The Five-Second Rule of Homeschooling: What About Socialization?

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Actually, it’s the Five-Second Rule of anything slightly controversial. A friend of mine coined the term when we were both going through the early stages of adoption preparation and getting ridiculous questions from people about it.

The rule is this: “If you can think of it in five seconds, I can think of it in five seconds.” That is, don’t give obvious advice or ask really silly questions about something a friend has told you until you’ve given it more than five seconds of thought. The bigger the life event, the more time you need to take to think through your response.

Ever since my partner and I decided that the private school our kids have attended for the past three years was beyond our budget for the indefinite future, and that we would homeschool for as long as we need to, I keep hearing the same thing:

“What about socialization?”

This is the big question for homeschoolers, it seems, followed closely by “what kind of curriculum are you going to use?” or maybe, “are you going to join a homeschool group -- they have those now, you know!”

But here, I want to answer anyone who might have that socialization question on the tip of her tongue. By doing so, I hope to save some hapless homeschooler out there from biting hers when tempted to shout “five second rule!” in response.

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First of all, we planned to homeschool years ago before our kids were old enough for any kind of school. So I (being the one who intended to do the heavy lifting) read up on the subject, joined chat groups, followed blogs and otherwise educated myself about homeschooling for several years. When we moved to a larger urban area than the one we lived in when the kids were born, we stumbled across a school we happened to love. We sent the kids there.

But now that Plan B is unaffordable, we are back to Plan A. In other words, homeschooling wasn’t a shocking leap for us, since we’d already planned to do it. We’ve given it loads of thought over the years. We’ve considered the social question, and come up with this: school is not society.

The idea that children are uniquely socialized in schools is just… bizarre if you step back and think about it for, say, six seconds.

Where else in society do you find 20 to 30 people born within six-nine months of each other accompanied by one or two people 20+ years older? The traditional school is perhaps the most unnatural environment -- perhaps the environment most unlike the bulk of society -- anyone could imagine. In fact, the private school we loved had mixed-age classrooms and lots of mentoring between older and younger kids, which was one of the main reasons we loved it.

Yes, many of us did cool stuff with our friends at school that developed us as people in special ways we cherish today. But being in an unnatural environment of same-age peers is not the only way to become a well-developed person who cherishes her friends/self/childhood memories.

I am not qualified to say there are better ways, but I have a hunch there could be. And I don’t doubt there are many other, at least equally good ways.

In our case, we haven’t joined a home school group -- yet. We may and we may not. This is something that will depend on my kids’ needs as they arise. Having gone to school for a while, our kids have some same-age or near-age friends (the best of these actually falls right between my two daughters in age), and we have play dates with them.

My kids are especially extroverted and gregarious and make friends quickly and easily with whomever they find at the park on any given day, so learning to do that is not key to them. What is key -- and what I think is perhaps most important -- is that they learn to develop deep friendships that entail trust and recovery from hurts. That’s something it doesn’t take 30 other kids to learn. In fact, it just takes one or two good friends.

Personally, I put more value on multi-age socialization -- the kind we actually find throughout most of our lives, versus our brief school years -- and that is something we have at church, among neighbors and family.

In short, homeschooling doesn’t mean that our kids will be raised by wolves. They may miss some things (I know they will miss their school facilities, their teachers and the daily exchanges they had with kids of all ages), but they were missing other things by not homeschooling. School exhausted them so much they couldn’t really do anything else, like sports or music lessons or afternoon trips to the museum. Those are things we can fit into the freer schedule homeschooling gives us without wiping out the kids.

There are pros and cons to school. There are pros and cons to homeschooling. But please stop assuming that my kids will be antisocial freaks because they are hanging out in… society… all day instead of sitting in a classroom.

 

Shannon writes about family at Peter's Cross Station and about writing at Muse of Fire.

Photo Credit: jimmiehomeschoomom.

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