Top 20 Snappy Comebacks for the Socialization Question

NOTE: Extreme sarcasm is present in these comments that have been gleaned from other homeschoolers, actually used ourselves, and/or are being held in reserve, awaiting the right moment. Our sincere thanks and admiration goes out to those intrepid souls whose remarks we have shamelessly borrowed.

So what do you do for socialization???

20. “Nothing. We just sit on the couch all day, staring at the wall.”

19. “I don’t believe in socialization.”

18. “With our large family, I usually say, ‘If you come down to breakfast in this house, you’re socializing!’”

17. “I’ve seen the village, and I don’t want it socializing my children!”

16. “Socialization? That is why I homeschool.”

15. “Socialization is the easy part. I just corner the kids in the bathroom every few days and steal their lunch money.”

14. “Oh, right, because (obviously) spending years with no one but her own family really hurt Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

13. “New studies show that, contrary to popular mythology… the average home-schooled child has no problem ‘socializing’ with other children… as long as he remembers to use smaller words and shorter sentences.” (From the Mallard Fillmore comic strip, 6/14/2005)

12. “The last thing I need is what you call socialization.”

11. “What you consider to be socialization is what Karl Marx endorsed as Communism.”

10. “We want our kids civilized, not socialized.”

9. “I’m not relying on the state to socialize my kids.”

8. “I prefer to have my kids learn to deal mostly with adults. The bullying you learn in middle school is only beneficial for bullying other middle schoolers.”

7. “What swear word do you think my kids don’t already know?”

6. “Are you worried about the quality of the education my children will get at home? Perhaps you should be more concerned about the type of education your children are getting in public school.”

5. “Well, I guess I can teach my kids how to swear, and my wife can make them wait in line for the bathroom.”

4. “You don’t go to school—how do you socialize?”

3. “You mean because we live in a cave, never go to a store, a restaurant, or a doctor’s office, never go to church, never visit friends or family, and basically avoid all contact with other human beings? How is it then that I’m talking to you?”

2. “Do you mean good socialization or bad socialization? Because it works both ways.”

1. “Do you mean, ‘Do I think my children are missing out on something by not being in public school?’ Yes, they are definitely missing out on some very important things. They are missing the explicit, X-rated vocabulary from the playground, bathrooms, school bus, and every other unsupervised moment; the sexual harassment in the lunchroom on hotdog day; and the physical, mental, and emotional abuse from the little extortionist in the next desk who used to beat my child for the correct answers whenever the teacher’s back was turned. My children do miss out on those things by not being in public school, and that is exactly why we are homeschooling!”

These responses can all be summed up by a conversation my son had with his driver’s education teacher, a high school track coach who had worked with both public-schooled and homeschooled students. The coach was concerned that homeschooled students were ahead in some areas and behind in others. Curious, my homeschooled son asked in which areas the homeschoolers were behind. “Socialization,” came the confident reply. Pressing still further, my son prompted the coach to explain exactly what the homeschoolers lacked. “My other students have been here for a long time, and they all know each other. When a homeschool student comes in for the first time, they don’t know anyone here.” My son’s emphatic response was, “When have you ever gone somewhere for the very first time and known anyone there? And how is that a lack of socialization?” He’s going to be a great homeschool Dad some day.

For more insight on the issue of Socialization, see these articles:
Socialization and Why You Don’t Need It (a.k.a. The Socialization Myth, Part 1)
The Socialization Myth, Part 2
The Myth of Age-Mates
The Socialization Code
Bullying

Top 10 Questions on Leaving Public School

These questions appear over and over in emails from parents who are considering homeschooling, regardless of the reasons. Here are the most frequent questions and our honest answers, in no specific order.

1.  How soon can I pull my child(ren) out? Now—if that’s what your gut is telling you to do. Tell the office you have a “family emergency” and take your child(ren) home. Then check Home School Legal Defense Association’s website (hslda.org) for your state’s legal requirements and get that in order. If you prefer to wait a few days, weeks, or months before removing your student(s), that’s your decision—but please understand that you can remove them immediately. After all, if you have a reason that prompts you to consider homeschooling as an option, then you do have enough reason to remove them immediately, and they will benefit more from being at home than they would benefit from a few more days to finish out a week, a month, or a semester.

2.  What curricula do I need? Start with nothing.
a) Begin by bonding with your child through shopping, movie-day, hanging out at the library, baking cookies, anything.
b) Explore an interest of your child’s through doing online research together, building a model, whatever. Follow every interesting bunny trail that comes along, because those paths are filled with great learning opportunities! (Someone decides which topics go into every textbook and how much each topic should cover—who says that your child’s bunny-trail interests are any less important or any less interconnected than the topics in a textbook? Bonus: your student will learn more and retain more from his bunny trails than from a textbook.)
c) Start slowly by using Google, Pinterest, or the library for one or two subjects and build your class load from there.
d) Allow each of these steps to progress as slowly or as quickly as needed. Your instincts will tell you when your student is ready to move on.

3.  Can I remove just one of my children from public school? You could, but what’s the point?
a) Teaching more than one child is actually less work than shuttling several students back and forth all day to various activities in multiple locations.
b) Sibling bonding is just as valuable as parent-child bonding (see #2a-b above).
c) Do your other children deserve the same learning opportunities and freedoms as the one you want to bring home?

4.  How do I teach several children at the same time? Any who can already read—can read.
a) Let older kids start the day with their favorite subjects that require the least help from you, allowing you to get a younger one started.
b) Kids don’t all have to be doing schoolwork at the same time. One can play with the toddler while another does math, then switch. For a time, my daughter got up early and did all her schoolwork from 6-10 in the morning, then worked on other projects throughout the day.
c) Let them assist each other when necessary, because Mom is not the only one capable of answering questions.
d) Problem-solving skills are developed through solving problems! I told my kids that if they got stuck they should try to figure it out themselves first, then ask their sibling for help or come find me at whatever chore I was doing. They were always proud to tell me what they had figured out on their own, and I was happy to praise them for it! Other options include phoning Grandma or asking Google—there are many ways to solve a problem.

5. How do I get the house cleaned and the laundry done?
a) Whose standards are you following? Sparkling clean houses with nothing out of place are owned by families who are never home.
b) Home Economics is a class we teach here. We used breaks between subjects as a way to get the wiggles out and get a few chores done. My kids were happy to carry their clean laundry upstairs and put it away because it meant a break from schoolwork. Unloading the dishwasher meant they could listen to the kitchen radio for the duration of that task. Taking out the trash could be followed by a few minutes on a swing. Breaks can be shortened or extended to fit the chore desired. Chores teach kids skills, responsibility, and independence—plus they break up the rest of the day while bringing real-world benefits.

6. Is it too soon/too late to pull my kids out? No.
a) Homeschooling has many more benefits than could possibly be gained from leaving them in longer. We began homeschooling when the school couldn’t cope with our child’s medical condition, but once she was home we found some serious academic deficiencies and other problems that we hadn’t realized existed. Don’t assume everything is fine at school, just because your child hasn’t complained.
b) A student at home can learn much more than a student in school, being free to move on at will instead of waiting for the entire class. A child who is motivated to learn can make incredible progress at home, making up for lost time and surging ahead in his chosen field of interest.

7. I’m thinking of homeschooling because [fill in the reason of your choice]. Is that a good enough reason? Yes, but you’ll also come up with several more good reasons as soon as you get started (see #6a above). My list of reasons for wanting to homeschool grew longer with every year that we homeschooled.

8. Can I teach my ADD/ADHD/ODD/ETC student without special training? Professional credentials don’t outweigh parental instincts. Moms and dads know their child and their child’s needs better than any professional ever will. A more accurate acronym-label for your child may actually be MIISE (More Interested In Something Else). Treat* your child for MIISE until that proves ineffective. Another syndrome common in the institutional classroom is TETL (Too Eager To Learn)—a phenomenon that classroom teachers find surprisingly difficult to manage while keeping to a schedule. Help your child follow his interests and coach him in learning to research the various aspects. Don’t be afraid to follow bunny trails and let topics run together in rapid succession. Genius flows easily across multiple ideas, and it’s the simpler mind that must limit itself to only one thought at a time. Forty-five minutes to an hour of following bunny trails will produce more significant learning than an entire day of planned lessons.

9. But what about friends? If they are a true friend, you won’t lose them. Homeschooling can be a great opportunity to ditch the troublesome relationships that needed to disappear anyway. In general, friends and acquaintances come from a variety of aspects in life: siblings, neighbors, cousins, church, clubs, sports, music lessons, friends of friends, etc. Today’s social media phenomenon provides an avenue for maintaining close contact with friends regardless of distance or schedules.

10. We can’t do sports, music, or other extra-curricular activities at home. Are those just out of the picture for homeschooling? No. There are numerous possibilities for private lessons and group participation that don’t involve public school:

  • You Tube, Netflix, Google, online instruction and/or tutorials
  • Homeschool curriculum for the desired skill
  • Private tutor or coach, who could range from an advanced student to a professional teacher for the desired skill
  • Homeschool co-op group offering team sports, band, etc.
  • Church-based or community-sponsored sports & recreational activities
  • Dual-enrollment with public or private school for specific activities

HSLDA has discouraged families from trying to “keep one foot in both worlds” through dual-enrolling for specific classes or activities. And I agree. When we left the government school system, we were ready to break all ties and not look back. Then a community-wide sports activity became available that was run through the schools but didn’t require dual-enrollment, and my kids were interested in participating. I inquired about whether this was strictly a school-sponsored group (no, it was funded by participants) and if homeschooled members of the community could be involved (they supposed so), and we went to their first session of the year and signed up. It seemed to be going well for the first few practices and even through the first public performance, but things quickly went downhill after that. We weren’t notified of subsequent exhibitions, and the group’s leader made it increasingly difficult for my kids to participate, to the point where we eventually felt it was in our best interests to withdraw from that group and focus our efforts in more homeschool-friendly areas.

Throughout our homeschooling career, we knew other homeschooling families whose students participated with private schools, public schools, community groups, church groups, or homeschool co-op groups for a variety of extra-curricular experiences. The opportunities can be found or created to suit the needs, but the bigger questions is why is it necessary? Discuss this as a family to determine your motivation, whether for music, sports, drama, foreign languages, artistic endeavors, or whatever. Are your students just looking for a place to hang out with friends, or are they genuinely interested in learning the skill? Are Mom and Dad trying to live their own lives over again through their children, or is this something the student truly desires for himself?

Yes, Harvard has been known to award scholarships to distinguished harpists, but is winning a 1-year scholarship to an Ivy League college the only reason for dedicating a minimum of ten years of one’s childhood to an instrument (especially if the child lacks the passion to maintain this as a life-long activity)? The price of the instrument(s), the cost of years of weekly lessons, and the time investment for enough daily practice to become such an accomplished player as to merit a prestigious scholarship could all have been applied toward another area that the student enjoyed and appreciated more than being able to say “But it got me into Harvard.” Were all those years of music lessons merely the foot-in-the-door for a college education leading to a non-music-related career goal? Was the motivation just to give Mom and Dad the bragging rights of “Our kid’s going to Harvard”? Could the time, energy, and resources have been better directed toward the student’s desired career path? Could the same amount of money have been invested in such a way as to return an amount equal to or greater than the scholarship itself?

The freedom and flexibility provided by homeschooling can be used to the student’s advantage in numerous, subtle ways, resulting in a focused interest, rather than a schedule filled with diverse activities that yield more social involvement than academic advancement. I would rather see a student pursue his interests as vocational preparation than devote his time to activities that merely serve to fill his calendar with a variety of time-consuming distractions.

For more info, check out these links:

Leaving Public School
*How to Adapt Lessons to Fit Your Student’s Interests and Make Learning Come Alive
Teach Your Students to Teach Themselves
Knowing How to Find the Answer Is the Same as Knowing the Answer
People LIVE in This House
Using Your Household Staff
Family Is Spelled T-E-A-M

Consider this one as the answer for the unofficial Question #11:
Homeschooling an Only Child

Outdated Excuses for Why You Could Never Homeschool

The following article was written by Jennifer Morrison Leonhard, a light-hearted homeschool graduate who believes life is what you make it. What she usually makes it is funny!

“I’m not smart enough to homeschool my kids.” A typical answer from me is that you do not need to have the encyclopedia memorized, and you do not have to be a former valedictorian — you can simply learn right along with your kids. You start with colors and shapes and letters and from there you grow one day at a time. Lessons are usually fully explained in their textbooks, so you can read along and learn it all just ten seconds before your student does! It is now 2011, and I could argue that yo’ momma and her smartphone could homeschool your kids. (Bet you weren’t expecting a good momma joke, were you?) You do not have to buy a single book or even own a library card anymore. Like the popular commercial says “There’s an app for that” — whatever it is that you want to know or do. Science? My phone can take my pulse through the camera! Or try Google Sky Map to learn the stars. Music? I have a drum kit on my touch phone, and I’ve never had so much fun with an instrument! Not to mention that Pandora allows me to experience a wide variety of music styles. Learning directions is no longer something you have to do with a laminated “placemat” map and crayon (yep, that’s how I learned when I was still in public school) — now you can use Google Maps on your phone. For teaching math there are applications to teach formulas, offer practice math problems, flash cards, and math games. You can get an application for reading ebooks, search random questions with your browser, and document your findings with a “notepad” application and your camera feature. My mom always told us that as long as we knew how and where to find information, there are very few situations in life that require you have everything memorized.

“I do not have the time to homeschool my kids.”
Yeah, you’re probably too busy telling them to stop texting, get off that computer, and put away that video game. Again, in an electronic age, if your biggest hurdle is getting them away from electronics, you can probably find ways to substitute actual learning into those same gadgets — gadgets that frequently fit into a pocket and go everywhere anyway. It really doesn’t require a lot of time to homeschool. Once you cut out standing in line for this and that, waiting for the other students to catch up, or waiting for everyone to be quiet, you can see that only a few hours of real learning time are necessary. Unschooling is currently popular, so if electronics aren’t something your family indulges in, you can simply learn from Life. You can’t exactly avoid Life, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned each day, with or without 21st century electronic assistance.

“I could not stand to spend that much time with my kids.” Fine, send them to their rooms, and then Facebook friend-request them, and message their lessons to them. No face to face contact needed. They can chat with you when they need individual help, and message back or post photos and videos of their work. You, in turn, can post back their grades using the “Comment” feature, or for pass/fail there is a “Like” button included. The “Like” button would also give you feedback from their peers and other parents if you felt that you needed an outside opinion on a subject in which you are not an expert. Your children can also use the privacy features offered on Facebook to prevent certain friends and family from seeing their schooling, if that option is preferred. The Facebook photo albums are also a handy way to maintain homeschooling records if your state requires a portfolio for legal reasons. There it is: photographic documentation, all neatly packaged, and no fear of fire, flood, or other natural disaster wiping it all out, such as you would have had in the age of paper records only. And it all stores much more neatly, too. For added security, you can back up your files on flash-drives or with Carbonite.

“Socialization.” Did I mention electronic devices? Smartphones? Facebook? I think I did. Oh, and if you prefer actual human contact, go outside. There are still a few people left out there who aren’t busy on Facebook or their smartphones. There may also be some out there that are probably still on their smartphones and Facebook, so please drive defensively.

Second-Hand Attitudes

I refer to a “second-hand attitude” as a mind-set that is not a part of your core family philosophy. It is an attitude that is held by another party outside of your immediate family and that has been subconsciously adopted by a member of your family who does not actually hold to those beliefs himself. It is not your attitude; it is someone else’s attitude, but you are wearing it. Second-hand attitudes can come from a wide variety of sources and show up in an equally wide variety of ways.

“When you put your hat on, the attitude just takes over, and you can’t stop it,” the older woman responded to a her adult daughter, who was concerned as to why her normally mild-mannered, very polite mother had suddenly become an obnoxiously loud, rude customer. The mother and her group of friends regularly don their unique wardrobe for social outings, but their uniform of choice has had a rather anti-social effect. Sales associates would often prefer to run and hide, rather than deal with these customers, and other shoppers can be seen giving them a wide berth, getting out of their way. This is not a scene from the Jim Carrey movie, The Mask, where an ancient tribal facemask holds mystical powers and transforms any wearer into an alter ego. This is real life. It causes me to wonder just how well the same argument of “I can’t help it” would have worked for the daughter, had she used that excuse when she was a misbehaving child. I am guessing it would not have worked well at all, so why does Mom think it is a valid excuse for herself now? The rudeness is simply a second-hand attitude that Mom picked up from her friends, but she is attributing it to an inanimate object from her closet.

My young daughter used to spend occasional nights at Grandma’s house, which were followed by extensive shopping excursions the next morning. They would make the rounds of dollar stores and half-price stores, prowling through the low-priced trinkets, and my daughter would usually come home lugging a bag of treasures that Grandma had purchased for her. The most serious item she brought home, however, was a change in attitude. Suddenly, in place of the kind, gentle, and helpful member of our family, there was a dramatic, selfish, commanding, and demanding Princess. Her every whim had been catered to and every desire had been fulfilled, to the point where she believed that she was entitled to that excessive amount of attention and expected that service to continue at home as well. Sorry. That ain’t happenin’ here. Grandma’s attempts at bonding resulting instead in a second-hand attitude.

During their high school years, my son and some other boys became good friends with a twenty-something single man at church. The young man felt he was mentoring the boys, but the results were so objectionable on our end that we had to curtail our son’s involvement in the relationship. He would come back from group activities with the guys wearing a very irresponsible attitude and stating that it should be acceptable for him to stay out until the wee hours of the morning just because his older friend was along, even though he himself was not yet even old enough to drive. Aside from the premature independence issues, “accidents” and “incidents” seemed to follow this group wherever they went, and the young “mentor” showed himself to be more of a ringleader in mischief than a role model for mature behavior. Again, sorry. That ain’t happenin’ here. Suffice it to say that a mid-teens boy should not take on the mind-set of a post-college man, and since the troublesome attitude enveloped someone too large for me to pick up and place in his bed for a nap, stronger measures were required. When he could not shake off the second-hand attitude, we removed him from the group.

In each of these cases, a second-hand attitude was inflicted by others, then adopted and brought home by an unwitting recipient. The infectious attitude was not previously held by the recipient, nor was it accepted by the recipient’s family, but there it was nonetheless. Second-hand attitudes do not have to stick. I usually had to explain in matter-of-fact terms exactly what I found undesirable about the attitudes that had come home with my children, but once they understood what to watch out for, they could more easily spot problematic attitudes in their friends. Their motivation for careful attitude analysis was the guarantee that the relationship would be terminated if the attitudes continued to come home. If the friendship itself was beneficial, it could be allowed to continue — but the poison attitude had to be eliminated.

A common childhood ploy is to say, “But Amanda’s Mom doesn’t care that she acts this way,” or “Joey talks like this all the time.” My response to that is, “Joey and Amanda should be very glad that they are not my children. If they were my children, they would not be allowed to act like that.” That reaction helped my children immeasurably to see that other families may have different values from ours, but it is our values that rule in our household. While it is rarely possible to discipline someone else’s child, I have gone so far as to look an offending child (who was not my offspring) straight in the eye and say with a firm smile and without flinching, “You are so lucky that I am not your mother.” My meaning was seldom lost; they nearly always stopped the unwanted behavior or dropped the selfish attitude and behaved in a more civilized manner. They already knew how far over the line of acceptability they were, but they needed a reminder that someone else was watching.

A positive viewpoint is a wonderful thing to bring home. An encouraging outlook cheers everyone. Conversely, an attitude that produces negative changes in behavior has a nasty effect on everyone who even comes near. I have learned the hard way that I cannot allow these unwanted attitudes to infect my family. I have no problem restricting associations that prove harmful to members of my family. I might decide to skip activities, stop arranging play dates, or just say, “If you continue to bring home _____’s attitude, you will no longer be allowed to go see him/her.” The friendships were not more important than the relationships within our family.

By homeschooling, our children’s friendships are naturally more limited than those of their public schooled counterparts. If my children were only going to have one or two good friends, I wanted those relationships to be worthwhile. Another mom I knew from a very remote area would travel any distance to allow her teen to interact with any other teens, even those of questionable character. I disagreed; I was willing to “go the distance” for a positive, worthwhile experience, but not just because a child demanded to go. Perhaps I have the mercenary tendencies of “what’s in it for me,” but I believe there should be some benefit to my child to make the relationship valid. My child may merely gain experience as a mentor or role model by befriending someone less outgoing than himself, but that in itself is a healthy, positive thing. Picking up harmful second-hand attitudes from those friendships is neither healthy nor positive.

Parents, you have permission to control who your children’s friends are. If your children are old enough or stubborn enough to react negatively to your decision to end their friendship with an unfavorable character, let me assure you that God is just as concerned for your child’s welfare as you are. I have seen many cases where parents prayed for a friendship to dissolve, leaving their child unaffected, and watched exactly that take place. Usually, the offending “friend” became disinterested in continuing the relationship and moved on. At other times, the child’s eyes were suddenly opened to how he was being misused in the relationship, and he broke it off himself.

It took a few tries, but my children finally learned that they could recognize the symptoms of an unwelcome attitude and take steps not to adopt it themselves. In the case of my small daughter going to Grandma’s house, I told her before she left that I expected her to behave the same way at home after visiting Grandma that she had behaved before she went to Grandma’s. She understood that I expected her to be just as helpful and kind when she returned, even though she had not had to lift a finger to help while she was away. There were several times after that that I would notice her begin to respond one way, then catch herself, and change her reaction. Sometimes, she would change a verbal response. At other times, it was just a look on her face that betrayed the presence of The Attitude, and then The Attitude disappeared, leaving her countenance clear and free. In my son’s situation, it was beneficial for the other boys to have him present as a positive role model, but even that relationship had to be ended when it did more harm to him than it did good for them. The welfare of our own family had to take priority.

I read once that the things other people do to us are like bags of garbage they leave on our doorstep. We cannot prevent them from dropping their trash here, but we do not have to bring it inside and spread it around on the furniture. A Second-hand Attitude is nothing more than someone else’s garbage that gets dropped on our doorstep. However, we can recognize it as their trash and refuse to put it on and wear it as our own. If your children bring home an undesirable attitude, help them to recognize it, eliminate it, and take steps to avoid it in the future. If the attitude continues to prevail, do not be reluctant to break off the relationship that generated the attitude change. Second-hand attitudes are infectious, and the welfare of your family must take priority.

The Socialization Code

Over the years, I have fielded many questions on socialization from people who do not understand the choice to homeschool. The Questioners have ranged from total strangers to close friends to family members, but their questions have all fallen into a few distinct, but implied, meanings. Each time, the basic question of “What about socialization?” — no matter how it had been worded — seemed to have an underlying, coded meaning.

Coded Meaning #1 — “How will your child learn to deal with bullies?” A homeschooled child learns to see bullying for exactly what it is: unacceptable behavior. Homeschooled students do not grow up in the constant shadow of bullies, and do not become accustomed to kowtowing to them. Homeschoolers who have never been forced to surrender their lunch money or their seat on the school bus or their place in line recognize that no one else has a right to take these things away from them. When confronted with one, they instinctively stand up to the bully, call his bluff, and end the cycle right there. My homeschool students had grown up talking comfortably with adults, so they were also not shy about speaking to the adults in authority to report bullying and other unacceptable behaviors.

How to reply to this question:
“If you are asking if I am trying to isolate my child from bullies, I am actually teaching him how to stand up to them, instead of just sacrificing him to them. Believe it or not, being bullied is not an essential part of life. As for a model for dealing with it, the patriots in the Revolutionary War stood up to some serious bullying, but then, they were homeschooled, too. ” (And don’t back down from the bully who is asking this question.)

Coded Meaning #2 — “How will your child learn to operate under proper social order?” This Questioner is probably also a bully, and his question “What about Socialization?” is really asking if your child will “learn to stay in his place” in the social order of this bully’s worldview. However, homeschooled students will learn that they each have unique, individual talents and abilities, and therefore they also learn to accept other people for their varied abilities and contributions to life. Public schools tend to categorize everyone by an impenetrable “caste system” of Jocks, Nerds, Geeks, Rich Kids, Cool Kids, Slow Learners, etc. Public school graduates continue to categorize people into these groups for the rest of their lives. Once a Jock, always a Jock; once a Geek, always a Geek– just ask Bill Gates.

How to reply to this question:
“Our everyday experiences of schoolwork, shopping, and church functions put us in contact with a wide variety of people. Through those experiences, I am teaching my students that I value them for their individual achievements, and they are learning to value others for their individual achievements. The important thing to recognize in life is that everyone excels at something. ”

Coded Meaning #3 — “Will your child be able to go to Prom?” Yet another coded question, which can have two more possible, coded meanings: A) “Won’t your children be heartbroken at missing the biggest social event of their lives?” or B) “Are you telling me that it is possible to avoid the inevitable sacrifice of my children to drunkenness, promiscuity, and excessive spending without turning them into social outcasts and misfits?”

For “Meaning A,” a young homeschooling mom asked my daughter if she had regretted not having a Prom, and my daughter explained how her group of homeschooling friends had organized a nice dinner at the home of one of the families. The group invited all of the high school students, and they wore modest, dressy (but not formal) attire. Boutonnieres and wrist corsages were provided by the parents, the house was appropriately decorated for the festivities, and the three-course meal was prepared and served to the teens by several of the mothers. After the banquet-style meal was over, the teens retired to the family room for ping-pong and table games. Regarding the specific event of a “Prom,” my daughter replied that she would have loved to have had the fancy dress, but did not mind skipping the heartache that is usually attached to frivolous relationships. (This questioning mom sighed and asked if my daughter was available for adoption.)

As for Prom being the “biggest social event” of one’s life, I disagree. While it may be construed as The Most Important Event during high school, that ranking is bestowed by shallow, selfish, immature people who have little idea what Life actually entails. The brief period that was my high school social life has ranked fairly low in importance when compared with the rest of my life.

For “Meaning B,” there are parents who view Prom as a rite of passage, no matter how decadent it has become, and encourage their teens to take part. Many teens also believe that they are entitled to participate in the ritual, often demanding that it include limousines, hotel rooms, and alcoholic beverages, despite the legal-age barrier. (If you still think of Prom as an innocent part of the high school experience, ask the local obstetrics unit how busy they become nine months after each Prom.) Many of the parents who do recognize the debauchery frequently associated with today’s Proms are ultimately afraid of a negative reaction from their teenage children, fearing rebellion and rejection by their children if they, as parents, refuse to allow their teens to attend. However, this Questioner probably spent less for her first car than prom dates can cost today, so she may really be interested in finding an escape from the frivolous financial excess.

How to reply to this question:
This Questioner (most often female) may have no clue to the actual non-importance of Prom in the scope of Real Life. If you attempt to tell her that Prom is no big deal, she will only hear that you are dooming your child to life as a hermit. Therefore, if your students are much too young to be concerned about Prom yet, tell the Questioner that you “will deal with that when the time comes.” If that still does not pacify the Questioner, try telling her that your students “could always be invited to Prom by public school friends.” (Receiving an invitation doesn’t mean they have to go.) Assure this Questioner that there are many wonderful, acceptable alternatives to Prom being hosted by homeschool groups today that provide wholesome, safe activities for the students who choose to participate.

Coded Meaning #4 — “Will your child get to experience ‘all the fun I had’ in high school?” This question is usually from a grandmother or older friend or relative who has no idea what public high schools have become. This Questioner remembers one important dance for all of high school: one sweetly romantic event for which she made herself a special dress and carried a nosegay of flowers from her date’s mother’s garden — an evening which climaxed in a few moments of good-night hand-holding on her front porch swing at 10pm (while her father supervised from behind the window curtains). Most kids did not own cars in high school or in college either, when the Questioner was busy having all that fun. No one could spend hour after hour watching cable television stations devoted solely to the pornography of vulgar music videos, and a Saturday night “date” meant seeing a (G-rated) movie with a group of friends, walking en masse to the ice cream parlor for a sundae, then scattering back home before 10:00 pm so they could all get up for church the next morning.

How to reply to this question:
When this Questioner asks you about socialization, she merely wants to know that your child will not be locked away and forced to do endless lessons without ever glimpsing the light of day. Assure the Questioner that your homeschool “will include plenty of interaction with other students” — that is all she really wants to know.

There are many other superfluous questions that frequently accompany the “What about socialization?” question. We have been asked questions like these in rapid-fire succession without giving us time to form an answer, but then again, many of them did not deserve answers. “How will your children learn to stand in line?” “How will your children learn to raise their hands to ask a question?” “Are you Amish?” “Isn’t it child abuse to keep your children away from other people?” “Will your children even talk? How will they learn to talk with other people when they grow up?” And my all-time, personal favorite: “How will your daughter ever find anyone to date?”

If and when you are faced with questions regarding the socialization of your homeschooled students, take a few seconds to evaluate the person who is asking the question. You may even want to ask him to clarify it and explain exactly what he is concerned about. If the person is truly worried about the well-being of your students, assure them that you are taking all the necessary precautions to provide your students with a well-rounded education, including social interaction with acceptable peers. If, however, the Questioner seems to be rudely accusing that all homeschoolers should be held in suspicion, try answering his question with one of your own: “I notice you don’t go to school either. What do you do for socialization?”

[For more on this topic, see the articles linked below.]
Socialization and Why You Don’t Need It (The Socialization Myth, Part 1)
The Socialization Myth, Part 2
The Myth of Age-Mates

Stereotypes Proven (in reverse) at College Orientation

As our son is completing his Associate degree at our local community college, we are taking the needed steps to transfer his educational studies to a state university for the completion of his Bachelor degree. A part of this process meant spending one day recently at Orientation Day at The Big U. Transferring students were occupied in one building with academic counseling and advising, registering for fall classes, getting ID pictures taken, and sampling the student union’s food court. Parents were whisked away to another building on the large campus and submitted to a bevy of speakers from the faculty and staff. (Our lunch will not be mentioned, except to admit that I snobbishly opted to drink my ice water from a coffee cup, rather than the dirty glasses that were offered.)

Since this is our second child to advance through college, we were already somewhat familiar with the routine. However, I did find quite a few differences from the small, private colleges our daughter attended. It seems that the stereotypes we have all heard attributed to homeschooling are true — in some respects. The stereotypes addressed were all things that have been actual problems at The University: the ultra-shy student who has no clue how to talk to people or make friends, the student who cannot get himself up in the morning and off to class on time, the student who is confused by the class material and cannot or will not ask questions of the professor, the student who has never taken notes in class, never studied for a test, never written a paper, never experienced “real” school. However, these stereotypes were not pointed at homeschooled students but at the public school students!

At first, I felt offended that these staff members would dare to assume that my student fell into any of these categories. As the question-and-answer sessions continued, I began to realize that most of the parents in the room had such children. The full scope of this was mind-boggling to me. These administrators are used to seeing students of this type. They expected only slightly better from our group of transfers students who have attended some college classes already, but since our students have only been to community college, they still do not really know what real college work is like. (Read with patronizing tone of voice, smirk, and head-bobbing wink.) Never mind the fact that our son has managed to survive classes from big-fish-in-a-small-pond professor-wannabe teachers who maniacally assigned graduate-level work to their freshmen and sophomores to “get you used to it.”

Two moms at our table nodded along with the speaker, agreeing that yes, in fact, their sons were painfully shy waifs who would never speak to a stranger or attempt in any way to establish a friendship with someone who was not already a lifelong acquaintance. Your child must be like that, too, they mistakenly presumed of us. As though perfectly timed and rehearsed, my husband and I laughed and responded in unison, “No. He’s not like that at all.” I continued, “If you see a crowd of people and hear a burst of laughter, our son will be at the center of it.” When we met up with our son later, he had indeed made several new friends in his field of study, shot a few games of pool with them over the lunch break, and signed up for a class with at least one of them. (Should I be feeling sorry for the poor public schooled introverts upon whom we are inflicting this homeschooled wonder?)

Among other important topics (such as meningitis can be spread through sharing a Chapstick), we were also informed of what must be a relatively new phenomenon in the world of higher education: Sudden Onset Reading Disability. I am not making this up. The woman stood at the front of the room and reported this with a straight face. Students are coming to the university who have gone all the way through high school, perhaps some community college, and then they suddenly develop an inability to read properly. I had to hold myself down in my chair to avoid jumping up and ripping the microphone away from her, proclaiming the freedom parents have to teach reading through phonics in homeschooling. Those kids never knew how to read! I wanted to scream. They were just passed through the system because identifying the problem would mean admitting the system’s failures!!! Through tremendous exertion of self-control and wrapping my legs around the chair’s legs, I managed to restrain myself in relative silence and not start a riot, because, after all, this particular university is known nation-wide for producing new public school teachers. (Am I allowed to pray to keep the computer-science-major boy far away from the education-major girls?)

Parents, if you are homeschooling your children now, be encouraged that you are doing the right thing. Explore all facets of learning and help your students develop a thirst for knowledge that will last a lifetime and the skills to satisfy that thirst on their own. Expand your home education to include more than just textbooks, more than just worksheets, more than just the four walls of your home. I am seeing more evidence every day that homeschooling truly provides the best opportunities for an excellent education and results in well-rounded students who know how to tackle the problems life presents. To any parents who are not currently homeschooling, but are beginning to consider it more seriously, it is my strongly held belief that you can do nothing better for your children than to teach them yourselves at home — and the latest crop of college entrants seems to prove it.

Homeschooling an Only Child

Two questions are asked with surprisingly equal frequency: “How can I teach more than one child at a time?” and “How can I homeschool my only child?” It is true that the only-child presents his own unique situation to homeschooling. While it may be simpler to prepare and execute lessons for only one student, there are also many educational scenarios in which only one student presents a distinct disadvantage. (A similar set of circumstances arises from siblings who are five or more years apart in age — while they may share the same home setting, they are often too far apart academically to share lessons or educational activities, theoretically producing an only-child-with-siblings.)

The primary concern of most parents homeschooling an only-child is that he will not acquire the social skills gained from interacting with peers his own age. While that may be true during his time spent on lessons, it certainly does not have to be the case for the remainder of his time. Opportunities abound for recreational sports, scouting groups, and church events with age-mates, even if there is no homeschool support group available for cooperative classes or field trips.

I spoke recently with a homeschool mom who undertook the challenge to organize a specific homeschool group activity that she wanted her child to participate in. The event had not been held previously in her area, but she felt strongly enough about it to leave her comfort zone and coordinate the project herself. The event was progressing with great success when I met with her, and she was bubbling over with enthusiasm for the cooperative effort. Perhaps having only one child is your opportunity to step up in organizing an activity you feel strongly about with other families. This does not destine you to putting together all the events for your area or that you need to coordinate your entire life with other families, but planning an occasional event may be appreciated by the mothers who have less time to plan than you do. (Every homeschooling family has something to offer the others in their area, and we can all benefit from sharing our meager “talents.”)

The only-child has the advantage of being able to monopolize Mom’s attention without difficulty, since there are no other students with whom he has to share her time. This can lead to the single student failing to learn how to teach himself — Mom is always available, so there is no need to learn to study by himself. The other extreme is also quite possible: the highly motivated single student can become so independent that he feels no need for interaction with anyone. “All things in moderation” applies to homeschooling just as well as to many other areas of life: strive for a balance of one-on-one tutoring in your student’s difficult subjects and allowing him to work independently in the areas where he does not struggle.

After my daughter had graduated from homeschooling and entered college fulltime, I found myself in an only-child scenario with my son. Suddenly he had no one else for companionship or competition, and I was expected to fill the bill. Math became our area for working together, and he did most of his other subjects on his own with only occasional direction from me. He lacked speed and drive in completing his math assignments at that point in time, and using me for a “classmate” helped to spur him on. This was a higher level of math than I was familiar with, so I studied the lesson and copied the problems into my own notebook, then handed the textbook over for him to study the lesson and begin solving the problems as we worked together at the dining room table. He enjoyed stumping Mom whenever he could, so he would push himself to work faster and try to get beyond my progress. Some days he would get started on the lesson before I did, prompting me to play catch-up. Fortunately, math is my strong suit, and he could seldom complete a round of problems before I did. Devoting my time to learning pre-calculus at this stage of life was a sacrifice that I felt was more important than getting my housework out of the way. The laundry could sit for one more hour — my attention was required elsewhere.

Homeschooling the only-child offers nearly limitless discussion possibilities, spontaneous field trip opportunities, and situations for following fascinating educational bunny-trails. The only-child’s teacher must stand in many times as a classmate, lab partner, or peer companion, but those situations do provide practice in the interpersonal interaction required for group dynamics later. Whenever circumstances allow, take advantage of contact with others — whether playmates, teammates, or the casual contacts of fellow shoppers. Engage your child in safe conversations with your casual acquaintances while shopping to reduce his apprehension of speaking in public. Some families have found situations for involving their children in serving others, such as visiting elderly friends in a nursing home or doing simple yardwork chores for elderly neighbors. The only-child who will be uncomfortable in group situations is the one who has not interacted with anyone face-to-face, but has been allowed to disappear into his room interfacing only with video games.

When I was a little girl, my neighbor’s granddaughter would come to visit for a week in the summertime. This girl was the only child of older-than-the-norm, highly educated parents, and although she was several years younger than I, her knowledge and perspective were far beyond mine. Since I was the only available playmate in the neighborhood, I was asked to go “entertain” her. We played together many times, but I always felt like she was the one entertaining me. She lived in a world of intellectual adults and discussed topics from their points of view. I was brought into the picture to ensure that she got a few opportunities to be a child.

With your only-child, try to balance their interests between childhood and adulthood — include many age-appropriate activities along with the intellectual pursuits that may be advanced beyond the student’s chronological age. We unconsciously often expect a child to adapt to our adult way of thinking and acting, when we could more easily adapt ourselves to the child’s level. I cannot think of a single adult I know who would not benefit from a relaxed afternoon of kite-flying, taking a casual nature walk, reading aloud from Winnie the Pooh or Alice in Wonderland, or other equivalent pursuit in the company of a child. Stopping to smell the proverbial roses brings many more delights than appear on the surface level.

Teaching only one child may require more attention to hands-on, and sometimes hands-off, learning as you work at balancing tutoring with independent study. Teaching only one child allows you to drop the schedule on a whim to pursue a deeper interest. Teaching only one child requires you to offer suitable occasions for integrating your student with others, whether in play, in shopping, or in service opportunities. Although there are challenges to overcome with only one student, teaching only one child offers you an even closer relationship with your child, by being his classmate and confidante as well as being his parent and teacher.