Is it possible to have a happy, healthy social life without school?
As a homeschooling mom of a teen, I’m questioned often about socialization. It seems that many adults are fearful that without high school, a teen can not find their identity, their tribe of friends, or possibly even their place in the world socially.
The questions go something like this:
- How will they ever make friends?
- What about the prom?
- How will they learn to deal with difficult people?
- How will they learn to stand up for themselves?
The list of questions is exhausting. I, of course, have an answer for all of them.
Can a homeschooled teen learn all these things and still have a happy social life without school?
The short answer is YES. It may not be what people think it should be. It can be exactly what they need and want.
First, let’s look at the definition of socialization and determine if school is the best or only solution (you know my answer already):
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.
These definitions don’t make me want to stand up and cheer yeah, baby! That right there is my dream, my highest hope for my children, to conform to the norms!
Teens need the freedom to be themselves, entirely. When you were in school, did you feel totally comfortable being yourself? Did you change yourself to fit in? And did that make you happy?
Do we want our kids to be well-adjusted to this society? What if they put all their energy into following their dreams or changing the world instead?
These quotes resonate a little more:
Why fit in when your were born to stand out? -Dr Suess
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Conforming to the norm is not a high priority. Sure, I want my children to have certain social graces. I don’t want them picking wedgies in public. But these expectations of others in the definition above, in reference to teens- what are they?
Teens are expected to rebel against their parents. They’re expected to fight with their mom and complain often and want to sleep all day and have a good time whenever possible, right? They’re also expected to know exactly what they want to do with their lives and start working toward it at age 14 so they can get into the right college. They’re expected to take their studies seriously, even though most of us did NOT at their age.
Hey, maybe you did. I didn’t.
What if they spent this time surrounded by people they genuinely enjoyed being with, growing confident in who they are and what they have to offer the world instead of being drilled and molded into good little standardized test takers, investing their free time in learning how to manipulate their way into the “in” crowd?
In reality, homeschooling teens involved in any kind of group activity -whether it’s athletics, the arts, a co-op or church – are going to run into the same issues as the rest of us. Mean girls. Bullies. People they want to smack in the head. Rude cashiers commenting on the amount of chocolate in my shopping cart after a stressful week.
Because that’s life. No one is exempt from complicated relationships.
Living life requires that we learn to set boundaries with people. It requires that we learn to forgive if we want people in our lives. It requires that we learn to negotiate to get what we need and assert ourselves to get what we want. It requires that we learn to handle the people we want to snack in the head with finesse instead of anger.
Socialization is a life lesson, not a school lesson.
My homeschooled teen has a happy social life. Sure, she’s still learning. She’s made plenty of friends since beginning to homeschool, not because they are cheerleaders together, or in the math club, or shunned from the cool kids table in the cafeteria. Her friends don’t pretend to be something they are not, and she doesn’t pretend either. They are at ease.
If she wants to expand her circle, she lets me know and we seek out new ways for her to meet people. Right now, she has friends with various interests. Some are homeschooled, some are not. They don’t all dress the same or like the same kind of music or celebrate the same holidays.
She doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. She looks people right in the eye, regardless of age. She has a life. And occasionally, so do I.
Oh, wait, no one is concerned about an adult having a healthy social life? Anyone out there worried about my social skills?
Of course not. That would be silly. How could a properly schooled and college educated woman of 37 (or 41) lack social skills?
Hmm. Ask me sometime.
For more about homeschooling and socialization, check out the other posts in the S-Word link up at ihomeschool.net!