Friday, June 01, 2007

Preconceived notions

I just love Hathor. I don't always agree with her, but she makes me challenge some conventional wisdom and decide whether her view is right for us.

The above cartoon, however, is absolutely spot on for me as a homeschooling parent. When someone (a stranger, a family member, a friend, doesn't really matter) finds out that Sass and Spyder are homeschooled, the first question almost always is "What about socialization?"

The snarky part of me that Hathor shows always groans and thinks, "Not again!" I have to assume, however, that the person asking is truly curious to know how children who don't go to a traditional, mainstream school "socialize," so I always answer honestly and politely. But considering how often we're asked about it, I wonder if people really do believe that we homeschoolers live in a box.

Let me preface this by mentioning that every family is different. Every person you ask will have a different answer. As for us, we have many, many opportunities to "socialize" with others.

Perhaps it's hard to imagine for someone who isn't a homeschooler, but "socializing" isn't a problem. My standard answer is, "We attend church. We are part of a group of homeschooling families that meets regularly, and Spyder is in Scouts." If the conversation continues, I mention the specifics.

We attend a relatively large church -- about 500 members or so -- and we participate fully. The children attend junior worship or regular service, as well as the Awana program. They both have several friends from church. With one exception, all of Spyder's church friends go to school, either public or private. When time permits, we have regular social activities with these friends.

Additionally, Spyder is in Cub Scouts, and he regularly attends meetings and social activities. Sass is beginning Brownies this summer, and we'll have similar meetings and activities for her as well.

The children also attend art class on Wednesdays, which started out as being only art class, but it's turned into a wonderful class/playdate with the other students. Sass's class is from 2-3. Spyder's class is from 4-5. But the classes are held about 30 minutes away from our home, so we simply stay for the hour in between. Most other parents do this as well, so we generally have anywhere from 10-14 children playing before or after his or her class.

We're also members of a wonderful homeschool group which meets every other Friday for a playdate. Moms chat, and children play. It's a fantastic time, for the moms and the children.

Sass is a member of an American Girl club within our homeschool group, which is a kind of history club based on the American Girl books. We meet once a month to discuss one of the characters, her books, and her historical context. Occasionally, we have a field trip. The next one is to a plantation.

Sass and Spyder both take a class for homeschoolers once a month at the science and history museum, which they absolutely love. We also go to the children's museum regularly, and they make fast friends there every time. We also have field trips at least twice a month. Just this past week we went to a paint-your-own pottery studio with our homeschool group.

We have a couple of close friends within our homeschool group, and we have impromptu playtimes with them at least a few times a month. We also attend a variety of live theater and music performances, as well as wandering around the botanic gardens and art museums.

Sometimes our schedule gets so full that we have to pull back from some of these activities, simply so that we can spend a bit more time at home, doing what we need to do. It's not unusual for us to have 4 or 5 outside activities per week, and it's easy for Spyder (in particular) to feel like we're doing too much.

But really, aren't many of these the same kind of activities that all children have? Scouts, playdates, zoos, museums, and the like aren't exclusive to homeschoolers, nor are they only found within traditional school activities. It seems that both groups tend to forget that.

Skeeter got his first taste of answering the "socialization" question during Space Camp. When they found out that Spyder was homeschooled, it was the first thing they asked. Considering where they were and what they were doing, that really surprised me. The other campers were with Spyder. They ate together; they took classes together; they even slept in the same bunkhouse! That's socializing to me. If the person who asked had taken a moment to think about it, he could have answered his own question.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that we all live in boxes -- boxes that are defined by our notions of who we should be. We all have a tendency to place our personal boxes around others, and they don't always fit.


PEZmama said...

Seriously, doesn't everyone learn to socialize? I think sometimes when people ask that question, they are either worried that our kids won't get to "do" the same things (like go to prom... I've heard that as an argument against homeshooling - seriously) or they think the kid will by a wallflower, unable to carry on a conversation with others, etc.

One thing a friend, and fellow homeschooler, once told me really struck me. She thinks people have a misconception about how "socialization" occurs. She say kids learn to socialize by watching their parents, they practice it when they are around other kids. So maybe keeping kids home for school is actually beneficial because they see us modeling proper social behavior much more than kids who are away from their parents.

Just some thoughts...

Noodle said...

I like your friend's idea about learning v. practicing. And yes, I do this it's better for my urchins to model their behavior on what they see us do, rather than what they would come across at school. If there is a troublesome behavior, at least I do know where it comes from rather than blaming that elusive "school friend."

I just amazes me that "socialization" is the FIRST question that anyone asks me.