Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on March 6, 2009 at 02:48 PM


Comment by Stacey on March 6, 2009 at 04:15 PM

A few weeks ago I was talking to my cousin about our plans to homeschool. She is PhD candidate in Ed Psych and she brought up the socialization aspect of homeschooling. But her question was not if our son would get interactions with other people in a general sense, her concern was that children who are homeschooled are not put into situations where they have to work in groups of people whose ideas, and lives are different than their own. Since we are still early in our journey I wonder if anyone could speak to this idea and where these sort of interactions occur, or if they are really needed at early ages (under say 10 or 12).

Comment by Sarah Jackson on March 6, 2009 at 04:52 PM

Aaah. Pontificating. I'm doing a lot of ruminating today, so I'll probably be ready to pontificate after a bit.

Right now I'm ruminating on how the rhythm of our days are working and how to gently move them to where I want to be.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 6, 2009 at 05:01 PM

hi stacey :^)

this sums up my feelings nicely:

“School should NOT be the primary method of developing social skills. As a teacher I believe that school is not where children learn how to behave in society. That job has been traditionally the job of the parent and it is about time that it is returned to them. School is not about socializing. It is a structured environment meant for learning. Because so many parents think that students should socialize in school, emphasis has been taken off academics and placed on social skills. Social skills are taught at home, in the community, and through activities outside the classroom.”

Comment by Dawn on March 6, 2009 at 05:23 PM

Stacey I have had this concern too... I think the ability to work with those who come for diferent viewpoints and backgrounds is very important.

Fionna is only 5 but she is very strong willed and I have often thought that the challenges of being put in group situations with others on a regular basis would be good for her. In our case a test on this came in the form of about 4 months in Primary at the local public school. What I found for her is that she was overwhelmed. I know part of this is her personality but I also have a feeling that kids this young are not ready for this type of regular daily interaction... not 5 hours of it! I see her forming her self-image and I think the daily challenge of making that mesh with 18 others was just too much!

I also don't think young children need to be put into lots of "activties". In my opinion kids are overscheduled these days. I don't plan on getting them involved with organized sports and clubs until they are around 10 or 12. This will give them time to develop a sense of self and handle situations with different points of view.

This being said I do look at it as our responsibilty to help them develop an acceptance of differing veiwpoints right now. She has lots of opportunities at home to be presented with situations that don't always "go her way" and therefore provide learning about other points of view, etc... The books we read at home also serve as a spring board for these types of discussions.

There is also the diversity of the homeschool group! Within our group in California we have made friends with families who have kids with down syndrome, autism, dyslexia, varied ethnic backgrounds and family structures. Much more than she would have been exposed to in a regular public school classroom.

Just some thoughts...
We are out heading out of town in a few hours. I will check in with the discussion when we get back Sunday! Have a great weekend everyone!

Comment by Christina on March 6, 2009 at 07:48 PM

re: Learning to work in diverse groups

I remember reading in some homeschooling book (don't remember which) that having children work together and interact solely with other children their own age was about as UN-natural a socialization experience as you could get. We don't necessarily want five-year-olds (or whatever-year-olds) learning how to share, learn, interact, etc. from other five-year-olds, who, let's face it, are not the most experienced at those things.

That said, I do want my children to learn to negotiate, compromise, share, brainstorm, and many other things they can only learn from interaction with others. Hopefully, they get that with me and my husband, and with each other. They get that with friends (I hear lots of "compromise" going on with pretend play :). They get it at Church, both with adults and the children in their classes. We get together with another homeschooling family one morning a week, and that has been a boon to us all. My daughter has a dance class and I see it happening there too. Perhaps as they get older I'll revisit this issue and have to find new ways of providing that type of interaction, but for now, I don't worry so much.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 6, 2009 at 09:11 PM

I’m convinced that when people talk about “socialization” that homeschoolers are missing out on, it’s code for “dealing with bullying and unpleasantness among peers”. Because obviously we all do most of our socializing outside of school — at church, at 4H, at scouts, at camp, at soccer, at baseball, at tae kwon do, at ballet, at swimming, at pottery class, in the neighborhood, on the playground, with our families, with our friends, with our community, at the store, at the bank, at the library, and on and on.

School, for the most part, doesn’t offer much in the way of negotiating, brainstorming, problem solving, idea sharing, etc.

Kindergarten used to be the part of school where you learned to share and take your turn but now K is old first grade and sometimes you don’t even have recess, let alone the chance to work out whose turn it is to use the broom in the dramatic play area.

The other hackneyed phrase is always a play on “all sorts of people”, as though grade school were like the U.N. with a fascinating array of people from exotic and diverse backgrounds, instead of just the kids from your neighborhood.

The point isn’t just to *be near* people — socialization is learning to *interact* with society, and school these days, sorry, doesn’t offer a lot of time for students to interact with each other. I think the people who firmly state that school is necessary for socialization are thinking of how that time they couldn’t climb the rope in P.E. and everyone made fun of them turned them into the office manager they are today, or something. I’m not sure.

The fact that homeschooling allows you to forget about the odd same-birth-year grouping of school and interact with, truly, all sorts of people seems to miss these nostalgic types completely. Also, they seem to think we are at home crouched over a slate all day rather than out living in the world.

In terms of making opportunities for children to work in groups (which I think is wonderful), there are so many different ways to achieve that, from classes to co-ops to camps to clubs, that it’s not a matter of whether it’s possible but just finding the best fit for you and your child.

Comment by Amy on March 6, 2009 at 10:04 PM

Oh Lori, your last reply is a gem. Thank you for making me laugh, too. (The rope in gym class. Oh, and the slate. Too funny.) One of my reasons for homeschooling is keeping my kids AWAY from that type of "socialization" until they are sure of their own selves enough to handle it. We've done various activities, and some have worked better than others. And I'd have more to say, but diaper duty calls, so maybe I'll be back later. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 6, 2009 at 10:52 PM

thanks, amy. ;^)

this discussion also reminded me of this quote:

“Parents who send their children to school with instructions to respect and obey their teachers may be surprised to discover how often these children are sent back home conditioned to disrespect and disobey their parents.” — Thomas Sowell, Inside American Education

Comment by Sam on March 7, 2009 at 12:01 AM

Lori - I agree with your take on people looking at home education and socialisation. With all the "consultations" going on in the UK, we often read comments from Joe Public along the lines of :
"Life is hard. How are these kids going to learn how to cope with that if they don't go to school?" i.e. if they don't have to deal with bullies and horrendous behaviour.

I heard of another home educators response to "What about socialisation" : "Oh yes, that's quite a worry. I don't know how you parents cope with your children trapped in a classroom all day, and no chance to develop their socialisation skills out in the community."
I love it :-)

Comment by Sarah Jackson on March 7, 2009 at 01:29 AM

I'm so relieved that my little one is away from school socialization, which caused us nothing but grief. As for the one still in school, half of the 5th and 6th grade is in detention at recess for the rest of the year for a "Mafia Gang War" on the playground earlier this week, and the adults are asking the kids who weren't involved to go get the scoop for them and report back. Now that's socialization you can believe in! Umm, maybe not.

I just laugh anymore when I get the socialization lecture. I think our outside of school experiences give us so much more.

Comment by Dave on March 7, 2009 at 02:33 AM

"I’m convinced that when people talk about “socialization” that homeschoolers are missing out on, it’s code for “dealing with bullying and unpleasantness among peers”.

That's exactly what it's code for! Our 7yo is still in public school (we start full blown homeschooling this summer) and recently had to deal with a classmate who was manipulating/bullying him, threatening to lie to the teachers about him, etc. if he didn't follow this kid's lead. Because the bullying wasn't physical, the teachers couldn't really "see" what was happening. Our son would try to tell them and would get the typical "let's just all get along" response. We've worked out the problem since then, but here's what we learned:

The classroom in NO WAY represents or models the way the real world works re: socialization. If someone acts like this in RL, there's no disciplinary authority figure to appeal to - (unless you have to go to the police or a judge-extreme example). You get away from the person, or fix the problem your own way-you don't rely on an all powerful authority figure to sort it out. Typically this means cutting the person off, refusing to interact socially with them, punching them in the mouth, getting a restraining order if need be, etc.

In this case, his teacher kept telling the class, "We're all family here, we have to get along." We informed both our son and the teacher that no, the class is NOT his family. There are kids in his class who lie, steal from one another, bully one another, and make fun of one another - things that his REAL family considers unacceptable and does not tolerate. By taking this view, she's basically telling the kids not just that they have to sit next to or work with one another, but that they have to socialize and be friends **regardless of the way they are treated by one another.** We do not see this social structure replicated *anywhere* in American or European society. It is forced socialization, not voluntary socialization, which is typically what we experience as an adult, even on the job where we may be forced to work with people we don't like.

So what socialization lessons did my child learn from this experience?

*That you have to put up with this type of behavior from a peer because authority figures don't care (seldom true in real life, and you have a much wider range of recourse than telling the teacher).

*That 'peer group' equates to 'family' (um...what? Is this a commune now?).

*That the only way to get the authority figure to take you seriously is to have mom and dad intervene (how is this preparing him to be an adult?).

*That if he's pushed far enough and the person in charge doesn't do their job, he may have to use physical force to express his frustration and gain control of a situation in which he feels helpless, and has exhausted all other means of dealing with the problem (Hooray for conflict-resolution, public schools! You're doing a bang-up job. No, literally.)

This also bears repeating (from the Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List):

2 Learn what the words "socialize" and "socialization" mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you're talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we've got a decent grasp of both concepts.

3 Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize.

Comment by jen on March 7, 2009 at 03:25 AM

Ah, the slate bit - I think that is key! There are so many misconceptions about what homeschoolers do with their time, I think. I *do* think there needs to be some space given to learning to do group projects - be it at a homeschool co-op or building a fort with the neighbors or a scouting project or any number of other things - but I don't know any adults who do group projects all day long in a world that is made up of only people of one age, one socio-economic background (like one would have in a neighborhood/school classroom), etc.

And that quote - I have heard it before, and I love it though I hate that it is so very true.

That said, I'll share a little of my experience this week. Our oldest attends public school. It has come out that my daughter's teacher yells a lot during the day. I knew that she had yelled, but I had no idea how much...and I had no idea the things she was saying. Anyway, I asked my daughter why she didn't tell me about it sooner. Her response floored me! She basically told me that she figured that if her teacher was an adult that what she is doing must be ok...because we have taught her that adults are to be respected and obeyed (with obvious exceptions) and because when I do something bad (and I do, because I am human) I say I am sorry. So I'm in this crazy-awkward position where I have to tell my daughter that what this adult (to whom she has to show respect and obedience) is doing is wrong, wrong, wrong. It will be no wonder to me when she starts to question me and my motives - oy!

This is the kind of thing that she shouldn't have to learn as a seven year old; a teen might be capable of handling the impact of this situation, but a younger child doesn't have the ability to discern the motives of an adult who is in charge of her daily. Worse yet, she doesn't have the power to interact appropriately in this situation; an adult could leave or tell her to stop - a child can't. It is downright heartbreaking...though the silver lining is that I have more resolve than ever to hs her next year along with her siblings!

Comment by Jessica on March 7, 2009 at 01:26 PM

My oldest will be kindergarten age this fall, so we haven't started homeschooling all out yet, but whenever I get that question, I just think, "Well, do my kids seem awkward socially right now? Because it's basically going to be the same situation when we start homeschooling." My kids are very social! They have no problems talking and playing with kids (and adults) of any age. The question is just so illogical to me.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 7, 2009 at 03:58 PM

It would be wonderful if schools offered opportunities for children to work cooperatively and collaborate on long-term projects — not once a year, mind you, but every day. Those would be valuable experiences.

But my children live normal lives in society right alongside myself and my husband, interacting with the same people I interact with. It seems to me that is better practice for “real life” than the artificial society of school.

That’s not to say that schooled children don’t get proper socialization; I just think they get it mostly outside of school.

Comment by Amy on March 7, 2009 at 07:20 PM

Wow, thank you to the folks who shared the horror stories of what their kids have dealt with at school with other children and teachers. I have some horror stories from my own childhood, and I have to say going through bullying from either a teacher or other kids didn't really have any benefits that I can see. As for being social (which yes, is different from being socialized), we go through cycles. We've had busy times, and quiet times. We're in a quiet time now, because we have a 4-month-old baby in the family. My older son takes recorder lessons, we sometimes attend a monthly homeschool class, and I just signed my 4yo up for story time again, since he seemed to be wanting something like that. Both boys have participated in one session of very, very low-key soccer. My older son had a fabulous coach; the experience would have been very different if he had one of the pressurized coaches we observed when he played other teams. They didn't even keep score for his age group. My younger son wandered around the field, whining. (Yes, he'd asked to play, but in retrospect I don't think he quite understood my explanation.) We've signed up my older son (not the younger one, obviously) for instructional baseball this spring, which is even more low-key than the soccer. Apparently there are no outs, they just play. ;) He likes sports, but he's unsure of himself physically, so seeing as he wants to, I have no problem signing him up for low-pressure sporting activities.

Sometimes I feel guilty that my kids don't have a good friend, but they ARE each other's best friend, and I'm grateful for that. Truth is, my "best friend" when I was my son's age turned on me a few years later and made me miserable. We are perfectly socialized. My children know how to behave in a restaurant, at the doctor's office, in church (even though we don't go to a church; they still know how to behave when we're there for others' important events). They are children, so they don't always behave perfectly, but they are not wild savages. As I said to someone who raised the socialization concern (in a nice way, as part of a dialogue), unless we are cult weirdos, our kids will be socialized. You have to work really, really hard to have children who are not. In fact, because I take my children everywhere (I have no choice), they are BETTER socialized, in my opinion. They do better at the dentist's office, for example, having seen my teeth get cleaned since they were born.

And since we're pontificating, the truth is, I do not enjoy being around large groups of children who are not mine. I like my own children most of the time, but I can also rein my own children in. I have very little patience for other people's children. As much as I sometimes think my own could be better behaved, I have observed them watching, horrified, as other children go way over the top. They know that would never fly. Why would I want to send my children to school to be influenced by such kids? Oh, and another benefit of not having school-socialized children: mine are not whining for a Wii, or an ipod, or a cell phone, or the latest $100 toy, or to see the new violent movie that should not be marketed to children, or to eat choco-sugar-boms for breakfast. etc etc etc

I could pontificate more, probably, but I'm hungry. ;)

Comment by Barbara on March 8, 2009 at 10:33 AM

two things:
I wanted to share a quick passage from a book I picked up this weekend-- Useful Work versus Useless Toil, by the founder of the arts and crafts movement, WIlliam Morris.

"The hope of pleasure in the work itself: how strange that hope must
seem to some of my readers -- to most of them! Yet I think that to
all living things there is a pleasure in the exercise of their
energies, and that even beasts rejoice in being lithe and swift and
strong. But a man at work, making something which he feels will
exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the
energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and
imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the
thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of
the human race, he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our
days will be happy and eventful.

Thus worthy work carries with it the hope of pleasure in rest, the
hope of pleasure in our using what it makes, and the hope of pleasure
in our daily creative skill.

All other work but this is worthless; it is slaves' work -- mere
toiling to live, that we may live to toil...."

the whole book can be read here:,M1

lots of food for thought.

And secondly..... I bought a slate yesterday. oops. But I will try not to crouch, or have my daughter crouch over it! : D

Comment by Cathy T on March 8, 2009 at 03:18 PM

Stacey, I have kids who are 12 and 14 and they have always been home schooled. I heard different socialization questions for many years and now when I get them, I have to laugh! Unless you are in a school that has many diverse nationalities, different socio-economic backgrounds, and speak different languages, a child may not be in a diverse situation whether he is in school or home schooled. If you homeschool and you put your family and yourself in situations where the majority of people you run with think in a similar way to you- be it religion, outlook of the world, or backgrounds, then your child's world may not be diverse. As homeschoolers we have a bit more control over who we want our children to see and emulate and what we want to expose or not expose them to.

Our family has been in several homeschool communities and what I want from them is for me to feel safe to explore what homeschooling means to me and why I do what I do - this forum is a good example of one community where there are people who have some similar and some dissimilar.

Amy, I agree, we go through quiet years and very busy years - sometimes getting out and being in many activities, other times staying home much more. I tell my friends that every year is so different for us, since we do what works for our family each year. And each year brings different challenges.

As my older kids have gotten older (I have two young kids too), I have noticed that it can be harder to find a friend their own age that has similar interests. Though I know that can be the same for kids in school. As parents, sometimes we have to put ourselves out more. A friend has a monthly pizza/movie/discussion group at her house. Another friend has a weekly creative writing time - she provides quiet, tea, cookies, and a supportive atmosphere. The kids don't even share their writing unless they initiate the sharing and the mom writes during that time too. We have monthly gatherings at our house with a potluck lunch as the highlight of the day. My boys are also part of a fife and drum corp for teens and tweens; they march in parades and do events at Senior Centers and other places. They are also part of a teen book group at a local library where they organize events for teens and younger kids and help pick out books for the library. All these events are for teens though many have younger sibs.

I'd love to hear if there are others with older kids - what activities are they into if not sports?

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 8, 2009 at 05:36 PM

barbara, thank you for sharing that apt quote.

lol re: your slate. no hunching!

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 8, 2009 at 05:59 PM

cathy, i love the idea of the creative writing get-together!

Comment by Stacey on March 8, 2009 at 11:03 PM

Wow, I'll admit I've been away from my computer since yesterday morning. I wasn't expecting so many well thought out answers.

When Lori said "But my children live normal lives in society right alongside myself and my husband, interacting with the same people I interact with. It seems to me that is better practice for “real life” than the artificial society of school." it made me think about how even now my 2 year old has started to make his own relationships with the people we see in our every day lives, some are his age but many of them are adults. He asks to see them and enjoys being around them in their environments.

Listening to all these ideas I can't help but get excited about what sorts of things we have to look forward to. Some days it is hard to think past the puppet play and blocks but when I remind myself of the larger picture there is so much more that is going on even within those simple games. Even now when my son pretend plays he gives different animals different personalities and has them interact with us differently.

Barbara thank you for the link to the Arts and Crafts Movement book, I knew a little about it but now I am excited to have something else to read.

Reading all these comments have made me very happy to be part of an online community.

Comment by Kristin on March 9, 2009 at 08:29 PM

You wrote: "children who are homeschooled are not put into situations where they have to work in groups of people whose ideas, and lives are different than their own." I have to disagree with that. I've been facilitating my kids at home for 17 years and there isn't a day that goes by when my kids aren't exposed the ideas of other people, adults, and kids of all ages whose backgrounds are different than our own. You'll find in a homeschooling support group no two families who homeschool the same way; and no two families alike. In our support group (see, there are mixed race families, Muslims, Christians, you name it. We do group activities with our support group. If you live in a city like ours and your kids play soccer, swim, or play an instrament, they will be exposed to group learning with kids from so many different backgrounds--asian american, latin american, african american, native american and on an on. I suppose if you live in an area where there is no diversity or you live separate from diverse people, than you must seek that out if it is important to you. Go to a Mexican grocery store and shop for a meal. Travel abroad. I've included the url to my site about homeschooling--see post "So You Homeschool" a general post about homeschooling; and my new one about foreigh travel, which I am passionate about.

Comment by Kat on March 10, 2009 at 01:49 AM

I am not a homeschooler (yet? My DH will not entertain the idea... that's a different story), but I am in love with William Coperthwaite's vision for children.

Coperthwaite diagnoses several ills of traditional schooling, for one, the fact that it runs solely on competitiveness and compulsion, not enthusiasm, curiosity and self-confidence. For most, he writes, school is “a parade of failures, one after the other, year after year, with ever more ‘proof’ of inadequacy.” For most, it is the threat of the law, social condemnation and the loss of “prospect” that keeps them there. And Coperthwaite is talking not just about the students, but the teachers too: all seem to be in school against their wishes. It’s a sure recipe for disaster.

But all children are naturally excited and eager to learn. To nurture that, he proposes “non-violent learning”, in which all are learners, young and old, chose the curriculum and participate in a voluntary and firsthand exploration of the world. Central to his are three components: nature, community and work.

About community he writes this: he deplores the sequestering of the young in centers of learning (from daycare to college). Wouldn’t their education would be so much more complete, and relevant for their futures, if they were immersed into the community of adults again. And he means, by that, home. “The home is the center of education and emotional security… a school is no substitute”.

But he is not your average proponent of homeschooling (or unschooling): that home too needs to change. What is missing from our homes is variety. We should enrich our nuclear families with the elderly, who have so much to offer in terms of experience, stories and time. Extending the family also means adding layers of personality and ways of dealing with problems. And it is important that every member of the family is valued for his or her usefulness. “Every child has a right to a family with a purpose,” he writes, and purpose entails work.

About work (what he calls "bread labor"): that's perhaps a wholly different thread...

Gotta run, great thread!

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 11, 2009 at 03:40 PM

stacey, thank you for instigating a great discussion!

actually, kristin, it was stacey’s cousin who said that. ;^)

kat, interesting thoughts and quotes — thank you for sharing!

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