Friday, April 11, 2008

What About Socialization ?

This is one of the most common questions asked of homeschoolers. In my heart, I want to say "I do not want my children socialized" ... at least not in the sense that the question often implies. But that is not a good "explaination". So, having been asked about socialization not once, but twice, yesterday .....

From Educating The Whole Hearted Child: A Handbook for Christian Home Education by Clay and Sally Clark (pg 17): "We believe in family-style socialization. We try to make our home and family life as entertaining, enriching, and enjoyable as we can. We want our children to become "family dependent" rather than "peer dependent", and to prefer our home to any other place they might go. We work hard and make some social sacrifices to build strong family ties." And near the bottom of the page it says "We want to do all we can to so win our children's hearts that they will value and prefer home and family."

In my eyes, true socialization is most certainly not a group of 10-20-30+ children of all the same age being together on a regular basis such as happens in a school setting. Children will establish a "class" structure of their own, will influence one another (for better and for worse), will teach one another good and bad habits, they will assume one another's positive and negative attitudes, will follow one another down good and bad paths in life. None of these children seem to have much more wisdom than any of the others, yet some are leaders usually due to strong wills, strong personalities, talents, abilities, or even appearance. And some are followers. This "class" structure, I feel, is one of the contributing causes of the difficulties we as a nation are having with our young people. School socialization presents little more than a large scale popularity or strong-man contest. What of those children who are different ?? And what of the odd-ducks, who in past history have gone on to become great persons (Einstein, Curie, and many many others) ?? They either conform, or they endure being left out, picked last, ridiculed, and shunned. Why do we want our children constantly influenced by their peers, who are ill prepared to "lead" and who often are oblivious to the "big picture" in life and of the value of all persons ?? At what point do these youngsters learn to consider what is really "out there" ?? When do they see the world beyond those walls ?? Why do we want to allow our children to either be "leaders" when they are not yet prepared for such a role, or to "endure" all that this setting offers to the followers and those who do not or cannot conform ?? It is reasonable to assume that nearly all parents know well what that "circle" of peers like this does to a child - it seems that the bad often outweighs the good in this "social" setting. Even having had a "good" school experience, I know myself the pitfalls and how ill-prepared it left me for adult "real" life. I do not want THAT for my own children. And as times have changed through the years, the bad seems to be increasing - just watch the news !! I will say that I do think that being with one's age mates is nice from time to time (playdates with friends, parties, occassional classes), but in my opinion this consistant occurance is not a good preparation for real life nor is it "good" for a child because it is not a good "big picture". Socialization in this sense actually is NOT a good social experience. And when, other than in "school", are we ever grouped with only our own age mates for extended periods of time, day after day after day ? The answer is never (after we leave "school"). And why do we want "cookie cutter" children (who grow up to be cookie-cutter adults) -- what happened to creativity, individuality, free thought and expression ??

"He who knows how to teach a child, is not competent for the oversight of a child's education unless he also knows how to train a child." (H. Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training, 1890)

Luke 8:15 "But the seed on good soil stands for those qith a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a good crop."

First, I feel it is vital for my own children to have real relationships with persons of all ages, 0-100 so to speak. I believe that old and young alike benefit from these relationships. And I believe that my own children will be far better prepared for "life" than I was because of these differences in their upbringing.

Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and knowledge."

I have often heard children say "Oh, she is just an old lady" when they meet an older woman in church or elsewhere. And almost always they just avoid her completely deciding that she is of no value or consequence to "their" world. Well, that old lady has lived for a long time and has much to contribute to a "friendship" with a young person. One of my daughters' closest friends is an older lady of nearly 70 --- they sit together for hours visiting, talking, and laughing. And it is with this special friend that she first learned to crochet, has baked bread, made curtains, and has heard many many stories of "back when ...". It is also in this relationship that my daughter has chosen to be "a servant" as God calls us -- going to her house to rake leaves or to help with other projects that Cherub 2's youth has suited her well for. They are planning to put in (together) a small vegetable garden for this lovely lady and her husband to tend this year at their house -- Cherub 2 has recruited her siblings to help prepare it for them (tilling, clearing debris, preparing the rows). Our 6 Cherubs are also goign to build a chicken pen for this couple so that they can have chickens again (a project this couple has not done for years, but want to again this year). The garden and the chickens have required many many planning sessions and conversations, all laced with Memory Walks from the The Great Depression and previous World Wars. The Chuerbs have been fascinated with the Victory Garden era mostly -- they think this should be recommended now as our nation is facing rough economic times. The fact is that Cherub 2 counts this "old lady" amoung her closest friends (as do several other of our children), and it has been a wonderful relationship for her / them and for Mr. & Mrs. B alike. THIS is socialization.

And Cherub 5 loves most dearly a young lady of nearly 20yo -- she admires her, looks up to her, and learns from her. THIS is socialization.

Our children recently had 7 children from a family we know come to visit for the day - friends whose ages were 1 1/2yo to 14yo. And everyone had a grand time playing together without "ooo - he's just a baby" or "they are just little kids and are not cool enough to hang out with us" .... SOCIALIZATION at it's finest.

At church, our boys have befriended an older gentleman who is a widower - and he was on Iwo Jima during the war. They love this gentleman, and are thrilled to hear his life stories of normal days and of his military service. The smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes say that he is thoroughly enjoying the relationship as well -- when the boys sit with their eyes and ears "glued" as Mr. S speaks -- and when the children draw him pictures, tell him about their activities. THIS is socialization.

What of relationships between parents and their children ?? What of relationships between siblings ? And grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins ?? Aren't those socialization too ?? THIS is socialization.

"One of the greatest powers for good is a family whose members respect each other and who have learned to function, however poorly, with the rich concepts of the Word of God gives us as human beings. It is almost incredible to think of the stabilizing effect ordinary families can hanve: not only for themselves, but as a light in a troubled generation." (Susan Shaeffer Macaulay, For The Children's Sake, 1984)

"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction, and do not forsake your mother's teaching." (Proverbs 1:8)

And what of relationships between children and their friends ?? What about older and younger friends ?? Are these not socialization ?? The balance seems to come from a setting where mutual respect is taught, and where everyone is valued as a "person".

Charlotte Mason is the woman who inspired our "homeschool" long long ago. And she lived during the "SEEN AND NOT HEARD" period in history when children were thought not to BE persons until they were adults. She insisted in her philospohy that ALL CHILDREN ARE PERSONS. She went on to speak of relationships, of habits, and of what life "should" be for a person that is a child. She held some very strong views on what true education was (and is !) -- and was / is not. What an inspiration !! She also spoke about the difference between raising factory workers and raising thinkers (cookie cutter vs. individuals) -- I believe our current setting is putting out far too many factory workers and far too few thinkers. Socialization is directly related to all aspects of life -- so why limit a child to such a small setting socially, often stunting him (or her) and limiting their view and scope of vision, education, and experiences ??

So, what about socialization ??

All through our lives, we will meet persons of all ages, of many cultures, of many religions, of many "backgrounds". And if we can interact with all of these, if we can establish relationships with all of these, if we can mix and mingle with all of these --THIS is socialization. Socialization is learning how to be "part" of the world as an individual while remaining true to one's self and to God. Socialization is not having a enormous peer group as the central focus to one's social life and world, nor is it learning how to mold one's self into that cookie cutter shape -- it is rather being able to have a "social" relationship with others who are likley very different in many many ways from one's self --- adults, children, "old ladies" and "old men", babies, toddlers, and everyone in between. To me, this is a balanced picture of socialization, and will most certainly prepare our children for the future because they will have a true picture of humanity and will see the world through individual eyes that are set on the "big picture".

If the "school setting" is the "perfect" picture of what socialization should be -- well, my children will ever remain UNSOCIALIZED, for their own good and for the good of the world they will inherit.


daisyblend said...

Hey, well said!
I followed the link from Lisa's blog and posted a link on my own (hope that's okay).

Fredericktown, MO

daisyblend said...

Yes, I remember meeting. One of yours was about the same age as mine (now 8) and they enjoyed playing together. I remember one of your sons being just a cheerful little chatterbox and every morning he would greet my husband with a "Good morning Mr. Bobby!"
Aren't blogs just a great way to keep up with people? I love it.

Priscilla said...

Wow. Such truth. It brought tears to my eyes and I'm not even a parent! If only more parents would realize how very true and vital this concept is.

Send my love to Cherub 5. :)

Priscilla said...

Wow. Such truth. It brought tears to my eyes and I'm not even a parent! If only more parents would realize how very true and vital this concept is.

Send my love to Cherub 5. :)

Kinderlehrer said...

From your post I know you need no convincing that socialisation goes on 24/7 but I did think that you and your readers may like to see a small collection of links to studies etc that I started on the topic. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. If there are other studies I'd really appreciate knowing about them too.