Monday, October 02, 2006

Homeschooling Does Not Equal Isolation - Part 1

Maybe this goes back to the socialization thing, but I'm still surprised by the number of comments left on various homeschool related blogs which are based on the assumption that homeschoolers are isolationists. While that may be true for some, it doesn't apply to most of the homeschoolers I know.

It is true that I do not what my children immersed in popular culture, like they would be at school. I'm reminded of the poem about vice.

Vice is a monster of so frightful mein
as to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity,
then embrace.
(Alexander Pope)

Public education goes out of its way to normalize bad manners and shameful conduct. I recently had a conversation with a mother with three children in school. She was frustrated by the little vulgarities which had crept into her children's speech. Her children had become desensitized to these words, and so they felt comfortable using them even when speaking to adults. Even though the parents explained why these words were unsuitable, the children just couldn't understand their parents' reaction. All their friends at school talk like that.

There was a young man in our neighborhood who talked like an illiterate street thug. This young man grew up in a upper middle class neighborhood with highly educated parents, yet because of the time he spent at school he sounded like he grew up in a ghetto. Luckily for him, he would spend a few years in foreign country speaking another language. By the time he returned home, he no longer sounded like a gang banger.

That is one of the many reasons my children don't go to public school. It is human nature to imitate what you see and hear day after day, all day long.

Limiting and diluting negative influences does not have to be isolating. We don't shun public school children or people of another faith or lifestyle. I estimate that less than half of my friends are homeschoolers who attend the same church as my family. The majority of our friends and family consist of a wide variety of religious backgrounds, include atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, agnostic, new age, and a broad spectrum of Christian denominations. We have many friends and neighbors who have children in public and private school.

These interacts have led to some pretty funny conversations. When my middle daughter was four years old, she spent a lot of time with the next door neighbor's 4 year old boy. Our next door neighbors are from India. They are Hindu by tradition and atheist by practice. When questions regarding religion came up, my neighbor was very careful in her responses by prefacing every comment with, "Some people believe one way and some people believe another."

My daughter and their son and the following conversation.

Their son:
Some people believe on way, some people believe another. My parents don't believe in God.
My grandmother believes in God. In fact, she believes in a whole bunch of Gods.

My daughter:
Some people believe one way, some people believe another. At my house, we believe in Jesus. At your house, you believe in Great America.

Their son:
(With great excitement) ....And Chucky Cheese!!!

The part I found so funny is that they understood each other perfectly. We spent our Sundays at church and they spent their Sundays at Great America and Chucky Cheese.

As the above example illustrates, four year olds don't process information the way you might think. Children under the age of 8 swallow misinformation whole. They don't normally have the capacity to sift information for bias or inaccuracies. They also don't draw the conclusions adults might expect. Thus, young children are easily confused, manipulated and victimized. That is why, as parents, it is our responsibility to watch over our children when they can not safeguard themselves.

While my children have quite a lot of contact with a diverse group, we manage the interactions. These interactions are great teaching moments because we are consistently monitoring what is going on. That is the problem with sending your children to school. Parents are unaware of what takes place the majority of the child's waking hours. Often, parents aren't aware there is a problem until it is a big problem. It is dangerous to delegate parental responsibility to an institution.

Homeschool children are not at home hiding under the bed. They are happily out in the "real" world enjoying the benefits of parental supervision.

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ChristineMM said...

I liked your post.

I have the same issue with people immediately assuming that homeschoolers are isolationists.

Unfortunately the Wife Swap reality TV show does not help matters as they keep showing homeschoolers who spend most all their time inside their house and with only their family. Just think of the millions of viewers of that show (and the repeats of the show) that are helping to form Americans opinions of homeschoolers.

Homeschooling parents can't control all interactions with other homeschoolers. We must also admit that not all homeschooled children are angels. Some of the homeschooled kids I know are homeschooling ONLY because of injury at school, molestation, having been a bully victim for years, unjust or unfair treatment by peers and sometimes by teachers due to their physical/medical/neurological problem (disability). Some homeschooled children are quite scarred and they can sometimes be a negative influence on other homeschooled children.

What I think people don't understand is that by having the peer group NOT the main influence, that is what makes a big difference. With the family as the main influence and with NO peer dependence, a child can turn out quite different, for example, accepting the family's rules for what words will and won't be used, how they will treat others, whether they listen when others speak, slang use, etc.

If children are NOT peer dependent they are not SO influenced by their peers, so limited exposure to even schooled kids, rude relatives, etc. doesn't have as big of an impact.

One thing that my children really struggled with from ages 4-8 was accepting and understanding that different families have different tolerance levels for things such as profanity, name calling, using physical force to injure someone that they are angry at, and other things that are not done in our home. They had NO problem with accepting different colors of skin, different religions, ethnicities, and things like that but the fine line of behavior issues they just didn't understand. "Why are they allowed to use X word?" and "Why does their father use X word when you tell us that is not a word we use in OUR family? Why?"

Janine Cate said...

I saw the funniest comment on another homeschool blog. The person quoted something that happened on Wife Swap as an argument against homeschooling.

Oh, please....

Robert M. Lindsey said...

You mean Reality TV isn't real?

Good post. Thanks.