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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

Tagged with "socialization"
Being Homeschooled: Half an Experience or An Experience and a Half? Tags: socialization home school high school alternative education home education homeschooled kids

by Sarah Kmosko

I was sitting in my friends’ apartment my final semester at UNC-Wilmington. I’d gotten to know them pretty well over the course of the time I’d spent at their place, playing Mario Kart and Cards Against Humanity and Dungeons and Dragons.

My roommate Ali was there too, and some others they’d invited over. We were all on the various chairs and the couch in their living area playing Never Have I Ever.

“Never have I ever,” I started, “been to public school.”

“Aw come on! Not fair!” they all said, laughing and shaking their heads at me.

The topic of conversation that night had been about high school.

“High school was an experience and a half,” my roommate Ali told me. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Drew, a guy from Asheville with a man bun and hipster glasses, leaned forward in his seat with a look on his face that indicated that he wanted to start some trouble. “My friend Jones was homeschooled and I guess he turned out alright,” he said. “I think I was one of his only friends back then. Guess that’s what you get when you’re homeschooled,” Drew smirked.

“Yeah, how do you socialize when you don’t go to school?” Mark, a guy with deep brown eyes, a curly head of hair, and a problem with picking up social cues said with what appeared to be sincere curiosity.

“You don’t,” I joked.


For a while in college, I was unsure that I should reveal that I was homeschooled. I thought that if I did, it would be an opening for people to go, “Oh that’s what’s wrong with her!”

For that reason, it’s still sometimes a challenge to decide whether I’m gonna tell peers I was homeschooled—even when I’ve been through college.

I think we’re all familiar with the reactions:

“How do you socialize?” Classic.

“Are you actually learning anything?” Insulting.

“Does your mom have her teaching license?” No. Ouch. Ok.

 

Then we have the know-it-alls. A friend told me over the phone once, “Your social skills just aren’t as developed as mine. You didn’t learn social skills like I did because you were not around people every day like I was at school.” Alright Matt. You were right about one thing. I wasn’t around a bunch of people my age every single day.

I was around my family. I am close friends with my little siblings who are five and 8 years younger than me. I’ve become pals with people of all different ages. I got to travel because the schedule as a homeschooler is so flexible. I met people in different areas all over the US. I’ve learned to socialize with young and old. I’ve learned to talk to a community of people instead of just people my age.  

Of course, I didn’t say this to Matt. What I said was, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” To which he replied. “It’s just true. I’m sorry that I’m making you angry by telling the truth.” So matter-of-fact. So sure.

With the idea of homeschooling made fun of a lot by peers and in media, it’s not hard to believe that one would want to hide the fact that one was or is homeschooled.

But remembering what Ali said about public high school makes me think about my experience as a homeschooled high-schooler. It was pretty much an experience and a half too—just a different one.


What a lot of people who attend or have attended public school don’t realize, is that we’re not homeschooling alone. Homeschooling is a lifestyle and it includes a lot of other homeschool kids and parents too. We have a network, and we help each other, and can act just as wonderfully or dysfunctionally as any other community of people.

 

But here’s another thing I like to remember: When I went to those weekly homeschool co-ops, I met some of the coolest and most interesting people. These people were dorks and nerds and weirdos like me, and so much fun. I guess we are different because we are separated from some of the trends that happen in public schools, and because we’re probably around our families a lot more, and because we get to do school in our pajamas sometimes. (I’d bet money on the idea that doing school in your pajamas affects you in some way).

 

But it’s ok if you’re not quite ready to tell everyone. Because—face it—we are looked at a little funny when we tell others we were homeschooled.

 

But I want to let you know that our experiences as homeschooled high-schoolers don’t make us less than anyone. In fact, we can bring a fresh new perspective to the years within which we were homeschooled, and even beyond, after we’ve graduated from our homeschooled days.

 

We’re not better or worse—we’re just different. And I guess I’m learning to embrace that.

(Sarah Kmosko recently graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelors degree in Communication Studies, with a minor in Psychology. She is planning to attend grad school to be certified as a licensed counselor).

Tired of the Socialization Issue? Tags: homeschooling and socialization homeschool vs public school socialization process against homeschooling

I can't believe people are still talking about this so-called "issue." To me, it's a tiresome topic, because the evidence that home education works speaks for itself, regardless of the naysayers who have a vested interest in the educational system remaining the way it is, and by others who have abdicated much of the responsibility of educating their own children -- even in the most basic of areas -- to a system run by "experts."

Well, like it or not, just because children in the public system are given information by those who are considered "well educated," that does not mean those children are being educated well. The fact of the matter is, state schools continue to fail miserably with regards to academic instruction -- their supporters can't realistically attack home education on that score, with homeschoolers consistently outperforming their public school peers on the Dreaded Standardized Tests. (Read any of those articles about the cheating scandals at public schools (NYC; Lousiana) for high percentages of erasures on those standardized tests? And that's not the only area where it's likely schools have cheated. How is it that so many public high schoolers can graduate with "As" on their transcripts without being able to write a decent essay or perform basic math functions -- as evidenced by the remedial courses they need to take in their first year of college? And home education is looked at askance?)

If detractors of home education can't get us on academics, they must insist home education is inadequate for some other reason -- and that's when they invoke the "S" word. I suppose their "concerns" are meant to make us doubt, have second thoughts, worry that our children will be seriously mal-adapted. Well, like it or not, compulsory attendance in an artificial, institutionalized environment that practices social engineering, (a place for everyone and everyone in their place), is not the way to produce individuals who are well socialized.

I'm no public school "expert," but I do know something about public school, having come through the K-12 pressure-cooker myself. The experience so impressed upon my psyche that I knew I would never want to subject my own children to the same. While I realize that my experience is not the primary benchmark of what public school is like for everyone, it was by no means unique or uncommon. Out of all the years spent in school, high school was the absolute worst. To retain my sanity, I graduated early. Let me give you an idea of the kind of "socialization" I received there.

School was a dirty place. Grimy is the first word that comes to mind. The walls, the floors, the bathrooms (which you avoided at all costs). You didn't want a seat by the radiators, because that's where the roaches hung out. You hoped you could get through class without any crawling on you. As for the other kind of "filth," I learned first-hand, in concentrated doses (and at a very early age, in Junior High, and even Elementary school), about things like vulgarity, stalking, bigotry and segregation, and sexual harassment. And not just from the students.

School was an overcrowded, uncomfortable place. The halls were wall-to-wall people when we changed classes. If you had the misfortune of having a last name that started with a letter at the end of the alphabet (as I did), part of your first day of a class was likely spent having to go find and drag in a seat for yourself from somewhere. A platform on which to write to go along with it was not a given. Nor were you guaranteed a whole, fully readable textbook, you know, one with pages that didn't have a lot of crap written in them, or that didn't have pages ripped out altogether. I suppose we were fortunate to have books at all. 

School was a violent, dangerous place. In the first two weeks I attended high school, I witnessed, almost daily, fights that broke out in the (dirty) lunchroom, at least one involving knives. Fights were normal, but were growing increasingly more violent, like the time someone was nearly bludgeoned to death by someone else with a lead pipe. One year, there was a race riot; another year, a bomb scare, both resulting in evacuations. In addition to witnessing fights, my first weeks of high school involved threats to my person. In one instance, I wore to school a 14K gold chain I had received for my birthday, and someone else wanted it, which nearly got me pummeled. In another instance, I wore to school a sweatshirt with the sentiment, "Rather Dead than Disco," and with a picture that showed a gravestone etched with the words, "Disco, RIP." (Highly offensive, I know, but this was the early 1980s, and Disco was definitely on its way out). Fortunately, I escaped that day also without a beating. I had learned early on that if you acted crazy enough, people were more likely to leave you alone for fear of not knowing exactly what you were capable of. I believe that's changed these days with the preponderance of handguns. They installed metal detectors in my high school not long after I graduated.

School was not a good learning environment. Rather, it was a microcosm of -- and in some instances, probably an incubator for  -- the ills of society, all in one convenient location. It is punishment indeed to force subjection to conditions that, in the real world, any normal person would strive to get away from and avoid.

If articles and statistics on school violence offer a true picture, then nothing has changed in the 30 years since I was part of the system -- if anything, it appears that things have grown worse.

Those of us who have barely survived with most of our marbles intact have done so in spite of the maltreatment experienced at school. The operative word in educational institution is institution. It's a place that keeps you in, then turns you out, in many cases in worse shape when you leave than when you arrived.

Perhaps sociopath is a better label for what's turned out of many public schools. A sociopath is defined as a person who is unsociable, antisocial, socially deteriorated, selfish, dissociable. In other words, a crazy person or mental case. I would argue that what poses a greater threat to society is not the "unsocialization" that supposedly occurs in home education, but the anti-socialization that occurs in the public system. The definition of antisocial: unsociable, feral, ferocious, uncivilized, violent. Sounds a lot like many of the people I went to school with.

If you're fortunate enough to live in a decent district with decent schools, or even more fortunate to live in a wealthy district with "the best" schools, and you've opted to send your children there, that's great, that's your choice. But home education is also a valid choice and, in many cases, a superior one.

It's interesting to note that public schools, acknowledging the benefits of what they call "customized education," (what we home educators call "home education"), are continuing to offer more and more courses online that students can take from home, or from anywhere. A recent article focusing on South Carolina public schools sings the praises of online learning and how it will surpass the limitations of traditional "brick and mortar" schools. The article even speaks of the "diverse opportunities for social interaction -- for instance through sports clubs, homeroom clusters, and academic fieldtrips."   Home educators have always used a combination of methods to facilitate learning, including hands-on projects and group activities, traditional and classical approaches, and, as it's become more available, online learning. Funny how nowhere in the article about SCs virtual, school-at-home paradigm was socialization deemed an "issue." Neither is it for home education.

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