I work tirelessly to raise my children to be thoughtful and considerate of others. In fact, as a mom that homeschools, I work extremely hard to not only educate their minds but help them grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well. We are just starting out but I am already bored of the stereotypical Great Socialization Debate, discussing it is like beating a dead horse. Yet, thanks to the article, “What Homeschooling Gets Wrong About Socialization” here we are (yawn) again.
I am mostly a brunette, yet here and there I always find a brassy strand of red streaking through my hair. I see those red strands as a visual representation of the unicorn that is my temper-it’s a rarity, maybe a myth. Yet my temper ignited when I read this twaddle. I let this sit for a few days and allowed my temper to cool. I wanted to discuss this honestly and openly without letting anger ruin a good piece.
I quickly realized that the “former school teacher” that wrote this was merely writing a subjective opinion piece, that included no actual facts or evidenced based studies. She wrote this from the outside looking in, with no personal or professional experience from within a homeschool community. The little experience she has had with homeschoolers are the ones that were not successful with homeschooling and ended up in the school system. She then uses this rare unsuccessful homeschooler to hold as a standard to measure by.
Niedospial wrote “Socialization requires that children consistently work with people they’re not used to working with. It’s about discussing things with people who have a different opinion and challenging preconceived notions. It’s about having to do a group project with people who don’t necessarily work the same way as you do, to collaborate on ideas and grow as a thinker.” Well here is one (of many) experiences I had as a public school student.
I went through the public school system K-12 and I can not recall one single group project. Ever. I also never recall a time when actual social skills were taught. High school was rampant with drugs, alcohol, violence, and promiscuity. I distinctly remember a teacher “stepping out” of the classroom for all of 10 minutes and in that time (my senior year) one young man jumped another young man, over who knows what and beat the guy in the head until he was unconscious. This isn’t new, it is what the public school system has wrong about socialization.
What does the public school system have wrong about socialization?
A journal article published by The National Institutes of health writes the violence in the school setting is now a significant health risk. You can read it here. The type of violence that is uncomfortably far too common to view on the news; school shootings, assault, severe bullying, weapons in school, all described as a “cultural norm of problem solving”, that of course effects the students ability to learn in school. I don’t know about you, but I want my children to learn, not worry about their life or suffering from a catastrophic event due to being “properly socialized” in the schools. Beside my many personal experiences with violence in the schools and what this current journal article states, you can find more examples here and here.
It boggles my mind on how common place sexual assault in the school system has become. If it isn’t a news report about a student to student sexual assault, it is a news story regarding a teacher to student sexual assault. Just an hour ago, Hamilton high administrators were reassigned due to a sexual assault investigation. Only a day ago an Arkansas teacher was arrested for having sex with four students. Yesterday in Tully, another student raped a fellow classmate. This seems to be what is becoming the “cultural norm” in our school systems.
These are of course two major problems with socialization in the school systems and not the ones referred to in the article. But it stands to reason that a public school teacher has bigger things to worry about than speaking down to homeschool moms on making sure to teach our own children how to “collaborate on group projects.” Honestly, I see plenty of public school students and I am concerned about their social skills.
In our own neighborhood, local parks, community events, and outside public common areas I pay attention to how the kids behave. I’ve overheard grotesque profanity, sexual innuendos, and have observed suggestive body language. The age ranges of these children are about five to eight. When did this become the norm?
What Homeschooling Gets Right About Socialization
I put great effort into my own children because I want them to be successful adults that provide amazing contributions to society. I read my children social stories, how to “join in and play” or “talk and work it out.” We have open discussions on issues that they have had with other children. We talk about what worked and what didn’t, and I see my daughter improve each time, with each interaction.
She frequently plays on playgrounds with other public school kids and she also goes to a large 300+ student homeschool cooperative. The difference in socialization is startling. On the public playground, I would estimate that a quarter of children are aggressive towards her. She works extra hard to turn the personalities of these types of children around so that they can actually play. More often than not, children snub her. She is an extrovert, bold and confident. She greets most anyone, introduces herself, and asks if they want to play. A estimated quarter of children flatly say “no” the other estimated quarter just ignores her altogether. The remaining half do play with her and they play well.
Please know that I don’t think that all or even the majority of children that go to school have poor behavior or lack proper social skills. All of my family members send their children to school and their children are great kids. I have friends that send their children to school as well, they also have awesome children. This is a result of superb parenting. I imagine though their job is ten times harder than mine.
What I’ve seen from within the homeschool community is nothing short of beautiful. Our young children meet every other Friday and sit together through prayers and devotions, followed by two classes, then we stay for lunch, and open unstructured free play in the gym. This isn’t necessary, we don’t have to do this to properly socialize our kids. A collaborated project could be completed within a family unit just as well if not better, we have enough personality differences around here to prove that. Yet, I do chose to participate in a co op and the little bit that I’ve observed is wonderful.
Children of all ages get along well, they interact, connect, engage, are respectful to each other and adults, they are polite, kind, thoughtful, courteous, and socially mature individuals. I say this as I just left open gym time and watched children from barely walking age to almost walking the stage age all play together. No one broke off into separate same age groups. They thought up creative games to play, small little problems occurred naturally through their play, yet they all worked together to solve them. The best part? They made meaningful connections and it didn’t occur in a conformist same age peer classroom setting.
But that’s my subjective one sided view of the homeschool community, want to know what actual research states? I’ve read a few studies several times over a couple years but here goes; Richard G. Medlin, Ph.D., from the National Home Education Research Institute writes, “The social skills scores of the homeschooled were consistently higher than those of public school students. “Differences were most marked for girls and for older children, and encompassed all four of the specific skills tested: cooperation, assertiveness, empathy, and self-control.” Yes, you read that right, consistently higher than.
I am not judging the public schooled children in these situations, rather I am discerning that I truly have observed gross social problems among children that receive a public education, and it seems to be a country wide problem. I know our own children start out the same way as every other kid, and can sin like the rest of them.
The difference is, day in and day out, I am teaching them how not to. I am training them up the way that they should go so that they will not depart from it. I mindfully and intentionally address each issue with character development while guiding them in morality. I also know I am not alone in my efforts. I see my mom tribe trying just as hard, if not harder at homeschooling than even I.
While I don’t think the author of “What Homeschooling Gets Wrong About Socialization” was thoughtful or as open minded as she expects homeschool students to be. It seems to me that if all we have to worry about is a group collaborative project, then in comparison to what the public school system should be concerned with, homeschoolers are ahead of the game. What about you? Are you tired of the Great Socialization Debate? because I certainly am.