Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Homeschool Part 3

It's an ongoing series with no determined ending. I dropped "Reasons" from the title because it's not always about the whys or why-nots, sometimes I want to hit methods, problems, obstacles…

Here is one of the top challenges when it comes to homeschooling your children: social skills. It's the major question asked by family members, was the subject of a 5 minute diatribe by a pediatrician who criticized us for homeschooling during a routine visit, and one of a conscientious homeschool parent's major concerns. If your kids only spend time at home, then how do they learn to relate to other people? How do they learn to get along with folks?

Well, #1: family is people, after all—and when you live with your classmates and teacher, there's no chance that you get to just ignore someone being obnoxious and escape via the Yellow Bus. You're stuck. So, the first response I have is this: if they are never out of the home, they're still learning to deal with people, because home has people in it. And, seriously, you always get along with your siblings and parents and never have to sort out differences? Really?

#2: Beyond that, the next answer is generally obvious, but as a result, gets overlooked: they are not always at home. Now, some people get too extreme and really do build Fortress Homeschool from birth to 21, and they deserve their own post for this: Yikes. You scare me. Get out more.

But most of us are not home all the time any more than a "stay-at-home parent" stays at home. Yes, there are specific times that schoolwork is done at home, but then there's: interacting with the people at the library; interacting with people at daytime church or community events; going to zoos, museums, and other educational places when these places are not so crowded you can't learn and you actually talk to experts while there.

After all, at school, what should they be doing? Listening to their teachers and doing their work, right? That 30-minute math lecture isn't introducing any social skills beyond the "sit and listen" skill, and we can replicate that at home.

#3: Ah, but the other times at school, kids learn to interact and behave like kids their age. Yes, and the ones that never grow up beyond junior high school become Congress people of both parties or perhaps hold other political offices. This is a question of goals and the best way to reach them: is the goal for my 10-year-old to act like a 10-year-old? For 1 year it is. Then it is for her to mature and act like----an 11-year-old. And so on. All with the goal of her becoming a mature, functional adult that relates to other adults.

Which is where social skill time is often spent: with adults that recognize that kids aren't quite there yet, but help them get there. Homeschoolers that aim for the best do try to get their kids out interacting with the wide array of people that are in this world. Because very few people spend their time interacting with a single maturity set, a maturity set that is just like theirs. Except the aforementioned political office holders who never grew up past junior high.

#4: This is an important aspect of this question (unlike the "learn to act your age" which is nonsense, because being 10 isn't a life skill): what about interacting with people that are not like you at all. For example, we are white, middle-class (basically, though our income runs much lower than average in that class), Baptist-type Christians. Do our kids spend any time with Latino, wealthy, Buddhists?

Um, no. Because there aren't any people in that demographic in Almyra. Of course, there aren't in the DeWitt School System feed area either. A few responses: 1: Just because you're in the same school doesn't mean you interact. I am Facebook connected to high-school classmates from different ethnic groups but we didn't hang out much in school. Most of the white kids hung out with white kids, and so on---you know why? Kids are immature and socialize with people they have commonalities with. When I got into band, I socialized with band nerds. Honestly, band nerds came from all walks of life and multiple ethnicities. Nobody cared: we were all band nerds. Skin didn't matter much. We only knew who the Jews were because they got the extra holidays, and you could see who was African-American, Latino, or white but it didn't matter for that time. It mattered other times, but not when band was our common bond. All said, being in a government school doesn't guarantee a child learns to appreciate all ethnic groups or has multi-racial friendships. It can just reinforce stereotypes and group dynamics of hatred.

Response #2: We also don't stress that no one is shoving other religious views down their throats. Oldest child is getting older and reading more diverse books. She's learning to interact with ideas and think critically about all of them. And just as I would rather a person who wanted to judge Christianity start with the Bible itself rather than many Christians, so most beliefs are best understood starting with the writings about them. We don't hang out with any Buddhists, but we've got books that introduce the belief system. Likewise, there aren't many minority families in this community, but our church is working with a minority church in a neighboring community to do things together. That helps. Our kids know (or will know) Frederick Douglass and Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant and Phyllis Wheatley. My son loves the book about the Tuskegee Airmen. They are huge fans of the work of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver---and it comes to them as no surprise that great advances in science come from women, African-Americans, Arabs, Jews, Asians----none of whom get a "month" but all of whom fit into the flow of history.


In all, there is effort required for our kids to fully grasp the social skills they need---but looking back on my years in school, my parents had to retrain a lot of what I learned at school anyway. So, again, why send them to learn things that they don't need and that we'll just have to redo? Seems like a silly waste of time and tax money to me.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Doug.

    This is what I think about homeschooling and socialization:

    "Fitting in" is not my goal.



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