What About Socialization?
A series on the common questions that arise when first exploring unschooling…my thoughts and the expert advice that’s helped me work through these questions.
What about socialization?
If my kids don’t attend public school, will they turn into awkward hobbits who don’t know how to function in typical society?
This question might have been one of the first things that crossed my mind.
But then I started thinking about what “socialization” means for schooled kids.
They are put in a room with kids who were born within 6 or so months from them. They’re interactions with other age groups are often limited. They don’t have a say in who they interact with. They aren’t supposed to talk to other kids in a free-form social manner unless they’re at recess.
I was labeled a “chatter box” as a kid. For many years my classrooms had a card system. One for homework and one for behavior. My homework card generally stayed on green, but my behavior card was typically on yellow and red. Too many reds meant staying in from recess or eventually after school detention. I can still remember a time when I was 10 being told to walk to the chart at the front of the room and pull my yellow card to the dreaded red. I was shaking, nauseated, and had tears streaming down my face because I knew the consequences of the red card both in school and at home. All for talking to my classmates. Something that allegedly a kid can only do well if they attend school. I was isolated often. When the other kids desks were in groups of 4, mine was all alone. When the other kids got a new seating arrangement, they all started to notice that my seat never changed. I had to stay in the front and center of the teacher. It was they only way they could get me to stop socializing (I often then just talked to myself).
Then I think about the “socialization” kids do get in school. Those brief recess times can give opportunity for lifelong bonds and connections. But they can also be times of anxiety, stress, and conflict. The bully or clique has free reign to torment on the recess playground. The competition and comparison that starts in the classroom is intensified at recess.
Until I moved to a high school of 5,000 students where one could just hide from the bullies, I was always the bullied kid. I remember it starting with voracity when I was 7 years old. I dreaded going to school every single day. I began having such anxiety that my stomach would knot in pain. My parents thought maybe I was lactose intolerant but after a trip to the doctor it turned out to be stress related. Of course my parents brought it up to the teachers. I think a forced apology or two was in there. But nothing ever really changed. How could it? It’s not like I could get away from these people.
So how will my kids make friends and increase their social skills? They’ll interact with the grocery clerk, the bank teller, the restaurant server, the people we volunteer with, the people they meet on the Internet with similar interests, or the people we meet on our travels. They might meet kids in community sports, clubs, or groups. Then after those events they can choose the kids that they want to get to know better, spend more time with, and become friends with. And of course, some of those people will be mean, nasty, or bullies. Unfortunately there’s no way to completely get away from that in this world. So I’m sure my kids will get practice in dealing with people they don’t like, but they won’t be forced to interact with them for 180 days out of the year.
They’ll interact with people of a variety of ages and walks of life, with me by their side modeling appropriate social behavior. I’ll be right there to guide them when needed instead of throwing them to the sharks.
Resources to Explore:
What About Socialization? On Sandra Dodd’s website
The Ultimate Unschooling Socialization Post on I’m Unschooled. Yes I Can Write. She addresses so many aspects and variations on this question.
Socialization episode on The Unschooling Life Podcast.
July 28, 2015 / TaraMcDonough / 0