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Thursday, February 17, 2011

School Socialization: My Lonely Years

For some reason the topic of socialization has surfaced again recently. I feel like this critique has already been put to rest. But a twist on this issue struck me this morning:

Why do people think kids in school are socialized?

I had friends in high school. They were about as close to me as many of my Facebook friends. Some of them are my friend on Facebook. And we interact now as much as we did then: Not really at all.

So, the more accurate thing to say--and how I phrased it then--would be: I had acquaintances in high school. I didn't have a best friend. I didn't even have a close friend at school. In many ways, I was friendless. I was similarly friendless when I attended a private Christian school in Kindergarten.


I don't know. I don't blame my youth group, my school, my sports teams. My lonely situation wasn't something caused by the groups I was in. By the same token, my close friends haven't been caused by the groups I was in either.

Schools don't deserve the credit they indirectly receive for our friendships. I "socialized" with the kids in my high school as much as I did my siblings at home, my teammates at practice, my peers at church. Classrooms, like anywhere else there is a gathering of people, do provide opportunity for connection or friendship. But schools do not "socialize" kids. Schools are one confined location where socialization can happen. It's possible to make friends in school. I didn't.

It is possible to make friends anywhere there are people on a regular basis.

So those who dismiss homeschooling because of "socialization" may simply need to get out more. Or perhaps they've forgotten how lonely they were in school. Or, it's possible, they were among the fortunate few to have a really close friend at school.

I had close friends while I was homeschooled. It's odd to me that I didn't while I wasn't.

To learn more about the fantastic educational opportunities of learning at home, check out these homeschool resources.

Did you have close friends when you were in school? Are you aware of a place where you automatically socialize?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

P.S. I was looking for this video clip that beautifully contrasts the loneliness of school with the love of family. And then discovered that the entire episode is available on Hulu right now! Wow! If you haven't watched any Fruits Basket yet, you may want to catch up before jumping in... but this is my favorite episode. The moment starts at 16 minutes.


Riette said...

Ooh Ooh, move over so I can get on the soap box for my favorite topic! Here's my standard reply to moms questioning this:

A lot of people outside the homeschool community (yes, we're probably a whole sub-culture on our own :D ) thinks that "socialisation" is hugely lacking for homeschooled kids. But they are sorely mistaken. A lot of people think children get more socialisation at school. But this is a bit of a skew view on what socialisation is. Socialisation does not refer to the 20 minutes of play-time children have with each other during break. And it definately does not refer to the period children of the same age spend in a classroom with one (or sometimes 2) adults. HS children usually is out and about a lot. Going on their outings, to the shops, to Mom's bible study perhaps, to the car tyre place, etc. In these instances they are learning the true art of socialisation since SOCIETY is made up of people from different ages, cultures and backgrounds (educational/social/economical). THIS teaches them how to interact with society and it is something that should actually be ENCOURAGED in your child. I encourage Isabel to talk with people at the till, in the aisle etc if she asks me for e.g. "what are they doing". We will often stop when she is curious about a shop/people/etc and go in, chat and find out. Most HS kids that I have met that are older (pre-teens/teens) are extremely well-behaved, well-spoken and are able to interact with younger kids, older kids and adults in a very mature way. Something I have seen already is that older kids that are homeschooled interact easier with younger kids for e.g. and would not push them away as other kids do who are only used to being in class with children their own age.

Karen Joy said...

I did have close friends in school. My closest friends, though, were (are!) the ones with whom I went to church. There were a handful of those that overlapped: I went to school AND church with them. I am friends with many of them, still! IDK if it helped that it was a Christian school...

I had friends in my neighborhood, growing up, those with whom I spent a good 10+ years of my childhood. But, I'm friends with none of them now.

I have a few friends from my 2.5 year stint in college.

I think a lot of it comes down to personality. My oldest son (13) is a lot like me: few friends, but the ones he has are CLOSE. My middle son (11) is a social butterfly, with boys ages 5-12 or so knocking on our door at all hours, "Can Grant come play?" My 7yo has one good friend, and he likes it that way. (Said friend is homeschooled, as well, and goes to our church, and we're in the same homeschool support group with his family, so we see quite a bit of him!)

Then, I have two little girls, whose friendship patterns are yet to be revealed...

I have noticed, time and again, how homeschooled children interact well with those of greater age ranges, different gender, different race... Schools homogenize, not socialize.

True healthy socialization abilities, like looking others in the eye, giving them your full attention, deferring to their interests, speaking and interacting appropriately, listening, etc., are best taught -- in my observation and experience -- by mothers. And mothers get a great opportunity to do that, when schooling their children at home.

Unknown said...

It really is plain and simple isn't it? Where there are people, there are opportunities to socialize. And that most certainly is not limited to the classroom! I feel like I've socialized more in my life since being done with school rather than while I was in school.

Regina said...

All through school I was mostly lonely. In the elementary years, my friends were the kids who lived on my street. In jr. high, I found a group of misfits to socialize with, but not at school. In high School I withdrew from the pressure to "be" in a group, and was left alone in my own group. The best part of school for me was band. I was able to really share experiences with the same group of people over several years as part of something bigger than myself. My only good memories of my teenage years are from the band: the accomplished exhaustion from long marching rehearsals, the exhilaration of the applause after a performance, the pride in our show and our appearance, the long bus rides and contests around the country.

I never got particularly close to anyone in band, but it was a lively community, not just a bunch of humans grouped by age in cinder block classrooms meeting objectives. I attended a rather large high school and I can remember the loathsome feeling I got walking through the sea of people between classes- "people, people, everywhere, but not a friend for me." I recently left my huge church of 5 years for the same reason. I was fairly active in teaching Sunday school and attending bible studies. But I would walk through the halls that were bursting with friendly faces, but there was no connections, no true friendships, only patronizing smiles and hollow edifications.

Socialization, as in close friends and rich relationships, is not automatic anywhere. It's something that is being harder and harder to come by as our society is continually isolating people from each other and globalization creates homogenized towns that can barely be differentiated from each other.

I think real socialization happens within a community, not just any group of people thrown together in a school, church, neighborhood, or city limits.

Luke Holzmann said...

Riette, that's a great response <smile>.

Absolutely, Karen! Absolutely. And my siblings all have difference personalities from my own. My little brother is the "social butterfly" type and I'm the "one close friend" type.

Agreed, Mommyx12.

That's good, mom-e-mae, "people, people, everywhere, but not a friend for me." I had a very similar feeling about band. And I agree that socialization happens in a close community (such as a family or group of friends who love each other).



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