“Socialization” is a hot topic in any type of home schooling. Those who do not home school, don’t know people who home school, or have never been exposed to home schooling, usually ask about that first. They want to know how my kids getting any socialization. How my kids get to be around kids their own age. How my kids learn to deal with society in general. They just assume we stay home all day and never get out, or they assume that all home schoolers are like the people they hear about in the news who seclude their family away from everyone and everything. For the record, the majority of us are just normal, everyday people. The only difference is that we choose to take the reins of our children’s education. We all have different reasons, but at the end of the day, we are just like you. We just want the best for our kids!
One thing I have learned this year is that socialization is not just about spending time with kids the same ages as my kids. It is not just about learning to stand in line, sit in circle time, listen to authority figures, following the rules of a classroom or school, eating lunch in the cafeteria, or dealing with bullies. It is about all that, but it is about SO MUCH MORE.
Socialization is also about dealing with people in society. It is about learning to be accepting and tolerant of other people’s cultures, religions, and beliefs. It is about respecting the idea that EVERYONE has the right to make their own choice (good or bad) and that EVERYONE has to deal with the outcomes of those choices (good or bad). Socialization is about being open minded and being willing to learn about others. It is about everyone and everything and you do not have to go to public school in order to be “socialized”! Don’t get me wrong, public school socialization does work from some kids. Just not for all of them. There are pros and cons to every aspect of both home schooling and public schooling. I just believe that in the case of my kids, this was the right choice for us.
As we have gone through the past year, I have realized that my kids are working on their social skills almost everywhere we go. We are a very outgoing and talkative family. We have no problem talking to people. My kids talk to people at restaurants, standing in line at the grocery store or post office. We talk to people in waiting rooms, at the park, at the vet, on our walks around the neighborhood. My kids are getting their lessons in socialization no matter where we are! They are working on learning to wait their turn (whether it be in a line or in a conversation), helping people out, being polite, respecting their elders, being nice to smaller children, and animals. They are learning to respect authority, to respect other people’s property, and tolerance to people’s religions, cultures, and appearance. Part of teaching tolerance is helping them understand that we do not have to agree with everything a person says or does and we do not have to believe what everyone else believes. We just have to allow them to express themselves in their way, just the way we express ourselves in our way. With all this, we also have to teach our kids to respect other people’s privacy and that not everyone wants to talk to them.
Some days this is easier than others. We all know how prone 4 year olds are to saying exactly what they think, when they think it, and usually as loud as they possibly can.
Recently, I discovered a whole new side to socialization. PETS! For those who have always had pets, this may seem like a “duh!” statement, but we have not really had pets for any amount of time since before our kids were born. Gold fish, gerbils, and even a kitten once, but between the gold fish and gerbil dying and all that sort of stuff, our kids have never really been exposed to pets. Sure we have friends with pets and the kids are around them, but that is not quite the same as having one in your own home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
I said from the beginning that I wanted a puppy. I wanted a pet that would grow with our kids. A pet that our 4 year old could adjust to slowly. Our little Nessie has been our answer to all that! The changes in our kids have been amazing to watch! Our 4 year old has been around dogs of all sizes on and off her whole life, but no matter how we tried she was scared of them. They were loud, jumped on her, were bigger than her, hyper, and just all around freaked her out a little. In the short time that we have had Nessie, we have seen MAJOR changes in our 4 year old! She has gone from being scared of Nessie, to playing with her all by herself. She loves to let her outside and then back in. She likes to play with her, feed her, bath her, and give her treats. She is learning how to deal with Nessie when she barks, jumps, or even nips. The same little 4 year old who would cry about being around dogs has very quickly made a new friend. It has been amazing to watch.
That is when I realized that helping our kids be “socialized” was not just about being around their own peers! It was about learning to deal with all sorts of people and situations. About teaching them how to deal with people (and situations) with grace and dignity. About teaching them that being different is okay. Teaching them when it is ok to tell people what you think and when to keep your opinions to yourself. Teaching them how to phrase their thoughts so that they don’t unintentionally hurt someone with their words.
Socialization starts at home when they are just babies! It is not something that is only taught by going to a brick and mortar school. It needs to be taught EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME!