Pussyfooting Around

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As part of my husband’s job, I sometimes take the wives of the potential executives out and show them around the the town and help them to get comfortable with the surroundings.  Introvert that I am, this is NOT a comfortable thing for me, but I do it because it is helpful to my wonderful husband.

One thing that is really difficult for me is knowing enough about the schools in the area.  I have a generalized knowledge of the schools, but we have never moved to a new city and looked for a house in the “right” school district because we have never had our children in public school.

In certain crowds, the fact that we homeschool can be a huge obstacle for people.  I find myself in repeat conversations with other moms over things like socialization and academics the moment I divulge the fact that we homeschool.  Even my children have found themselves in conversations with adults over the lack of socialization for homeschoolers.  {Yeah, think about that one for a second or two…my children talking to an adult about socialization…hmmmm….}

But, I cannot pussyfoot around the issue.

God called me to homeschool my children and I can do nothing else.  My children are neither ill-socialized nor academically backward.  But truth be told, those things are not my goals.  I don’t fill pails, I light fires!

Yes, we live a life far outside the norm, but as Kevin Swanson says,

The Bible has no law against being weird.

 

How do you handle the socialization discussion?  Are you shining a light for Christ in your interactions with people who are defensive about your choice to homeschool?  Are you okay with being weird?

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33 thoughts on “Pussyfooting Around

  1. I wish I would come across a homeschooler so I could say “That is the coolest thing ever please tell me all about it!”

    • Maryam, you just won the hearts of many homeschooling moms with your comment. :) I hope you do get the opportunity to have that conversation someday.

  2. I’m totally OK with being weird! The Bible clearly says we are “aliens!” :)

    I think as our children get older their superior socialization skills tend to speak for themselves. However, some homeschooled children (just like some public school children) tend to be more shy, socially awkward, etc. In my family of ten, I have some who might be considered “socially awkward” and some who have never met a stranger and have an unexplained charisma that attracts people where ever we go and has even gotten us free food (even a free meal for 10 at the Olive Garden a number of years ago!)!! So, I think the overall impression of socialization can vary depending on the child.

    Also, we have allowed our three oldest sons to transfer into Christian school in their high school years, even though we originally planned for them to homeschook K-12 as our oldest daughters did. My oldest son transferred to christian school in 10th grade in late October, while the school year was underway. He was a child who I considered shy and not very social. However, his first day in school, he *volunteered* to work a math problem on the board in Geometry class!!! He did other things that shocked me and in the spring ran for VP of the student body. I didn’t want to discourage him, but seriously doubted he could win. I didn’t even think he could give a speech in front of everyone! But, he went on to win VP and eventually become the president of the student body, among many other accomplishments!! I feel that he built an excellent foundation through homeschooling and had a basic self-confidence built during those formative years. He went on to excel in a traditional school environment, and just finished his junior year in college, and is doing very well academically, socially and spiritually.

    This is an example of the outstanding foundation that can be built through home education in a *loving and supportive* home.

    Hope this isn’t too long! :)
    blessings,
    Elizabeth

  3. I do have a response that tends to work. I explain that I have my kids in extracurricular activities (usually that is the part that makes people feel better about it) and that it is not only good but ideal because they don’t have to worry about socializing and academics in the same setting at the same time.

    Plus, our kids were in public school for the first few years so we have a point of comparison. They used to see each other for a few hours every evening and would fight like cats and dogs. Now (two preteen girls, mind you, and they share a room!) their arguments are less than half despite being together all day, every day. If you can get along with siblings under those circumstances, you can get along with anyone (at least that’s what the family-separated model of the traditional school would say.)

    Besides, the kids in traditional schools don’t get along with all the kids in their classes. Quite the contrary (anyone who has been to traditional schools or has read the news lately knows that there is a lot of pain caused by the “socialization” of school.) The kids form cliques and exclude kids they don’t like–usually because of appearances or other shallow reasons. So they really aren’t learning to get along with a variety of people, which is why it is supposed to be better to get socialized at school.

  4. Socialization is now an easy topic. When my children are with me in a public setting (errands, church, events, etc), I smile really big and say, “aren’t they doing just that right now?” I have had more people stop immediately, think, smile, and say, usually with a chuckle, “yeah, I guess they are”. It’s light hearted, no one is defensive, and it usually stops the questioning.

    What I am now learning to deal with is the special needs question. Both of my children have multiple special needs. People often say, “oh, yeah, I can see why you would choose to homeschool a child with (fill in the blank with whichever issue they are focusing on).” I am trying to figure out how to phrase my response to this since my husband and I felt lead to HS before we were even pregnant with our first, we homeschool because we feel it’s the best choice for education, and it’s what God has told us to do as a family.

  5. I think Leah makes an excellent point about the “extra curricular activities.” Does socialization really have to take 6+ hours a day, 5 times a week? Or does the fact that my kids are in scouts, go to church and attend a home school group weekly count? Well quite frankly it shouldn’t be anyone’s business, but they all seem to think it is. Also I like the common rebuttal of how public school is the only time in your life where you are forced to be with people within one year of your age all day. The rest of your life you are in a mixed group of adults and for many even children. That is the norm. Not this small 12 years of your whole life. Even college can be rather diverse these days. “Forced association is not socialization.” Great topic!

  6. Funny, we don’t get homeschool comments very often. Most often someone will tell me about so-and-so that they know who homeschools and how that person is now in college, or something like that. I think in the area where I am, they see my family of five children and assume I am a religious person homeschooling for religious reasons (which is true) and that is somewhat normal around here. There is a strong Christian presence here and a strong distrust of government and with these combined factors, I think more people here are understanding of homeschooling.

    The thing I have a hard time with is that I feel like I’m a representative for homeschooling families (and large families and Catholic families) and so I get stressed when I feel like I or the kids don’t “make a good picture”.

  7. We are in a very unique situation because my husband is a public school teacher :^) Imagine the discussions he has with his colleagues!

    We rarely have to make an account for ourselves to people, but when we do we are fairly matter-of-fact about it. It sounds something like this: We homeschool our children because we feel it is the best educational option for our children and that education is our responsibility, not that of the state. We more than meet the criteria for our state. Our children have friends, go to church, are involved in social activities to an appropriate extent (ie: American Heritage Girls, sport, AWANA…).

    We try to portray this in a cheerful informative manner rather than taking defense…though the questions are sometimes a bit hostile. A kind answer turns away wrath :^)

    • AMEN! Being hostile as homeschoolers does nothing for our cause. We cannot be “in your face” about homeschooling. Be PRO, not ANTI. :)

  8. I personally think the socialization question is just ridiculous now, after having done a lot of thinking and having experience with my children. It baffles me why people who do not know anything about homeschooling think that is a valid argument.

    But, I understand it comes up. I laugh and say, “My children have many friends of all ages, including adults! They aren’t shy. Everyone they meet is their new friend.” And realistically, interacting with people at the zoo, the grocery store, playgroups, etc. is far more authentic than being stuck in a classroom with the same 30 kids day in and day out. That’s not realistic in the real world!

    I’m not looking at what’s “normal” for kids when I make decisions. I’m looking at what’s going to honestly prepare them to live God-centered lives in a fallen world. And for us that is homeschooling and it definitely meets their socialization, academic, and other needs.

  9. I am so feeling this one now. As the baseball season starts I find that the other moms distance themselves from me. They know we home school and we are labeled as weird. It has been this way since we started three years ago. The coaches love our kids as they say, they never have to worry about there being a issue with sportsmanship or respect for a coach.
    All 5 of our kids will walk up and talk to anyone. Socialization has never been a problem with them. Me (a public school grad) has much more problems socializing. I have given up trying to be friends, but not being friendly with these women. Most have 1 or 2 children, so my crowd makes them uncomfortable. One asked me once how I could keep my eye on them and the game. I said, it’s something you just get used to when you are blessed with so much. Her jaw dropped as she said “I am so glad I was only blessed with 2, mine are way more trouble then I can handle.” And her daughter was sitting right next to her. I felt so sad for her. Talk about not socializing well. How must it feel to be raised in a home that you are not wanted?
    Last year was not as bad as there was another homeschooling mom with 3. We made great friends, but this year they are not playing. At church we have no problems. We have proven that home schooling works. Those that do not home school can not believe what our children know. The kids can’t wait to greet people as they come and sever in anyway they can. My kids do tend to talk with adults more than children their own age, but once they get to know the kids more they warm right up to them. It makes our nursing home ministry to be a huge sucess as they all love to talk with the older people and the older people love them.
    Last night my husband did his challenge at the practice. He will give $100.00 to anyone that can tell him the 10 commandments in order. In 15 years of doing this he has never given away a dime (closest kid got 6/10 right). He talked with 6 teenage boys for about 15 minutes and gave them the gospel as well as tracts when he was done. Some of the parents do not appreciate this, but God tells us to go tell the lost and we must obey if we want his blessings. My husband does this several times a week, as well as handing out tracts and witnessing everywhere he goes. So we are well aware of what it is like to be called weird.
    If weird means being obedient to Christ then I am OK with being weird.

  10. WEIRD is my middle name! :D I take EVERY opportunity I can to tell someone about the benefits of homeschool! I know I always say this but thanks for this article. Definitely uplifting!

  11. Hi! Good point. We recently moved to New England (from VA) for ministry purposes. We also homeschool…..already have 3 strikes against us- from the south, Christians, homeschoolers. I have experienced the weird looks when I share that I homeschool. One mom at the playground upright asked me if I home schooled because my girls and I were wearing dresses and I was holding a knitting book! Confession though- a few weeks ago, we went to a different playground at a time when homeschoolers come and play. A mom sat down at my table and struck up a conversation. She was commenting on some of the kids and families there. I said, “yeah, most of these kids are home schooled” to see what her response was going to be before I threw myself in there with them…. surprisingly, she had an upbeat attitude and opinion of homeschoolers. Then, I admitted to being one myself! Thanks for the reminder!

  12. I am okay with being “weird!” More and more the Lord is “cleaning me up” in this area – I just want to live pleasing to Him, and if that means I’m weird, well…great!

    I used to be a middle and high school teacher, and my husband is a middle school teacher (and my dad is a retired teacher). So…you can imagine the looks on people’s faces when they ask about our 5 year-old twins starting kindergarten in the fall and which school they’ll go to and we tell them of our choice to homeschool! Awkward! Most people say, “Well, at least you’re both teachers,” and sometimes that ends the conversation.

    Often, though, we just explain that we have the strong conviction that this is what is right for our family because A) who knows our kids better than we do? and B) we want them to be able to learn at their own pace, explore their interests, and C) we’ve seen up close what goes on in school hallways and classrooms, and we don’t want THAT to be the socialization model our kids follow, nor do we feel that exposing our kids to the negative influences in a public school is healthy or necessary! We explain that our kids go to church, and that we try to give them real-world opportunities to interact with others (e.g., ordering their own food if we go out to eat, practicing hospitality) and build their confidence.

    I try to smile and speak gently when explaining this because, well, I’m just starting on this homeschool journey, my kids are only 5, 5, and 2, and I don’t have all the answers. But I know the One who does. ;-)

  13. I don’t normally comment online, much less twice on the same topic but Teresa made a good point about being a public school grad. I am a shy person and I think the “socialization” I received in public school is a big reason why. I was one of the “smart” kids (a.k.a., nerdy) so most of the other kids wouldn’t or couldn’t relate to me. I struggled with self-esteem and eating disorders and a lot of it stems from the experiences I had at school. Plus, what better way to build our kids up than to say that not only do we love them (almost all mothers do after all, regardless of schooling choices) but that we really like them and like being around them enough to keep them home.

    • Yep. The “socialization” I got as a public school 6th grader would today be defined as bullying. It affected the next 6 years of schooling (private school) and still affects me today. My kids have never had to deal with that and can assume everyone will be a friend until they prove otherwise….

    • I agree! My children don’t struggle with self esteem issues because they were never torn down in the first place. Besides, I want them to be servants and not constantly be thinking about themselves. ;)

  14. Okay, just one more, I promise. People say that public-school teaches kids how to cope in social situations, particularly those that are negative, to “toughen them up.” What I have noticed is that it toughens kids up in the same way that crashing into a brick wall toughens up your car’s bumper! We wonder why we have such a calloused world but we don’t allow kids a time to be soft before they have to “toughen up.”

  15. When I was in high school, my mother homeschooled me through the county’s resource center, and I met with a teacher once a month to make sure I was meeting graduation credit requirements.

    This teacher was an incredible advocate for homeschooling. When people asked about the socialization issue (which frequently comes up with parents who are considering taking the plunge), he would point out that the vast majority of the public school day is spent in the classroom. Since that is the case, socialization is not a major part of the classroom environment. If socialization is something better done in the classroom than at home, and the classroom is not intended as a social venue, then the socialization people ask about consists of stuff like passing notes, interrupting the teacher, and other negative behaviors. The home, on the other hand, IS a social environment.

    Personally, when people ask me about stuff like that, I say that my children have many opportunities for social interaction and learning, that we have to be picky about our children’s relationships for religious reasons, and that socialization is not our highest priority anyway.

  16. My little one is only 2, but we get bugged about Sunday school! We don’t feel she should go be taught by another person! It’s really that simple..not to mention the Bible said for women to be Silent in church..but anyhow We always get the “well you are going to have to let her go sometime”, or “She needs to socialize with other kids and play” or “She couldn’t possibly be still in Church and get anything out of it..” WRONG! She LOVES playing with other kids! We will let her go when she’s ready to get married LOL she’s two right now so I think we’re ok :) And she very much get’s something out of church she get’s to see how other people praise and love Jesus! I really think it’s people’s insecurities that make them want to pick at everything you do, because that is not the way they did it, and feel akward about it. I don’t care that we are weird I like :) As long as we are living and loving Jesus that is all that matters!

    • I had the same comments given to me when my daughter was your daughter’s age. I finally started a Moms & Tots Sunday School class so it wouldn’t be such an issue. ;)

    • I think you are “spot on”– many moms feel condemned by people choosing a different path, because it grinds a bit at their own uncertainties.

      I often feel that those initially most critical of our choice to homeschool seem to “come around” when I am consistently cheerful and positive about our decision. It is very hard to argue with someone who is joyful and confident!

      I did encourage my own mother that she should feel no need to defend my homeschooling to her (grown women!) friends who were critical of home education. She’s a gentle spirit and was a bit off-put by the rather blunt criticisms. She actually tells them, “My daughter is happy and the kids are doing beautifully. And, my daughter tells me there is no need for me to defend this decision.” (Wow!)

      I also try to be very “cheerfully broad” in my responses. For example, if someone asks, “How do you know what to teach them at each grade level?”, I simply say, “Well, we start at the beginning and go from there!” :) You know that I want to say: “What, you didn’t get the manual?” (Ha!) The long answer would be much too ridiculous for anyone not intimately involved with our family/ homeschooling.

      And regarding 2 year olds and Sunday School. Oh mercy. I once had someone suggest “You know, it is fine to allow other people to love your child.” (Good.Ness.) I’m always a bit flummoxed that we applaud mothers who leave screaming, inconsolable toddlers in the church nursery to be “discipled” (hoot!) and “managed,” while mothers who choose to just keep their tikes nearby are labeled overprotective/unwilling to be loved.

  17. This is the question that bothers me the most. I want to put on a nasty face and say something sassy like that we lock our children in the closet or something. But I digress.

    Seriously, though….I just tell people that I am more concerned that my children are capable of interacting socially with people of all ages, not only groups of children their own age. Anyone who meets my son comments on his friendliness and respectfulness, so I’m a littel surprised at how many ask this question. I guess I thought people these days were more educated about homeschooling in general.

  18. I had to answer this question this very morning and I was pondering if I answered it well enough all day! Several ladies were walking by as we were telling my dear MIL goodbye and they noticed we are having to our house refinished (Had a flood in our kitchen but that’s another story :) ) and they asked about my son who was with me. We had evidently talked before as they remembered we also send our two older children to our local Christian school ( who we homeschool under) .. well, they asked the question of me, “don’t you like our local public school?” I said, graciously”,we tried them but we love to homeschool :)”

    They asked my son,”don’t you miss the other children?” He replied nicely, with. “Not really” This is after they noticed he plays football for the local rec dept :) They were friendly and I excused us as we really did need to get to business :)

    why must we feel the need to answer anyways? Are we illegal? It was the first time I didn’t feel guilty. And I’ve homeschooled for almost 10 years in some form :) I no longer fear if someone sees my child outside of my home say in our garden or working on a project in the back yard.. I must be a gracious, witness of the good things of homeschooling. I feel proud our children are well behaved, good neighbors, gracious and loving. I am now going to be ‘ok’ with how I answered..

    hugs!

  19. I am going to homeschool my son and am very scared, anxious and lots of other feelings. My family is not supportive at all with homeschooling. They think it is wierd and keep telling me he will miss the other kids. My son is in 4th grade and has had a horrible year. We finally took him to our DR. and he was diagnosed with “academic depresion”. DR. thougth we should put him on depression meds. My husband and I said No WAY!. But our DR, thought homeschooling would be wonderful. So I am gathering info and jumping in. I know I will feel totally lost. But I am determined to not let their opinions get to me and am not even discussing it with family members, I just praise God that my husband is encouraging me in this. Thank you Amy I have learned so much!!!

  20. Funny! I’ve been in the hospital the last couple of days following the birth of our fourth child and third son, and have had many conversations with the nursing staff about homeschooling. They have been much more interested in the mechanics of it (how will/do you do this with four small children (our eldest is 5)) and the opportunities to follow the children’s interests and callings than they have been with questions of socialization.

    It probably helps that often in an introductory conversation about homeschooling I will mention that I am one of the first generation of homeschooled students in my state…K

  21. Haha, this is very funny to me, because as a mom who is just BEGINNING the homeschool adventure, I have ALREADY had this conversation numerous times! Seriously, my oldest will be 4 next month, and I am expecting #2 next month as well. People are ALREADY ALARMED that my oldest is not in preschool (outside of the preschooling I give her at home).
    When they bring up socialization, I usually say, “Well, when I look back on my years in public school, I don’t really think it was the most enriching experience of my life. When YOU think back to YOUR years in public school, how many of the people that you knew there would you describe as socially well-adjusted?”
    Then they usually begin to see it my way. :)

  22. The best response to the socialization question I have ever seen was on a different h/s blog: “I’ve seen the village, and I don’t want it raising my child!”

  23. The socialization argument against homeschooling is without a doubt the most ridiculous to me. How in the world did someone decide that spending 6-9 hours a day within your exact age/peer group with minimal adult interaction and/or supervision would create well socialized and mature youths? It’s just ludicrous to think that 12 year old surrounded by other 12 years olds all. day. long. are more socially adept than children that are within age-integrated family units on a regular basis.

  24. I was homeschooled from 1st grade until I graduated high school and often had to fend off questions from adults about socialization – and yes, I see the irony in that! We aren’t homeschoolers yet (my oldest is about to turn 2 and my “youngest” is due in September :-) but we already have that mindset and friends and family assume we will be and have asked about the big “S word.” I find it even harder to answer know because everything seems sarcastic and snippy even if I don’t mean it to be because my easiest reply is “Am I really that weird but I just don’t know it?”