Friday, July 31, 2009

What About Socialization?

What, the form of government that takes all your stuff away and gives it to other people? I'll pass.

But if you mean socialization as in friends and human contact- it's still a stupid question. And it's the one people always, always ask me when they first realize I'm a homeschooler. Right after they try not to recoil visibly, because everyone knows that weirdness is contagious. Why do people ostracize people who are different? It's quarantine, I'm telling you.

But if I were kind and answered the question they mean instead of the question they ask....

Let's think about this. You send your kids to public- or if you can afford it- private school. In this school, and I don't care how good the school is, your child will be in a class with ten to twenty other children their own age. In grade school (I hope I'm getting this right- public school is not something I'm overly familiar with) they stay in the same classroom with the same teacher and the same classmates all day long. In high school, they will change classrooms and teachers and even classmates every time a bell rings. And they will go to another room with- surprise!- lots of kids their own age. If you move, your children will still go to a school that uses the same system- lots of kids their own age. If you don't move, your children will attend classes with kids who are not only their age, but are the same kids they saw last year, and the years before.

As far as social circles are concerned, there are none more stagnant than the mass-school system. If you don't agree, think about it this way:

When your children graduate from high school (or from college, if they go or if they don't have to work through college), they will (hopefully) get a job. What are the odds that everyone in this workplace will be their own age? If they work in McDonalds or a new start-up company, they might. But what about the next job? And the next? Your kids get older. What happens when they work for someone older than they are? Younger than they are?

Think back to your own work experiences. Was there ever a time when you were in any workplace where everybody- from your co-workers to the clients to your employers- were all the same age? Ever?

Sending your child to be herded in a group of kids their own age does not prepare them for the real world. It insulates them from it. You teach them for eighteen years that they only need to be able to communicate with and relate to people their own age. And then you're surprised when they come home and seem to speak a different language. You're surprised when they get a job and don't do well. Why are you surprised? Only being able to communicate with people their own age is what you've trained them to do.

In the real world, the people you meet and have to work with or for are not going to be your age. They might be older. They might be younger. Very rarely you might be born within three years of each other. But if you cannot communicate with someone thirty years older than you are, you have a problem. If you're ever an employer, and cannot communicate with people twenty or more years younger than you are, you have a problem then, too.

I do not have a 'socialization' problem. Everyone imagines that as a homeschooler, I live in a fishbowl. I don't. I've been swimming in the sea my entire life. I've met more kinds of fish than you can imagine.

And the kids you force into the public school system? They're locked inside a sardine can. If they're lucky they'll be able to escape when they graduate. If they aren't, they'll never shake off the sardine mentality.

'What about socialization' is the most unwittingly-hypocritical question anyone ever asks me. I've lived here for four years now, and since I don't wear a tag saying "Homeschooled! Come Make Sure I Know My Times Table!" I haven't had this conversation in a long time. I don't look forward to having it again.

1 comment:

  1. Just wait until you homeschool your own kids. That question doesn't go away!

    I still want the t-shirts that say: "Warning! Unsocialized homeschooler!" (: