Monday, April 11, 2005

Home Education Part 1- Socialization

Homeschooling is on my brain. I have been reading methods of homeschooling, reminiscing with mom about my schooling days, practicing my teaching skills with siblings and writing my own thoughts of what I will do in a journal.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about homeschooling pros and cons. I love talking to people about my experience as a home educated person and hearing their views. There are positives and negatives to being homeschooled. As I talk to fellow homeschooled people, their pros and cons are different from those of outsiders looking in, which I always find amuzing.
For example:
- Homeschooler con: Mom always turns everything into school.
- Outsider con: Homeschooled children are not socialized.

Negatives from Others
These are the most common negatives and insights that people who question or oppose home education give:

1- Socialization
How can/do children who stay home all day with mom and siblings make friends? How do they have fun? Homeschooled children are sheltered from the world and have less social skills. Children need to be with other kids their own age.

2- Child/Parent Differences
How do you meet the educational needs of every child? You cannot expect each child to do well homeschooling. Some children need to be put in a public (government or private) school. I am not organized enough to homeschool. I would kill my child if I tried homeschooling. How do you be parent and teacher at the same time?

3- Good Education
Do you have to be a teacher to homeschool your children? I want my child to get a good education. How does a mother teach things like chemistry or physics? I am not smart enough to teach my child at home.

4- Independence
Children need to be independent. Children should learn to submit to other authorities than just mom and dad. How can a child gain their own personality? How do you know your child will be able to make their own decisions?

5- Good Witnesses
We need to have our children around other kids so that they can be a witness for God. Children need to learn what's out there and how to stand up against it.

These questions are just the basics I have heard. Some people are more critical, others are just concerned. So how do parents that homeschool their children reply to these questions? What do I think as I look forward to educating my children at home?

Response to Questions
The following is what I respond when posed with the above thoughts, whether verbally or just in my head regarding socialization.

1- Socialization
What is the definition of "socialization"? Does being socialized mean that a child can interact with children their own age? (Doesn't that come naturally?) When a person questions homeschooling by saying that a child needs socialization, they are saying that children who stay home are not socialized and those who go to school are. Tell me, how does a public school provide skills for socialization? Is spending all day with people your same age socialization? In my mind that would only produce a less socialized child.

When I picture a well socialized child, I see a child that: speaks with respect to a 92 year old woman, knows not to touch the soft spot on a baby's head, speaks when spoken to, knows how to behave in a nursing home, has fun at a baseball game, knows not to crawl in a dress or suit, shakes hands, looks people in the eye, runs around with friends at the park, calls people Mr. or Mrs., does not yell in a library, does not touch things at a museum, etc. (Of course, you have to allow for childish behavior and teach social skills relevant to the age of the child) This, to me, makes a socialized child.

What is the definition of "friend"? Home educated children make friends in many areas! The world says that siblings are not friends and that friends are people my age. Homeschooled children have friends at home (mom, dad, brothers and sisters), church and extra-cirricular circles. Also, friends can be 45 year old men and 90 year old women. Yes, a child will not treat adult freinds the same as a child friend, but can still learn to love and care for an adult as a friend. There are support groups, dance lessons, music lessons, sports and drama clubs that give children more friends than they know what to do with! Over all, the family is the main place for friendships. If a child can have their family as their closest friends, they will feel secure and loved. Why pour energy and time into little friends that will move away, get "better" friends or grow up and disappear? Family friendships last forever. A friendship with mother lasts forever. Brothers and sisters can be your best friends. Friendships take time... lots of time. How can true friendships with mom, dad and siblings be built if the children are gone all day? Ahhh, but many fun memories that build friendships can happen between 8AM and 3PM- at home. It is pretty funny when mommy cannot remember 2x2 or when your sister drops the food coloring all over the floor while doing an experiment.

Is being "sheltered" a bad thing? Many people look at home educated children and call them sheltered. Sometimes I am not sure what they mean. Is not knowing slang words part of being sheltered? Praise God! Does being sheltered mean the child has not seen the latest movie? That's fine. Is being sheltered from the negative influence of other little sinners a bad thing? Character is not built by testing the strength of a child before they are strong. Character is built over many hours of devotion and love, tested once they are ready to stand alone. Sheltered means that a child is protected from the influences that would harm him emotionally, physically and spiritually. A parent cannot protect a child from these harms if the child is away from their lovingly watchful eye.

Final Thoughts
I will again say that homeschooling takes intentionality, hard work and selflessness. Mother and father have to be devoted to raising well-socialized children, whether they educate them at home or send them to public school. There is a need for friends of your own age, but being able to have friends of all races, gender and age is of greater value. Guarding the minds and hearts of children cannot be spoken of without serious thought.

There, as always, is much more I could say. I will leave it here for now!

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