Whenever I tell people that we homeschool the question of socialization always seems to come up. Let me state for the record that I believe “socialization” for most homeschoolers is a non-existent problem. It’s something that non-homeschoolers like to point out because it makes them feel better about their own choices. But this is not about that. That rant deserves a post all its own and it deserves to be written on my own blog so when the nasty comments start pouring in they will come to my inbox instead of going to my kind friend Leslie who didn’t know what she was asking when she invited me to write a guest post.
So, if this post is not a rant about socialization, what is it? Why even bring the topic up? Well, I bring it up because part of socialization is about learning interpersonal skills such as understanding the art of introductions, small talk, sarcasm, compromise, offering sympathy, and a number of other language essentials. These we cover pretty well within our home. Another part of socialization is about making and keeping friends. To this second point, I make a concerted effort to ensure my children not only have a relatively consistent group of people to interact with but are also regularly introduced to new potential friends. We go to karate and girl scouts. We schedule playdates and sleepovers. We go to storytime at the library and meet random children at the park.
The short encounters are the ones I like. Get in. Get out. Don’t pick up any bad habits on your way through.
The long encounters I approach with some trepidation, nay even fear, because while my children are always kind and thoughtful and they never hit or throw sand or refuse to share (HA!) who knows how those other children may influence them. No matter how much I wish for it no one else seems inclined to raise their children exactly like I do and I fear that from the children of these other parents my kiddos may learn a new word (or two) or *gasp* gain a new perspective. During these long encounters, I have so much less control over this bubble I maintain around my family. And it makes me uncomfortable.
Every family has a certain collection of experiences that shape and define them – our baggage, so to speak. And it’s not really that each of us has any more or less baggage than anyone else. It’s that we like our own baggage. Or, if we don’t like it, we are at least comforted by its familiarity. We know which zippers don’t work quite right and how the handle must be held “just so.” We know what’s inside without looking and we know where each piece came from.
Each time I allow my children to venture from the bubble they seem to return with someone else’s luggage. Not a 5 piece set, mind you, but something small – a handbag, maybe or a carry-on. And whatever they bring back can’t be returned. Instead we have to shift things around to make room for this new idea or behavior. Sometimes we have to re-arrange our conversation to explain some previously unknown concept. Herein lies the difficulty for me.
Do I limit life to our bubble? Or do I let my children explore knowing they will return with thoughts I did not give them and quite likely do not agree with? The reality (in case you hadn’t guessed already) is that I can’t keep my children “safe” in a bubble forever. Oh, maybe I could come pretty close but the reality (because I need to remind myself sometimes) is that I don’t want to. As much as I like my own luggage I suspect my children’s journey will be all the better if I let them start out lighter. They’ll have their own set soon enough.
About the author: Toni is the wife of her best friend and the mother to two incredible little teachers. Each day they explore their world and and when there is time she comes to her blog This Simple Life to share their discoveries with you.