It’s funny how the first question everyone asks regarding homeschooling is, “What about socialization?” The obvious assumption behind that is that homeschoolers are kept isolated from the rest of humanity, sitting around their dining room table for hours each day, while they pine for the healthy and robust social interactions that other children have.
This question has alternately amused and annoyed me, mostly amused me, because it’s so far off the mark. Most homeschoolers interact with a much wider variety of people of ages and backgrounds than those in school do, in socially healthy situations (ie, not a peer dominated pecking order). Anyway, I’m not going to write a thesis on this topic even though it’s a big topic that deserves a big answer, but I was inwardly smiling this last week at example in our family of how socially backwards homeschoolers aren’t.
Within an hour of hearing that her grandparents would be travelling to NY and were willing to take her (with less than five days to make arrangements), my almost 14 year old daughter got onto the computer and started researching buses and routes, to figure out how to see as many friends as possible in the three days she would be there. Once she figured out some general possibilities, she spent hours last week on the phone, making arrangements to visit various friends in different neighborhoods and cities.
After all of her calls – and it took hours of back and forth conversations between a number of people for her to put her trip itinerary together (anyone who tried to call me last week knows that the line was always busy!) – she had an intricate plan put together. She left here on Thursday morning, and spent the night with an aunt. The next morning, she met a counselor from camp and spent a while with her; then she travelled alone to another city an hour and a half away to spend Shabbos (Sabbath) with another camp friend. We live in an area where public transportation isn’t a common option, so she’s never done anything like this before, let alone by herself. And fortunately I was taking a nap when the friend who was supposed to pick her up from the bus called to say they couldn’t find her, and what bus stop was she supposed to be at again?? There were 26 in that city and we didn’t know the specifics, and my dd didn’t have a cell phone. I found out about it when my 2.5 year old told me when I woke up that “T.’s friend found her”, so I didn’t have to worry for even a minute. )
Then she spent Saturday night with another friend from camp in that same city, and traveled the next morning by bus to Brooklyn. There she spent the day with a friend, and a couple of hours later they went to a mini camp reunion of her bunkmates (though they didn’t call it a bunk reunion – they called it, “Come see T.”) All of her immediate bunk mates came, which was impressive especially considering the short notice involved for everyone (the idea and organizing for the get together was undertaken by her). I think they later went bowling and to pizza. Then she spent the night with another friend, and the next morning left right after breakfast to come back home.
Giving a child room to have new experiences, to trust them to stretch themselves and handle themselves without us being right there to take care of everything, can be a scary thing for parents. But it is so important for our children’s emotional growth – it builds confidence and self esteem to successfully navigate new situations. It is empowering for a child to see new strengths and abilities in themselves, and to actualize a vision that they’ve created. (I wrote an article for Home Education Magazine in November 2002 on this topic, when my kids were much younger – this is a principle has always been one that I’ve felt strongly about – here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/196/ndtrust.html.)
I’m so glad she went, I’m glad she had a great time, and I’m really glad she’s back home!