He asked me in a very serious tone, “How are your kids doing socially? How are they making friends?”
It’s a reasonable question.
I had a reasonable answer.
“They’re doing great!”
I should have left it at that, but he continued to look at me as if I was stating the impossible. Here’s the truth: my girls don’t go to school. They have plenty of friends. They have friends in the neighborhood. They’ve made friends that share a specific interest. They have friends in our homeschool group.
They have friends. Plenty. They aren’t shy and afraid of people. They don’t hide in the house all day.
I understand why people ask. Really. I do. It seems like the most difficult part of not being in school, but putting your trust in schools as the only way to learn socialization, is a mistake.
We’re all different. And school is not necessarily the ideal place to socialize, because it isn’t anything at all like real life. I haven’t been in a room with 25 people exactly my age since my high school reunion. Have you?
I currently have friends who are much older, much younger and around my age. I have friends who are engineers and artists, belly dancers and IT pros. And no, I didn’t meet them in school. I wouldn’t have, because in school, we all would have been separated by our social groups. We wouldn’t have crossed the established lines of our cliques.
Let’s define socialization. Can you, off the top of your head? What exactly are you thinking when hear the word?
Are you wondering if my children will fit in in this world, in society at large? Do you fit in? And how well? If you answered yes and very, then I have to ask, are you being your absolute authentic self? Are you doing something that you love? Are you comfortable standing up for what you believe in? What did you give up to fit in to a particular group of people?
Here’s the definition of socialization:
a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
And one more, in case that isn’t enough:
Process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and value to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community. It is a combination of both self-imposed (because the individual wants to conform) and externally-imposed rules, and the expectations of the others.
I don’t think that this is what people are asking when they question socialization in the homeschool world. I think they want to know:
- Do your kids have friends? (yes)
- Do they know not to pick a wedgy in public? (yes)
- Do they understand that it’s a wide, wide world and not everyone is like them? (absolutely!)
- How will they ever understand the social hierarchy in our society? (how could they miss it?)
- How will they be able to function in the real world if they don’t identify with a group like the jocks, cheerleaders, geeks, or goths? (quite well, because those labels won’t mean much)
Kids need to be allowed to be themselves, entirely. So I ask, when you were in school, did you feel totally comfortable being yourself? Did you change to fit in?
And why are people so bent on being sure their kids are well-adjusted to society? Is that really such a great thing? Why not encourage them to follow their dreams or change the world?
We are all different and unique already. Most of us are simply experts at hiding our differences. Does that lead to a happy life?
Do we have to push our children to conform to fit in? Is it worth it, if they lose themselves in the process?
I don’t think so.
Right now, my girls have friends with all different interests. They don’t all dress the same or like the same kind of music or celebrate the same holidays.