Thursday, April 5, 2007

Homeschools and Stylites

This piece in First Things by Sally Thomas brought my wife and I some delight last week. Excerpt:

The night before, we had gone to dinner with old friends, and in the course of the evening the conversation turned to our homeschooling. Our hosts didn't want to argue with the decision my husband and I had made to homeschool; in truth, people do that a lot less often than we had steeled ourselves to expect early on. I suppose they didn't ask how we expected our children to be "socialized" because there the children were, in front of everyone, doing their best impersonations of socialized people. The nine-year-old talked to the grownups about Star Wars, the four-year-old helped to carry dishes to the table, the three-year-old played nicely on the floor with our friends’ baby granddaughter. The twelve-year-old, away at a ballet rehearsal, proclaimed her socialization by her absence.

I suppose our delight stems from the fact that we plan to at least try homeschooling. I'm always hearing things like "well, you'll have to have some plan for an alternative to the socialization that school provides." I used to always say in response "yeah, that is a concern, you have a point, etc.", but now I don't know that I afford the so-called socialization lacking in a homeschool atmosphere any value whatsoever. It's more accurately called a youth culture and unfortunately leads to an emphasis on television rather than good literature as is mentioned later in the article.

Please correct me if you think I am wrong. I know this topic really stirs a lot of passions.


  1. As not-yet parents, my wife and I have thought alot about homeschooling, and the socialization argument never made sense to me. Since when do schools provide the only opportunity for socialization? If the school setting is the only appropriate place to instill social schools, then it's a wonder we survived so long without widely available public education until the middle of the 19th century.

  2. I never really found the "homeschool kids don't get sufficiently socialized" argument to be persuasive, because I remember going to public school with quite a few kids who were pretty socially inept (or delinquent) and pretty much stayed that way well after high school.

  3. I think the lack of socialization could be a valid point. "socialization" is a vague term -- it could mean a variety of things to people.
    homeschoolers have to face the fact that they ARE missing out on certain stuff -- just as non-homeschoolers are missing out on certain stuff. no one has it all. if you want to call what homeschoolers are missing out on "socialization", then the point seems valid. in schools (assuming a basic level of comptence therein) kids get a sense of where there talents lie in relation to other kids, there's a keener sense of competition which can be beneficial, and there's also a "forced" exposure to people who might not appear at first to be simpatico, but turn out to be otherwise.

    i can do without the tone of this particular first things article. homeschoolers getting all snippily righteous are annoying, the subtext being here "of course my kid is socialized, you freaking moron!" -- thanks, i can do without the snark sally

    frankly i don't see that there needs to be a bright line between homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers -- there are some years and/or individuals that might be better suited to homeschooling than others

  4. I'll say that homeschoolers have to watch getting a martyr's complex or a holier-than-thou attitude, or even just the "of course we homeschool" variety of uppitiness.

    As for the annoying and snarky quality of the apologia, I like it. I can be pretty damn annoying to a wide variety of people, at least as much as Sally here (although she's a more accomplished writer methinks) and dissing those on the other side who sniff and scoff at homeschoolers can be regarded as simply too great a temptation sometimes.

  5. i don't know pauli. she says herself that she gets a lot less grief for homeschooling than she "steeled herself" for. some people look for reasons to feel aggrieved. plus she's having dinner with "old friends" here -- if my old friend wrote an article about our dinner like sally wrote i'd be peeved (the line where she says something like "I supposed the only reason they didn't inquire about socialization is what was happening right before their eyes" -- snotty much?)

    the only reason i would begrudge someone their homeschooling is if i thought they were lording it over me or my kids somehow. beyond that, i don't really much care, and i doubt sally's "old friends" much cared either, though it seems like sally was ready (itching?) for a fight. more likely, she wants her sacrifice to be recognized, but she won't be getting any gold stars for her sacrifice from society or "old friends", and she seems a bit annoyed by that.

    an honest apologia for homeschooling would include the downsides, is all. or even an acknowledgment that there are any.

  6. I fear that we are notn exactly poster children for "parents of well-socialized homeschooled kids." My DH does the homeschooling, and he's basically a hermit. My two boys are best buds with each other and always have been, and they are very comfortable with adults, but they have not developed close friendships with other kids their age(s), and that bothers me. They like the kids in their youth group and faith-formation classes, but they are not close with any of them. However, they're very close with each other--and I suppose that's socialization, too. But I do wish they'd had more opportunities to broaden their social horizons. Not that it's too late or anything.....

    They're a bit socially awkward, truth to tell, and their manners need a lot of work. But that's a whole other story. My DH poured all his disciplinarian energy into getting them to buckle down at school, so I guess he didn't have a whole lot left over with which to back me up with my attempts to civilize the little heathens.

    Academically, they are doing great, though. That is a HUGE advantage of homeschooling.