Saturday, September 30, 2017

That whole socializing thing.

A lot has already been written and said about the myth that homeschoolers lack exposure to social situations. I’m not sure I have anything new to add, but I met a dad today who told me he would love to homeschool his daughter, but his wife was worried about that “whole socialization” thing. I offered to have his wife call me to talk about the realities of homeschooling and then I wondered what I would say to her if she were to actually call.

I might start by offering the idea that homeschooling is extremely efficient and because of this there are hours and hours left in the day to plan social events, attend field trips, play with neighbors, friends, and siblings and go to homeschool park days, beach days, or other events.

I might ask how much natural and organic socializing happens at school. I would wonder about clumping kids together simply based on their birthdays as being a way to find true peers.

I might suggest that when mixed genders and ages come together in places they all find stimulating and engaging, they know they are with people who have similar interests and passions, allowing for quick and meaningful connections.

On the flip side, I might add that homeschooling encourages and fosters exposure to all kinds of new and different experiences so meeting people who are different from you, with different skills, different strengths, different cultures comes naturally as well.

Or, I might wonder how a homeschooler who lives freely in the world, who interacts with mentors, parents of other homeschoolers, teachers, and all kinds of community members could lack exposure to social opportunities.

I’m not at all saying that going to school doesn’t also provide opportunities for social interaction, I am saying, though, that homeschoolers have ample opportunities for meaningful social interaction on a daily basis. They also have a choice about when they are in the mood to interact and when they need some down time. Homeschoolers can choose when they need more social time and when they just need to withdraw and/or dive deep into a solitary activity.

Social development is an important component in homeschooling. Socialization, maybe isn’t so much of a priority. In our family, we aren’t especially interested in conformity or fitting in. We are interested in supporting and developing relationships with people who will appreciate us for who we are. We are interested in finding friends who can open our minds and our social development includes trying as many new things as possible and interacting with as many different kinds of people as possible.

The key to homeschooling is the freedom to be as social as one wants and needs. In our house we have a variety of social needs and one amazing benefit is that we can meet our own individual needs. One of us loves as many people together as possible and as often as possible, and loves group, collaborative learning. We can make that happen, easily. One of us loves one on one time with one friend at a time for long hours at a time, but maybe just a couple times a week and likes to separate his learning from his social time, except for in specif We can make that happen, easily. Homeschooling has something for everyone in terms of social development. And like all aspects of homeschooling can be custom to meet the individual needs of each family member.

So, I hope this mom calls me and I hope she’s interested in hearing what I have to offer. And, I hope she asks a gazillion questions to really get down to the nitty gritty of what it means to be a homeschooling parent. We could all benefit from deep and meaningful conversations about difficult topics. And, I can’t imagine a better way to encourage social development than having the hard conversations. So, call me.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Summer Home Schooling

Can I try Homeschooling in the summer?

Sometimes parents say to me that they are going to “try out” homeschooling for the summer and see if it will work for them. Then they will decide if it’s something they want to continue doing throughout the school year. While I’m all for unstructured, interest-based learning for the summer months, I’m not convinced that a summer trial period is the best way to determine if homeschooling will work for your family. Here are three reasons why:

1.     Kids who are used to the structure of a brick and mortar school may not want to be “taught” and may not want to “do school” at home during their summer break because they really do just want a break. This is their time to relax, to do what interests them, to be curious, to play, to read, to not have any pressure. If parents decide this is the time they are going to introduce a curriculum or try to do “lessons” with their kids, it’s likely they will be met with resistance.  Parent’s might determine that homeschooling won’t work for them because their kids just won’t learn at home and won’t cooperate with them. The timing isn’t right. Summer time is time for kids to be kids.
2.     It’s busy out there! If you are the kind of parent who wants to do field trips with your kids, summer time doesn’t give you the right feel for what it will be like in the fall.  Summer camps and tourism make popular museums and other fun destinations crowded and uncomfortable. During the school day, most places are empty and you can enjoy them as a family without crowds, without noise, without extra traffic. During the typical school day, you can spend hours on your own exploring museums, beaches and tide pools, amusement parks, Costco, without the congestion that comes with the summer.
3.     Deschooling! It’s important to take some time to deschool before jumping into homeschooling. Deschooling means getting yourself and your family out of the traditional school mindset. It means taking a break (usually a proper deschooling is one month per year spent in traditional school). It means rediscovering how your child learns best and finding out what really drives your child. What is he interested in? What are her passions? What kind of homeschooling family will we be? Will we recreate school at home, or will we be more eclectic, or will we embrace unschooling? All of those questions are formed and some answers develop during the process of deschooling. One can’t really deschool over the summer because that’s not enough time and summer activities take the place of deschooling.

Summertime can be a time to dip your toes into homeschooling by maybe loosening the reins on the kids and letting them decompress so that when it comes time to start the deschooling and homeschooling process in the fall, you’re ready for it and your kids are ready for it!