It’s All About Socialization

The other day Ani’s friend came over to bake (gluten free) cookies. This friend is 18 days younger than Ani’s little brother (so 20 months younger than Ani). They get along great and have fun together. My best friend is a month older than my older sister. She’s 3 1/2 years older than I am. This is how socialization is in the real world. Ages don’t matter. Friends are not limited to a class of kids in your geographical area who happened to be born within the same 12 months as you. Friends are made because you have things in common and get along well.

As time has passed since we pulled the kids out, we’ve learned some things about their time in public school. The education was great. The schools (with a couple exceptions at Ani’s high school) were great. It was the socialization that was a problem. Two of my kids actually regressed in social skills while in public school. And, yet, people always ask homeschoolers about how they will possibly properly socialize their kids.

Adrian can be a handful. We knew this before he ever entered public kindergarten. The number of days he ended up on red on the behavior chart far outnumbered the days he got yellow and those far outnumbered the days he got green. By November, kids in his class would walk by him and whisper things like “you’re a bad boy” to him. I told his teacher about this and she talked to the kids, but it continued. Adrian didn’t seem to care, but it can’t be good for a 5 year old to hear that over and over from his peers every day. It did seem to make him think there are no point in trying to be good and he did tell me often that he’s just a bad boy. I began to have some serious anxiety every time my cell phone would ring. Most of the time it was the principal calling about Adrian yet again.

Fritz started talking in his head rather than out loud. He was so worried about going down on the behavior chart that he chose to simply quit talking. His teacher didn’t even notice. She liked that he was so quiet and easy to deal with. When I told her that Fritz said he would have whole conversations (sometimes “with” other people) in his head, she was a bit concerned. He quit talking to non-family members except when absolutely necessary. He became afraid of most social interactions. Fritz has always been prone to anxiety, but previously it had only been related to severe weather. Public school made his anxiety much worse and more generalized. Only after we pulled him out and some time went by and he started talking a lot again did we realize he had greatly reduced his talking at home, too.

Cameron has always been pretty much in his own world and things roll off of him easily. He says the main thing he learned in school was how to ignore other people because, most of the time, his fellow students were just trying to annoy each other. He says that if someone videoed the students during the passing periods it would be rated R due to language. The language used by most of them was quite foul. This was 6th graders. Eleven and twelve year olds. The grade levels are on separate floors at the middle school he went to, so it really was just 6th graders.

Ani is my other kid who regressed in her social skills. She took somewhat the same route as Fritz. The kids at her school (and I’ve observed this in other places with high schoolers who attend a different school than she did) were just plain mean to each other. Insulting, rude, picking at each other – even when they claim the people they are talking to are their friends! Ani says she mostly stopped talking to anyone but her teachers. Most people had something nasty to say every time anyone else opened their mouth, so why even talk in the first place. In addition, she had always been complimented on how she could communicate so well with people of any age. While in public school, she became terrified of talking to people, particularly those she did not know well. Social anxiety became an issue for her, too.

It’s been over a year since any of my kids attended school. Ani and Fritz are talking like they used to. Fritz is back to only being anxious about weather. Ani has no problem talking to people, including strangers, now. Adrian no longer tells me he’s a bad boy. Cameron has become sensitive to hearing cuss words and they bother him again. Their friends, like the one Ani likes to get together and bake with, come from a variety of ages. It looks to me like the best place for real, positive socialization for my kids is not in a public school classroom, but, instead in the real world.

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