September 27, 2014 by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
We’re barely a month into my older daughter’s homeschooling experience, and the comments and questions are coming fast and furious.
“Well, it’s a good thing she had all those early years in school so she’s socialized.”
“She’s a social girl, so you don’t have to worry about her being awkward around other people.”
“Does she get to spend time with kids her own age? Middle school is such a tough time. They really need their peers.”
Socialize: To teach (someone) to behave in a way that is acceptable in society (Merriam-Webster)
My other daughter is in public school this year. It’s a good fit for her, but boy are our eyes being opened to a new world.
Every day it’s a new story. Some I hear from parents, others from my daughter. The other day it was one child telling another to “shut your stupid pie hole.” The next, a child was instructed to shut up, because, “no one cares what you have to say.”
Third grade children are acting out snorting cocaine on school grounds, while others are “humping” the girls on the playground.
These are examples of anti-social behavior. And this type of behavior goes consistently unchecked when a small group of adults tries to oversee large groups of similar-aged children. These stories aren’t unusual, as any parent of a school-aged child can tell you. But really, how can anyone ask if I’m concerned that my homeschooled child is being adequately socialized, when this is what the others are being exposed to on a daily basis?
Don’t get me wrong. I know my kids are going to hear ugly things and witness unruly behavior. But here’s my concern: Why are we effectively brainwashing ourselves and our children into believing that just because these things happen, they are a natural part of the socialization process and we should accept them? Actually, we’re not only being told to accept them; we’re told that if we don’t expose our children to them, something is going to be wrong with them. They’ll be missing out.
Yup. They’ll be missing out, alright. Missing out on middle school oral sex, being physically or verbally assaulted, being bullied. Missing out on cliques, and drugs, and drama. As if kids this age don’t have enough drama in their lives.
Before the advent of compulsory schooling—which started around 100 years ago (Mississippi was the last state to mandate that all children go to school, back in 1918)—people were socialized. It’s true! We were not a group of socially inept individuals. But it didn’t happen in what has become the widely accepted petrie dish of socialization we call school; it happened in communities.
It is still the job of our communities to teach children how to integrate successfully into society. Parents can help socialize their children by actually PAYING ATTENTION to them, not throwing them to the wolves and praying for the best.
Other relatives play a role here, too, as do friends of different ages.
If you’ve ever seen a group of multi-aged children playing together, you likely will have witnessed a very different type of play than you do when a group of similar-aged children plays together. When children get it in their heads to bully another child, this urge is quelled by the presence of older children in the group, who express their disapproval of this behavior. THAT is socialization in action.
I’d argue that school is the place we send children to teach them to fend for themselves, to listen to an authority figure at the expense of following their own better judgment, to learn to suck it up when someone offends, belittles, or otherwise mistreats them.
So if one more person asks if I’m worried about my daughter’s socialization, I just might lose it. Because, frankly, school is the LAST place I’d send anyone to learn how to behave in a socially acceptable manner. And as long as my younger one is in public school, I consider it my job to re-socialize her at the end of each day, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to undo the de-socialization she’s going through every time she rides that bus, sits in that classroom, and steps onto the playground.
As for my homeschooler, socialization is the last thing I’m worried about.