What’s the first question people have when they find out you’re homeschooling?
“What about socialization?”
There is a wealth of social interactions just within your family that I truly believe is enough for kindergarten- and under-aged kids.
Think about it! When your kid grabs a knife and you don’t want him to have it, how do you model this interaction?
(Toddler translation: That kid has my ball and I want it back. I will do what I see mommy do when she wants something back from me). Do you snatch it away from him, or do you calmly ask him to give it to you with an open hand?
He will be socialized by your responses to him, and when he does get a chance to be with other kids, he will do what you’ve modeled.
This works negatively as well. Ask me how I know.
When you want him to put on his pajamas and he doesn’t want to, how do you get him to cooperate?
(Toddler translation: I want to play superheroes a certain way and that kid isn’t doing it my way. I will do what I see mommy do when she wants me to do it her way).
And once you bring a sibling to the mix, your big brother will know the rules and the baby won’t. How will he enforce those rules? (Toddler translation: The baby just threw my cup on the floor. I will do what I see mommy do when I break the rules.)
Modeling works really well and it works all the time. Watching my oldest imitate my behavior on his younger brothers has been like looking into an extremely unflattering mirror at the fun house.
Thanks to that uncomfortable lesson, I began reading everything I could get my hands on regarding positive parenting. My favorites:
- How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber
- No Bad Kids: Todder Disclipline without Shame by Janet Lansbury
- Elevating Child care: A guide to respectful Parenting by Janet Lansbury
- Radical Unschooling by Dayna Martin
The last one, the unschooling book, really helped change my perspective. I began to see my kids as people with legitimate desires–as legitimate as my own. That doesn’t mean I always give in, but it means I’ve started collaborating with them on our daily life plan, rather than just planning a scientifically-approved, developmentally appropriate queue of activities.
It’s a small detail, but a major distinction. Are you planning wholesome healthy activities for your kids, using your super-smart, all-knowing adult brain? Or are you looking at the person in front of you, and taking them into account? Is catching geckos less valuable than making crafts? What about watching YouTube videos about geckos?
I know you want to try that cute paper plate cow face craft on Pinterest, but what is that small person really into?
In terms of socialization, this distinction is huge. At school, kids are learning to follow directions (important in many instances, not saying it isn’t). But that’s not really learning how to socialize with others, or how to collaborate.
If home life is a series of commands and star charts and bedtimes and get-up times, then no, that’s not really socialization, unless you’re socializing them for the military.
When’s the last time you met someone and thought, “Now there’s a well-socialized person!” Are you sure those traits were learned in school?
What does it mean to be well-socialized? What do well-socialized people do? No really, I’m asking. Let me know in the comments!