Mar 20, 2013

They don't need socialization! They need FRIENDSHIP!

I wanted to recycle this post that originally appeared on Unplugged Mom after a number of posts I had seen on local lists. It is a good one and should be shared!!! 

As my daughter has gotten older, I have seen more and more of her acquaintances heading off to the halls of high schools and have sat bewildered by the number of veteran home educators giving up at this late stage of the game. The number one reason for teenagers and kids to head back to school is the idealistic concept of socialization in schools. Even successful home schoolers, home educators, home learners, unschoolers, independent educators or whatever other name they are going by, seem to have this image of school being the only place that their kids can be around other kids on a regular basis in order to build relationships. I am here to declare this is not the case! These kids don't need socialization they need friendships. This is what they are longing for and this is not something they are guaranteed or even likely to find by sending them to any school environment.

In schools kids are herded together by age and required to study subjects based on a core curriculum. Even in high school the majority of the classes that kids take are mandatory and do not tend to be based on an interest for learning the subject matter. During class they sit in their seats and listen to the teacher, discussing the topics of aforementioned uninteresting subject, sometimes being allowed to carry on dialogue  but quite often not – they are just expected to regurgitate the information back to the teacher on the test. Between classes there is no time for them to interact with others as they generally need to get from one end of the building to another in less than 3 minutes. Lunch is about 20-25 minutes long and though they do get to choose where they sit and who they sit with it is a crap shoot as to whether their friends will be in the same lunch period, most cafeterias have volume sensors which regulate the levels of noise and often they don't even get to their table with enough time to eat nevermind hold an actual conversation. There are of course afterschool activities, sports and clubs, but these types of things are generally available and can be formed rather easilly for the home ed community as well. As with everything there are always exceptions, but from my own experience in school, working in schools, and from the mouths of current students, this is basically what goes on.

I won't even get into the negative social interactions at this point as I would like to quickly back up and clearly define some terms before we move on -
  • socialization   n - 1. (Psychology) Psychol the modification from infancy of an individual's behaviour to conform with the demands of social life 2. (Sociology) the act of socializing or the state of being socialized
  • so·cial·ize v. so·cial·izedso·cial·iz·ingso·cial·iz·es - 1. To place under government or group ownership or control. 2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable. 3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society.
  • friend n. 1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. 2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance. 3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade. 4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
  • friend·ship  n. 1. The quality or condition of being friends. 2. A friendly relationship: formed many new friendships over the summer. 3. Friendliness; good will: a policy of friendship toward other nations.
In our culture there is a serious misunderstanding and misuse of the term socialization as meaning to "hang out with friends and build relationships." This is where the confusion of school being the only place for kids to socialize comes from. I, for one, don't want my child, or any child for that matter, to be socialized. I prefer that their natural behaviors and personality be left intact. I don't believe there is any need for children to be placed under government ownership or to convert to meet the needs of the society. I do feel that social interactions are imperative to a child's development. True friendships feed the soul! They encourage you to become a better YOU, not something else altogether.

The confusion among adults as to how friendships are formed is another issue that seems to arise quite often and leads to children feeling alone and unconnected. Friendships are not formed in the classes that our kids take, be it co-op, public school, dance classes, swimming lessons or whatever. Friendships are not formed during organized field trips to museums with docents leading the way, pointing and lecturing as they go. Friendships are not formed during book clubs, at the movies, at lego league, or during math club. You meet people at these various outings and events that are interested in similar things as your family - that is why you both choose to partake in the event! These things allow for introductions and common ground to be formed, but friendships are formed during down time! Friendships are formed at playground days, at intimate meetings with another family, at the picnic in the park after the trip to the museum, at the pizza parlor discussing the movie you just saw, by getting together with no plan in mind and seeing where the afternoon takes you.

Instead of packing your child's week with extracurricular activities so that he/she will be "socialized" allow free time in the schedule for them to get together with friends, plan field trips with playgrounds or parks near by and invite the families to come hang out after,  organize an afternoon park day where kids can choose what they want to do and give freedom of interaction with their peers, allow for snack breaks during math club so that kids have time to chat and joke around. These are the situations that home educators are missing. Relax on the academics and let the friendships form. Is it more important for your child to be well-adjusted, happy, fulfilled and satisfied or that they can recite the preamble to the constitution and identify all the elements on the periodic table by atomic number? You, the parent, need to decide, but I implore you to take steps in this direction as soon as you can. For the betterment of your children and the home educating community as a whole!
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