The S word....
Socialization, that is...
It's funny, that this is the first thing people mention when they find out we homeschool.
It's funny, that they actually think formalized, institutionalized school actually sets up any sort of healthy or happy socialization model. (Sit down, be quiet, do your work, if you want to share a thought with a friend either wait to cram it into your fifteen minute recess or five minute class break, or risk trouble and possible humiliation by passing a note. Even if you are done with your current assigned task. Limit your friends to those in the same age range as yourself. Oh, and people who are older than you? They are there to boss you around, not to be friends!)
It's funny, that I've never heard this concern voiced from people who actually know my kids, and have, um, socialized with them.
What's not so funny is that I am having a hard time explaining patiently, calmly, and non-defensively that we actually view the socialization experiences our children are able to have as coming down solidly on the "pros" side of homeschooling. (Interacting with different ages, building strong family and sibling ties, living day-to-day life out and about in the 'real world,' What's not to love?)
I know that a lot of people simply don't "get" homeschooling - institutionalized schooling is simply too entrenched in our culture. I like talking to people about it, especially those who are asking from an open and honest sense of curiosity. (And I will admit here to hoping that maybe by talking to a "real, live homeschooler" it may inspire them to at least view homeschooling as an option if they have or ever plan to have kids.) But I grow weary of people asking "but how do they make friends?" or even worse, telling me to make sure they are provided with "socialization opportunities." Because, you know, I obviously have no social skills whatsoever. And since I'm their parent, I can't possibly be trusted to help my children become healthy and happy.
I always joke that we grew tired of the socialization question 2.3 seconds after we made the decision to homeschool. And I try to be patient when people ask, I really do. I like to be asked why we homeschool, I don't mind it when people ask what we do all day. (That's actually sort of a fun question, although it varies so greatly from day to day that there's not a canned answer) But right now I'm sort of feeling like if I hear the S word one more time, I am going to scream. I suppose it's frustrating, but writing this post, I've also had a wee little epiphany. I also find it mildly insulting. As if I need to be reminded that one of the joys in this life is relating to and making friends with other people. As if I would deny my children that joy.
We don't interact with people simply because they are our own age. We don't interact with other people because the luck of the draw put us into a room with these thirty other people. We don't spend time with bullies out of some sort of bizzare "toughening up" ritual society feels we must go through.
We live this way, because for us it is a joyful way of life. I model treating other people with courtesy and respect because life is much more pleasant for everyone involved that way. We relate to other people because they enrich our lives, and we enjoy spending time with them. And because we enjoy spending time with them, we work through any differences that may come up.