Friday, December 18, 2009

Homeschooling....why people perceive there are socialization problems

So there has been this big debate on facebook regarding homeschooling socialization.

My experience as a homeschooler has been that there are weird people everywhere--homeschooled, private schooled, and public schooled, but that it's only homeschoolers that get blamed for "making their child weird by their educational choices".  People are quick to assign causality to the homeschooling without considering that perhaps some families (like mine) homeschool BECAUSE their child is "weird" (gifted, have Tourette's, sleep disorders, ADHD--that's one of mine), not the other way around.  Homeschooling doesn't make the weird kids weird. It gives them the best shot they possibly have at living a normal life.

I'm not just making that up. For example, with Tourette's Syndrome kids, the psychologists agree that most of the negative prognosis for these kids' futures comes directly from how cruelly the children are treated by their peers at school.

People argue that when homeschooled kids leave home for college, they often crash and burn, but they ignore the fact that ALL freshmen in college often crash and burn, regardless of their educational background. People argue that homeschooled kids (even those who go to public high schools!) don't know how to meet other people's expectations (like employers). This hasn't been my experience--what do you think? They argue homeschooled kids don't know how to work in groups. This might be true. But I'd counter that kids with ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, or exceptional intelligence also don't work well in groups. And also that MANY public schooled kids don't know how to work in groups--they either get frustrated and do it all themselves to preserve their good grades, or they sit back and let the Hermiones of the world do all the work and figure they've got a free pass. There is no learning to work in groups in public school either. It's all artificial (the kids don't learn how to work in groups; they learn how to appear to work in groups).

Anyway, what I'm getting at is I personally haven't yet heard an example of poor socialization that a) isn't also prevalent in public and private schools or b) can't be attributed to the genetic weirdness of the family (like they're all research scientists, or have mental illnesses/disorders).  BUT, as a homeschooling parent, I am, like all the rest of the homeschooling parents I know, unusually sensitive and concerned that I not screw my kids up in my efforts to give them their best chance. So I'm opening this one up to parents: WHAT are the social skills that homeschooled kids lack? Because if I know what they are, I can teach them to my kids deliberately and properly (vs accidentally and haphazardly like they get in public schools). Is it they have trouble actually going to class in college and turning in assignments? We can practice that at home. Or at least talk about it when the kid faces it. Is it that they do socially inappropriate things (like  be rude to adults)? We can role play and teach that.

The trouble is, I don't know WHAT the "socialization problems" are, other than a myth.

All the socialization problems I know are learned in public school (laziness, hatred of learning new things, manipulativeness, "mean girl" games, selfishness, valuing competition over all else, cheating, lying, distrusting adults, fearing adults, cliquishness, backbiting, emotional and physical bullying, stealing, moral flexibility or relativism, hesitance to question things, fear of excelling, fear of believing anything, fear of liking and disliking based on our own tastes, fear of using talents, pride in all its short, learning all the games that put SELF over SOCIETY and GOODNESS). How does learning to raise your hand before you talk and learning to not rock the boat justify all the bad you learn?   Does "fitting in" really have more value than "being good, even if it makes you an outcast"?  Homeschooling parents say no. And that, in and of itself, makes us "not properly socialized"--even if we went to public schools ourselves. We refuse to be bullied by society, and that doesn't endear us to them.

I taught in a private school for 8 years. It was a little junior high school, and we tended to attract students who had been homeschooled in elementary school, kids who had gone to public school, and kids who had attended other private schools. A good mix. All A and B students. And you know what? In 8 years, I couldn't tell who came from which educational background. There was a good mix of "normal" and "weird"--just like any other school class--and the kids changed throughout the year (the normal ones sometimes got weirder, and the weird kids were ALLOWED to become not weird anymore--which public school socialization doesn't allow). And the mix had NOTHING to do with the kids' educational past (except for the poor "weird" kids who came to us from public schools because their parents wanted them to get a second chance at life after the  "proper socialization" of public schools nearly destroyed their children).

WHY, then do we get accused of harming our children by not sending them to school?

I think it's because we are the mavericks of society. We're the weird ones who are rocking the boat. We're the ones who are saying to society at large, "The public schools stink and I'M NOT GOING TO TOLERATE IT."  Since everyone agrees the public schools stink, our refusal to go along with it is an implicit criticism of all those who DO go along. Although we don't feel like we're saying this, some people see us as saying, "and if you do tolerate it, you're a bad parent." It's not that they are attacking us as much as defending themselves, grabbing on to the only thing they can truly argue (since homeschooled kids function at a higher educational level, and tend to go to college and get decent jobs, and are happier and have more opportunity to develop talents): they say we're "weird." That we have "socialization problems."

I'm not sure even what that phrase means other than, "You have rejected our society. You refuse to act like us. You won't play our games."

And no, we won't. That's why we homeschool.

So maybe the critics are right. Our kids aren't socialized properly. They aren't lemmings. They aren't easily manipulated by the press and their social groups. They aren't slaves to fashion or appearance. They aren't manipulative, sneaky, or lazy.  They are smarter, more confident, more polite, harder working, more creative, more inclined to enjoy learning and be on the forefront of education. They are self-motivated, problem solvers, and years ahead on developing their talents than their peers.

But society has lost control of them, and why wouldn't they protest that? Do we expect society to embrace the whistle blowers and critics? We'd be foolish if we did.

So our kids aren't fully integrated into society. That's not because they were homeschooled. That's because we, as parents, refuse to be fully integrated into a society we don't agree with. We often are forced to live on the fringes of poverty because we have one wage-earner (instead of the more socially acceptable two). We often have more children than the average American (because we value family more than career). We are thinkers who analyze everything and choose based on the facts we have in front of us instead of what the media and society tell us we're supposed to do. We tend to distrust authority who claim the right to power simply because they have power. We tend to care more about our children's futures than our current comfort. And yes, that makes us weird (in the same way the American Revolutionaries were weird according to the British in the 18th century). And yes, that makes us "improperly socialized" (even though MOST of us went to public and private schools). And our kids are just like us. Not because they were homeschooled, but because their parents were maverick enough to choose to homeschool.

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