Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Broken Day

I last blogged about homeschooling, which is a lifestyle my husband and I are committed to. Some days are the picture of perfect, happy family life and learning--the cozy kind one might imagine when they picture how homeschool goes in some people's homes (particularly those who blog about it).

But some days are not beautiful at all. Some days we're just stumbling through, grateful for grace and mercy, that the day will end and there will be a new (hopefully better) one tomorrow.

A few weeks ago, my husband was out of town for the week. The. entire. week. I was here with four small children. Three energetic young boys, 7, 5, 3. A teething (four molars) toddler that cried and clung to my leg most days. Most fun I've had in a long time.

Here's part of a raw journal entry (names have been removed):

"[Child] is going through an awful attitude phase, snapping at me over just about everything...
[Child] was rudely complaining about how the letters looked in his Italic handwriting book. I asked him to make just one letter a to try it the italic way, and he just snapped. I walked away teary-eyed...

Here's the list of things the boys broke or otherwise damaged today--
1) Broke the orchid pot. [Child] climbed on the counter [rule violation] to get the bungee cords they've been hooking to their belt loops to go bungee-jumping off the railing outside. They already tore their pants once, so that's off-limits, yet they did it again, and I took them away and put them up high.
2) [Child] threw something at [other child] and hit him in the head hard.
3) [Child] threw something at the lightbulb in his bedroom during quiet time  and broke it.
4) Apparently, [child] threw something at my Ansel Adams picture from Justin [my husband] and it broke the glass.
5) [Child] took everything out of the alcove upstairs to see what it looked like empty [we have a storage area going up our stairs]. I couldn't even get out of the hallway of our room to the stairs. He put some stuff back and was supposed to be putting more stuff back, but was actually taking it out again. A big tub of baby clothes fell and the clothes tumbled out, all over the stairs below.
6) [Child] punched [child] in the eye, which gave him a blood blister, then proceeded to scratch him several times. This made him look like he ran into a barbed wire fence (as someone commented later...at church).
7) Not to mention all the food crumbs, water spills, other fights during the day
8) [Child] woke [grumpy, teething baby] from morning nap so she only slept a half hour. Then she cried and clung to my leg all morning.
What a day. Taking a shower and going to bed."
So this was a bad day. I wondered why I choose to keep my kids home with me day after day after day. I was looking up the number for the school district to inquire into where they had enrollments for kindergarten and second grade. Yet, I knew this lifestyle--even on its worst days--was something we were committed to. So I didn't make the call.

We're a family. We're learning to live together and love each other, through thick and thin. The bad days test our resolve, and dare I say, our love for one another. On the bad days, we go to bed, grateful the day is over, and pray for a more hopeful day to come.

And then we receive the answer to our prayers. A good day comes. We learn side by side and have great discussions about things that matter, and we're so thankful we're doing this, that our children are home with us for these talks, for these moments.

If you had a bad day, a better one's coming. It's like the waves on the sea. Bad days, good days, they all roll together to form our story, our homeschooling experience. I'm grateful for what the bad days show us and they ways they help us grow; I'm more thankful, though, for the good days!

Sharing with:
Women Living Well
Raising Homemakers
The Better Mom
Heavenly Homemakers


Monday, September 10, 2012

Public School, Homeschool, and Socialization

My 98-year old great-aunt eyed my children a few weeks ago and asked what school they attend. When I told her we homeschool, she said adamantly, “You shouldn’t do that. Kids need to be around other kids.”

So as children pack up their backpacks and lunchboxes and head off to school for the next 170 days, no one ever asks, “Your kids are in public school. Aren’t you concerned about socialization?”

Yet, I believe, there is reason to be concerned.

In response to a study about the college class of 2016, community college freshmen talked to our local NBC station about their social skills. Startingly, one student admitted she’d rather text than talk to someone in person, and another girl said that in a group of new people, they all just pull out their phones and start texting  friends they know because they don’t know how to handle the social awkwardness of the situation.

That is what I call not being socialized.

And yet, they’ve been in the public school system for 12 years.
So they’re supposed to be “socialized,” right?

When it comes to socialization--the very argument that people use as a catch-phrase against homeschooling—it seems as though graduates of the public school system are not all that properly socialized.

How do we define socialization? As a homeschool parent, I think of it as being able to relate to not only their peers, but people of all age groups (and not through texting, but face-to-face communication). Merriam Webster defines socialization as :
1 to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment
2 a : to constitute on a socialistic basis <socialize industry> b : to adapt to social needs or uses
3: to organize group participation in <socialize a recitation>
: to participate actively in a social group

Let’s look again at what that college freshman said. In a social situation with new people, they all just pull out their phones, because it’s less awkward that way. That is not participating actively in a social group. By definition, they are not properly socialized.

Contrast homeschoolers.

The socialization argument always makes me laugh, because—while it may be well-meaning— it is so ignorant.  One would have to lock a child in a dark room all day, every day to keep him from having social interactions with others. Kids are around other kids (and other adults), at church activities, at playgrounds, through sports, homeschool groups, and more (not to mention in our home, they each have three siblings to socialize with).

Not only are they learning how to relate to kids of all ages (without a cell phone, I might add), because they accompany me on errands and to various civic functions, they also learn how to socialize with people of all ages.  

Meanwhile, public school students are learning how to fit into a group, or how to not fit in. Some parents cite this as a necessary skill for life. But is it really?

When has a co-worker or a friend cattily made fun of your clothing choices, hairstyle, makeup, teeth? Picked on you mercilessly? Or when have you done these things to someone else? It just doesn’t happen as we grow up and learn how to properly socialize in the real world. Yet it happens daily in schools, to the point that children have commited suicide over it. Is this really the kind of socialization we want for our kids?

I remember when I was in fifth grade (in public school). A girl sat outside, against the brick wall of the school, crying during every recess, because the other kids were so mean to her. They picked on her because her teeth were crooked; they picked on her because she was a bit overweight compared to some classmates (but probably of normal weight for an 11 year old girl); they picked on her for her hair and for her name. 

Feeling badly for her, I used to sit by her and try to make her feel better. She started to hate the other kids, because “they were so mean,” she cried. I still remember this, years later.

Was this a necessary part of “socialization?” Does this experience mirror the real-world of adult life? Did it do any good for her? Absolutely not. I bet she may still have self-esteem issues to this day, due to the damage caused by these peers. I’m sure it also distracted her from learning.

Yet, if she would have been home, no one would have been making fun of her. She would be learning in a safe environment and growing up with a healthy sense of self-esteem. She would have been practicing normal communication skills with people of all ages, which would not have included belittling and heavy texting.

So when it comes to socialization, do my children really need to be in classrooms filled with their peers, as my great aunt and so many others think? Or is home where it's really at?

 More links on homeschoolers and socialization:
Sharing With:
Women Living Well
We are That Family
Raising Homemakers