Posts tagged " homeschooling "

What about Socialization

September 5th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 31 comments

Today’s Musing is actually a triple-header. It was inspired by an Ask the Rabbi question. In order not to make that answer too long, I intended to follow up with a Practical Parenting column. Finally, I decided to bundle all my (our) reflections  into one Susan’s Musing.

Here is Dave’s Ask the Rabbi question and our answer:

Greetings Rabbi and Susan,

I’m a long-time listener and grateful beneficiary of Ancient Jewish Wisdom, the Podcast, Thought Tools, Susan’s Musings and your books.

My question is in regards to the most recent podcast on “Dealing with Death.” In it, Rabbi, you mention that most mass-shooters are basically lonely men; unmarried, childless, disconnected, involuntarily celibate, etc. I completely agree. However, you mention that if these men were more connected to family, friends, sexual relationships, etc., the problem would be virtually resolved.

When I heard this, I couldn’t help but think about homeschooling. As a homeschooler (which as I understand your family did also), I often find myself defending our decision to homeschool against naysayers who argue that my children will not receive the necessary social skills they’ll need to function in society. Usually, it goes something like this: “You’re sheltering your children; they’ll never make any friends being cooped-up in your house all day.” Surely they’d receive all their “necessary social skills” in public school. I was the product of a GIC [Government Indoctrination Camp] (one of my favorite acronyms or yours, I must tell you) and will never be an apologist for them. In retrospect, it seems that being forced to go to a place with thousands of my peers every weekday provided harmful “over-socialization” if there is such a thing.

I remember from my school experience is that there wasn’t much learning going on. Instead it was an utter fashion show. I spent every day being hopelessly obsessed with girls, the latest loud music and my own popularity. Now twenty-five years removed from high school, I can’t think of even one life-affirming or life-enhancing connection that remains.

Still, it seems that homeschooling is antithetical to your point about mass-shooters needing more connections. Is this a legitimate disparity, or one of life’s many paradoxes? Furthermore, I’m sure you and Susan heard the same objection to homeschooling. How did you defend your decision?

Thank you again for all you and Susan do. It is more valuable to Christians like me than you might ever realize.

Dear Dave,

You are presenting us with quite a dilemma. The problem is not that we have trouble answering your excellent  question, but  that we struggle to answer it sufficiently briefly.   When we launch into the topic  of homeschooling, it is hard to get us (especially Susan) to keep it short.  [Let it be noted as I (RDL) often do, that one of the many, many great kindnesses that Mrs. Lapin has extended to me has been homeschooling our family.  I cannot overstate how much of my current familial satisfaction is due to those many years our family was all together in our own homemade school environment. Though I immodestly claim “we homeschooled” it is in the same spirit that I claim “Between us we changed about 30,000 diapers.”   True but hardly the whole truth.] For today, however, our solution is to partially answer your question here and then Susan will continue answering.

If your children are actually “cooped-up in your house all day,” we might  be concerned. Somehow, we doubt this is the case. We feel confident that like most of the millions of children being homeschooled, your children do field trips, outings, and perhaps co-op classes with dozens of other homeschooling families.  Additionally they probably attend family gatherings and enjoy playing with neighborhood and church friends, some of whom probably are sentenced to GICS .

A troubling book, Educated, by Tara Westover, describes her upbringing as the daughter of a severely dysfunctional and abusive father who hid many of his activities under the guise of homeschooling. While that book would seem to be an argument for forcing all children into school, to be fair one would also have to read, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. This harrowing book describes his experiences with a severely dysfunctional and abusive mother. He did go to school and for years teachers never followed up on the many overt clues suggesting that he needed help. 

Of course, one can also read stories that are sadly available about bullied students and abusive teachers. In other words, it may be a tragic reality, but it is a reality that sick and evil adults can cause great pain to children. Children can also cause a great deal of pain to other children. We do not order society on the basis of assuming that most adults are sick and evil or that any gathering of children will be a replay of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Following that train of thought is futile.

Back to your family. Most homeschoolers we know have a wide variety of activities outside the home and are also part of  the larger homeschooling and general community. They also have extremely strong relationships with their parents and siblings. As your memories from school remind us, being around others of exactly the same age as us does not necessarily help our social skills.

If a teenage boy, in particular, whether he is homeschooled or in a conventional school, has no friends, a poor relationship with his family, is broody and disconnected from all other people spending most of his time alone, we would worry. However, suggesting that homeschooling leads to that conclusion has nothing to do with how the world REALLY works.

In love with lifetime learning,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Did I (Susan) have more to say on the topic? Of course! Here are a few more of my thoughts:

Tell people around you that you are even thinking of homeschooling and before long someone—or many—will exclaim, “But what about socialization?” Most veteran homeschoolers will burst out laughing at that question. Often, their children are busy with so many social activities that they struggle to find time for basics like math. Nevertheless, let’s take a deeper look at the question.

Why don’t we start by looking at the Bing online dictionary definition of the word. My search yielded the following:

socialization

[ˌsōSHələˈzāSH(ə)n, ˌsōSHəˌlīˈzāSH(ə)n]

NOUN

  1. the activity of mixing socially with others.
    “socialization with students has helped her communication skills”

       2. the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
      “preschool starts the process of socialization”

      3. organization of an industry or company according to the principles of socialism.
      “planned economic growth was accompanied by the socialization of agriculture”

One could argue that many professors at university schools of education hew most closely to  promoting definition #3. Many parents, seeing polls showing that after  years of indoctrination in school a shocking number of young adults think socialism is preferable to capitalism, could understandably decide  to homeschool precisely to counteract the effects of socialization.

Yet, most people (perhaps naively) are referring to definitions #1 and #2 when they question homeschooling. Let’s deal with those in reverse order.

I disagree entirely with the example for the definition that reads, “ the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.” First of all, in my homeschool we would capitalize the beginning of a sentence. More importantly, the sentiment is far more troubling than the grammar. Society has many  very unacceptable ideas today. The less exposure to them that children get, the better off they are.

Even if positive values are being imparted, preschool, which today generally starts between the ages of three and four, should not be the beginning of learning how to interact with others. That process must begin three to four years earlier. A newborn is completely self-centered. A three-year-old should not be. During that interval of time, little ones should learn many lessons as they recognize that they and their mothers are two separate people and that screaming and crying are not the only responses to discomfort. By three and four they should have been introduced to ideas ranging from standing to the side when waiting to enter an elevator out of consideration for those exiting, to sharing toys with and offering a drink to visitors. If none of these and myriad other ideas are not already familiar by the time a child enters preschool, that poor preschool teacher is facing an overwhelming task.

However, definition #1 is probably what most people have in mind when they question homeschooling. Their imaginations travel to a lone child sitting in isolation, looking longingly out as apple-cheeked and cheerful children prance happily down the block looking forward to a day of education and fun. Seriously, other than pictures of Dick and Jane in the appalling primary readers that helped pave the way to wide-spread illiteracy do either of those images seem realistic?

Most homeschoolers are involved in all sorts of activities ranging from karate to volunteering in old-age homes, from orchestra to geo-caching. There is a major difference however between these social interactions and those in school. The partners in these activities tend to span a greater age range than is found in the classroom. More like real life, you could say where your co-workers and friends are not all born within the same year as you. Rather than taking your social cues from other ten-year-olds, homeschoolers have the opportunity to model themselves after older peers and to be a model to younger ones.

Not every school is a den of bullying and not every homeschooling family reflects the finest character traits. But if socialization means learning to mix socially with others and to cooperate and function in group settings, then parents should feel confident that those skills can be learned both within the school setting and outside of it.

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Summer Homework – for Mothers

July 17th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

I loved our family’s summer boating trips for many reasons. Among them was, that as long as my husband and son were willing to heave and ho, I could bring along as much stuff as I wanted. This meant boxes and boxes of books and supplies that I used to plan the coming year’s homeschool.

Doing this in the lazy days of summer was so much fun. I could be swept away by a period of history and spend more hours reading about it than I would ever share with a ten-year-old. I could explore craft ideas and experiments without any pressure to have them ready by the next morning. Most of all, I could imagine that our children would be engaged by everything I was excitedly choosing for us to do. Of course they would want to dissect a cow’s eyeball—who wouldn’t? (That would be each and every one of my children including the future doctor and the future nurse.)

If you are a homeschooling mom who takes things easier in the summer you, too, probably use this time for planning, ordering and organizing. If you are not homeschooling, this time is valuable for you as well. A September reset button allows us to review what worked well and what didn’t over the previous year.

Maybe there were just too many activities and we became chauffeurs more than moms. Maybe our kids’ lives were so structured and busy that they had no time to be creative. Maybe we turned into grumpy crones every afternoon when a hungry family and tired mother faced each other.

Perhaps we read some books out loud and we still hear our children referencing them. Or we might have cut back on screen time, endured grumbles and whines for a few days or weeks and then found that our children were quite able to entertain themselves. Maybe we need to take the time to notice that a child we worried and worried about matured and is in a new and much more pleasant space.

Make some time this summer to think through the past year and plan for the next one. Turn off your auto-pilot and figure out what will work best for each of your children and your family as a whole. Enjoy these precious days before ads for school supplies set you back on a treadmill that may not be the one you want to ride.

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Helicopter Mom – Me?

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 5 comments

If there is one thing that, until now, I have never been accused of, it is being a helicopter parent. If anything, more than a few of our children’s friends’ parents thought that my husband and I allowed our children too much independence. One of our daughters was incredibly upset that we did not sign her up for SAT review classes or care enough about her grades once she attended a ‘real’ high school.

Yet, as homeschooling increases in the United Kingdom, one British columnist has labeled me, by association and after the fact,  a “militant,” “arrogant,” and “controlling” mother who homeschooled to “dominate and diminish” my children. Wow!

To be fair, the author, Janet Street-Porter is willing to debate home-schooling mothers she knows and works with. Her strong language seems to more headline-grabbing than actually insulting. However, I think it is worth analyzing and rebutting her arguments.

While homeschooling has become rather mainstream in the United States, that isn’t so for much of the rest of the world. It is highly regulated in some countries and illegal in others, most notably Germany. When I was teaching my children, the most frequent accusation hurled at us was that we were hampering their socialization skills. That was laughable If you knew our outgoing children and the many friendships and relationships they had, but that tired allegation didn’t even make it into this article.

Instead, the article’s slant is the damage caused to British society in general and their  children in particular by parents take them out of the system. Ms. Street-Porter contends that those who don’t feel the school system is satisfactory from an educational point of view are  selfish to care only for our children rather than working within the system to improve academics for all. I admittedly am not familiar with British bureaucracy, but if it is anything like America, we’re not talking a fix that will be accomplished within the schooling lifetime of any student today.  Things are that bad and the status quo is too entrenched. I know many homeschooling parents who actively work to improve education on a community and national level. Doing the best for one’s own child doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else’s.

Another accusation hurled at homeschooling parents in this article was a reluctance to embrace the necessity of discipline. Again, unless British schools are complete opposites from American ones, most homeschooling families are far more disciplined than classrooms, not less. Parents who are disorganized wimps can scrape by when their kids are out of the house for many hours a day. When the kids are always home, structure and routine usually co-exist with learning and play.

As for the recommendation that children must learn to handle bullying and that homeschooling to avoid it will reduce children’s resilience and ability to get along with others, I think that is completely misguided. Most parents that I know who homeschool in response to classroom, school bus and schoolyard bullying start out as reluctant homeschoolers.  They have worked with their children, the teachers and administration to try to solve the problem, all to no avail. They are making a difficult decision not to sacrifice their children’s emotional health.

The article closes with this paragraph: “Sadly, too many modern parents want to control every aspect of their children’s lives – monitoring their movements via special apps, calling them every few hours to make sure they are “safe”. Home-schooling is just another form of insidious control.”

One of the easiest ways to monitor your child is to put them in a controlled environment for most of their waking hours. In other words, send them to school. My children and many of their homeschooling peers were far more independent and had a wider variety of activities than their friends who marched in lock-step with twenty or so other children of precisely their own age. Dominating and diminishing my children? I prefer to think of homeschooling as assisting my children in reaching their full potential; propelling them aloft rather than helicoptering over them.

The Patience Pitfall

January 7th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 5 comments

If you homeschool your children, you have probably been on the receiving end of this statement: “I think what you’re doing is wonderful, but I just don’t have the patience.”

Nine times out of ten, the correct response is to smile and change the subject. Your conversation partner doesn’t actually think that what you’re doing is wonderful; she actually thinks it’s insane. Never for one minute has she considered keeping her children with her at home. School is working well for her family.

Every once in a while, though, those words express a plaintive cry for help. They come from the depths of the soul of a mother who worries that school is damaging or short-changing her child but is terrified at the idea of being a full-time parent and teacher. Endowing you with saintly levels of patience allows her to rationalize that she couldn’t possibly do what you’re doing. After all, she wasn’t born with your supernatural talent.

Here is my dirty little secret. I homeschooled not because I had overflowing reserves of patience, but because I had very little of it. I had absolutely no patience for helping a child with inane, boring and convoluted homework. I had no patience with being nominated as the homework police.  I had no patience with placing family priorities behind the (understandable) demands of an institution. I had no patience with waking a sleeping infant in order to drive carpool. The list goes on.

Here is what I discovered. Reviewing multiplication tables, reminding people that the words ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ mean different things, and rarely having an uncluttered kitchen table did require patience. It was the same type of patience needed to help little ones remember not to drop their clothes, toys and shoes all over the house and to say please when making a request. In other words, being a teacher was an extension of being a mother. The more I worked at one identity, the better I got at the other.

If you need time to recuperate after getting everyone out the door in the morning; if there are constantly miserable hours of ‘witching time’ between school and dinner; if getting the kids to bed is an exhausting, nightly performance, some homeschooling lessons might be exactly what you need. Because (for healthy moms) homeschooling encourages you to hone your mother skills.

Phrases like, “I can’t wait for school to start,” and “If winter vacation lasts one more day I’m going to go out of my mind,” aren’t accolades to schools. They are reminders that things in the home need to change because they aren’t working well. There is only one reason for children to go to school. That is because it benefits them.

The child who heads off in the morning knowing that his mother would rather spend the day with him, but sacrifices the opportunity for his well-being, is a child ready to make the most of his studies. The child who suspects that school is an excuse for his mother to get rid of him learns an entirely different lesson.

Psst! Want the Secret to a Great Education?

November 26th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

When I was actively homeschooling, I would occasionally see humorous lists citing the top reasons to homeschool.  One that resonated with me (and seemed serious to me even if it lent itself to funny illustrations) was that homeschooling validated hours upon hours of reading. Not only did I get to read in order to prepare for teaching, but there was a practical need for reading books about education and learning.

With that in mind, those of you in the trenches of parenting whether you are homeschooling or not, might enjoy reading two books that I recently finished. Lenora Chu is an America journalist whose parents immigrated to the States from China. When she and her small town, Minnesota-bred, blond and blue-eyed husband attain career opportunities in China, she utilizes her skills to explore and compare education in China and her home country. Since the couple has two young children, one of whom they enroll in school, her writing is conflicted, passionate and very human.

Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School and the Global Race to Achieve is a fun read that will make you think. Like Ms. Chu, you may find yourself alternately horrified, envious, curious and forced to analyze exactly what your goals for education are.

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Make Mine a Capital

November 19th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Being a homeschooling mom taught me a tremendous amount. Not only did I vastly expand my knowledge of academic subjects but the adventure encouraged me to think independently. Growing up as an extremely compliant student, I dutifully completed my lessons and studied hard. As an adult looking at textbooks and workbooks from a different vantage point, I was full of skepticism.

Raise your hand if you know to start a sentence with a capital letter when writing in English. How about if you know that people’s names should be capitalized? Now think back to when you learned those basic rules? If you grew up with English as your primary language it was probably quite early. Perhaps in 1st grade or even before that.

When I looked for homeschooling material, this fact made it hard for me to understand why English language and grammar workbooks aimed at second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth-graders opened with a basic lesson about capitalization complete with practice exercises. The simple rules aren’t so convoluted that they needs constant repetition. These same books didn’t, for example, continue showing pictures of a mop, broom and pail, asking students to underline the word that starts with an ‘m’ sound. The assumption was that once you learned the ‘m’ sound, you didn’t need to be retaught it every year.

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How Do You Homeschool?

November 12th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 2 comments

Veteran homeschoolers are frequently asked two questions. Those who tend to object to homeschooling ask, “What about socialization,” while those thinking of homeschooling want to know, “What curriculum do you use?”

I want to focus on the second question. I often hear it expressed in a yearning tone. Parents who are unhappy with their children’s schooling or reluctant to send their little one off to school seem to be saying, “I want to do this so please tell me what to do.” To quote Shakespeare, “Aye, there’s the rub.” Most of the time, homeschooling is a dance that each mother (it is usually, though not always, the mom) and individual child do. When it is done best, it isn’t a matter of memorizing and executing steps, but of being completely in touch with one’s partner and sensitive to the unique personalities, interests and styles of both mother and child.

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Growing with Nancy

October 22nd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

In addition to what I recently wrote, Sarah Mackenzie makes another important point in her book, The Read-Aloud Family. When we read to older children we expand their vocabulary. While a child might get frustrated  reading a book too much above his or her comfortable reading level, children begin to decipher unfamiliar words in context when a parent is reading.

Even when a child is reading at an advanced level, reading aloud has an added benefit. I think every homeschool parent of committed readers has been amused when their children mispronounce words that they have only met through printed matter. Reading aloud gives children a chance to hear new vocabulary words as well as see them.

Thinking so much about reading aloud reminded me of a Musing from a few years back. I hope you enjoy this reprint:

Superman comic books may not generally be considered advanced literary material, but the childhood hours I spent reading them did help me do well on my SATs.  While I didn’t read the comics for vocabulary lessons, years later the spurious documents that one criminal used served me admirably when I needed to pick the correct multiple choice synonym for that word.

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Our Teacher, the Judge

October 4th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

As I wrote in my post, Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom, for many years I had a nagging worry that I might be depriving my children of a truly great teacher such as the one I had in fifth grade. That concern wasn’t enough for me to stop homeschooling. After all, there were many other considerations and the stories I was hearing from friends with children in school reminded me that those teachers were few and far between. Still, the niggling worry lodged in the back of my mind, moving into a more prominent position whenever I was disappointed in my own teaching.

When I had already been teaching for a few years, I received a hug from Heaven reminding me that teachers are found in all sorts of places. My husband returned from a conference and informed us that he had invited a fascinating man he had met there to join us for Shabbat dinner. Our table was rarely without guests and my young crew (aged 1-11) took the news of this new arrival in stride.

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Making Sense of the World: Unit Studies

August 31st, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 3 comments

Two of my favorite homeschooling years occurred when I used KONOS as the basis of my curriculum. I heard one of the founders of KONOS speak at a homeschooling convention and loved the slogan she used to describe her perspective (which I’m probably not getting exactly right), “God put the wiggle in children, don’t take it out.”

KONOS was based on the idea of integrated unit studies, a concept that I heartily applaud. Each unit had a theme and what we covered in history, science, literature and Bible studies was chosen to fit into that theme. While KONOS was Christian-based, I found it “easy” to adapt because the themes were built on character traits, in Hebrew, what I would call midot.

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