Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Will My Kids Fit In If They Quit School to Homeschool

I received this blog comment while on vacation. It blew my mind and I wrote a couple of different blog drafts over a few day's time, which got long winded and then I gave up. Here is my third attempt. This post runs the risk of showing my too-blunt side but sometimes that is deserved and appropriate and sometimes people need what I think is obvious spelled out for them. I don't mean this to sound offensive, truly I don't.  

Blog comment:
I am the mother of a 4 yr old a 6 yr old and an 11 yr old. I have been homeschooling my 4 year old and since his birthday falls after September 1st. I may have him one more year. My question to you is this. Your kids, 12 and 14 are they ok? Do they fit in. socially with other kids? I have been thinking about home schooling them all for four years now. I hate sending them to their schools.
My reply:

Yes my kids are socially well adjusted. They are also mentally sane and their behavior is not controlled by prescription drugs which is starting to not be typical in today's society.

Most people who meet us and some who knew us as acquaintances or months assume that our children use school are shocked to hear my kids are homeschooled because they had some warped perception of what a homeschooler is like and my kids are not that way.

I have also been told by other homeschoolers "your kids are the most normal kids we know" and they mean that in a good way as their kids enjoy being with my kids and they wish more homeschoolers were like my kids.

I have received many compliments about my kid's behavior including from strangers in public and our orthodontist, their teachers and Boy Scout leaders and others who are around lots of different kids but 99% of whom are schooled kids and those people point out they feel that homeschooling is the differentiating factor.

My kids are sought out to be the friends of others and many kids were upset when we moved out of state. My kids are well liked by others for various reasons: making others laugh, laughing at their jokes sincerely, being a good listener, keeping secrets, and having real conversations about things of mutual interest. My sons are different in personalities but one thing they have in common is they are kind in their hearts and they are not angry or mean. My sons are not perfect, no human being is.

Your Kids and Homeschooling

How your children turn out socially will depend on their life in school (if they used to attend school), their experiences outside of school in extra-curricular activities, and it depends on your family and how you live your lives.

How your kids turn out also depends on what you teach your kids about values and social skills.

How your kids turn out depends on what you and your husband are like socially. What your family does socially will mold your kids to some extent.

How your kids are will depend on if they, or i if you or your husband have any brain-related challenges such as nonverbal learning disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, or on the Autism Spectrum among other things. To be blunt: if you as a parent are odd due to a biological reason then maybe your kids have that biological thing too and they are also odd, but maybe none of you even realizes you are acting socially wrong or weird. It may be that none of you have been diagnosed and don't even know you are "different". The apple does not fall far from the tree. However this obviously has nothing to do with homeschooling, there are Asperger's parents whose kids have Asperger's and use school and the kids are odd while in school, and they will continue to be odd if they leave school for homeschooling. 

Leaving School

If you leave school and start to homeschool how your kids turn out socially will narrow down to what you do for learning, whether that is all home based or what you do with groups. Any time you add in group learning there is the influence of the teachers, parents, and/or the peers, this can be positive or negative. Choose your activities wisely and who you do them with. Then again, parents cannot and should not control every single second of a child's life, especially when they are teenagers or preteens, so if they are in a class with some kids they don't necessarily love but can get along with, then they are learning a life skill on how to get along with people when in a group, with whom they don't immediately love or like. 

If you leave school any negative influences directly from school teachers, kids on the bus, or classmates may disappear, but you will also lose any positive benefits, social or academic, that school gave. Homeschooling has its pros and cons. Homeschooling cannot always replicate some of the best things about school, that is a fact. It's about setting priorities and making decisions about what overall is best. Nothing is perfect, homeschooling is not perfect, there is give and take in everything.

When you start to homeschool you not only take on the responsibility of the academics but Mom now has a new job: to orchestrate the child's social life. If you do not want total isolation then you have to put time and effort into making things happen. Moms who formerly used school tell me this is a big shift for them to adapt to.

You may have to rely more on things like Scouts or sports to try to provide social time that is lacking due to withdrawing from school. Meaning, perhaps in the past your child was busy enough with school and homework and had no time for Scouts but now you will join Scouts to make new friends.

Kids Meeting Other Homeschoolers

If you do not want your child to feel isolated in homeschooling you should try to become friends with other homeschoolers. I mean, if you want your child to not feel alone in homeschooling they should be around other homeschoolers at least a few hours a week (if not more). Building a general homeschooling network takes a mother's time as does friendship making in the homeschool community, if you desire that, you have work ahead of you. For example you may have to join local internet chat lists and read the posts every day or you may have to go to homeschool mom's night out to meet other mothers to see who has kids your children may want to try to befriend.

It can take a year or more to find kindred spirits of like mind that you click with and that your children click with. It is worth the effort but it takes a time investment that some parents can't be bothered with or get discouraged about. If you think you will meet a group of kids tomorrow who are perfect match friends for your kids I think you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

You also should expect to travel in order for your kids to have time with friends. You may have to travel up to 45 minutes in one direction in order to see people you want to be with. You may have to see them longer on one day instead of seeing them every day (such as kids experience in school).

Other times you may have to compromise on your ideal homeschool plans in order to have time with other kids. For example perhaps that homeschool co-op is not ideal academically but it gives your kids time with others they enjoy being with, so you sacrifice one day to the endeavor.

When the kids are the right age you may find that doing sleepovers is the best use of your time to get in as much time with friends as possible with the least amount of driving to and fro.

You also have to deal with the fact that other people have differing priorities and schedules and they may be hard to connect with as much as you may like. This is true for friends who use school and friends who homeschool.

The Bigger Picture

The bigger message I want to convey is that how your kids turn out socially depends both on the parents and on the kids themselves. Kids need to be taught how to behave properly and what being a good friend means. If they are not nice kids no one will want to be around them.

I think sometimes school is more like the savage conditions in The Lord of the Flies, that is not what homeschooling is like. Homeschoolers get to pick who their friends are and the kids will be seen and scrutinized by other parents so it is to your kid's advantage if you directly teach them etiquette basics and how to make conversation and that they should make eye contact and to speak to the adults, so forth and so on. If your kids are thought to be rude or bad influences or if they are poorly behaved or do things such as break other people's stuff when you are visitors in their home you and your kids will be intentionally avoided. In the most extreme case you may be blackballed from group events as no one wants to invite the problem kids who will wreck the event, disturb others or ruin their personal property.

Friendship is a two-way street and it takes time to invest in friendships to keep them going, that is true for adults as well as children and teens.

New Technology and Socialization

Technology has changed how children communicate today. I feel they need face to face time but this is enhanced by their communications made via text messaging and Facebook.

(It seems that) boys who are on xBoxLive playing live video games with friends and talking to each other over the microphone live fulfill a social communication need as well as providing entertainment. Some concentrate on game talk only while others have other conversations about other topics while playing the game. Similarly, computer based video games can be played while talking to friends via a free Skype account.

Kids don't use their mobile phones for actual phone conversations as much as I assumed they would; I was thinking all the time I spent talking to my friends on the landline phone while a teen in the 1980s would translate directly to mobile phones but I am incorrect. I also thought kids would talk more on video chat on Skype but my kids don't do that much when "just" talking. They tend to do other work at the computer screen and chat at the same time with the video of their friend on a minimized small screen in the corner. Kids today seem to be masters of multitasking at what they want to do.

Kids and teens seem to text nearly nonstop and they seem to like it better than talking on the phone.

If the initial friendship is non-existent and if "in real life experiences" do not exist between friends or acquaintances then chatting it up on Facebook or in text messages rings hollow and is nothing but an empty friendship.


As a person who does not know an adult or their child I cannot predict if they quit school and begin homeschooling if the kids will "turn out alright" or "be socialized" or if they will be happy with the social life of a homeschooler. There are too many variables at play including how a family actually homeschools and how the child spends their time, but it all starts with the parents and the children themselves and what they believe about socialization and how much work the parents want to put into trying to cultivate what they consider to be a healthy social life for their children.


Rachel said...

This was a wonderful post. Thank you so much for it. Would it be okay if I linked to it in the future? Quote you on my blog if necessary?

I love the way you articulated the way I feel about homeschooling.


ChristineMM said...

Thanks Rachel for your compliments.

You may always link to my blog when discussing something I said or when quoting me, you don't need to ask so long as you credit me as the writer with quotation marks then use my name and then a link back is great.

:) Have a great day.