Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Serious Question for Homeschoolers

I have a question for other homeschooling families. Now remember, I homeschool- this is my 2nd year. It's something I believe is right for my family right now and I'll continue to do it unless that feeling changes.

But there's one question about homeschooling I NEVER see a satisfactory answer to. It's the most dreaded word in the world of homeschooling.

SOCIALIZATION!

Now, most homeschoolers will go on and on about how a public school classroom is probably not a very good place to gain proper social skills. A classroom of kids who are all the same age isn't terribly diverse and is usually ruled by the most popular kids. (Of course you can go through public school and come out totally fine socially, and you can also go through it and be completely destroyed by it.) 

I'm not trying to say that what I want is for my kids to have a social experience like what is offered at the public school. It's fine I guess, but not what I think is IDEAL. 

Now, homeschoolers will always say, "Oh your kids can be in sports, community classes, library time, homeschool co-ops, scouts, activity days, field trips, etc. You can be over socialized when homeschooling!"

Yes, yes. I understand that. Here's the problem. I can't get out of the house!  And you know what, most of the other homeschoolers I know don't either. 

We like to SAY that there are so many social opportunities out there in our communities and it's easy to be a part of those things. But from what I see, the reality is that we aren't taking part in it. 

It is ridiculously hard to get out of the house and participate in those things if you have to take ALL your kids with you- especially if you have a large family with a big spread in ages. How do you help your tween get to a music lesson, your middle ones to a soccer practice, and the youngest ones to a play date? YOU CAN'T!! 

Unless you sacrifice other things, like spending much time together as a family, eating healthy, home cooked meals, getting your main school work done, etc.

We currently do our school work in the morning, have lunch, put little boys down for naps, and then we're here until about 4 when naps are over. 

So, that leaves maybe 1-2 hours to do anything before I have to be home fixing dinner. Because everyone in the world seems to think it's a good idea to start evening activities, concerts, etc. at 6:00! 

Doesn't anyone else eat dinner at 6 or 6:30? Why would I want to be at an activity at 6? My husband doesn't even get home until then! 



Anyway, ranty ranty ranty.  

I just don't see how there's time go to and DO things. By the time you get everyone looking decent with shoes on and diaper bag in the car it's taken 20 minutes. Then you have to drive across town to "X" thing, wait around with all the other kids who are bored and whiny, and then drive back home an hour later. Then it takes another 20 minutes to get everyone inside, their things put away and settled in. Really, it takes more like 1 1/2 to 2 hours to do a 1 hour thing outside of the home. And then there's no time left to make a healthy, homemade meal and have everyone sit down together and eat it before someone has to run out the door to something. (Scouts, RS activity, etc.)

Thus, we almost never go anywhere or do anything.

Honestly, homeschoolers of the world. Do you REALLY get out? Do your kids actually get to meet different people or varying ages? We like to say, "Oh, our kids know how to socialize with people of all ages!" What is really meant is that the kids socialize with all their siblings of various ages. That's all very nice, but it doesn't teach you how to talk to people who think completely differently than you do. 

Honestly, HOW do you help kids (and yourself!) learn to talk to people of all nationalities, religions, family backgrounds, etc.? I don't think you really can actually. I don't think it's something you have much access to until you are grown up and say, go on a mission, enter the workforce, attend a college and live with assorted roommates, etc. 

Anyone have ideas for how you can really socialize with different people (not just your own family) when you homeschool and have lots of small children? Or even if you do public school. Your child's public school classroom most likely isn't very diverse unless you live in a big city or something. Is there really anything you can do to prepare a child for the vast array of people in this big world?

How do you even get out of the house and participate in local activities when you have little ones napping, dinner to put on, kids to put to bed, etc.?

 The final question is, does it even matter? Does your ability to socialize depend more upon your personality than how many social events you participate in? 

I am terribly shy and anxious around people. Can't help it. Always been that way. No, public school didn't fix it. I don't like having people over for dinner, or kids over for playdates. I don't like parties, sports, etc. The only thing I REALLY like to do with other people is play music and I like it best when we are playing and not talking! ( :  

I don't think there's anything that can "fix" me and my social problems. I think I'm super awkward around new people, especially if we think very differently about things like religion, moral issues, etc. Is there really anything that can be done?

So, if anyone, homeschooling, public schooling, or whatever has any ideas, I'm all ears!  

 

 
 

16 comments:

  1. I don't have any helpful advice for you, except to say that I feel the same way about extra activities. While my son does attend school, I feel that there's no time afterward for extras without running into dinnertime and/or bedtime. He doesn't even have the mental energy to work on stuff he's behind on or to practice a musical instrument by the time he gets home from school a little after 4pm. I wish they'd subtract two hours from the school day!

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  2. I have a couple thoughts about this...

    1) It depends on how old your kids are. When my kids were younger, we didn't go many places because who wants to take a ton of little kids ANYWHERE? (Homeschooling or not!) Once my kids got older, then they had things they wanted to do, and so we weighed each activity carefully, and decided what we would pay for and support and what we would not. (That's lessons, etc..) Also, once you have older kids, you have a built-in babysitter. SO, then someone else watches the little kids while I take big sister to ballet or big brother to choir.

    With our older kids, we have four currently going to mutual each week (Wednesday nights), one in ballet lessons (Saturday mornings), one in choir (Thursday nights), and one taking ukulele (during our homeschool group on Fridays during the lunch hour-- an older student teaches the younger students.)

    We occasionally go to the library (if I'm feeling CRAZY!) with all our kids, to church-- of course, and to dentist appointments.

    2) HOMESCHOOL GROUPS!!! I adore the homeschool groups we have joined. I get time to talk to moms with the same goals, problems, and ideals, my younger kids get to play with other homeschooled kids, my older kids get to talk, laugh, and debate with their peers, and we go home exhausted, but happy. I've been in groups that meet weekly, groups that met every other week, and groups that meet monthly. What's really great about these groups, is that the kids and adults DO intermingle with people of other ages. The teens DO let the little kids play a soccer game with them, or hang out talking. Some teens gravitate to the parent discussions about books or politics. There are no age lines, and it can take some getting used to for some people, but I have LOVED it in the groups we've joined!

    Our homeschool group meets every Friday in our neighborhood in a couple of houses and at the park for lunch with everyone. That gives us one day outside the house each week, interacting with friends, and learning cool stuff from each other (We have classes), and then we have the rest of the week for our own family homeschool routines and projects.

    3) How do public schoolers have time to do lessons and groups? That's what I don't know! Their kids are gone all day, then they have lessons until (or sometimes during and past) dinner time, and so when do they do the two hours of homework so many kids have? I just don't get it! I know my cousin stays up late with her oldest just trying to get him to finish his assignments from school. (What do they do in school, if they're not doing assignments? I often wonder...)

    I love that we can do anything we feel like in the middle of the day. We can go to the park or the library when NO ONE else is there! :-) I think homeschoolers need to know that they don't have to keep regular school hours. It's not how long you're in the seat, it's what you get done, or just what you learn that day. (Lesson or not!) Some days, if just reading aloud is all that gets done, it's cool. :-) We don't need to go lesson free on Saturdays, either, if I think we need to do some school work.

    I think there are infinite possibilities for homeschoolers to socialize-- especially with other homeschoolers. It's all up to each family how they work it. And if there are no groups in your area, start one! I've started several, and it's lots of fun. It can be as much work as you want to make it, or it can just be a social time. The most important thing, to me, is that *I* get time to talk with other homeschool moms! I get to talk out some issues I'm having, and see that I'm not alone in many, MANY ways. And I get lots of new ideas, and validation galore. It's awesome! One day a week, or once a month, whatever works for you.

    Hugs,
    Rachel

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    1. I like the homeschool group IDEA, but how on earth to make that happen eludes me. How do you have time to do it? I can barely keep up with everything I already have to do. I can't see any possible way I'd have time to arrange classes or anything for a homeschool group. I believe there's a homeschool group in town, but they seem to do expensive, time consuming things, or things that require traveling well out of town. They also do things at all kinds of hours which would disrupt any kind of schedule I'm trying to have.
      Another thought- is your homeschool group really very diverse? That's what I'm really looking for.

      It's SO true that you can't do much when all your kids are young. I don't have that built in babysitter yet, so everything revolves around nap time and how I'm going to drag everyone along everywhere. Ugh.

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  3. I understand where you are coming from. From my point of view as a homeschool mom (my oldest is in kindergarten/1st grade with younger children), it all boils down to it being a priority. My children are socialized, but only because I have made it a priority. You don't have to do it all though. You don't have to be out of the house every day of the week. Choose the BEST things in life. Pick one or two families you want to grow close to and socialize with them. Together you can do things like book club, park day, craft days, science days, etc. That way you can work around your schedule (no more 6pm activities). For example, for us, we attend most church related things (sunday sacrament, primary activities, some ward parties, etc.), we also participate in a little free homeschool group (with them we do field trips, science class at the museum/ this is really great because I feel like I can talk to other living moms too and exchange ideas), and finally we go to the park, post office, grocery store, hobby lobby, etc. On top of that, we talk on the phone with our family. A crock pot, bread maker, rice cooker, dishwasher, and planning ahead really help me with feeding my family healthy food....

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    1. The only trouble with that idea is that I'd pick families who are very similar to my family to do things with. So yes, technically they'd be around other people, but not people who view the world in a different way really. But like I said in my post, perhaps that is for when kids are a lot older. Some issues are just too tough to deal with when kids are young.

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    2. Yes, making it a priority is great, but I have too many priorities on my plate already! How to find time to arrange the field trips, group playdates, science days, etc.? That's just one more thing on top of everything else. I don't know how anyone manages it. If we just get through regular school work in a day I think we're doing good. The thought of trying to pull off a book club or something makes me want to pull out my hair. All the phone calls, emails, details, planning, etc. Not to mention just getting the silly book read!

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  4. Holly,
    My homeschool situation is a little different than yours since I only have one child (11 years old). We did the whole public school things for a few years. The socialization that happened there interfered with almost all learning. We did cello, Spanish club, soccer, swim lessons, and tutoring. We were super busy and I hated it. I really think socialization is super overrated. It is all I hear when people find out we homeschool. It is usually looked at as being a negative aspect to homeschooling which I completely disagree with. After talking with many people (usually family and friends) about the lack of socializing happening with our homeschool I have come to realize what they really mean is diversity and culture. They think that if my daughter spends all day every day with me and her father that she will only know things we know and that she will lack culture. Maybe they are right. Her father and I have been "cultured" though and I also think that is overrated.
    We did try the “group” thing. It was not for us. Unfortunately, I have a hard time dealing with people in this realm. The lack of thinking among these moms was frustrating for me. I also had a hard time dealing with the vanity and narcissism within this group. We may reconsider this again….way in the future and with a different group.
    Having said that we do some things that may be considered in the socializing/diversity/culture realm and I will list only a few.
    -We develop our family’s culture. Yes, there is such a thing.
    -We take our daughter everywhere we go. Yes everywhere… doc’s appts., grocery shopping, political meetings, to the bank, you get the idea.
    -We get out of the house and chat/hang out with neighbor’s while the kids play. The kids on our street range in age from 1 to 15 years and they all play…usually nicely.
    -Our “street” consists of a pretty diverse group… white, black, middle eastern, latino, single, married, atheist, agnostic, Mormon, Muslim, Lutheran, Non-Denominational Christian, Libertarian, Conservative, Republican, Democrat, Progressive and non-political…I could go on. It is a pretty diverse culture on our street. We all get along and focus on the things we do have in common with each other.
    -We also expose our daughter to the news…actual real news. Which isn’t much like “socializing” but does help her to know what is really going on around her. We do discuss a good deal of tough topics and do not hold back when she has questions. This is difficult for me sometimes as she is still very young.
    I think what works for one family doesn’t always work for another. For me it is about gut feeling and prayer. If I think it is a benefit to our family we do it and if I don’t we don’t do it. I do feel “peer pressure” at times that I should be out and about more. Whenever I go against my feelings to participate I always regret it later. Good luck figuring out what works for your family and homeschool and try to brush off any feelings of that go against your family culture.
    ProvoGirl

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  5. I've read the comments and your rebuttals. It seems to me that you want to have it all. You're not willing to give up one thing in order to get another. And quite simply--there isn't time for everything. Don't add more priorities--rearrange the ones you have (and this has been a hard lesson for me to learn!!!) My kids range in age from 2-14 right now; we've homeschooled from the start. We say yes to some things and no to others depending on what we can cope with.

    *The 3 youngest kids sacrifice their early bedtimes every Tuesday night so that the older ones can attend church activities, but that's okay because they get to run around the gym and go crazy one night each week. It's not convenient, but no one dies from it--not even me.
    *My oldest don't get to go to homeschool teen night because I won't make the little ones sacrifice their bedtime too often. This time it is the oldest ones who sacrifice for the benefit of the youngest.
    *My oldest misses family prayer once a week because of soccer. We knew that when we signed her up, but we're really faithful about family prayer all the rest of the time. Soccer season doesn't last forever; we have prayers and scripture study at other times of the day; we pray for her when she's gone.
    *We find activities that work for all ages--our science club is for everyone from toddlers to teens. So is the performance troupe we've joined.
    *On science club days lunch is bagels and cream cheese eaten in the car. We give up a homemade hot lunch 2 times each month in favor of the social/educational experience that science club offers.
    *Crock pot meals prepared early in the morning make busy outing days more pleasant and bearable.
    *Sometimes we go on evening outings, or my oldest ones are gone babysitting or to an activity just for teens. On those nights our family tradition of reading together for an hour or more is interrupted. We accept those interruptions knowing they will not wreck our tradition, only make us more glad to return to it on a quiet night.
    *We only plan for 3.5-4 days of "regular school" so that we have time for enriching social activities and field trips. The books can wait. We don't dump the books in favor of constantly being on the go, but we keep the books in their proper place and make people a priority.

    Start with just one playdate. Skip regular school just one morning or afternoon (depending on which makes you less crazy) and have 1 set of friends over. They don't have to be radically different from you to be a blessing. :) If you feel it is a blessing, do it again in a month--this time meet them at the park. Practice a little at a time . . . line upon line. :)

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  6. Not that we are radically different from each other, but one of Elly's best friends is homeschooled. To make it work with her homeschooling schedule we have a set up playdate once a week. We rotate houses each week and the girls then have that time to just play and have fun. Her mother expresses how much she appreciates it because it provides a social outlet, although probably not very diverse. But I think at that age a lot of the socialization they learn is just learning to share, think of the feelings of another person, and taking turns. I am sure those skills are being learned already in your own house with their siblings.

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  7. My answer will be similar to what other's have already said. You have to give and take.

    *When we do social outings or field trips we don't bother with book work or normal school work for the day. Public schools do the same thing. Do they make the kids do their school work before going on a field trip? Nope! You CAN go out in the mornings in place of your regular school work you know. :)

    * Sometimes you just have to give up your schedule to make things work on certain days. It doesn't mean you do it every single day but certain days, yes. If you aren't willing to do that, well....no complaining that you can't get what you want done.

    *We didn't do much when all my kids were under the age of 8. We did a few things here and there but not consistently. Our homeschool group here does swimming every other Friday, bowling every other Tuesday, etc. No one has to come. It's just always scheduled with a discount because it's during the time of day others don't typically go (school hours). Different moms take turns setting up field trips so it's not all on one person.

    * I'm guessing you must not have spent time with a homeschool group or you wouldn't have asked if they are really diverse. :) All the groups I have spent time with have people of various faiths and political beliefs and lifestyles. In fact the ONLY thing everyone has in common is their desire to homeschool.

    * Afly... talked about the sacrifices the kids make. This happens in our family too. Frankly, it's one of the skills being lost in today's selfish world. I love it!

    * Your kids are still young. There is plenty of time for a whole bunch of socialization to occur. It will natural ebb and flow as your kids get older and become interested in new things or activities.

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  8. I think all of the comments here have been very helpful! I think what you are asking for is someone to give you the perfect recipe for absolutely perfect socialization. For forever. You also seem to be coming up with a lot of reasons why you can't do things, instead of looking for ways that you can. But really, your kids are so young still. Of course it's hard to get out of the house when you have all little ones. It's hard for everyone! Going to Walmart with all of my kids is an adventure for sure! I think it is a huge sacrifice that we make as moms. But really, kids as young as yours don't need much "socialization" yet, outside of what they get to do in church, etc. Tabby is starting activity days and that will be great for her! For now I really do think that play dates now and then are plenty! Eventually, when the kids are older and you don't have really little ones, it will be much easier to gradually ease yourself into other social opportunities, like homeschool groups or extracurricular lessons and activities. You can figure it out as you go - there's no need to stress about your entire future in homeschooling right now. As for the diversity you're looking for - I think people put too much stock in the political meaning of "diversity." Even just from one family to the next, people are different. You don't have to find the perfect mix of ethnicities, cultures, and religions to have a diverse social experience. If we teach our children to love others and to be accepting of others' differences, then when they encounter diversity in any form, they will be able to have positive social interactions. The Lord has put you where you are. Look for the good around you. Even better, look for the good you can DO around you. You're already so good at doing that!

    You're doing great as a homeschool Mom! And I happen to know that you have very sweet, well-socialized little people at your house. :)

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  9. Thanks for the advice everyone. I know people are just trying to help.

    I now realize that it's dumb to ask for advice on the internet like this. Especially since I'm so awful at articulating what I'm really asking about. I just can't seem to express my real concerns here and really nail down what I AM looking for. But I certainly appreciate everyone trying to help.

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    1. I'm sorry you haven't found what you're looking for. I went back and re-read your original post. I wonder if you're just wanting to know if everything is going to be okay. Not everyone is gregarious and social. Not everyone is able/willing to engage in meaningful conversation across moral/political/social positions. I hate being out and about. I make myself do it for my extrovert kids who will die without it. You're probably going to have to make yourself step outside of your introverted comfort zone (and believe me, I'm sympathetic) and just do new things for your kids. Some of them will love it. Some of them will hate it. Sometimes you'll wonder if the hassle is worthwhile. You're not alone. We're all wondering. The two sureties I'm learning as my kids are growing is that 1) I have to make mistakes in order to get things right, and 2) I need to worry less and pray more.

      I hope you find your answers.

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  10. I haven't read all of the replies, just the ones near the end. Since your last reply seems to indicate that you haven't received an answer that you feel like addresses your core question of socialization, let me give it a try.
    My oldest is a handicapped 22 year old. My youngest is 10. We have always homeschooled, even our handicapped child. It is difficult to work in activities that are appropriate for each child all the time. Does this mean that your child will grow up unsocialized and unable to gracefully handle any social situation he finds himself in? The answer to this question is......each child is different. I am not painfully shy, but I am a lot more reticent than my husband. He is very gregarious and never meets a stranger. Of our 6 children, 3 or more like me and 3 are more like their father. Every child observes everything that goes on in their world. They will watch the interactions of all of the people in their lives and learn from those observations. If you have a child that is painfully shy, is it right for you to regularly force him into situations that end up being painful or traumatic for him? Children don't learn well in environments that make them uncomfortable. However, if he is able to observe older or more gregarious siblings interacting, without being forced to do too much interacting on his own, he will learn some valuable lessons about interacting with people.
    If your children see their parents treating everyone that they come in contact with, with respect and kindness, then they are more likely to incorporate that mindset into their own lives and beliefs. It is unfortunate that society has us believing that proper socialization only comes from large amounts of time with age-related peers. This is a relatively new thought. For millennia, people lived in small spheres and managed to live productive, happy lives. You are probably doing a fine job. Don't stress out about it.

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  11. Holly,

    I sympathize with your concerns and feel like I relate to you in a lot of ways. I, like you, have young children (5 children 8 (almost 9) yrs old and younger) and am also our ward's primary president. And we homeschool! I am completely overwhelmed most of the time. Yet, I want so badly to enjoy the meaningful responsibilities (and blessings) that the Lord has given me right now. It's tough, isn't it?!

    I have been thinking a lot about my own children's needs, socially--especially the needs of my oldest daughter. We finally--after considering it for over 3 years--joined our local homeschool association. I am SO glad we did! But you are right: it is hard to get out of the house with so much schoolwork to do and kids napping in the afternoon. I totally get it.

    I have decided, though, to get us out of the house at least twice a week. On Mondays, I take the kids to the library for story time. This is for the younger children, but it's also the perfect time for my oldest to pick out new books to read every week. After the library, we either hit the park or the grocery store, depending on whether or not I was able to get food bought on Saturday. ;-)

    The other weekly outing is something related to our homeschool group--whether a park day or a trip to the art museum, or even just a get-together with another homeschool family.

    I think the homeschool group and library trip are as much for my own sanity as for that of my kids. I was starting to feel like my children really needed to get out of the house more. It's hard for me because I am a total homebody. I'm not shy, per se, but I love being home! And there is PLENTY there to keep me busy.

    As great as those two weekly outings are, though, I think our most valuable source of socialization has come from getting to know our neighbors. Once again, I'm echoing another commenter. She is right. Many neighborhoods are quite diverse. We have made dear, dear friends with several families on our streets, most of which don't even have children, or they are much older than my own children. These dear neighbors are members of other faiths, or not "believers" at all. They hold different political views. They have different colored skin. But we have a common bond of living on the same street and I feel so very grateful that we have made the effort to get to know our neighbors. They bless our lives every single day.

    I like what another commenter said about our children watching the way we interact with different people on a daily basis. I don't think that because our children aren't sitting in a classroom all day that they're not getting opportunities to learn about the world and people around them.

    One more quick thought: I think we undermine the value of manners and etiquette in our culture today. I personally feel that teaching my children how to be polite and considerate is the most important thing (well, after teaching them to emulate the Savior) that I can do to help them socialize well with people around them.

    I think I've gone on long enough! I'm right there in the trenches with you. We worry so much, as moms, whether we're doing it "right." I have found, as I'm sure you have, that the Spirit will direct us in helping us meet the needs of our children and we can go forward in faith that the Lord will give us the strength and means to accomplish the things He has commanded us personally to do (homeschool successfully!). Ha! Can you tell I'm reading the beginning of 1st Nephi right now?

    I wish you God's blessings in your homeschooling endeavors!

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  12. I'm sorry if I keep posting here. None of my comments seem to be showing up, so I'll try one more time! I would love to talk about this situation with you via email. I, too, am an introverted, slightly socially awkward home school mom. I have two girls, and this is about our 4th or 5th year (I'd have to count!) I have a lot of thoughts on this socialization thing, and none of them are just about making it a priority or looking for perfection. It is a totally different lifestyle change for people who are home-centered. And there is NOTHING wrong with being home and family centered. Again, I have thought a lot about this, and I don't have time to go into it all right now, but I'd LOVE to be "pen pals" if you want to email me at yarnsculptress at gmail dot com.

    I need encouragement as a home school mom as well, and I think that we could have a nice dialog if you'd like to contact me. Thanks!

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