Saturday, July 18, 2009

Well-socialized

The other day I learned that a homeschooling acquaintance of mine is hanging up her homeschool-mom jumper - in the fall all of her kids will be in public school. Her family's usual educational plan had been to send the kids when they reached middle school, but the last child is going in at 4th grade.

(Let me just be clear before going on: I don't have a beef with parents who quit homeschooling and send their kids to school, public or private. I assume parents who do so have carefully considered their options and made a decision based on what's best for the family. Educational choice is what's important.)

This bothers me a little, though it's none of my business. I don't know their reasons, and it's not up to me to ask. It bothers me because I worry about their youngest daughter. She has a few problems that aren't likely to be solved by going to public school: she is rude to adults, sneaky with other kids, participates in juvenile behavior (throwing unwanted food behind a door in a classroom and defying another child who suggests she pick it up is just one recent example). I was told by one of my kids recently that this girl, when challenged, says something like "this is just my personality." She seems to be the unsocialized homeschooler that people fret about.

As far as I know, she has no issues such as Asperger's Syndrome or other. She is pretty much what we used to call a brat. But I don't think it is necessarily malicious; she just seems never to have been taught.

...

Last night my family got together with some neighbors: a family and two widows who live on our street. One of the widows is a particular favorite of my girl; they have long chats about cookies and crafts and all sorts of other things. Watching my girl talk to her, and play with the little girl of the house (who is too young to be much fun), my mind wandered and I thought about her interactions with adults, her poise in social situations. I realized that I get a lot of compliments on her demeanor. At church she is always ready to help with simple tasks (much more so than at home, but then we are talking about social behavior here). She tries to help little kids get their food at the snack table, and will clean up after someone else when needed.

In other words, she is well-socialized.

Now I am not taking credit for this so don't call me a braggart. My girl has more poise in social situations than I ever had. Maybe even still. My mother was shy and awkward socially and so am I. I can fake it sometimes. But I'd rather not have to, mostly. (Most people don't notice that except for close friends, I rarely invite just one person or family over - always at least two. That way the burden of conversation does not fall on me.) Her natural poise came from Daddy's side of the family. Of course we taught her how to be a good guest and how to behave properly with others. We taught her to shake someone's hand when offered and how to look adults in the eye when speaking. Nature and nurture, working together, as always.

...

So how does one homeschooling child become well-socialized while another doesn't? Because it's not about the homeschooling. It's about personalities and parents helping to shape their child's. It's about the family. I never had to teach my kid not to hide muffins behind a classroom door rather than throw them out; apparently some people do. She may have a natural instinct for proper social behavior, but if it wasn't there, we would have taught her how to behave. (Notice I am not extolling my boy's natural instincts here.)

I hope this girl heading off to 4th grade is successful. I'm sorry she didn't get a good basic education in social behavior before she goes. I wish I didn't have a bad feeling that things will get worse for her before they get better.

2 comments:

SmallWorld at Home said...

That's an interesting question and one I've pondered quite a bit. We have a family in our group that has a couple of kids that are extremely socially...weird...and one who is just plain horrid. The dad is awesome and mom is great but pushy. The kids really are those "weird, unsocialized homeschoolers" that we hear so much about. Why are they like that? I have no idea but I hate that this one family becomes the stereotype for all of us!

DADvocate said...

I think it comes to the parents setting behavioral standards and enforcing them. One woman I know who homeschools sets virtually no limits and discipline is limited to "sweety, that's not nice" stuff. I avoid them when at all possible because her kids are horrid. One will be 18 in September, so this isn't something they will grow out of.

I suspect she is following a misguided "let them discover themselves and grow and flourish" philosophy along with trying to create the childhood she fantasized about having.

Another family I know that homeschools has great respectful kids. Just like almost everything, some are good and some are bad.