Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Socializatin Myth in Schools

Here we go again. This topic comes up in my life fairly often, because with two kids now in school for almost a whole year, well, it's going to. My kids were homeschooled through 2nd and 3rd grades, and were not "socialized" at school like their peers have been. I didn't realize it would even be an issue until my daughter was in first grade and would play with the neighbors when they would come home from school. She would come inside after a couple of hours, asking questions about why the girls were acting the way they were acting. That's when it occurred to me that the "games girls play" were being learned by these girls in school, and my daughter, without being "socialized" had no idea how to play them. You know those games...the manipulation, the cattiness, the, "I'll be your friend, IF..." The, "let's be mad at X..." and the exluding someone for whatever reason... It's just a big ol' ugly mess.
Most parents who were schooled or have kids in school think this is perfectly normal, or a rite of passage that every child encounters during childhood. Unfortunately, that's what leads to bullying. Kids left to fend for themselves, and choose their pecking order on the playground are either the top dog, the middle of the road kid, or the one who gets picked on. Often, these roles change daily. It could be because your child wore something unique that the other kids decide to pick on. It could be because your child got a haircut. It could be because your child did or said something that someone else wants to pick on. It could be the change of the wind...who knows?
So what is it about schools that lead to this socialization problem with kids? It is not lack of supervision. Nope...it's NOT the teachers' faults. Or the principals'. It's the entire system. That's correct...if your child goes to school, it is going to happen no matter what you do or say, no matter how much you grumble or complain; someone at school will be getting picked on and someone will be the underdog. The biggest reason mis-socialization occurs in schools is the fact that children are grouped together according to age. When you combine children into a group of twenty or so, all of the same general age, there are going to be problems. The "pecking order" commences when students play their little games to determine who is the top dog and where everyone else stands. If ONLY we combined children of different ages for a great part of their day, the socialization problem would practically disappear, since older child tend to naturally lead younger children, and younger children naturally listen to their older peers. The "games" no longer are necessary.
But there are other factors as well, that are inherent in schools. It is eloquently put here...
"Instead of being locked behind school gates in what some would consider an artificial setting characterized by bells, forced silence and age-segregation, homeschoolers frequently extend their everyday classroom to fire departments, hospitals, museums, repair shops, city halls, national parks, churches and colleges, where real community interaction and contacts are made."
It is interesting that most school administrators believe that homeschooled students have inferior social skills when compared to schooled students. In actuality, the opposite is true. And it's not even close. Schooled students are actually FAR more anti-social than homeschooled students. While parents of schooled students can make a big difference by using their time with their kids wisely, they first have to recognize the importance of their time and the influence they can have on their kids in the few hours they see them in the evenings. Unfortunately, many parents don't realize the value they possess and don't see the need in helping their children by talking over and working through problems kids have at school. Parents also should make sure to take their kids where they go, such as running errands. The more real world experience children receive, the better their understanding of it. And the less important those playground games seem to be.

Tom Woods