Every once in a while that old question about socialization comes up: How will your kids learn how to get along with others if they don’t go to school?
Because we all know that siblings come from the womb full of love and eternal patience for one another. They never argue. Never glare at one another. Never annoy each other in any way. We’re all just one happy family who are never challenged by each other.
I think when most people talk about socialization, they are referring to the 1st definition.
Learning how to get along with other people is a part of being human. It’s a part of learning to be a productive member of society, allowing us to work, live, play, and have a fulfilling life.
Now, when I was in school, I did have to learn how to deal with other people. Sometimes it was a matter of self-preservation. It would have been impossible to avoid the society of others in a building with hundreds of other people.
But my children are also continually learning how to get along with other people.
It happens when the 14-year-old decides to avert his eyes while the 5-year-old attacks her PB&J in her preferred manner (from the top-down and inside-out) instead of sneering at her.
It happens when she decides to eat it the way that’s been modeled for her by her family.
It happens when the 10-year-old gently directs her younger siblings to knock on the door before bursting into her room when she’s changing, instead of screaming bloody murder.
It happens when the next time they actually do knock on the door.
Kids who live together, play together, and learn together also have daily practice in:
- respecting the differences of others
- respecting the privacy and personal space of others
- conflict resolution
- the consequences of conflict escalation (ahem)
- repentance and asking for forgiveness.
I’m not saying that children who attend school don’t have the same opportunities, as they surely do.
But the stakes are higher at home.
Your family is a part of you. Those knuckleheads at the local school may have a lasting impact on your child’s development, but I’ll tell you something—I’m in contact with exactly one person I went to elementary school with and a couple of people I knew in high school and college (and only in the form of occasional FB comments). I can choose not to deal with those people if I want.
But family relationships that don’t work out can leave a gaping wound in a person. It may seem like you can get away right now, but eventually you may want to come back.
Family life is hard.
Extending grace to those who haven’t caught up to you developmentally stretches you. In a way, homeschooled kids can be naive if they haven’t had to deal with some of the social ugliness that can happen at school…but in other ways, they can be more mature in their ability to accept other kids of different ages.
I won’t lie to you—sometimes they don’t get along at home.
It’s been a bit hairy at our house lately with the teenaged hormones flying around. The heat and other stressors also come into play. But in the real world, people sometimes have difficulty getting along. This is another opportunity to learn. As difficult as it is to see my kids fighting with each other, I know that we’re on the right track whenever I see them interacting with other people.
The other night we visited with some friends. Six kids altogether and only four adults. Yes, we were outnumbered.
But all the kids (ages 5 to 14) played together without incident for over 2 hours while the adults hung out and talked. This wasn’t a case of the bigs watching the littles, but people being actively engaged with one another and enjoying one another’s company. The only tiff happened at the very end when everyone was tired and we were getting ready to leave (and it was between two of my kids).
I see daily evidence of my children finding their place in the world.
I see it when they interact with other kids at the pool or park.
When they talk to the lady at the post office.
When they ask the librarian for help locating a book.
I see it when my oldest child leads his fellow Boy Scouts.
My kids are growing up in a safe home environment, not sheltered from dealing with the rest of the world, but supported in their growth.
How do you respond to questions about socialization?