Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Thoughts on socialization...

Thanks to Sarah for this picture!!!

When my husband and I decided to pursue the path of homeschooling, we knew we were choosing a direction that would label us as different. Even with the numbers of home educators growing, homeschooling is not considered a mainstream educational choice.

People have questioned us about many aspects of our choice, such as: state testing requirements, the legalities of schooling kids at home, my ability or lack of it, and, of course, socialization. To be honest, the socialization question bothers me the most. I have yet to be convinced that placing 20-30 children of the same-age together in a classroom setting or on the playground is the only or even the best method of teaching my kids to interact with the world around them.

The majority of homeschoolers that I know are very socially-busy people. Community activities, music and sports lessons, church functions, field trips, time with friends and service projects are a regular part of their lives; they are, in general, not lacking in social time. So, I think the problem that people have with homeschoolers is not the amount of socialization, but rather what sort of socialization is being provided and who is overseeing it.

As a homeschooling parent, I am concerned about making sure that my kids are prepared to embark on their independent lives when the time is right. But rather than placing them in an environment that demands that they either fit-in or be ostracized, I choose to educate them at home and teach them to be themselves and to follow the path they feel called to. Because my kids are in what I consider a "real-life setting" each and every day, I do not anticipate that they will feel flung into a world that is unfamiliar and unfriendly. If you think about it, what is "real-life"? It is home, family, work, church, friends, hobbies and ideas, all of which are part of my children's lives. From my perspective a peer-segregated classroom setting is far removed from the real world where people of differing ages and abilities interact daily.

The major hang-up people have regarding homeschoolers and socialization, in my opinion, is who is overseeing the socialization process. For some reason, people generally believe that the government-run public school system knows more about raising kids than parents do, that if you do not place your kids under their care, you are somehow depriving your children of a wealth of learning opportunities. Now, I am going to be frank and say this: The public school system is failing right now and you would be hard-pressed to dispute that fact. But, even if they were functioning successfully, I still know that parents are equipped to raise, educate and socialize their own children. That is why God made parents, not the government, the stewards of their children.

One of our main goals for our kids is to teach them to pursue the important things in life: God, family and friends. Church, work, education, hobbies, community involvement or political activism all fit on that list, but the list itself, for us, does not change.

So, as far as the question of socialization, I do not provide the same thing the public schools are dishing out, but I firmly believe that I am providing my kids with a healthy foundation on which they can build successful lives out in the real world.