Homeschooling- But What About Socialization & Friends

Oh this post..it's been mulling around in my mind for months, actually, longer than that. It's been mulling around ever since we first said that we would homeschool our very social 5 year old. I've been told by homeschool skeptics time and time again that I need to put Mekonen in school because he just LOOOOVES people. That is very true. My five year old son THRIVES on being with people. He wakes up every day and wants to know what's on the agenda and who he is going to see.  He just LOVES people. The worst punishment for that child is being put in his room alone with no one. Even when he has to play quietly in his room alone, he puts on an audio CD. He just can't stand being "alone." Even when his sisters are napping he asks every 5 minutes, "Mom, when is Evie going to wake up?" And as soon as Daddy walks in the door, he is glued to his side, like his little shadow, just following him around everywhere, talking, asking questions, just wanting to be with someone. It's a wonderful quality, but sometimes it can be quite frustrating b/c it is insatiable! :) He never reaches the point of enough!
 I can't  even begin to tell you of the horrified hilarious looks we receive when people hear we are homeschooling. They are worried about why we are homeschooling, if our kids will turn out weird, and then another big one, "WHAT ABOUT FRIENDS?!?!?!" You would assume by people's opinions on this that we hole up our children and allow them no friends and no interactions with anyone outside our family of five. This is simply not true. In actuality, our kids have quite the busy life. There are only two out of the 5 school days where our kids are not around other kids outside our home, and that is not including soccer, baseball, and dance class. School is one part of life. We want our kids to be life-long learners and not see learning as simply the 8 hours of a school day. We hope to finish work in a timely fashion and spend the rest of our day enjoying hobbies, sports, work, and other activities.

Some people respond as if our kids are being denied the most wonderful, rewarding, and enriching relationships by not making them privy to daily interactions with their peers...and by peers, I mean, thirty other kids their exact same ages.

No, this does not mean we don't value "same age friends." Clearly we do. The majority of our children's friends are their ages. But we don't feel like daily, 8 hour long interactions with 30 other kids their same age is necessary, and in many cases, wise. We don't believe this is where "socialization" occurs (or at least the kind of socialization we are looking for). The dictionary defines socialization as "a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills. appropriate to his or her social position." No offense, but I prefer my son not learn the norms, values, behaviors, and social skills appropriate for his age from 30 other five year olds as equally immature as my five year old. He has more than enough immaturity all on his own! Sure there is a teacher. But realistically, the influence is more heavily the other kids than the teacher. Cramming thirty 5 year olds in a room together for 8 hours a day, does not magically impart a specific desired level of social etiquette to one another. Not very many real life social boundaries are established due to the examples set by children who have not yet mastered social boundaries themselves. (And another disclaimer: we are not homeschooling to shield our children from the influence of others. I'm simply trying to point out why the socialization/friends argument people use isn't very valid).
SO, rather than worrying about satisfying my son's love of people with 30 other kids his same exact age, we prefer to give our kids several good friends their age as well as continued contact and relationships with people of all ages. and growing deep friendships with their siblings. They see this modeled from us as Jon and I have and highly value friendships across varying age groups. Isn't that what socialization is all about? Being able to interact and function in numerous social settings? It seems like the only social awareness you get from traditional classroom schools is the ability of one five year old to interact with another five year old.

One of our goals in educating our children is to prepare for them for life. Using the "what about friends" argument as a reason for sending our kids to school makes no sense for this goal. There are a lot of reasons we may consider sending our kids to school, but just friends isn't one of them. When in life do you ever experience a room full of people the exact same age? Adult circles are not set up this way...not socially, not in church, not in the workforce, not in your neighborhood, and not in your community. If age segregated socialization is so important than why don't we see that in the "real world."

Historically, in world history and church history, life has never been "age-segregated." People respond to the homeschooling friend issue as if we are haphazardly sheltering or denying our children of the ideal childhood. In our opinion a truly healthy social setting, and good social aptitude involves people from all ages, stages, and walks of life, where older teach the younger, the younger inspire the older, and we all learn together the strengths and weaknesses of generations that came before us, and we all learn new things from the generations coming up under us.
In our opinion, providing our children with good, solid friends their age, as well as a wide variety of relationships will lead to a well-rounded and enriching childhood. Thirty five year olds, 8 hours a day, is not what accomplishes this.

(Obviously, I am not arguing for the one room schoolhouse, etc. I have a teaching degree and taught in school. Clearly, age segregated classrooms are born out of necessity in educating so many kids in one place, and it's the way it works best in a traditional school setting. I get that. I'm not arguing that. I'm arguing against those who claim that my kids need to be in an age segregated classroom, i.e. traditional school, in order to be socialized and have a socially satisfying life. For the above reasons, I completely disagree).

(And again, we are not saying we will never put our kids in school or that parents who do are unwise. I'm just trying to shed light on the ridiculous arguments for why people say we shouldn't homeschool. There are reasons not to homeschool, but FRIENDS, is not one of them).


The 5 Month Old Pipster

Okay, so this picture and post is 2 weeks late. Oops. Life has been crazy. But nonetheless, finally done. This sweet pea is 5 months old. And in full disclosure, I spelled her name wrong AGAIN, but I just couldn't make that mistake TWICE on these pictures that will eventually go into her baby book. So I had to re-do it. I mean once is funny, but twice? That's just plain ridiculous. Maybe all those strangers at the grocery store who say her name is too long are right after all!

 Here's a pic of the actual board because the lighting was bad and you can't read it very well on the other picture. 

 Looking very concerned about this new to sitting by herself thing. She only last a few seconds. 
We cannot believe how big she's getting! Isn't she cute? :) She has a little old man toupe flop on the top of her head and a little rat tail growing out the back that I desperately need to cut! No mullets or rat tails allowed! 

This little lady has really upped her tricks in the last month or so. Since everything seems to happen at Grandma's in Pennsylvania, Penelope decided to continue consistency and learn how to crawl during our last visit. It was crazy. She was just shy of 5 months old at my moms. We left her in the middle of the floor, she got up on all fours and started rocking like crazy. Then, she was off. It's the scoot crawl where she takes one or two "crawls" on her hands and knees, then falls on her belly, goes up on hands and knees, takes a couple more crawls and then falls on belly, repeat, repeat, until she reaches desired destination. It is hilarious and super cute because she's so tiny. She was doing this before she could even sit! Crazy girl. Then, just a few days later she started sitting unsupported for several seconds at a time. 

So we have been saying that maybe Penelope will have a more quiet, soft personality (I don't know how three of my older two's personalities can co-exist in this family), but we are having second thoughts while watching Miss Pippi play. She gets soooooo frustrated with her toys. I'm not exactly sure what she is wanting them to do, but clearly, they aren't doing what she wants, and she yells. I mean yells. It is hilarious. Sometimes they end in crying, but sometimes she just yells, like she is ticked off at the world. 

These days she is loving the johnny jumper and the exersaucer. Although again, when she plays with the toys hooked to the exersaucer, she typically just ends up yelling at them. She is blowing little bubbles and making the cutest baby gurgles, and she giggles too! Mekonen does raspberries on her belly and she just cracks up. 

Almost any time you catch her eye she gives you the biggest open-mouth smile. It's adorable! Even when she's crying, if you lock eyes with her and smile, she will often go back and forth between crying and smiling, like she doesn't know which she should do. haha. 

And PRAISE JESUS the child has mostly stopped screaming in the car. I say mostly because I don't want to jinx myself, and because she still randomly decides to scream her brains out. But, it's no longer 100% of the time. 

I'm thankful the "novelty" of a new baby hasn't worn off for Mekonen & Evie yet. They just adore her. Here is one of my new favorite pictures. Mekonen and Pip both fell asleep in the car and we opened the back door to get them out and found this....he is so, so tender with her. She's cried a lot in her little lifetime so far and this guy has never shown any angst towards her crying and fussiness. He's a keeper ladies.


School Days, School Days

Our first week is almost done! Here's a recap of his first two "first days" which were a big hit- his first day at our classical school co-op, and then his first day at home. I love that this boy just oozes excitement over life so it was no surprise he was up at 6am the last few days because he was so excited about school. Part of that is that it's one-on-one quality attention, which he THRIVES on, and the other part is that it's simply "something new" (although wouldn't it be great if he loved school that much?! haha! I'll just have to remind him when he doesn't how much he looked forward to it)!

Here are some snapshots from our "firsts."

Mekonen Jack
1st Day of Kindergarten
September 9, 2014
Weren't we just here? 
(Did I not say he always oozes excitement? Oh I LOVE him).

We are in love with the philosophy of classical education and have begun that for our kids. Mekonen's going to a one day a week classical school co-op. He LOOOOOOOOVED it. And bonus, two of his best buddies Jacob and Josiah are at his table. He especially loved recess and lunch. What boy doesn't?!?! He came home happy and exhausted, chatted the majority of the way home, then konked out cold in the backseat.
(A post on "What is Classical Education Anyway? coming soon!!)

1st day at home the next day. 
Here's our morning meeting board. This is where we do all the miscellaneous educational things like learn how to read a calendar, learn about weather, telling time, place value, our address, and do things like our monthly poetry reading, monthly artist study, etc. I'm such a teacher nerd and just love all this "teachery-stuff." 
 Most curriculums have a paper edition of this kind of stuff if you are homeschooling, but I didn't want more worksheets and he gets a kick out of doing it on a huge board. I made it portable so I can put it away when school is done so it's not just sitting in our living room. 
 Little Sis just had to join in. Which is fun because I'm getting in some preschool stuff too and she just thinks she's so cool. 
 We got a new to us table that seats ten people from some good friends and I just love it. We find ourselves spending a lot of time in our open dining room/kitchen. It's the brightest portion of our house and the morning sun coming in is just amazing, even if you can't see it here. The kids usually pull their toys from their room into this area to play. It's the perfect spot for now to do school (until we get a great big schoolroom, right Daddy? haha).

 He is quite excited about the fact that at the end of kindergarten he will be able to identify on a map all fifty states and their capitals. So far he has nailed down the first five. 
 Signs of a great morning. 
Daddy wants to be involved with the kids school too, which Mekonen LOVES. He saves the back side of his math paper to do with Daddy in the evening. Daddy is also memorizing our classical grammar work each week alongside Meko. 
We've had a great first week. My heart is full, so content with where we are in life right now. I'm sure there will be hard days, and days so stressful and difficult that I want to send them to school and quit this homeschooling shin-dig. But this week wasn't one of them, and for that, I'm thankful.

(Although, both our kids were running around this evening making all these weird noises and "play fighting" motions. We said we might need to take back our previous post on homeschoolers being weird because their parents are weird. Maybe we will need to write a new post on how we couldn't handle their weirdness and had to send them to school). 

If you're interested, "Why We Are Homeschooling" is also up on the blog.


Homeschooling- But What About Socialization & Being Weird?

One of the BIGGEST push-backs we hear in regards to choosing homeschooling is "But what about socialization?!" People make comments about kids dressing weird, being socially awkward, not being able to hold a normal conversation, and not being "street smart." While I have to admit, I have held these thoughts about homeschoolers before, and I have met homeschoolers who would fall into those stereotypes. However, I have grown to understand that these issues have less and less to do with a method of schooling and more to do with the parents.

A fellow homeschooling, adoptive mom, photographer and blogger, Kristin Rogers, explained these issues so well. So rather than re-invent the wheel, I've included her amazing words.

"Being Socially Awkward:
I have known numerous awkward public, private and homeschooled children. One of these forms of education is not the remedy to the issue. Whenever I have met a socially awkward child, I have noticed the parents are too. The parents have an awkward way about them that has influenced that child’s personality and way of interacting. If the child is homeschooled then yes, they will have been more influenced by their parent’s ways simply because of being around them so much…the good and the awkward (notice I did not say bad). But a child who is in public or private school does not escape this influence...that is not the cure.

One thing that public and private schools do is give the child an opportunity to interact with many children of all races, personality, style and tone. This allows them to learn and have opportunity to interact with all types of people and be able to learn how to communicate with them. When homeschooling parents do not give their child similar interactions then yes, they may not be as practiced in interacting with all different types of people. This can turn into them being “awkward” socially. But, we as homeschooling parents can provide this for our children when educating them at home. We can join groups for play dates with other children, join co-ops, put them in a music class, play with kids at church, and be around friends that have children, play with neighbors….etc. One thing I am thankful for is that I can get them this exposure to people and ages of all different races, ages and personalities, but it is under my supervision. If there is a conversation I think is too mature for her with a child at the park, I can have her come away from it. If I see her being overly influenced by a friend that has captivated her attention in a way I don't prefer, I can distance them until I think she is ready for that. If someone is exposing her to wrong ideas on something, I can be there to hear it and can walk her through how to think about it. I can offer them a form of protected exposure to people and experiences.

I am not saying I am a better mom for doing this… I am simply saying I want to do this and homeschooling offers me this ability.

Dressing Weird:
I do know many homeschooled children of all different ages and once again, the dressing of the child is a direct influence of the parent’s style and preferences. I would say in general that many of the homeschooled parents I know have convictions of modesty. They do not care as much that their child is wearing name brands and the trendiest style out there…so in that way, are they weird? Maybe. If so, who cares? I love that weirdness. If the child is wearing a dress to their toes and bonnet with purposely outdated attire…this might be because of the mindset of the parent having an unhealthy view that this is more spiritual. Or, it could simply be their style and their influence in this manner, not homeschooling.

Madison and Adia are often in thrift shop finds with a slight hippy or vintage look, an old scarf in their hair, kind of a raga muffin eclectic look. That is because that is a style we like as their parents. That is why they are dressed like that, not because they are homeschooled. If someone thinks they are dressed “weird”, so be it, but it’s not because they are educated at home and would be dressed differently if they were not.

Not Street Smart:
It all depends on what someone means by this as to what my thoughts are. If someone means that a child is awkward because they are not aware of the current music and shows in the MTV culture, doesn’t know lyrics to the hottest teenage pop artist, is clueless on name brand clothing and never heard of certain sex or bathroom humor…then PRAISE GOD they are awkward!! That is a naivety I wish more children knew and did not embrace as “cool” or  a necessity to being not awkward. When they are an adult they can watch what they enjoy and have liberty to do so through their adult mind and conscience. For now, we parents are the guardian of their conscience and thoughts. This is something that we as parents long to protect. If our children are awkward because of that then that is because of our personal convictions on these topics that we enforce in our home, not because they are educated at home. I hope we are raising the type of child who will not get older and feel neglected because they were not exposed to these topics and content. Even if they are, that is a risk we are willing to take, wishing good for our children based on biblical principles.

If someone means a child is nervous around adults, children of different ages or races because they have purposely been unexposed to them then I think there is room for criticism. If the child knows nothing of evil, death, crime or a need to protect those they love, then I also think there is room for criticism. Of course this is all exposed to the degree of age and maturity but these topics of life and the reality of the world need to be taught and made aware of. Appropriately protecting your child is one thing, trying to shelter them from any form of displeasure or ugliness is not wise. They need to know how to live in this world and know how to handle it well and in good character. We have to prepare them for these things and the scriptures give us great wisdom on how to think about these things. In general I think people need to look to the parents as liable for their children’s worldview, dress and way of interacting instead of the manner in which they are schooled. What influence has the parent been or what influence has the parent allowed their child to be exposed to form their current state of awkwardness or lack of.

I pray we as parents grow more aware of our responsibility in the thinking and growth of our children. Weather it’s our direct influence or the influences we subject them to. Our influence is huge…even down to their style of dress and what they know and don’t know that is going on in the world. I am not saying that a parent who does not home school does not understand this. I am simply saying that whether your child is educated at home or public or private school, we as the parent are responsible for our children and helping them form a solid and good worldview. Protecting them where we think necessary and providing a methodology to have them achieve this until they are old enough and mature enough to measure these for themselves, whether that methodology be in the form of homeschooling or not.

By God’s grace and wisdom, He gave us His word to help us know what to think about this world and our place in it. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Well said, Kristin. And thank you!


Why We Are Homeschooling

Homeschooling! Eeeek!!! There, yep, I said it! We are homeschooling! If you know us well, you already know this. With our oldest starting kindergarten this year, we have gotten the question of, "Where is he going to school?" many times. Often, when we say we are homeschooling we get a wide range of responses, and then more questions. It's one of those words that carries so much weight for a variety of reasons. So, I figured I would write out some blog posts about how and why we've grown to be passionate about homeschooling.
Disclaimer: Before I go any further, Jon and I have experienced homeschool, public, and private schooling and have had good experiences in those options. We are in no way saying that homeschooling is the best and only option, but for us, for this year, it is the best option for our family.Please don't read our passion for homeschooling and classical education as us saying it is the only way and that everyone should do the same. We've also learned "never say never" (did I really give birth to my daughter in my house, and do I really live on a hobby farm?!?!), so we are not putting our foot down and saying we are never going to consider other schooling options. But at this point, we are choosing to educate our kids at home. 

As our blog title states, and as I've blogged about before, we are seeking to live a "one piece life." Families today are so fragmented. Most of their days and activities are spent separate from each other, gaining most of their perspectives, beliefs, and likings from other people (peers, teachers, coaches, etc). Children spend the majority of their waking hours at school, away from their families, and then the majority of evenings are spent ushering kids all over creation to activity after activity. Meals are rushed, if eaten together at all, and it seems as though children prefer the company of their friends rather than their siblings. Even the way churches are often set up, families walk in the door to worship on Sunday morning, and kids and parents go their separate ways, only to regroup in the parking lot afterwards and drive home.
We are messy, fallen, sinners and we desire to gather around our children, living out this crazy and glorious mess all day, every day, together. We strive to model the supremacy of God and the Gospel to our children and feel we can't do that properly if we are time-torn, fragmented, and living most of our days apart, rather than together. This is one of the biggest reasons we are homeschooling. Sending my five year old to school means that he spends 40 hours a week in the care of someone else. Christian or not, he is being discipled by someone for 40 hours a week that are not his parents. Yes, educators are trained to teach, and most of them are great with kids. However, they don't know our children, and they certainly don't care for and love our children the way we do. No one has more of a desire to disciple, teach, and care for our kids like we do. We have intimate knowledge of each of our children's physical, spiritual and mental needs. We know where they are at, their strengths and weaknesses, where we need to speed up or slow down. We know what motivates them and can evaluate what they are truly understanding. We can give them the individual attention we know they need.
We do not want our children growing up and seeing life as a dichotomy, where family, faith, and learning are separate from the rest of the world. We want that "one piece life" where we do family, faith, learning and everything else as a complete whole, together.

With each new stage and season of life, we are learning what that "one piece life" looks like every day. It doesn't mean our kids aren't going to do sports, and doesn't mean that our kids won't participate in age segregated church activities, and doesn't mean we will homeschool indefinitely. We will tackle each road and season of life as it comes, and who knows, some day that might mean our kids attend school away from home. We know many families who don't homeschool but still live by these values. But what it does mean, is that we will pay close attention to our own hearts and the hearts of our children, and constantly look for ways to nurture the whole being of our family as ONE- not time-torn and not fragmented...living out a one piece life.
So please hear our hearts when we talk passionately about homeschooling and classical education...we are not declaring a certain kind of schooling option as better than the next, we just know that this pursuit is where God is directing our family. A certain kind schooling option does not fix our sin soaked problems and does not change the condition of our hearts, or the "tune" of our family... only the grace of the Gospel can do that.
We are really excited to begin this journey of educating at home and excited to see how God uses it in the life of our family and children.

I'm looking forward to blogging about the other questions that frequently come up about homeschooling like socialization, choosing curriculum, why classical education, what is classical education,are parents equipped to teach, etc.,etc.