Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Homeschooling, Socialization, Friendship, Peer Pressure and Bad Influences

But What about Socialization?




It's the big question everyone asks of homeschoolers. What about socialization?  How can homeschooled children be socialized.

And the homeschoolers have an answer.  They talk about how homeschoolers are in the REAL world.  How they can interact with people of all different ages.  How they take trips to the grocery store and post office and bank and can see how the real world works.

And, all that is very true.  Of course, homeschooled kids are socialized and learn how to deal with the real world.  Of course they can learn how to function and open a checking account and go to the post office and buy groceries and get a job and be polite and fit into society. 

That isn't really what people are talking about.

What people are REALLY talking about is FRIENDSHIP.

Friendship is completely different from socialization.

Most people are "socialized".  Most people can function and fit into society just fine. 

But not all people have friends. In fact, I would venture to guess that there are a lot of lonely people out there who don't have friends. 

So the real question is...can homeschooolers have friends and how do they get them?

Obviously they can.

Do all homeschooled kids have friends?

No.

Do all kids that go to a brick and mortar school have friends?

No. 

Do all kids need friends?  

YES 

In contrast to this article, I really believe that friends are very, very important.  They aren't just a frivolous amusement that pulls us away from Christ.  Good friends enrich our lives and make us better people. 

I'm also uncomfortable with the writer's viewpoint that it's better to be friendless, than to put your children in the presence of other children who could be bad influences. I'm not that protective and I don't think it necessarily serves our children well, to only associate with other Catholic homeschoolers who think exactly like us.  I have no problem sending my oldest to youth group...even with kids who go to *gasp* public schoool. 

Do children need supervision? 

Yes.  

Do we need to be careful? 

Yes.

Do, we need to be uber-protective and never let them around anyone who is not exactly like us? 

No. 

So how can we protect our children from "bad influences?"

I'm not an expert on this.  My oldest is only 13.  But, I am an adult who went to public school and public university and public graduate school and never really "strayed" from what I knew was right.  So despite being around what some might consider "bad influences" and even living in college dorms, I wasn't negatively influenced by them. 

I think there are several factors.

  • Knowing what is right.  I think we all try to teach our children right versus wrong, and that is important
  • Feeling unconditional love and acceptance from parents.  This is a biggie.  If children don't feel love and acceptance from their parents, they will look for it elsewhere. 
  • Being resistant to peer pressure. How do you raise kids that are peer-pressure resistant?  I think some of this may be personality.  Some people are just naturally more "do-my-own-thing" than others (I'm one of those do-my-own-thing people). But I think there are some things we can do to encourage our kids NOT to follow the crowd. We can encourage our kids to pursue their own interests or likes irregardless of what their friends or siblings like. I think we need to teach our kids to be confident in themselves and to stand-up for themselves (yes, that means that sometimes they stand up to their parents too). 
  • Don't subscribe to parenting philosophies that recommend things like "breaking the will."  I absolutely cringe when I hear people talk about things like "breaking a will" or "training a child." A will is not something to be broken. God doesn't break our free will, and trying to break a child's will is wrong.  I think it was the Popchaks that said something along the lines of The NO your daughter screams at you, will be the same one she tells her boyfriend when he is pressuring her.  A person with a broken will can't stand up for what they believe in.
  • We need to encourage their likes and preferences even if they aren't our style.  Let them be an individual.
  • Teach them to evaluate music and movies and shows and fashion styles with a critical eye towards whether THEY like it and think it has value. Not if it's popular or trendy, but if THEY personally like it.  Don't be super quick to just on the latest bandwagon...whether that's the newest technology or fashion trend or TV show.  Kids pick up on that. If they see that you don't always run out to get "the latest thing" or watch "the latest thing", then they won't either.   
  • Of course supervision and being careful and using common sense is important. We need to be careful about media and phones and things that our kids could be exposed to.  But that doesn't mean that we shelter them from everyone who doesn't think exactly like us. We just need to be careful and use some common sense and good judgement.
So how do our kids find friends?
  • First of all, I believe that the older kids get, the more important friendships outside the home become.  A 10-year old has very different needs than a 5-year old and a 15-year old has an even different needs. As kids get older, the need for meaningful friendships becomes greater.
  • It takes work. Whether your kids are homeschooled or go to school, it takes work.  I went to public school and I didn't have any meaningful friendships until at least high school, and even then, it was very few. 
  • That's because it takes work on the part of the parents...setting up playdates and providing opportunities for friendship to happen.  It takes time and work and effort. Driving places, inviting people over, doing things.  
  • Structured activities are great, but kids also need unstructured time for friendships to form.  Park days, play dates, parties, etc. 
  • You may have to go outside your comfort zone....especially if you are introverted. Email makes it super easy to contact someone and ask to get together.  So if you notice that your child seems to click with another child...send an email and try to arrange a get-together.  You can make it super low-risk and meet at a zoo or museum if you aren't comfortable meeting at a park or inviting someone to your house.  Just don't be afraid to stick your neck out a little.  Turns out, most other people and their kids are looking for friends just as much as you and your children are. 
  • Keep trying.  Keep joining stuff.  Keep making an effort. Keep going places.  Keep getting out of the house.  Keep inviting people over.  Keep taking your kids places.
  • It takes time to make friends. Once you join a group or start something new, it takes time.  Be patient. Don't give up. Keep reaching out to others and teach your children to reach out, and friendships will come. But you have to put the effort in, and be willing to reach out. 
  • Start a club that is centered around your child's interest. If your kid likes Legos or chess or horses or Minecraft or art or cooking or whatever...consider starting a club centered around that interest. Someone has to be the one to start something, might as well be you! 
  • Look for community activities...things like 4-H or American Heritage Girls, or sports or drama or church youth group or whatever your child is interested in. Those can be a great way to make friends and meet other kids. 
Ultimately, homeschooled children CAN have lives filled with enriching friendships. It does take a little bit of effort, however, it's totally worth the time and effort it takes. 
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