Sunday, August 14, 2011

The "socialization" thing - again!

Call me naive, but I fully expected to "not" have to deal with the whole "what about socialization" question when it came to homeschooling my children. Especially from people that know our family and realize we don't live in a cave or underground bunker. Doesn't it seem a tiny bit ridiculous to ask us while we are actually out socializing what we are going to do for socialization?
I understand individuals that don't home school might be curious about the socialization practices of our family, but that is a very different question than "what are you going to do about socialization; you realize they need to be around other kids at some point". For the record, my children have had traditional "socialization" experiences in a traditional school setting. They did one year in a private school (twins in Preschool; eldest in K). While there were some good experiences, I wasn't real happy about my five year old being threatened with being stabbed by another student - is this really the "socialization" people fear my kids will miss out on?
Instead of continuing to lament about the all the ills of traditional school based "socialization" (though I may throw in an example here and there) I will discuss how we view socialization and why we believe this route is not only healthy, but the correct route for our family - you choose what is best for yours.
According to New World Encyclopedia: socialization is used by sociologists, social psychologists, and educationalists to refer to the process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it. For the individual, it provides the resources necessary for acting and participating within their society.
This definition is important. The first thing to point out is that socialization is about people learning to live in the culture in which they live. Our children do not live in an age segregated, geographically assigned culture. The cultural values of our family are about our children learning to live in the world at large, to be contributing members to society at large - not simply learning how to live amongst age mates and peers in a public institutional setting. I got my first job at the age of 14, so I have been in the workforce well over 20 years. I have NEVER worked in a setting in which everyone was my age; I have never worked in a setting in which everyone was within four years of my date of birth. My closets colleagues and friends have been as much as 30 years my senior. How would being in a age normed setting prepare me for this? In fact, having been educated my entire life in a traditional setting, this was one of my biggest and hardest adjustments - living around and working with people that were "just like me". My entire childhood was spent with people "like me" - same geographic area, same socio-economic status, most the same race, most the same religion, and from the age of three - most of my waking hours were spent with children all within 2 - 4 years of my age. College was my first experience with people somewhat different from me, but even that was limited as I went to a mid-sized state university. So, most people were from my geographic area. I didn't form a friendship with an international student until my PhD program. I was so lost in terms of understanding that not everyone grew up poor, or in the Midwest, or in a single parent home. I thought I knew what "Black" people were like, "White" people were like, "rich" people were like - I honestly never even thought about Asian people or knew of the existence of Haitians or Greeks.
My traditional schooling socialized me well - I was perfectly capable of living around other people that grew up in my neighborhood! I had to start all over in the "socialization" process when I packed my bags and headed off to college - just two hours away. When I took my first trip out of the country at the age of 21 - I was again blown away by how narrow my world view had been. I was very good at socialization - I just had very limited opportunity to socialize outside of very narrow circles.
I didn't want that for my children. I want my children to know this world is big and vast with lots of different people, beliefs, cultures, customs, ideas, traditions, and experiences. I want them to be socialized not just for our neighborhood - but for the larger world in which they live. In the real world, people are not broken arbitrarily into age normed groups with a defined leader tagged "teacher", and a clearly defined list of assignments and rules and expectations. I want my children to learn how to navigate in a world full of people that don't always look like them, talk like them, believe like them. Socialization in a traditional school setting is easy - the groups are clearly defined and you know fairly quickly what group you belong to. The language is agreed upon and the rules for success are all defined (sometimes formally, sometimes informally). Not so in the real world - we have to learn to communicate with people that don't speak our language, learn to get along in a world where the rules change constantly, learn to work side-by-side with people with whom we adamantly disagree - and there is no defined administrative arbitrator who will declare whom won or lost.
So, what about socialization? We also agree it is very important and one of the many reasons why homeschooling is the right choice for our family.

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