My daughter spent two-and-a-half years in public school; she has also spent a total of two years now in homeschool, so I feel like I have a unique perspective on the whole "socialization" debate.
I know that since every child is different, and no two homeschools or public schools are the same, so the experiences that my daughter and I have are unique to Laura and I. So I can only offer what experiences we have had.
I homeschooled Laura the first semester of Kindergarten. Life interrupted, and I had to enroll her in an elementary school near our home due to unforeseen circumstances that were out of our control. She went to public school for the remainder of kindergarten, first grade, and then second grade. We withdrew her from public school and started homeschooling her at the very beginning of third grade. She is now in the fourth grade in homeschool.
During the two-and-a-half years she was in public school, she alternated between being shy during times when it would have been good for her to talk up, and she was talkative when she it was required for her to be quiet. She's imaginative, playful, spirited, and social by nature. She's a born leader, but was shy around adults to the point that she would not ask for help if she needed it. She learned that adults in authority were not to be questioned, which in her mind meant not asking for help. I do not mean to question authority by any means -- I mean, she learned that if a teacher or adult did something, and she didn't understand, she just let it go instead of asking questions. Asking questions, to Laura, meant a child didn't know what was going on so they spent recess inside being tutored instead of out on the playground.
Laura has chronic migraines, ADHD, and dyslexia. She missed about twenty days of school in second grade due to migraines alone, then throw ten days' missed due to back-to-back episodes of Flu Type A and Type B. Her dyslexia required her to go to a special class for reading; during the time she was in the reading class, her teacher would hand out the spelling word lists. Laura never asked for the spelling words and the teacher assumed that she had them. So her spelling tests dove off cliffs into seas of failing grades.
When we learned of the spelling test fiasco, we made it known in a meeting that she is to have her spelling lists. Laura was asked by the teacher, why didn't you get up and get the list out of the cubby? She said, "You said we were to stay seated. I thought I couldn't get up and get them."
This is the socialization that we experienced in public school: sit down, be quiet, no talking, do your work. No wiggling. Walk in straight lines to the cafeteria and library. Stay on the right side of the hallway. Don't question teachers or principals.
Listen: there are things being taught in public schools that should be questioned. History is being re-written and that should be questioned. Biology is being re-written and that should be questioned. When schools do not allow questioning of curriculum or adults who are teaching curriculum that is contrary to nature or historical fact, that is when alarms should go off. When kids are taught from elementary school to not question, they are being set up to blindly accept any and all things being taught by adults in authority--no matter how false they are.
Since Laura has been homeschooled from the beginning of third grade, her self-esteem has increased. Last year, during a children's Christmas program at our church, she read (on grade level!) the Christmas story from Luke 2, in front of the entire congregation. She accidentally bumped the hand-held mic and it fell down; the sound tech was nearby and had to fix it while she stood there, in front of everyone. I thought she was going to cry. But She Who Would Have Cried A Year Before swallowed hard, smiled, and started over at Luke 2:1, with boldness and feeling. I was so proud.
Laura, now, walks up to the librarian at our local library and asks for help to find a book or access to the computer--without me. If she is given information that she doesn't understand, she will ask for clarification. She takes ownership of her homeschool materials and her education.
She walks beside adults, so she can see where she's going and to ask questions, instead of behind them, trusting the route they're going is correct.
This past weekend my husband, Laura, and I were at a wheelchair basketball tournament my husband was playing in. Laura found another child, introduced herself, and created games for the two of them to play while their respective parents were playing or watching basketball. As the other child was younger than her, she led the child and protected him from runaway balls or people in wheelchairs. She shared snacks with him.
This weekend, Laura initiated and talked with people of all ages, skin colors, and abilities. She is not learning that this group of kids can learn this way and that group of kids is learning something else because they are different. Because of homeschooling, she is learning that we all have various abilities, and that kindness goes a long way.
Because of homeschooling, she is learning that if she needs to use the bathroom, she just needs to go. Asking permission to take care of one's bodily functions is the first step toward socialism, and the government is not in charge of my body--or Laura's. She is learning real-world situations and how we deal with them (such as health crises, taking care of elderly loved ones, financial issues, traveling, etc). She is learning that God steers her life's ship.
So what about socialization? Laura interacts with kids of all ages wherever she goes: the park, church, her American Heritage Girls troop, the neighborhood. Life is not divided into age groups; children need to know how to get along with people of all ages, nations, creeds, and colors. She also knows who she is, Whose she is, and what she believes--that is what I want for my daughter.
Last year, she and I were at a grocery store and were wearing our homeschool t-shirts, as we had been on a field trip that day. A stranger in the check-out line noticed the shirts and struck up a conversation with her. Don't you just love it when total strangers feel they have to proctor exams with homeschooled kids in grocery stores?
The stranger asked Laura what grade she was in. She said, "Third." The stranger then asked what she was learning about in homeschool. She said, "The Civil War." The stranger said, "Ohhhh! Can you tell me a reason for the civil war?" I knew what she was fishing for: slavery.
Laura said, "Yes, when the American colonies were first colonized, there were three divisions: northern, middle, and southern. The British discovered more iron and coal in the northern colonies so that made them more industrial, and the middle colonies had little farms, but the southern colonies had huge farms. So right off the bat, that made tensions between the three sections as the southern colonies needed more manpower..."
The stranger's eyes were huge. She then cleared her throat and asked me, "Well, what do you do for socialization?"
Laura didn't hesitate. "Excuse me, ma'am, but...I'm talking with you, aren't I?"
The question of socialization is a moot point. There are plenty of opportunities to get kids together and they will interact. It's important the kids see the parents interact, too--as they learn as much from watching us as they do from curriculum. While we need to protect our kids in this era of "stranger danger," we also need to allow supervised opportunities like the one we had in the grocery store.
(C) 2020 Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her daughter. In the past, she also briefly homeschooled her son, who has autism.
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