To some extent, its been around since ancient times. Children were schooled by strangers in central locations in ancient Greece and were sent off even before that. It isn't always the best situation...educating them at home using slaves, governesses, tutors, or ourselves has also been very common.

What is very novel is the graded classroom -- separating kids out by exact age, and expecting the same ability out of the same age.

Lisa said...

HI,

I've seen your blog before I think from the Lutheran blog list. I wish we were closer to get to one of those get togethers on campus. We know the Kavorous'.
I love the title of your blog. I feel like that often.
Lisa
www.houseofmanyblessings.blogspot

Thursday's Child said...

We homeschooled the Boss for a few years, K-2. I wouldn't trade them for anything. I'd love to homeschool the twins but I can't do that with working full-time.

Oh, well...if it's meant to be again, I'm willing. But until then,...

Jenn said...

Well done! I'm linking to this on my blog - which I don't spend enough time writing on. :) Wish I'd seen them playing Charades together, but the Bach was good and the break was GREAT! Thanks for watching the Wild Bunch! :)
Can't wait till next year!

Oh, and the Talent Show! What talent! Watched a video on youtube. Ian LOVED seeing it all again! :)

Billye said...

RPW,

I am a former homeschool mom. 95% of the socialization children get in public school is not good socialization. Not only do the older kids love the younger ones and not afraid to show it--I found the kids were not afraid to carry on a conversation with adults. It is work, but oh, so, worth it.

Blessings as we press on toward the goal.

Glenda said...

Well said. And I'm looking forward to the next gathering I can attend, although as of now I don't know when or where. We need another FML retreat!!!!