Unschooling Articles from Live Free Learn Free

But How Will They Ever Learn to Stand in Line?
by Shannon M. Reichard

It’s Valentine’s Day. My children are still asleep. I am sitting here writing, embracing the fact that, for the moment, the house is quiet and we have no place to go! Birds are chirping and the sun is shining through the window onto our kitchen blackboard scribbled with the names of twenty-seven of my children’s closest friends. Our kitchen table is littered with construction paper, pens, glue and stickers – the result of last night’s mad dash to produce homemade Valentine’s Day cards.

My oldest daughter is very thoughtful this year. No longer is she throwing cards together just to finish the task. Looking through a few of the colorful cards decorated with personal drawings and nice neat handwriting, one card gave me pause. It read simply, “To my very special friend.” Here within the simple writing of an eight-year-old, I realized my fears have been unfounded. You see, we are a homeschooling family. We are living the “How will they ever be socialized,” “How will they learn to stand in line,” and “They need to be with people their own age!” life.

Unanswered Questions

I must admit that when we began our little education experiment with our children four years ago, we had many unanswered questions. We were operating on a leap of faith, trusting the facts that our children had learned to eat, crawl, play, walk and talk without any instruction, and assuming, therefore, that they should be able to progress along academic lines in much the same way. My husband and I, having grown up in the public school system, had to learn to be patient and trust the learning process as a natural drive that all children possess. We had to observe our children and follow their lead as each child has an individual time table for learning. We had to let go of the fact that children learn to write by a certain age or read by a prescribed time. We had to trust that play is learning in the most natural form.

The more we considered homeschooling, the more our confidence soared. We knew and cared for our children more than anyone in the world. But, after a heartfelt letter from my mother-in-law stating that it was not fair to keep our children at home where their only friends were their parents and grandparents, we started second guessing ourselves. Could it be that we were making the wrong decision? The few friends they had were going to preschool and kindergarten. Was it selfish to keep our children at home while their friends went to school? My heart sank when my daughter, at five, started questioning why she was not going to be able to play on the school playground.

Fortunately, these questions strengthened our resolve to make homeschooling work. How difficult could socialization really be anyway? What skills did we really need to be considered “socialized” in adulthood? If socialization is one’s ability to fit into society, then what better way to learn socialization skills than within the society our children would be thrust into in just a few short years? Our mission was clear. Follow our children’s academic lead and include them in our everyday activities in and outside the home. We resolved to talk to them about how to behave in different situations and help them find and maintain friendships with people of all ages.

Real Life Opportunities

Rarely do we find ourselves secluded within the four walls of our home all day. There are doctors, dentists, chiropractors, grocery stores, book stores, restaurants and malls teaming with socialization opportunities. There’s the endless array of activities we have participated in over the years: library story times, preschool music classes, violin, gymnastics, swimming, yoga, art camp, art classes, science classes, drama classes with stage productions, drama camp, piano, dance, knitting classes, homeschool organic garden, and horseback riding lessons. We have enjoyed community theaters, dance and symphony performances, zoos, museums, and hospital, fire station and post office tours. We have even toured our state’s fish hatchery and discovered that mountain streams are really cold in June!

We have been fortunate to find a close-knit homeschool support group which includes families from all religious, racial and homeschool backgrounds in our community. Our children are learning that all people are different but share the common thread of decency and respect. We joined four years ago and have attended a weekly park day where the kids have made some wonderful, lasting friendships. We have watched, sometimes painfully, as the children work out problems with kids of all ages, sometimes for four to five hours at a time each week. My oldest has grown from the self-centered five-year-old to a cooperating pre-adolescent.

Park day has expanded into field trip opportunities, birthday parties, play days and community service projects. And holiday parties! Which is why, today, there is such a mess in our kitchen! We are bowling for Valentine’s this year. Not sure how we are going to juggle bowling with passing out Valentine’s cards, but the day promises to be a fun one.

Whether with my grandmother at the nursing home or the clerk at the grocery store, my children are never at a loss for questions or kind words. Both girls readily play with children of all ages. Rarely do they meet someone of their exact age. This is great preparation for the future, considering that, as adults, most of us have friends of many different ages. What wonderful friendships and opportunities we would lose if our criteria for friends were that they be our own age.

Family Bonds

People often question the difficulty of living 24/7 with the same people day in and day out. There is a lot of negotiation and work to be done when you spend most of your hours in the same space. But, it’s good work. And, even though we have our fair share of yelling and screaming, there is lots of time for talking, hugs and laughter throughout each day. My girls shared a room (until they outgrew the room’s size) simply because they wanted to be together. In their five-and-a-half-years of being sisters they have had time to develop a special bond because they have the opportunity to spend so much time together.

I do not know the future of our homeschooling endeavor. At some point, the girls may feel the need to experience school. But, I do know this for sure. The last thing we need to worry about, right now, is socialization. Well, at least until those teenage years hit!

Shannon lives with her family in North Carolina. She enjoys writing, playing the piano, knitting and spending days with her two daughters.


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