Tag Archives: socializing

Back to school for the fall

18 Aug

A lot of kids are starting school this week. I’ve seen lots of pictures of kids with their brand new backpacks and hopeful smiles pasted all over Facebook. All of the neighborhood kids have been noticeably absent from our house only to reappear after 3 o’clock.

And my kids have been busy. Planning a puppet show (that should be interesting), playing Spanish games on the computer, practicing the guitar, and learning how to be self-sufficient. My kids forget that their friends are locked up in schools and frequently ask throughout the day if they can pop by their houses to invite them to events (like the puppet show – lol) or to show their friends something that they are making. They also miss the freedom of being outside to explore their world. We try to curb their outside activities while school is in session just to avoid any harassment from the community. I know that all I have to do is inform the inquiring authorities that we homeschool, I just don’t want to have to deal with truant officers and DCFS. That is the downside of being the only homeschooling family in the community.

What concerns me is why is our family the odd ball? Why? When every parent I talk to complains about the effectiveness of their schools, or the problems their children are having at school, or the infusion of materialistic and socialistic ideals in their school. Even parents who send their kids to “a good school” encounter some of these problems. So why does everybody keep sending their kids to school?

Every school has an agenda

And it’s not always the same agenda as the parents. Sure every school talks about it’s focus on academic subjects. And some schools even do a good job raising the grades of students in certain subjects. But every school (public, private, magnet, charter) has another agenda. Sometimes the teachers and administrators don’t even know what the agenda is, but it’s still there.

I just encountered an extreme example of schools’ hidden agendas this past month. A friend of mine (a fellow art teacher) had just accepted a job at a new charter school in St. Louis. Somewhere along the way she discovers that the school is owned and operated by Turkish patriots who infuse Turkish politics, religion, practices, and beliefs throughout their school system. She tossed out phrases that I had not heard of (i.e. “Gulen Movement” – read about it at: 123) and was afraid of remaining with the school. She wanted my advice on how to get out. Well, luckily it was well before school started so she had lots of options.

Now, I can hear a lot of you telling yourself that this is an exception. But it’s not. Sure, the public schools aren’t pushing Turkish patriotism, but they do have a hidden agenda.

What is the purpose of schools?

Mass schooling of a compulsory nature really got its teeth into the United States between 1905 and 1915, though it was conceived of much earlier and pushed for throughout most of the nineteenth century. The reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking, threefold: 1) To make good people. 2) To make good citizens. 3) To make each person his or her personal best. These goals are still trotted out today on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or another as a decent definition of public education’s mission, however short schools actually fall in achieving them. But we are dead wrong. (John Taylor Gatto, Against School)

The purpose of schools is to maintain a docile mass populace – easily managed and obedient workforce. Think I’m crazy? There are tons of documentation out there to show this is a fact. (I have a short list to get you started.) This is a far cry from the 3 Rs normally talked about (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic – they don’t even all start with R. Did this bother anybody else?)

That erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else. (H.L. Menken, The American Mercury, 1924)

We sacrifice our family bond for the hope of a successful future for our children. How did we get to this point? It was by careful design.

(Alexander) Inglis breaks down the purpose – the actual purpose – of modern schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:
1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can’t test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. This might well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record.” Yes, you do have one.
4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin’s theory of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That’s what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.
That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country. And lest you take Inglis for an isolated crank with a rather too cynical take on the educational enterprise, you should know that he was hardly alone in championing these ideas. Conant himself, building on the ideas of Horace Mann and others, campaigned tirelessly for an American school system designed along the same lines. (John Taylor Gatto, Against School)

So, go ahead and send your kids off to school with a smile and a wave. But don’t be surprised at the results.

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References and suggested reading.

My love/hate relationship with parenting forums

7 Apr

I’ve been spending a little bit of time at Circle of Moms lately. I don’t normally spend a lot of time on forums for several reasons, but it was linked to my Face Book account and several friends had sent me a link. So I checked it out.

Love Me

It’s got a cool layout, and is pretty easy to move around. This is important to me because I easily get lost in forums and that pisses me off and makes me not want to come back. Everything was relatively easy to set up.

Love Me Not

But hanging out in forums is such a time sucker! You can easily spend hours there chattering mindlessly or endlessly clicking on this and that. Then, before you know it, the day is gone and the “to do” list hasn’t even been touched.

Love Me

But hanging out with other people in similar situations is stimulating and encouraging. I get the chance to meet knew people with common goals and ideas and share thoughts with them. I was just telling my grandma the other day how great the computer was because I get to have friends on the other side of the planet and it’s easy to communicate with them!

Love Me Not

But sometimes the conversation turns to drivel. I’ve noticed this happens a lot on parenting forums. The endless nagging and complaining. It can take a lot of effort sometimes to wade through the muck to find one good friend. I enjoy conversation, but I really don’t think life is THAT complicated.

And I don’t enjoy hearing the same complaints (and suggestions) over and over and over again. Do some three year olds like to assert their independence. You betcha! Do they need to be medicated because they have ADHD. No way! (in fact, I don’t believe ADHD is as widespread as it appears. So we need to quit using that as an excuse.)

You really want to succeed as a parent – provide love and support when they ask for it; back off and let them live their own life when they can; teach them the tools they need when they need it; and RELAX and let life happen. Life is a blessing to us all.

Love Me

All in all though. I like the opportunity to meet new people. Especially since there are so few UNSCHOOLING, ALL NATURAL/ORGANIC/WHOLE FOOD EATING, ORGANIC CHURCH MEETING, BREASTFEEDING ADVOCATES and FREEDOM LOVING (all rolled into one) people out there.

Shucks, I think we’re the only home schooling family in my little bitty town. And nobody around here knows about raw milk and grassfed beef. Some days I feel like I’m constantly on my soap box. Finding a group of like-minded people online gives me the opportunity to learn from someone else’s experience instead of always being the teacher.

I want to work with children

6 Apr

This is the mantra of many teachers and would be teachers (and, I’m sure, a whole host of other well-meaning adults seeking a profession full of meaning and purpose). It was even what I said and thought when I began my teaching career.

But I soon came to learn that this idea seemed a bit backwards. I often wondered at my sudden change in views on my teaching career. And now I understand why.

I just got done reading a passage in Teach Your Own by John Holt and had to rush to my computer to write it down and share it with you. It totally sums up what I have been puzzling over since I quit professional teaching.

The other day a young person wrote me saying, “I want to work with children.” Such letters come often. They make me want to say, “What you really mean is, you want to work on children. You want to do things to them, or for them–wonderful things, no doubt–which you think will help them. What’s more, you want to do these things whether the children want them done or not. What makes you think they need you so much? If you really want to work with children, then why not find some work worth doing, work you believe in for its own sake, and then find a way to make it possible for children–if they want to–to do that work with you.

The difference is cruical. The reason my work with the leaves and worms [he tells this story in the preceeding paragraphs] was interesting and exciting to those boys was precisely that it was my work, something I was doing for my good, not theirs.  It was not some sort of “project” that I had cooked up because I thought they might be interested in it. I wasn’t out there raking up leaves in the hope that some children might see me and want to join in. I never asked them to help, never even hinted; they insisted on helping me. All I did for them–which may be more than many adults might have done–was to say that if they really wanted that much to help me, then they could. Which is exactly the choice I would like to see the adult world offer to all children.

I really can’t say it better than that. It is exactly why unschooling works so well. It is exactly why, once we let our children “help” us, we realize they are much more competent and capable than we had ever given them credit. This is exactly why we should just do what we need to do in our lives and let our children be as involved in our daily activities as they want to be.

John Holt – A man WAY before his time

31 Mar

Not so new views on children, childhood, schools, and education.

I’ve been reading a slew of books written by John Holt. What I found most interesting was the dates these books were published. Every book so far has been published before the 80’s. Yet everything he writes about has virtually remained unchanged. The system is still not working for most people. Children are still being forced to submit to the wiles and whims of a system that doesn’t understand them (or rather, doesn’t care to understand them because they know better.)

“At first I did not question the compulsory nature of schooling. But by 1968 or so I had come to feel strongly that the kinds of changes I wanted to see in schools, above all in the ways teachers related to students, could not happen as long as schools were compulsory.

From many such experiences I began to see, in the early ’70s, slowly and reluctantly, but ever more surely, that the movement for school reform was mostly a fad and an illusion. Very few people, inside the schools or out, were willing to support or even tolerate giving more freedom, choice, and self-direction to children. Of the very few who were, most were doing so not because they believed that children really wanted and could be trusted to find out about the world, but because they thought that giving children some of the appearances of freedom (allowing them to wear old clothes, run around, shout, write on the wall, etc.) was a clever way of getting them to do what the school had wanted all along–to learn those school subjects, get into a good college, etc. Freedom was not a serious way of living and working, but only a trick, a “motivational device.” When it did not quickly bring the wanted results, the educators gave it up without a thought and without regret.” ~John Holt, Teach Your Own

As I am reading these books, my first thought is amazement that I never heard of this man while I was going through my teacher training. Then I stop myself and almost laugh at the ridiculousness of this thought. Why in the world would any education certification program discuss the writings, experiences, and research of a man who spent a lifetime working in the education system to find out that it was all irreparably broken? If we had talked about these writings while I was in college studying to be a teacher I would have never gone on with the program. As it was, I experienced almost everything he discussed and left public school education without a backward glance.

The system is broken.

I’m in the middle of Teach Your Own right now. It is basically a primer and an encouragement for taking that first leap into unschooling/home schooling. Right there in the introduction he tells the story of a woman at the beginning stages of trying to plan an alternative school for her children and her community. I am not kidding… it was like reading my story in a book written 50 years before my time! The story was exactly the same.

“She and a friend had decided that they couldn’t stand what the local schools were doing to children, and that the only thing to do was start their own. For many months they had been looking for parents, for space, for money, and had made almost no progress at all.”

That’s the story of Pomegranate Gardens! UNBELIEVABLE! And he gave her the advice that, luckily, my husband and I figured out all on our own… don’t got through the mess of trying to meet regulations,  find willing parents and students, and money, and buildings. It’s just not going to happen. Just teach them at home.

In a way it is sad though. The world needs a school like Pomegranate Gardens. And you know what… when the world is ready for it, I’ll be here ready to welcome them. But most people are not willing to gamble their child’s future like this. Even though they know deep down that the school system is failing, that their children are suffering, that the whole thing is just so broken and wrong. It doesn’t matter. Maybe they think their children need to be ready for the harsh realities of life. Maybe they think children need to suck it up and learn to do pointless and menial work, because that’s what life is. Maybe, I don’t know. But it seems to me to be a vicious and never-ending cycle of despair.

A lack of meaningful work

No, I’m not talking about your job. But maybe I am. Maybe if you had had an opportunity as a child to find what was important to you, you would be living a totally different life. Who knows. How different would our world be if we were all doing work we loved and felt was important?

When we are talking about schooling though, we often hear about the troublemakers. Those kids (and they are growing in number) who cause problems and angst in the classrooms for teachers and students. But these are not stupid kids. These are kids who find school to be meaningless and irksome. In one of his books, Holt talks about a group of kids in an after school program. The lady running the programs talks about how these three boys are the hardest working, strongest, most diligent, most reliable children of the group as long as they are given work that they can view as important. If they feel they are being shunted out of the way with simple busy work, then they revert to the troublesome bothersome boys that everyone expects them to be.

Holt quotes Dean Paul Roberts of Denver at the first graduation of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (I’ve heard this quote attributed to JFK too, who knows, maybe JFK was quoting Roberts).

“To a group of students that included some very unhappy, mixed-up, and self-hating young people, he said: (1) accept yourself, (2) forget yourself, (3) find something to do and to care about that is more important to you than you are…. In telling the students to accept and then forget themselves Dean Roberts was saying something that they, preoccupied, obsessed as they were by how they looked to others, and usualy how bad they looked, had to take seriously. For he was one of the homeliest people any of us had ever seen…. Of course, to accept and forget oneself is not easy to do even when one tries, which is why the other part of his advice is so vital–to find something to do, to care about, to throw yourself into, that is more important than you are.” ~Escape from Childhood

I wanted to make a change – not be changed by the system.

If only schools really prepared us for this. Prepared us for a life full of meaning and satisfaction. This is not too much to ask for. Holt gave up on reforming the education system in the 70s. I became a teacher at the turn of the century hoping to change the world. Mentor teachers smiled condescendingly on me saying “I used to be idealistic too”. I lasted three years.

I watched “A Law Abiding Citizen” not too long ago which talks about the same thing, only with the justice system instead of the education system. Jamie Fox’s character is a lawyer and near the end of the movie he is talking about his career and his choices and says that he became a lawyer to change the system. But then as time went on he made one compromise, then another deal, and then another compromise, and before he knew what happened, instead of changing the system, the system had changed him.

But it’s never too late to stop that train. Make a change right now. I am home schooling my kids right now. It’s great. I don’t have to perpetuate the cycle anymore.

Are schools making us stupid?

11 Mar

There are a lot of good teachers in the world. And most of them, like I did, got into teaching to help change the world, make lives better, and work with children.

The reality is so much different though. While some teachers are able to make some meaningful impact on the lives of their students, the scope is narrow and limited. Many teachers are restricted and restrained in what they can do in their classroom and for their students.

I’ve been reading Charlotte Iserbyt for a long time. I have seen what she talks about in her books and speeches first hand. She is part of the reason (other than first hand experience) I got out of public school teaching and started home schooling my children.

What she says is scary. If you choose to keep your children in public school you MUST be aware of the underlying and hidden agenda of the public school system.

Her book The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America is available for free online.

Charlotte Iserbyt served as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education, during the first Reagan Administration. At that time, she blew the whistle on a major technology initiative which would control curriculum in America’s classrooms.

The Pig of Happiness

2 Mar

My kids love this video. If you can stand watching it repeatedly throughout the day, share it with them. It’s a great example of how just being happy can affect those around you and help create a better world. Now how’s that for character development?

The very best home school curriculum available.

24 Feb

You Don’t Need This Book
…or any other book for that matter!

As an educating expert I get a lot of families asking me curriculum. What kind do I recommend, which ones do I use, how to find the best one. At the risk of losing out on many opportunities I am going to be extremely blunt. You don’t need them. I have seen too many people spend loads of money on special curriculum for each child (hundreds to thousands of dollars) only to find that school work becomes tedious, home schooling becomes a drag, and tensions between parent and child escalate as the child passive-aggressively battles the system that the parent has unwittingly brought into the home.

Curriculum is a billion dollar industry

Don’t get me wrong. I love curriculum. I am also very skilled at writing curriculum. A copy of my curriculum, written during my senior year of college (A+), is sitting in the art ed resource room at SIUE to be used as a reference and example for other aspiring art teachers. But the fact remains that you don’t need them. This point really hit home for me when I was browsing a bookstore one day. And there on the shelf in prime location was a preschool workbook on learning how to use scissors. Yes, some big wig curriculum publisher was selling this book. Incredulous, I picked it up and looked through it. It was full of thick black lines, straight lines, curved lines, dotted lines, some shapes. And the child would take a pair of scissors and cut along the lines. That was it. $15 dollars for a workbook that would be cut to pieces. It was mindboggling. And to think of the damage I was inflicting on my children by giving them a stack of scrap paper and bills to “shred” with their tiny scissors. Right then and there “You don’t need this book!” screamed through my brain. I even got the brilliant idea to write a book talking about this. I never finished it because it seemed too ridiculous to write a book you really don’t need talking about all the educational books you really don’t need.

Home schooling should be something different

Many of you started home schooling because of the failings of public school. So why bring that failing system into your home? All you have done is transplanted the same problems and frustrations from the classroom to the living room.

I was talking to a parent a couple of months ago. He is trying to home school his teenage daughter. He invested almost $500 on some nifty computer interactive curriculum set. But she never used it. Half the time she stayed at her mother’s house to avoid the school work. “What is she interested in?” I asked him. The simple question that most of us so often forget to ask. “Well, she likes cosmotology.” I then proceeded to launch into an explanation of how cosmotology could be the basis of all her learning from the history of makeup and hair and how it affected the world to the science of shampoo and hair dye. Every relevant “subject” could be covered using her main interest of cosmotology. I am afraid I might have scared him away, because I haven’t heard from him since then. But my point is, you don’t need fancy textbooks, computer programs, curriculums, or gizmos. You are better off using that money to invest in information or tools that are geared specifically to your child’s interest.

Home school groups are another tricky subject. (Especially since I am the founder of Pomegranate Gardens School). There are dozens of home school groups and schools out there. Sure, join up. I would love people to join me at Pomegranate Gardens. But think about what you want and need. If you are looking for a play group, do you need to pay membership fees for that? If you are wanting social connections there are numerous avenues for both parent and child. Please, think about how you are investing your time and money. If you want and need some real advise and support, get it. I offer most of my advise freely and generously, much to the detriment of PG’s educational consulting program. If you want serious guidance and support be willing to pay for it, but make sure you are paying for something that is worth the investment.

Kids and chores – the never ending battle to get things done

11 Dec

three-year old sweeping

When is a child too young to start helping out around the house?

sit... stay... go get it... good girl

sit... stay... go get it... good girl

four-year old measuring pet food

Well, naturally, that depends on the child. But my observation is, if they are old enough to ask if they can help, they are old enough for you to let them help. The key here is that you, as the parent, need to LET them. Oftentimes, we would rather just get it done. It takes too long to watch them struggle through it, we don’t like having to clean up the mess that follows in the wake of their “cleaning”, and they might break something.

fourteen-year old washing dishes

seven-year old shredding cheese

After having four kids the amount of housekeeping required to sustain even the barest minimum of cleanliness consumed almost all of my time. That’s four kids, one husband, myself, and numerous pets (at the moment, one dog and one cat, but we have had as many as two dogs, two cats, and a pair of birds all at the same time).  And why should I be the only one cleaning up after the masses, afterall, I’m not the only one making a mess. So the new regime began – even for the youngest.

three-year old cleaning lint trap

three-year old helping with the laundry

One could make the argument that learning such menial tasks as laundry, cleaning, and washing is counter productive to successful living. This could be hired-out work. Most wealthy and successful people rarely spend their time on housekeeping but hire someone else instead so that their own time and energy can be focused elsewhere. But I firmly believe that everyone should have a basic understand of how to do such menial tasks. At the very least it fosters respect for the work entailed (would you belittle and abuse your housekeeper if you truly understood how difficult the work was). And if you are in dire straights, at least you now how to keep your shirt clean. Taking care of chores is also a great way to foster independence, strengthen self-confidence, and encourage pride in a job well done.

youngest "supervising" the seven-year old cleaning the litter

master "chef" in training

The nice thing about starting out early is that eventually the kids reach a level of proficiency that requires very little oversight and correction. Plus, with so many of them, they help each other out and teach each other.

I finally drew up a little chore chart. But we rarely ever use it because they have already been trained on what needs to be done. The chore chart merely acts as a reminder so that they are able to double check their work.

chore chart

youngest “supervising” the seven-year old cleaning the litter

Home Schooling & Socialization

5 Mar

I’ve written about this before…

But it seems that it is still such an issue with people.

Most people that know us think it’s great that we home school our kids. But we’ve got a bit of an edge. Both my husband and I were former public school educators (and good ones, at that). So because our friends/family/acquaintances consider us “professionals” they excuse our decision to home school.

But the sad truth is, most kids could benefit from home schooling; and all parents are capable of home schooling (money and desire aside – I’m talking about cognitive ability here). But these parents that are so dissatisfied with their children’s public (and sometimes even private) school education will seldom look to home schooling as a viable alternative simply because of the stigma associated with it. The one’s that can afford private school send their kids there and justify it with – well, at least it’s better. Okay. Using that logic a runny nose is better than cancer. So let’s keep our runny noses and we won’t get cancer?

Sad story. Well, more pathetic than sad. I work part time at the “Barrel”. While sitting around waiting for a meeting to start we were talking about our kids. One of the ladies asked me where my kids go to school. “Oh, we home school.” Of course she wanted to know why. I couldn’t help myself. “Because my husband and I were both teachers, and we know what it’s really like in schools.” The stunned look on her face at that comment. Then of course this little snit of a girl had to pipe up. Now, keep in mind that she is maybe 19 years old and still lives with her parents. This and the fact that nobody likes working with her because her people skills are soooooooo bad. I was warned about her on my first day of work by no less than 3 different people. And people still come up to me to complain about her. Yes, THAT girl, sits straight up in her chair and declares that home schooling is bad because home schooled kids don’t know how to socialize with others. Everyone sitting around the table just stares at her. Then they turn away and start talking about something else. All I’ve got to say about that, is at least she proved my point, because nobody with any sense is going to listen to her rambling about the failings of home schooling.

But really, there are going to be people out there that think you are making a big mistake. You know you are not. You know that you are doing the best thing possible for your kids. And that’s all that matters. All these nay-sayers are not worth listening to because they don’t know, don’t understand, and worse yet, they don’t WANT to know and understand.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
~Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

We are on a journey to change modern education. This is just a small step to the final destination. Technically, we are still in the first stage. Although there are signs of violent opposition beginning to rear it’s ugly head. How committed am I to going the distance. Very. I’ll become a nomadic ex-pat if that’s what it takes. This is too important to sit passively by while my children suffer because of other peoples’ foolish decisions.

marvin.jpg

Home Schooled Kids Don’t Have Any Friends

15 Oct

What a load of rubbish. Talk to any home schooler and you’ll find that the social experiences of those kids are much richer and healthier than any government schooled child. Think about it… What kind of socialization really happens at schools?

  • The kids are strictly segregated by age group. This is not how life works. There are people of all ages, yet every government schooled child spends twelve years of his/her life interacting solely with their peers. It is rare to have 5th graders interact with 6th graders or freshmen with seniors.
  • There is limited time for kids to acceptably interact with each other. Schools across the nation are cutting back on recess time. Lunch breaks are usually 20 minutes – a full half hour is a luxury. Almost every interaction is strictly regulated by a supervising adult. And times that are not regulated are controlled by a select and exclusive peer group. Yes, kids can make friends, but kids spend more time trying to survive the social structure than they do “socializing”. We remember those times. Playground tauntings, cliques, bullies, gossip. This is not a healthy environment.
  • Labeling. Yes, it happens. And it often starts with the teachers. “Johnny is a bit slow.” “Janie likes to talk.” “Robbie has a learning disorder.” These are common conversations in the teachers’ lounge. Kids are classified into stereotypical groups. The smart ones, the dumb ones, the pretty ones, the poor ones, the smelly ones, the nice ones, the troublemakers. Segregation by age is not enough. And the kids know where they stand in the social order. The labels don’t have to be accurate or relevant, but they are there and they are difficult to overcome. Many students just accept and fulfill the expectations of their label.
  • What about sports? School athletics are not an opportunity for learning and socialization for all – just a select few. These are the “jocks”. I may be generalizing, but for the most part this is the norm. School athletes have a higher status, and many of them take advantage of that status. Instead of being an opportunity for anybody interested in learning a new sport, it becomes a competition and only those that have been properly trained prior to try-outs makes the team. It is not an opportunity to learn a new skill and make new friends with a mutual interest, but an avenue to show off one’s status.

Now, what about home schooled kids?

  • They are able to interact with a diverse age group. From younger siblings to wise and experienced mentors, a home schooled child understands that you can learn something interesting from almost anyone. And let’s face it, socialization is a matter of practice.
  • There is plenty of time. Most home schoolers dine together – an opportunity to learn etiquette. There is time for the family to truly interact with each other. There is also more opportunity for the child to watch the parents interact with other people in society. Most of us do our errands during the day (school hours). Taking your kids with you on these errands gives them the chance to see you communicate with the clerk at the post office, or the cashier at the grocery store. Through observation they can learn basic life skills (like buying groceries), manners, courtesy, and sometimes restraint (like when you encounter someone really rude).
  • Labeling may still happen, depending on the household. But it is rarely permanent and seldom destructive. Most home schooled children are able to find and foster their own interests. You are not the arty one because you don’t fit in anywhere else. Instead you are artistic because you enjoy it and you have the time to investigate that interest and develop that skill. It is a subtle difference, but a difference non the less.
  • There are all sorts of programs and activities for all sorts of interests. Martial arts, dancing, horseback riding, painting, sailing, skating, church groups. Any one can join and learn the skills needed to succeed in any field. And there one can find others with the same interests. This is where real friends are made.

Don’t be fooled. Home schooled kids have a rich and fulfilling social life. I remember when I was in high school. A new girl started who had been home schooled. It was the talk of the school. Everyone was saying how she wouldn’t fit it and how she wouldn’t know how to make friends (well before anyone had even met her). Yes, it was hard for her. But was it because she was a home schooled misfit or was it because the other kids didn’t know how to interact with someone truly socialized? I found her to be a lot of fun and interesting to talk to.