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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Class Dismissed: My Review

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Last week, I had the opportunity to view Class Dismissed: A Film About Learning Outside the Classroom.  From their website, “Class Dismissed showcases a growing trend in alternative education strategies that are working for many families across America.”

Indeed.

Since I am speaking from the position of a public school teacher (for the better part of fourteen years now), rendering special needs services in a private setting, I can say that my opinion of this movie might surprise some of my readers.  There also exists the possibility that I’ll edit and revise my review as time goes on, since I’ve only seen the movie once, but I’m planning to host a viewing myself – so next time I may see something new.

Class Dismissed is a 90-minute documentary that follows a Los Angeles family as they navigate their approach to homeschooling their 13 and 11 year-old daughters.  They arrived at the decision to homeschool due to some of the changes they were seeing in their daughter’s attitudes, a growing dissatisfaction with their public school system (for the record, they were sending their children to the El Segundo school district, purported as one of the best in the Los Angeles area), and from being flat-out asked by their older daughter to try homeschooling.  With a healthy dose of both trepidation and excitement, the parents agree to start homeschooling, only to find they are frustrated and not sure where to begin or what path to follow.  Initially, they were excited about the change, but as time wore on, the long-lived expectation of needing to do school wore on them.  They ended up enrolling in an independent-learning charter school, which allowed them to continue homeschooling and provided some much-needed funding for extracurricular activities, but soon learned that this option didn’t work very well for them, either – as it was just busywork and paperwork.  After about a year of attempting to homeschool according to a set of rules, schedules, and curriculum, the family finally decides on a path that’s more suited to their needs and ultimately, “lets go” of the rigid expectations they set forth in the beginning of their journey.  In the end, their older daughter (at 14 years old) is volunteering at a local marine life center and studying to pursue a profession of the same, and the younger daughter (age 12) is pursuing gymnastics and paying for it through running her own business.  Everyone is happy, everyone is pursuing their passions, and everyone is learning.  Yes, books are involved.

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What I ultimately feel this movie does for both homeschooling and traditional schooling is dispel any rumors about what homeschool families actually do – what they go through, the decisions they make, and the way homeschooling really works.  Which, by the way, isn’t the same for every family – or even the same for each child in a family.

The movie also touches on other forms of alternative learning, such as unschooling, the classical curriculum, and alternative learning centers, such as The Village Home, as featured in the movie.  There are a few “heavy hitters” featured in the movie, such as John Taylor Gatto, Michelle Barone,  Pat Farenga, Linda Dobson, Blake Boles, and  the amazing Dale J. Stephens, which I feel increases the film’s credibility as these education professionals know their stuff and have made successful careers from their alternative approach to education and learning.

Class Dismissed is a fascinating look at alternative forms of education, and gives both ideas and rejuvenation to those who may be dissatisfied with the traditional schooling system in our country.  Class Dismissed has been released at a time when the debate over the validity of Common Core is hot, and teacher accountability is a sore subject.  It couldn’t have come at a better time – especially since the rise in homeschooling interest has soared over the past 15 years from approximately 850,000 homeschoolers in the year 2000, to more than 1.7 million homeschoolers in 2011, with the numbers still growing in the past 3 years.*

I feel that anyone who is currently homeschooling, is “homeschool-curious,” or is involved in any facet of education (including public and private school teachers), should see this movie.  It’s informative, encouraging, and proves one thing for sure:  the homeschoolers know what they’re doing.

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*National Center for Educational Statistics