homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The big S

We homeschoolers do a lot of defending on the socialization question. It seems to be the first and strongest concern that mainstream folks voice when they hear of our choice. It's hard to blame them; I was guilty of the same when my cousin got a head-start on family weirdness and became the first of our clan on this journey with her children. I think the knee-jerk reaction is to correlate "homeschool" with "homebound" and imagine the children as socially isolated shut-ins. The difficult hurdle is getting people to actually THINK about what "socialized" means and to objectively consider not only how it happens naturally but also to consider the nature and quality of the social interactions/lessons that actually do occur as part of the cultural norm of a formal institution.

I know that homeschooling is not for everyone, and it's never been my intention to presume to preach that. But I can't get past this cultural mindset we have about how kids have to go through a specific medium (in this case compulsory, government-run public schooling) in order to become socially functional. What's particularly interesting to me is that if you do manage to engage someone in a conversation, they will invariably bring up some emotional scars from their school days. But those same people do not seem to recognize the disjoint between their own horror stories and their insistence that kids NEED school in order to be well adjusted. Yes, public schooling can be one possible means toward the goal of learning how to interact socially. But it certainly isn't the only one, and it's (often even amongst its most fervent defenders!) admittedly not even a good, let alone the best, one.

Hand in hand with some of my negative feelings about the social atmosphere of public schools, however, is the seemingly opposing belief in NOT bubble-wrapping my children. I believe in the free-range childhood, and I don't want anyone reading this to come away with the notion that I'm homeschooling my kids in order to shield or shelter them from the social pitfalls of public schooling. I'm not, nor have I ever been, 100% anti-school. I try very hard to be objective. There are benefits and drawbacks of every approach, and my goal is to assess all of the possibilities, consider all of the variables, and then make my decisions based on what I think would be the most beneficial (or at times, least potentially damaging) for my family. In other words, I'm not trying to say that attending school will make your kid a social misfit. What I *am* asserting is that NOT attending school won't do that either...and I'd really like to see more rational discussion on this and less dogmatic resistance to considering options other than the cultural norm.