Homeschoolers often feel additional pressure to make sure their children are well 'socialized'.
Because our kids don't attend school every day with other kids, it is assumed that homeschoolers have trouble making friends and can't navigate the ins and outs of healthy relationships.
Most of us attended a traditional school, and still buy into the idea that success in life is linked to popularity. There is a lingering desire to be well-liked and well-known. And now we can have dozens of friends - thousands if you count Facebookand social media.
However, when we put on our grown-up hats, we understand that being able to recognize several someones in a crowded room and carry on a conversation is not the same as meaningful connection. Life eventually teaches us that friendship is about quality, not quantity. We also learn that solitude is beneficial, and we don't need to constantly be engaged in social activities.
Homeschoolers need to ignore the pressure to disprove the Homeschool Socialization Myth (as if that's a worthy endeavor) and instead teach our kids what it really means to be a friend and have a friend, and what's just as important - how to choose their friends.
Let me clarify something; a person does not need to be a 'friend' to be treated with respect. Our children can learn to be polite, make eye contact, and answer questions with wisdom and grace, regardless of the religion, age, gender, ethnicity, appearance, or socio-economic status of the person are addressing. We call this 'being friendly', but the goal doesn't always have to be an ongoing relationship. The goal is to exercise courtesy and kindness, and fulfill The Greatest Commandment:
Matthew 22:37-39 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
But then there is this thing called the 'freedom of association' - it is a Constitutional right derived from the guarantees in the First Amendment to freedom of speech and assembly. While the First Amendment didn't have the parenting of children in mind, it's a good principle to keep in mind when teaching children about friendships.
It really is OK to for kids to pick and choose their friends, and we can help them choose wisely.
This flies in the face of politically correct inclusiveness. It also seems contradictory to loving others as we love ourselves. The tension here is that loving someone doesn't mean we must bring them into our homes and our lives. A friend is someone you can be safe with, draw into your inner circle, someone you can trust. Not everyone is going to fit that definition. Our kids need to know the difference.
There are going to be times when our kids seem hesitant to join a group or being around a certain child. Sometimes parents force their children to make friends with others without finding out why the child is reluctant. We as parents have our own baggage from the past, and may feel compelled to insist our children be friends with everyone. We don't like cliques, and we want our kids to share, to be inclusive.
This can be a mistake if your child is regularly exposed to someone who is has mental health issues or lacks a moral compass. Our kids need permission to withdraw from a situation or person that makes them uncomfortable, whether it's another child or an adult. They need to know they can come to you without fear that you will overreact, that you will listen and help them find a solution. You need to teach them when and how to walk away with wisdom and grace.
Instead of just pushing our kids to make a bunch of friends, to be popular, to have an active social life, teach kids to seek out others who are of good character, and have similar interests, goals, and sensibilities. It is a good thing to surround ourselves with people who are honest, compassionate, intelligent, courageous, dependable, generous, and inspiring. Our children need this too.
Homeschool Socialization Lessons:
- Civility and courtesy apply to everyone.
- It is more important to have quality friends than a quantity of friends.
- Friendship is built on mutual respect.
- It is OK to choose your friends based on mutual interests and good character.
- Encourage your child to make friends, but do not force them into relationships that make them uncomfortable.