If you are a homeschooler, you have doubtless fielded many, many questions that begin with “But what about…” I guess it’s only natural that well-meaning family, friends and strangers should feel comfortable enough to ask you if you’ve gone bonkers. After all, They have always inserted their opinions into your life. When you were pregnant, everyone had an answer for your morning sickness. When you had a baby, everyone had a loud opinion on things like feeding and sleep scheduling. When your wee babe turned into a toddler, people started asking you what preschools you were considering. By the time your kid was kindergarten age, the opinions about the minutiae of day-to-day life started to die down…That is, until you announced you were going to be homeschooling your kid.
Once you make your intentions to homeschool public, suddenly the experts come out ten-fold, and boy howdy, do they have questions for you! Questions, that by the end of your first year, you can answer without even thinking about them. We’ve all heard them, we’ve all tried the different tones in our voices when answering, we’ve all gotten sucked into a debate with a well meaning parent or in-law, and I hope that more people than just me has fallen asleep at night obsessing about what I could have said or done differently. In the end, we all have different reasons for homeschooling, and that’s part of what makes getting drawn into a discussion so easy and answering so difficult.
One of the most worrisome issues for my non-homeschooling friends and family is the S-Word socialization. “What about socialization?” they ask. “Isn’t BB lonely without friends?” No. He is not lonely and he is most positively not without friends. At the merry age of eight, he has more true friends than I’ve ever had in my life, and as far as I can see, he’s not an anomaly. Homeschooled kids in general are more socialized than their traditionally-schooled friends. After all, in school kids are sorted into age groups and encouraged to interact with only that age group. There is pressure for boys to only play with boys and girls to only play with girls. Tell me, when in your adult life, have you had to interact only with people of your same age and same sex? Go ahead and think about that one. I’m going to go get a drink of water and you can let me know when I get back… *insert Air Supply hold muzak here…* Did you find a time– A time when you were only surrounded by peers of your same sex and age? What? School? Yeah, that’s what I thought. If someone were to ask my son or some other random homeschooler that question, they’d have a quick answer for you… “Never”. Yep. Never. In any given week, BB orders his own food at restaurants, asks the librarian for help, pays for the groceries and accepts the change, helps the elderly lady across the street with the yard work, plays cowboys with three year olds, climbs trees with eight year old girls, builds Legos with other kids of both sexes, plays in the mud, and has sleepovers in middle of the week. His time to talk and play isn’t confined to Saturdays and lunch periods. His playmates aren’t restricted to boys his age, and his interactions with adults don’t revolve around a power trip. The adults in BB’s world are not disciplinarians who are to be feared or ignored, but resources. He learns so much from talking to adults other than me; he is not afraid of getting in trouble for asking questions and as a result, he’s not in the least bit afraid to walk up to someone at Boarders or Target and ask for help.
If you are worried about the socialization of a homeschooled child, all you really need to do to allay those fears is to spend a little time with that kid. And if there is still some nagging, tugging, pulling feeling in the pit of your stomach that homeschooling is not in the best interest of the child in question, please let it go. The decision to homeschool is not one that is lightly made, and odds are the parents have thought about every single pro and con. If you point out a parent who homeschools her (or his-there are homeschooling dads out there) child, I can show you a parent who has stayed up all night, worrying whether or not she made the right choice. When a parent makes the decision to send her kid to public school, friends and family don’t bombard her with questions about whether she has her kid’s best interest at heart. They don’t try to drag her into a debate and harangue her until she admits the folly of her ways. Nope. When a kid is sent to public school, the adults in the child’s life smile, nod, and congratulate the parents on little Sarah starting kindergarten and riding the school bus by herself. All we homeschoolers are asking is that you give us the same respect. Smile, nod, and congratulate us on making the best choice for our family-even if you don’t agree.