I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve always been a little bit leery of the whole “socialization” objection to homeschooling. But it’s always the first one that comes up, when someone, who’s likely never given homeschooling more than ten minutes of thought before, hears that you’re planning on going that route and decides that they must have an opinion/objection, even if they don’t know anything about the subject.
The conversation goes something like this:
Random Person in a Store: “Oh what a cute little girl! You’re almost big enough to go to school!” (because when Sadie was two she was frequently mistaken for a kid that was getting ready to enter kindergarten…).
Paul: “Actually we’re going to homeschool.” (He apparently hasn’t been discouraged enough by random acquaintances/hairdressers/ random people on the street to know that we don’t talk about this!).
Me: Wincing. Shooting Paul a “look”.
R.P.I.A.S: “Oh…. Well… Homeschooling. Well what are you going to do about socialization?”
Me: Still wincing as Paul begins to explain that there are plenty of opportunities for socialization….
That’s roughly a piece of the conversation that I feel like I’ve had 50 million times over the past three years (note: there may be some exaggeration going on in the actual number of times… but it sure doesn’t feel like it!).
You see, I don’t launch into the whole “there are plenty of opportunities for socialization speech, because, while it’s true there are plenty of “opportunities for socialization” for homeschooled children, and I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of some of them in a few years, the very reason I first considered homeschooling was the “socialization” that I’d witnessed. As an aside, explaining that last sentence that I just typed is definitely not a valuable point to interject in the conversation above…. Unless you want the person you’re speaking with to act like you’re insane.
Paul and I differ in our reasons for wanting to homeschool, and his reason appears to be infinitely more acceptable. He tells stories about a drunken teacher dancing around the room in a young grade school class and people nod in horror and understanding. But my experience was different. I had awesome teachers. But when I try to explain the sort of “socialization” I’ve seen and experienced and people tend to get defensive. After all, the kid has got to “grow” a “thick skin.”
I really began considering homeschooling when I was a cheerleading coach at a local high school. I certainly couldn’t have been considered “sheltered” before the job, but even the wildest college stories I’d heard didn’t compare with what these fourteen and fifteen year old girls were talking about doing. It was truly horrifying. That combined with my own high school experiences of pretty severe harassment (105-lb-girl-slammed-into-locker-by-a football-player-who-“likes”-her type experiences… my high school horror stories are heavily bruised to say the least, which may be an explanation for the black belt I got in college, in case you’ve ever wondered!) and Paul and I came to a quick agreement that we wouldn’t be taking the traditional route.
Still, I’ve been rethinking “socialization” even more lately. I lay in bed, tired but unable to sleep, thinking about it. Do I need to subject Sadie to the playgroup pack mentality when one kid decides she won’t be playing with them today, even though they were buddies last week, and when she skips up and says “Hi! I’m so glad to see you!” they turn and give her a good hard shove and are later caught trying to shove her off the top of the play tower because she kept following them around asking to play?
Two months ago Sadie was bubbly and thrilled to go to playgroup. Yesterday she sat for most of the day, staring off into space with a little frown, despite the ice cream cake we’d got for Grumpa’s birthday visit, after being repeatedly shoved and yelled at (“No, Sadie, no!”) when she asked to play, despite multiple interventions. I’m incredibly grateful Nani was at playgroup, because I’m afraid if she hadn’t been, Sadie would be in the hospital today after an six foot fall to the ground below (that Nani was able to prevent when Sadie was shoved at the top of the play structure stairs). I felt a little sick all day too, as I watched her realize that people can be mean.
So we’ll be doing play dates. But I think we’ll be avoiding the large-group activities for a while. My three year old doesn’t need a thicker skin. She doesn’t need to “toughen up”. I’d like to preserve her innocence and joy a tiny bit longer. Even if that means we aren’t doing any heavy duty “socialization” on a daily basis. Besides, if having to get along with her sister, and any future siblings that we may be blessed with, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, isn’t socialization, I don’t know what is!