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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5 Easy Steps to an “Old School” Summer

If you’re anything like me, you may be longing for the simplicity of a summer like the one you had as a child.  For me, it was the 80’s.  They were the kind of summers where the days were full of freedom and stretched forever into a golden sun and all you really needed to make you happy was a Slip ‘n’ Slide and a box of Fla.Vor. Ice pops.  However… if you’re anything like me today – well, the nostalgia may be a bit harder to grab if you’re the mom of little people.  You may be feeling overwhelmed and pressured to provide a summer full of All the Awesome Things to Make All the Memories – and I have totally been there – but I’m here to say a simple summer where you are truly present with your loved ones and relaxed will be so much better.  Go ahead and give a few of those Pinterest crafts and activities a try – but all those other days in between?  Well, here’s my idea of how to do it – in 5 steps – mom style.  You can relive your childhood summers while letting your kids in on the secrets to a really rad summer, too.  And even if you’re not a mom –  I’m pretty sure this list will work for you, too.

So, without further adieu:

5 Steps  to an “Old School” Summer

  • Step 1:  Turn on the radio to the local “oldies” station (or whichever station is playing the most 80’s music).  Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and satellite radio don’t count.  You need to hear all the local ads.  It’s part of the charm.  Plus, you can do step #2 during commercial breaks.
  • Step 2:  Mix up a big pitcher of lemonade, iced tea, Kool Aid, or Tang.  Choose which childhood memory you want to relive and try not to think about the ingredients.
  • Step 3:  Go outside and stay there.  Your backyard, front porch, local park, beach… whatever.  Just get outside and even if you do nothing but sit and listen to the radio from step #1, it’s good for your soul.  If it’s raining?  Go to the mall.  Meet up with a friend for an Orange Julius.  You know you want to.  Bring the stroller and stay away from the Disney store and you’ll be fine.
  • Step 4:  Let the kids get wet and dirty.  It’s ok, really.  This is why you have towels and bathtubs and washing machines.  Don’t have kids?  Do a friend or family member a favor and offer to babysit – and get THEIR kids good and dirty.  Or, you could just let your own inhibitions down and run through the sprinkler yourself.
  • Step 5:  Put your phone, iPad, tablet, computer – whatever electronic device you are tethered to – away.  Turn it off, put it down, and go have an awesome summer!

Repeat steps 1-5 as often as possible from now through Labor Day, and in the meantime, you know what I’ll be doing.

 

Autumn Catch Up

You may wonder where I’ve been since February.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t know where you’ve been since February.

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Since my February 2014, I’ve packed up 11 years worth of personal belongings, moved said personal belongings to a new house (which is actually an old, historic house), unpacked and organized said belongings into a cohesive, functioning, household – all while still working, mothering, wife-ing, social-life-ing, and generally being alive.

This does not include the unforeseen, and oft aggravating, projects that a new/old house blindsides you with – because, you know, old houses.

Lots of cool things have happened, as well as some not-so-cool, but one thing that is literally cool is the fact that it is now Autumn in New Jersey and that means things like this:

She's growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

She’s growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

It's apple picking time!

It’s apple picking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

I'm getting back to taking cool pictures again.

I’m getting back to taking cool pictures again.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can't stop photographing.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can’t stop photographing.

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And MOPS started up again for the year!

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking.  Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking. Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

In addition to it being an awesome autumn, summer was full of all sorts of goodness, too.  Lots of trips to the beach, our annual family trip to New Hampshire, and the highlight of my summer:  my sweet little nephew, DJ, was born!  He looks just like my brother.  And my sister-in-law.  It’s funny how one person can look just like, well, two.

And I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I get starting to feel all the feelings in Autumn and well – that gets me thinking – which then makes me want to blog.

So, I’m back!  Stay tuned… there’s over 800 photos on my phone right now, along with 22 different recipes I want to share, a zillion things to say about learning and education, and copious, gratuitous photos of my new digs that I’m pretty proud of.

How to Entertain Your Toddler for 25 Cents

Oh, Target. You thoughtful, retail sweetheart, you. My find in your One Spot section has helped me to hit the Toddler Jackpot: stickers.

My daughter not only loves stickers, but she also loves smiley faces, so these really hit the… (ahem) target.

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Just one sheet of these stickers (available as 4 sheets for $1) has entertained my daughter for hours. Yes, really – hours.

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Sure, my house is now covered in little, colorful, smiley face stickers.

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But how could I put a stop to this?

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She’s so happy, and I’m so happy that she’s entertained…

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And, I’ve discovered that the stickers are easily removed… thank goodness…

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Plus, every time I see those little stickers, I’m reminded of her – and her cute, quickly-fleeting, toddlerhood.

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And that’s worth much, much more than 25 cents.

A Year of Wonder.

A year ago on this day, I gave birth to my daughter.  I’m usually pretty good at expressing myself, but today things are different.

I cannot put into words the amazing year we’ve had.  My daughter has truly transformed my life – she has opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed.  She has changed the way I view every aspect of life:  love, dedication, relationships, values.  She’s even changed the way I view my job, my friendships, and even how I keep my house!

This year has been full of everything new.  New experiences, new joys, new friends, new everything!  And at the same time, this year has given me the opportunity to reflect on the things I’ve always had with a new appreciation.

In her first year of life, my daughter has been my teacher.  She has taught me more about the meaning of life in these past 12 months than any other time in my life.  She has taught me about patience, commitment, what real love is, what true exhaustion is, and what really matters – and what doesn’t.

She has taught me about God.

In addition, having my daughter has connected me to some truly wonderful moms who are sharing the parenthood journey at the same time as me – the La Leche League, my MOPS group, my Bradley group, the Birthing Breastfeeding and Babies group – I would not have met these lovely women without my daughter.

It’s amazing how one small person can make such a big difference.

Life this past year hasn’t always been easy, but it has been good.  And I’m so excited to see what this next year brings!

Happy birthday, my sweet daughter.  I love you more than I ever dreamed possible, and I wish you a long, beautiful life full of blessing.

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A happy birthday at the aquarium.

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Looks like we’ll be getting an aquarium for our new house.

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Likes hippos, just the way mommy does.

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Real big fishies.

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It was a long day.

If you’re interested in reading my daughter’s homebirth story, click here.

‘Tis the Season

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Just when I started to think I had to “do it all” this year because it’s “Baby’s First Christmas” … and we’ve gotta Make ALL the Memories (!) (oh-my-God-it’s-snowing-put-on-the-snow-gear-where’s-the-camera-get-outside-right-now-don’t-slip-and-maim-yourself-let’s-get-this-done-before-naptime-wait-her-hat-doesn’t-fit-oh-gawd-the-dogs-just-tracked-in-a-crapton-of-snow-c’mon-let’s-make-memories-yayyyyy) …and inevitably I’ve started to get just a little nervous/anxious/worked up/loud/Leona Helmsley about it…

I read this:

To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays

It is just what I needed to read – and if you’re a mom of little ones, you need to read this, too.

Now, all is right with the universe, there are sugarplums dancing, and my feet are up with wine in my hand.  Because, I’m not going to go batcrap crazy this year and push myself so far that I miss it.

I don’t want to miss it.

“It” being the most important parts of Christmas – those moments with family and friends, specifically, my husband and daughter.  And I don’t need to festoon each moment with something from Pinterest.

I started on my simple Christmas journey a few weeks ago when I decided that not every single Christmas decoration I own has to be displayed this year (including the craptastic 6 foot tree that I still have from college that fell over last year and broke some of my favorite ornaments, sending me – at the time pregnant, emotional – into a complete “I Hate Christmas” tailspin).

No, I don’t have to go overboard to be overjoyed.  A few twinkly lights here and there, a handful of small Christmas trees, a wreath, some music.  There will always be music.

It’s going to be a beautiful Christmas, because we are just going to be.

Tiny Joys

A couple of days ago, I found joy in my toilet.

Now, stay with me on this… I promise it gets better.

Since my 11 month old daughter can’t be left unattended when I visit the loo, I usually take her in with me, especially if my husband isn’t around.  Honeybean sits on the floor and plays with her bath toys while I do my thing.  It works.

Well, the other day, she observed me flushing the toilet.

It was over.

She quickly toddled over and started pulling on the silver handle that makes the potty go woosh.  Three times later, I had to put a stop to it (afterall, it’s our only toilet and if it breaks we’re literally up the proverbial poo creek).

But in that moment – in the bathroom, on an ordinary day – there was joy.  There was a little girl discovering something brand new.  Something so completely mundane, I barely even notice it.  But, to my daughter, it is a New Thing.  And with each new wooshy-pull on the silver toilet handle, a little-girl smile with two tiny teeth.

You just can’t buy, manufacture, or invent this stuff.

There is joy everywhere – if I choose to see it.  In every little conversation she has with her stuffed animals, every time she points a chubby finger at something she sees, every time she waves and says “bye”, even with every screech and scream.  There is joy.

I’ve always been big on “little things,” because they really do matter – they add up – and I’ll admit that for a short while now, I’ve lost sight of how important those little things are.  I’ve been in The Blur – but now, with the Christmas season upon us, I get into that warm, fuzzy, hot-chocolately, snowy, deck-the-hallsy mood and I can see clearly again.

I can see the joy again.

The trick is to keep seeing it.  After the snow melts, the decorations are boxed, and the Christmas carols fade.

I think that will be one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

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Keep seeing the tiny joys.