Thursday, August 12, 2010

But what about the socialization?

It's the age-old question, right? How do home-schooled kids get the socialization that they need? In all honesty, this is probably my number one worry about home-schooling Iris. This past year at her (amazing) school, it was ALL about figuring out how to navigate friendships. Of course, she learned an incredible amount of other stuff, but the under-current of her day-to-day was how the group worked and how she fit in to it. How to manage friendships. How to work it out when another friend wanted to join in to your play. How to go with your own ideas instead of following someone else. The list goes on. The past year was Iris's year to really sort a lot of that out. In fact, my one and only complaint about Iris's school is that her class size is so small that it didn't provide as much of those social experiences as I would have liked. There was a pretty small pool of friends for her to choose from. A pool of friends she has struggled with and found a lot of joy with.

And now here I sit contemplating home-schooling. While it wouldn't mean that Iris would never see any other children her own age, she would absolutely not get the experience of working on how to navigate deeper day-to-day relationships with other kids. Yes, we can go to play dates. And a whole slew of activities, but it's different than being with the same peer group on a daily basis.

So, my dear friends who home-school, what say you? What is your opinion on socializing home-schoolers when it comes to forming deeper relationships between kids?


  1. Personally, I think kids will find friends with whom to form deeper relationships when they are older. I think at this age (until say, 8 or 9) kids don't really *need* deep, intimate relationships with other kids. Playing time, sure, but BFFs? Nah. One of the things that I have loved experiencing with Z through our unschooling is that she has people of all ages that she considers her friends - she invited friends from the age of 2 up to 50+ to her birthday party. I think keeping kids confined to interacting with children their own age is a grave misfortune of school - afterall, once we get into "the real world" we don't just interact with people born the same academic year as us - we have to interact with people much older, much younger and everywhere in between.

    If you go to an activity on a regular basis - say a weekly unschooling meetup or a dance class or whatever - she'll get that same time to interact with and bond with the same kids. It's still learning to navigate the same waters as she would be in school and presumably, it's in an environment in which all the kids want to and enjoy being.

    And think back to your own experiences with friendship in school - I was always a cordial person in school but I learned a lot more about being a friend in college and beyond than I did in school. In school, I mostly learned how to keep to myself and avoid the people that would chastise me for being outside of their definition of the norm.

    I could go on but chat me on FB or twitter if you wanna talk more about it. :)

  2. I totally agree. I don't think that daily socialization with a big peer group is neccessary, especially when a child has siblings. Sure it may drive you nuts, but many of the learning to deal with other people lessons happen right at home, between the kids and the parents.

    I also agree about age segregation and friendships. There are 3 other families (whose kids go to school) that we've been friends with for forever (since before all the kids were born) and all of the kids consider each other friends. Ian is just as likely to want to play with the 13yo girls, the 9yo girls and boys or his bff who's almost 5. The kids consider the grown ups their friends/honorary aunties/uncles too and are just as likely to go to them if they need something as me & Dan.

    Besides, if you join up with a homeschool group or two there will be more opportunities to meet other kids who you normally wouldn't hang out with. I think it was important for Alison last year, with all her good friends being in schools to meet other kids that were homeschooled. It did a lot for her to know that she wasn't the only one and that the other homeschooled kids were fun to be with too.

    Really, I don't mean to downplay your worries, I just think that we all get so used to the idea that school is for socialization and there are so many other ways to look at it. Plus while Iris was at an amazing school, it's not always going to be like that. I think back to the issues she had and wonder if her school wasn't as supportive and warm as it was, how much worse would it have been? ykwim?

  3. All of what Jennifer said makes total sense to me. We started GraceAnne in GirlScouts last year and will keep her in the same troop this year, so she will still have some familiar faces on a weekly basis. Her troop is also very big on making the girls less dependent on their parents, so they work hard to be sure that by the end of the year the girls can go to an all week camp without their parents. It was WONDERFUL to watch her grow that way. I honestly think that between school and GS she learned these differing things:

    School--how to lay low and avoid people who would get her into trouble. How to behave while others are misbehaving...which I do appreciate VERY much!

    GS--how to have a meaningful relationship with the girls around her, positively impact her community and better the world around her. How to be independent and confident in that independence.

    We also want to get her into a sport to keep her physically active but we're not sure which one yet. Of course that will put even more emphasis on the value of teamwork and a group effort.

    Best of luck if you decide last minute to do this. I believe it's a case-by-case basis. Some children will thrive in this environment and others won't. Personally it's going to be a wing and a prayer over here as we tend to butt heads...err...on a daily basis? lol

  4. you said "she would absolutely not get the experience of working on how to navigate deeper day-to-day relationships with other kids."

    I completely disagree with this. When you homeschool you are there to help them navigate situations. If not while with other children you were a witness & can discuss what happened & what could happen differently next time, etc. You are out there more having more day to day interactions with other people, learning how to navigate the community. Where as in school they are there to fend for themselves & you are possibly not aware of the social situations arising.

    I like learning through life as you are doing just that. Learning how to live. You encounter adults, old people, younger & older children, teens. You learn to socialize "out there in the world" not just in the classroom of 20 peers. Plus they aren't allowed to socialize in school. I have watched my children form best friendships with other kids. We are way more social b/c we homeschool that my kids ever would have the opportunity to be in school. Sometimes too social that I have to start trimming back a bit. As we have the control to spend the time with the people we want as much as we want. We go through things with them. This is how relationships form and strengthen.

    My son who is of similar age as your dd does not like groups. He did not like the park days we have but we kept going. Now he is comfortable with them & has met & been able to play with children of different ages & interests whom he would not have had that opportunity in a same age classroom. It has taken awhile for him to stop clinging to my leg but we are arriving.

    I remember graduating from college & thinking how odd it was not being surrounded by my intellectual & age peers. It took some major adjusting. I think homeschooled kids have a major advantage there.

    Plus the beauty of homeschooling is that it allows your child to be completely & fully who they are. There are no labels placed upon them, nothing that they are expected to "conform" to. They don't have to fit into a little box or mold of expectations placed upon them by those needing to meet certain standards, etc.

    The beauty of homeschooling as well is that if you feel you are lacking something, say a friend w/ a similar interest, you can post on the local groups & find someone & make a club w/ that interest. Say American Girls, etc. It is much easier to find similarites in a tight knit community & it is so beautiful to be doing it with your children...even though we all have our days!!

    It will definitely take time for you both to find your comfort level but if you release the fear & have some patience it will come.

  5. Thank you ladies for giving me some insight on this! I really appreciate it.

    At this exact point in time, we have Iris signed up for school for 1st grade. It is a truly special program. I once heard it described as "home school in a school setting" which in many ways it is with the way the kids are encouraged and supported. I won't get too much more in to that here, as her current school isn't really the point. It's what lies beyond that for Iris (and maybe Eloise, the jury is still out on that one ;) )

    While the idea of being more actively involved in the process is largely appealing to me, I also worry about the idea of shielding my kids too much from the "real world" and being TOO over-bearing and controlling.

    I guess it's that little phrase that always gets me. The "real world" isn't perfect. You have to wait and be patient and deal with kids in class who are disruptions. Somehow I'm stuck in the phase of not wanting to shield her from every unpleasant thing, not that I have to send her to school merely to be exposed to unpleasant situations, of course.

    I also worry that my hermit nature combined with Iris's hermit nature would leave her retreating in to her shell more. That without being forced to socialize at school we would both be home just plugging along in a little bubble.

    Totally just thinking out loud here. But I do think you've all dispelled the myth for me. That homeschooling does not inherently mean a child isn't well-socialized. Or that on the flip side, a child who is sent to school is therefor well-socialized.


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