Monday, February 14, 2011

Homeschooling the Social Child

In my five years of homeschooling, the question that I am most asked has to do with socialization. There is never any doubt that I can provide my child with the academics but a lot of doubt about the socialization. And honestly it's something I worry about as well. My worries are not on the same level as those who ask because I do not think children learn good socialization in school. In fact, I always chuckle when people assume that my kids need school to be social people. My worries have more to do with how much socialization do my kids need, balancing their various needs, and keeping myself sane. It's not an easy juggling act and it's one where I am always dropping balls and having to start over.

After a really busy week where it seemed like we had something to do every day, I had to reevaluate our social life. I know that my kids need to get out but how much is too much? And I also worried that I was pushing them too much. On one of the park days, I had to literally push Umberto and Camille towards the other kids. They were both just sitting there on the bench looking miserable and lonely. And it was a bit painful to see all the other kids running around together ignoring mine. Of course I worried that it was my own pain that ate at me but I still tried to get them involved. Of course it ended disastrously with Umberto having a seizure in the van. I wondered, and still do a bit, if the seizures aren't being brought on the stress of social anxiety. 

Was it necessary to bring the kids to park days? And then what if no one talks to them? Do I nudge them to the social? After all, I believe that we are our children's guides in all aspects of life. Part of educating our children means attending to their social needs as well. And I know that children just do not come naturally to being social. It is a skill just as math is a skill. But how do much I push my children? Do I allow them a few friends? Or do they need many friends? 

Complicating this picture is the fact that we are a large family and our children have differing social needs. Going out is often a horrendous experience. Camille usually has a break down before we leave. This break down involves sobbing for a half hour while I am trying to get us all ready. The anxiety of leaving the house is often too much for her. At some point all the worry seems to explode from her and she just loses it. This doesn't happen if we go out once a week but I am risking it if we have too much going on. If it was just Camille, I wouldn't push it beyond once a week but I have the others. Piper would go out everyday if she could. She loves being social. Loves going out. Umberto would likely choose something in the middle of these two. Basically I feel like someone is always going to be unhappy with decisions we make.

And then there is me. I need some mama time because really I am with the children all day and sometimes I just need to sit outside with some other grown ups. Plus now that we're hitting warmer times I need the Vit. D. But I also need to not deal with the stress of getting us ready. 

Basically I'm coming to see that we have to prioritize what social needs we have. I've been talking with the beasties to get their feel for what events we all really enjoy. And I've been observing to see what events seem to be the most rewarding for us all. As always I am learning that homeschooling is not something I do to the beasties or something that they do to me. It's our journey as a family and we have to balance each other's needs as well as look to each other. We find our way together.


S said...

I don't know any homeschoolers that don't feel exactly like this. None of us has kids all on the same levels, and as much as we moms need to get out - most of us seem a more introverted by nature too. With book clubs, field trips, park days, movie nights, birthday parties, sleep overs, and normal errands - it's a wonder we get any "school" done at all! We do nothing but socialize :)

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

i know. I had a friend who said "Forget about socialization! What about the math?"

I'm more introverted than I used to be but I tend to be more an extrovert. When I follow the lead of my more introverted child, I end up going a little nuts myself!

Christin said...

Hi Ginger! I'm from the CHE group, saw your blog link on the bottom of your post :) I too go back and forth on how much socialization exactly my family needs. I have 2 children, polar opposites of eachother I think. When one wants a stay at home quiet day, the other is begging to be with friends. I've had good park days and bad park days, days were I went for my own needs and not the kids. If you get around to joining us one day, you won't be alone with these struggles for sure!