O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What about socialization?

The most common question I get about homeschooling is, "But what about socialization?" Sometimes I will get told something along the lines of, "Make sure they have outside activities so they can have enough socialization." When I hear this, I really want to scream. Proper socialization takes place first within the home amongst those who love us most and have the patience to teach us and forgive us for making mistakes. Second, socialization should control among children of all ages with parents present to continue to teach appropriate skills.

Many years ago when Tiger was 3 and Butterfly was 18 months I went to a very large park with a group of homeschoolers for lunch after a field trip. There were about 5 families and 25 kids. The moms sat under a tree and talked about all the children from the oldest at 15 down to the smallest (my daughter) ran off to play around a large tree about 50 yards away. As we watched the children play, I saw a 9 year old shepherding my daughter back to the mothers. She explained that my daughter needed me. Butterfly checked in with me for a hug while the 9 year old waited and then gently she shepherded her back to the group of children.That image of the children at the tree has been burned into my memory. Within that group of children I watched as 10 year old boys scooped up my 3 year old son and played on the swings. I watched as 9 year old girls carried my toddler and hugged her and loved her, including her in their games. I watched as they all laughed, played, and enjoyed each other's company. It was a rare moment that I had never seen in a group of children except those who were homeschooled. This is the epitome of socialization- a group of children of all ages, backgrounds, races, abilities, etc finding a common ground and learning to be together.

Fast forward a few years and I have had a few experiences that have further testified that proper socialization is best accomplished within the home- first and foremost among siblings and parents and then in a controlled situation with parents and children present for a common purpose.

There is a little girl that Butterfly goes to church with. They have been friends at church for years. A few months ago my daughter went into class and tried to sit down next to this little girl. The little girl proclaimed, "You're not my friend. You can't sit there."  My daughter was taken back. She had no idea where this came from, and in her words, "That's not very nice." Over time, my daughter has continued to try to be a friend and every time this little girl tells her she can't sit near her, always making sure there is at least 1 seat between them! My daughter truly has no idea what is going on and is always conscious of including everyone. This same little girl has done similar things to other children in class as well. This little girl does not understand what it means to be a friend. She does not understand politeness or how to disagree appropriately. On some level she is choosing to try to manipulate or create a power struggle. She is not developing good social skills. Butterfly can plainly see that.

On the other hand, today was park day. There was a little girl who was feeling a little insecure and pouty because she didn't know how to join in the game with the group. I watched at Butterfly put an arm around her and brought her into the fold of the group. I also got to see a more modern image of the tree crowd today.  I watched as MY 10 year old son scooped up a 3 year old little boy to swing on the swing. No longer was he the little one, he was turning the tables and scooping up a sweet little boy who adores him and talks often about Tiger at home. Tiger was providing the example and love to this 3 year old. I also watched as a 9 year old girl scooped up my 2.5 year old Strawberry and hugged her. I watched as the two 5 year olds played with both the older kids as well as the 2 year olds. I also got to watch as a large group of children of all ages gathered together on a large park porch-type swing to play together. Squeals and shrieks of laughter and joy filled the air as they all played together. The larger children either holding or pushing the little children were having just as much fun as the little ones who squealed in delight. 

This picture is missing a couple kids- the swing game went on for quite a while.
Park day was so much fun, we stayed all day. Today precious naps were missed...but something far more precious was found- joyful friendships and memories. The older children were being leaders and guiding younger ones, younger ones were learning that everyone can be included. They also learned about give and take as they passed around a limited amount of shovels.

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