Trust The Children

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Socialization? (Part 2)

I am not a social scientist, nor a family therapist (we probably need one of those) but we do observe our children and the children of other home schooling families. Of course, with every family and every child, mileage varies no matter what approach you take.

That being said, we do have the advantage of 20+ years of observation. And from those observations, conclusions are inevitable. This may be a bit round about as it relates to socialization, but hang in there for a few minutes.

One premise of the public form of education is often a "Liberal Arts" approach. The idea here is exposure for exposures sake really. Expose our children to all kinds of topics, ideas, and approaches so that they become "well rounded". On the surface this sounds like a good idea. With a little bit of knowlege about a lot of things, you see the world more clearly and fairly is the idea. But what is it about this approach that they don't tell you?

In John Talyor Gatto's book "Dumbing Us Down" he describes this approach in these words, speaking tongue in cheek as a professional educator, "The third lesson I teach is indifference... When I am at my best, I plan lessons very carefully in order to produce this show of enthusiasm. But when the bell rings, I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn on and off like a light switch... Indeed the lesson of the bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Years of bells will condition all but the strongest to a world that can no longer offer important work to do. ". (DUMBING US DOWN, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, John Taylor Gatto) (Note: It is reality that formal classroom education has it's pluses and minuses. No one can dispute this. Pretending that the minues don't exist because it is the only option available to some, is NOT reality however.)

So now some observations:


Trees are more stable, when they have a deep taproot. An root system that drives deep into the soil for moisture and nutrients. In the Northwest where we live, and where water is often plentiful, we often observe trees, large trees, who didn't have to go deep for moisture, that have blown over in a wind. What you see is a root system that is large in diameter, but very shallow in the earth. Faced with the rigours of survival, even large trees topple quite easily.Of course the best of both worlds in the tree business, is to have both, a broad base and a deep tap root.

Our public system is largely based on a strategy of "liberal arts" education. Curriculums are designed to provide broad exposure to what public school administrations determine are the key topics that any reasonable person should know. My observation is that this system produces "Jack". You know Jack well. Jack is the "Jack of all trades and the master of none" guy. To me Jack is like the Douglas Fir Tree with roots "broad and shallow", not often durable in the test of survival provided by the times we and our children live in.

It hit me like a ton of bricks that the purpose of broad exposure is NOT just exposure for exposure sake (the broad and shallow root system) , but to FIND something. Taking a nibble of lots of things is great, as long as you remember that the purpose of tasting is to enjoy AND to find your favorites, the ones you want to return to again and again.

Having the freedom of returning again and again to something, your favorite thing, over time, is what gives our children the taproot of confidence, at least in that area. Returning again and again to your favorite thing, is something the public system cannot in most cases provide. And we have found that a child with confidence that is deep in at least one area, often negotiates the world of his or her peers more confortably than the child who knows a little bit about everything. Of course, this idea, isolated from any social contact isn't going to work either. The taproot idea has to be part of a list of bricks in a foundation. But we have found it to be an important brick in the foundation of each of our children.

If the socialization "naysayers" in your circle of friends, family and acquantances, contend that the goal of getting along with others comfortably is a reason not to do home schooling, what they haven't considered in many cases is, that there may be better ways to achieve comfortable socialization skills, other than the often brutal experiences found in the public/private classroom system. Mastering mud wrestling is no guarantee of increased social skills even though contact is long and intense.

In our case, it helps immensely that we have a large family. We are our very own social experiment "up close and personal" you might say. Smaller families might want to use the freedom of homeschooling to do weekly "field trips" with other families, again something those in the public/private classroom system can't do easily or comfortably, to provide this social contact. This approach gives you as parents more control of the experience and more fun by far than walking the noisy halls of your local public or even private institution.

Becoming active in your local church can help, where a good youth program provides another source of social contact in a mostly positive environment.

We have found Boy Scouts for our boys to be an awesome source of positive social contact. Visit several troops in operation until you find one that is boy led, functioning well and has a decent committee that supports the boys.

Sports teams, sans the parent component, can also be an excellent source of life experience and social contact.

4H was part of my youth experience and we did all kinds of projects together. There are others as well.

So you see, there are tons of options to provide contact besides public or private schooling. Add all of these options and more together, and combine it with the freedom you have as a home schooler to allow your children to drive their interests deep, and I believe you will see, as we have, children whose curiosity is intact, whose faces are bright and whose disposition is happy and positive.

What other social contact options have you found to be helpful for your children?


  • Great comments! I recently returned from living in Taiwan for 15 months. The Chinese have a very focused attitude when it comes to schooling. It was very interesting to observe the lack of curiousity that was produced from years of focused, public schooling that was very structured and restraining. Coming from my homeschool background, I ached to see these students who did not enjoy learning at all! It was simply a task or a way to gain the appoval of their parents. But never the quest, the thirst or the curiousity for knowlege that I experienced with my upbringing. On another note, our curiousities often change from time to time. With these changes we are given an opportunity to broaden our horizons in another field of study. Through these natural processes I feel we will gain a wide education and experience.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:29 PM, July 10, 2005  

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