But, What About Socialization?

Yes, what about socialization?  The Holy Grail of “go to” questions from pro-traditional school proponents grates like the proverbial nails on a chalkboard for most home-schooling/unschooling/school-free parents.

Buy why?  Why are we all so concerned about socializing?  Why are pro-schoolers so concerned with it and homeschoolers are so bothered by the question?  Let’s consider a few things.

As an adult, I want you to imagine being in a room with 20-30 other people your age with whom you are forced to work, interact, share, and socialize for a minimum of 6 hours every day for 5 days out of the week.  You also have to eat with them.  And go to the bathroom in groups.

How does that make you feel?

Whether it makes you feel good or bad is irrelevant.  What I want you to focus on is choice.

You see, as adults we have the option to control the amount of socializing we create in our lives.  If we need downtime, “me time”, alone time, or free time – we make it happen.  Granted, there are exceptions and obligations, but for the most part, we have the choice to “socialize” as little or as much as we choose.

Why don’t we allow our children the same choice?

Why do we believe it’s healthy for our children to be surrounded by other children for 30-40 hours every week for 40 weeks out of the year, when we wouldn’t do that to ourselves as adults?  Why do we believe that children gain some sort of positive social growth by having this kind of forced, concentrated, overextended interaction with their peers?

It seems manufactured and unrealistic when we describe it that way, right?

Consider, too, if parents and close family members are the people who are best suited to instill social constructs and beliefs that align with an individual family’s values, why then are schooled children spending such a disproportionate amount of time away from the family?

Also, consider your child’s future.  What are the chances that he or she will end up in a career or entrepreneurial endeavor where they will interact only with people their age, ability level, and social status?  Is it more likely that your child will end up doing something with their future that involves people from other age ranges, income brackets, religious beliefs, ability levels and so on?  What then are we teaching our children about socializing when we put them in a room full of other children similar to them?

Is it possible that what school is really teaching our children about socializing is that we aren’t supposed to interact with people who are different, or outside of our cozy little bubble?

Is school possibly teaching our children that time spent alone is somehow weird and unnecessary?

Is the social construct of school itself possibly the impetus for bullying?

As the mother of two young children, my social media newsfeed algorithms tend to default on occasion to articles and memes that stress the importance of “self care” and “me time” – since it turns out that being a parent is kinda challenging.  If it’s important for adults to take time out of their busy schedules for themselves, doesn’t it make sense  for children to have time to themselves also?

If children are constantly learning, developing, and growing – as the “little sponges” we imagine them to be – how much more critical is it then that they learn the importance of a balanced social life that includes people who are different from them and that they need sufficient time to themselves?  And wouldn’t it be ideal for them to learn these things as early as possible?  Why should we wait until adulthood to figure this out?

So, back to the original question:  what about socialization?

As far as socialization within the school system is concerned, we need an accurate and healthy definition, first.  Then, we need to give our children opportunities for choice and balance.  And as it currently stands, traditional school constructs are far from any definition or approach of that sort.

 

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The Definition of Insanity

You’ve heard the phrase before:  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

When I’ve recognized it, I nod my head in agreement:  surely, this (whatever I’m doing at the time) is insane.  We’ve all been there, and hopefully, when we see that the same old processes and actions aren’t producing the results we want, we change course.

How is it we can recognize these patterns in our everyday lives, but not in education?

ticked off student

In a recent article, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post quotes the work of Alfie Kohn, in which he outlines ten things about learning that are absolutely true, yet we continue to largely ignore them in our educational system.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, but for your brief reading purposes, here are the “Ten Obvious Truths About Educating Kids that Keep Getting Ignored:”

  1. Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.
  3. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.
  4. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do, and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  5. Just because doing X raises standardized test scores doesn’t mean X should be done.
  6. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.
  7. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.
  8. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder, doesn’t mean it’s better.
  9. Kids aren’t just short adults.
  10. Substance matters more than labels.

If we are all talking about education reform, but continuing to ignore these naturally-occurring truths about children and how they learn, we aren’t going to change anything.  We’re going to continue to spin in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction, continue to throw money at the problem rather than real solutions, and in the generations to come, we’ll wonder why we’ve “fallen behind” – which is a another discussion in and of itself.

Let’s stop the insanity.

Killer Whales and Kids

With the holidays in full swing (yes, even now in January we continue to celebrate several things), and my house full of family, food, and fun, there isn’t much time to write. But I happened upon this article again while “cleaning out” my phone today:

A Thousand Rivers by Carol Black.

It is something I will be thinking about as we enter the new year, especially with my daughter showing signs of reading and math readiness.  And if you are an educator, a parent, a student, a homeschooling parent/student, or a human being in general, I urge you read this excerpt:

“Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. We have radically altered our own evolved species behavior by segregating children artificially in same-age peer groups instead of mixed-age communities, by compelling them to be indoors and sedentary for most of the day, by asking them to learn from text-based artificial materials instead of contextualized real-world activities, by dictating arbitrary timetables for learning rather than following the unfolding of a child’s developmental readiness. Common sense should tell us that all of this will have complex and unpredictable results. In fact, it does. While some children seem able to function in this completely artificial environment, really significant numbers of them cannot. Around the world, every day, millions and millions and millions of normal bright healthy children are labelled as failures in ways that damage them for life. And increasingly, those who cannot adapt to the artificial environment of school are diagnosed as brain-disordered and drugged.

It is in this context that we set out to research how human beings learn. But collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.”

KillerWhaleSunset