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The "S" Word

by Sylvia Sims

People aren’t listening. We are starting our third year of homeschooling and we are still being asked that dirty little question, “What about socialization?” My response is usually,”What about it?” While I think that the answer is obvious , when it comes to my children, apparently I am so wrong. My 15 year old is abnormally self-disciplined and a leader among his peers. My 13 year old skate boarding soccer playing, Steinbeck loving son has wanted to be a cardiologist since he was threeish and has been studying anatomy, and medical terminology so that he can have a head start. My ten year old Amazon girl plans to be the president of this country and so far, my seven year old has several careers planned.

When people express their concerns about my children’s socialization I know they are not considering dinner time conversation, working with a child on a big project or teaching them how to separate laundry and egg whites, a part of that process. I know that they don’t consider their volunteering at church or in the community, their participation in team sports or youth leadership groups beneficial to that process. These people haven’t noticed- I mean really noticed how well my children handle themselves in a group, how they are able to occupy themselves with their own interests or articulate their need for a bigger challenge. I know these concerned individuals have a limited definition of socialization and that it is my duty to help them develop a wider view.

When we left the private school they were in, we were unsocialized as a family. Those long separations from each other had helped to make them enemies. As a working couple, we had large amounts of money dedicated to before and after school care,tuition and transportation. We rushed through the week,spent Saturdays on the soccer field and Sundays were saved for church and of course the ever mythical fairy, Quality Time. We now realize that every waking moment we spend together involves some level of quality.

Historically the teenage years are full of difficulties. We are just entering that door and so far we still like each other. My sons still want to tell me everything, well almost everything and my preteen daughter still lets me play dolls with her. I have a gardening pal and walking partner in my seven year old girl. I like that my oldest son gets a kick out of telling his friends that he was with his family all weekend and he had a good time. I particularly like it when he tells them that he has a lot of years to be without us and so, it’s ok for him to be with us now.

Every time someone asks me if I am worried about my children’s socialization, I think back to the shooters in Pearl, Jonesboro and Springfield. Each of them was being socialized in the traditional method. Each spoke of the alienation that they felt in those traditional surroundings ,each demonstrated an extreme response to anger and there was evidence of desensitization to violence in the background of each child. I am saddened by these recent events and I am not homeschooling to shield my four darlings from the evils out there. In their private school settings they shared the anger of their friends who had been molested by the headmaster; they sat in class with children who regularly ran away from homes where there was neglect or abuse. Because of their access to so many modes of communication, any attempt by me to hide them at home immediately comes undone.

I realize there are not a multitude of African American homeschoolers in my neighborhood and many of my family members, who happen to be in the teaching profession, question my decision to teach my children at home. Many well meaning friends wonder when I will “give in” and send the kids back to a “normal” school setting. In return I ask, “What’s abnormal about my home?” ,“When did the world become all one color?”and finally ,”Have you even ever known me to stick with something that wasn’t working?” Here is where I feel the parents in this household have a lot of control and at the same time ,we can allow our children to be flexible about the when, how and where of learning. This is especially important for children being taught that they must be cautious about what they bring to the world.

Most people underestimate themselves in terms of the influence they have with their own children. They assume that it is in the best interest of the child to be away from home for a minimum of six hours from age five until age 18. They assume that once the child reaches age 18 that they are ready to take on the world . They assume that other adults will better know what to do for their children and that it is important for children to feel good about themselves even though they can’t read.or count. Many parents are realizing the dangers of their assumptions and preconceived notions about socialization when there is little that can be done to turn things around.

You’re not hearing from me that homeschooling is the answer to the world‘s problems. What you are hearing me say is reclaiming our children from any school system that isn’t working ,actively parenting them through those rough stages and giving them choices about learning can go a long way in their lives. You are hearing me say that resocialization of the family is needed to keep our children from becoming the angry shooters of the world. If you are really listening, you are hearing me say that I enjoy taking the time required to teach and be taught , that being connected to my children is compatible with life and that it’s not always easy but it is always worthwhile.

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media