Is that all you got?

I know that we've brought this up before, but for whatever reason, the "socialization" buzzword tripped my trigger again. I was talking with a friend about the real possibility of the kids going to a formal school next fall and the response was, "Good, then they'll get socialized."


I tried not to be a jerk, but despite my efforts I responded with something like, "I know! Because we go to this tiny church with no children and the kids play on an adult soccer team, and that's only when we let them out of the basement. I'm really looking forward to them finally being morally guided by children just as confused as they are instead of bugging me all the time."
Was that too snotty?

Seriously, is that all our educational system has going for it? The presence of other children? 12 years of education and all we have to offer the next generation about our experiences is that there were other kids there? That's the kind of thing I tell my children when they start whining about being dragged to some dinner party. Hey, at least there will be other kids there! And I bet there will be ice cream and corn dogs and Legos... but hopefully not together.

Only once in recent history did the topic of school come up and the response was, "Oh, you should try to get your kids enrolled in that new magnet school. The curriculum is going to be tech focused and your son would love it." See the difference? That was actual advice. I already know there's going to be children there so telling me that my kids will get socialized wouldn't help me make any kind of informed choice at all.

I know I'm just going to have to get over this. The "At least they'll get socialized" response is as ingrained into the American psyche as asking "How about that weather?" It's just what people noncommittally fill the verbal void with and everyone falls for it, including a whole lot of teachers. Because, hey, who doesn't want their kid socialized? That's something we can all agree on, right? It's like the lowest common denominator of our educational system. You may not learn anything, but by golly after 10 years of mandated education, you'll be socialized! At this point I'd like to note that gangs and the military also have very rigid social structures. If that's really all I expected my child to learn through adolescence, I suspect either of those routes would be more effective.

So here's what scares me... what if as a society that's really all we get from our years of schooling and this is just our way of collectively admitting it? I'm a firm believer in the old, "It's not what you know, it's who you know" adage. It's been proven over and over to me during my life thus far, so in that sense, yes, knowing the right people at the right time has been far more important to my career path than knowledge. Book smarts can't pitch an idea, or open a door, or point you toward that golden opportunity. Other people do that, and I think as a society we are trying to come to grips with that. How long do you have to be in an educational institution to meet the right people?

I'm not trying to devalue friendships or contacts or whatever we call all the people we communicate with now. I just hope that when my kids look back on their days at school (wherever that may be) they think about how some teacher got them on track for a career they love, or how they overcame their fear of public speaking, or how math or music or English finally 'clicked.' Anything but, "Well son, at least you'll get socialized just like me."


Jessica said...

Hello. Found your blog through Family from Afar.

I've never appreciated the 'socialization' argument because I find the standard school setup to be very artificial.

Assuming that the goal of socialization is to equip a child with the necessary tools to navigate 'the real world', it seems odd that people argue that the best place for this to happen is an institutional setting that segregates by age. I don't know of many other places in 'the real world' that are like that.

As you mentioned, there are plenty of other ways for children to be socialized - church, sports teams, enrichment classes outside of school, visiting nursing homes to be around their elders, going to a grocery store or even at their very own dinner table.

Katherine said...

A-MEN!!! 'nuf said...

Jur said...

Too many people think they need to say something "smart" or "clever" in response to (whatever) rather than just smiling and saying, "That's great" or "I'm so sorry" or "Cool" and asking more questions or letting the conversation go or whatever.
It's like the false comforting statements make when someone loses a child or finds out they'll never give birth or finds out they're pregnant when that wasn't the plan or... or... or...
It's would be really nice for people to stop and think about what the actual words are before they say them... and how they'll be taken by the person. What I would hear in that statement (had it been said to me) is "Since you've been doing such a crappy job..." and I'd have been offended too.
I am learning day-by-day not to say the first thing that comes to my head. I am sure you remember me in a time I didn't do so well at it.
Good luck in whatever educational decisions you're making; I know you're doing a great job with your kids.

Lisa said...

I'm pretty sure it wasn't me who made this statement...but if so I apologize. I'm guilty of saying the first thing that comes to my mind...which is often the learned response so to speak. I'm pretty cynical about most things/people right now...working on that...so I know they feeling of trying to 'get over' things. I also think we try to hard to win people over to our opinions...another thing I am working on...because mostly it's too much effort and is pointless. I do the best I can and I know you do too.

ABG said...

Thanks for articulating this.

Anonymous said...

I guess I get to be the 'bad' blog commentator and say I think all kids should attend regular school at some point too. Socialization in MY definition is learning about how your peers relate to you, how you contribute, how to work with others, trust, learn to depend on yourself WHEN others let you down, etc. I think you need large populations of your peers to give you that training. How did the rest of us learn how to work in an office with others or function as a part of a group of people NOT like us. Church and sports are great for doing things with other people LIKE you and people who like the same types of things. What about the other 6+ billion who don't do those things? Why do most home schoolers view the word 'socialization' as a dirty word? My sister-in-law home school her four children(she and her husband both have masters degrees) and sure they go to home school groups and take swim and play basketball and are involved in church... with a whole lotta people JUST LIKE THEM. The rest of the world doesn't work that way. Sorry - love the blog and glad you are sticking to your guns but I still disagree. Chris M

Anonymous said...

I rethought it and I have to admit that there are definitely reasons it would be MUCH harder for your kids to immerse in a regular school program than a home-schooled kid born and raised here. I would hate to find out your kids were given a hard time, questioned or badly treated by their 'peers' about their past and the things they survived in Ethiopia. We all know how KIND other children can be. Obviously whatever you decide for your family will be the right thing for all of you. No matter what, you have two amazing kids! Chris M

McEvilOne said...

My parents say "then they'll get socialized." to people alot.

Then again, they train dogs...not educate children.

Trisha said...

Well, I guess I'm moving the wrong way on the socialization road. I just pulled my girls out of school. Oh, what will become of them? Hopefully the Walmart greeter I met the other day was right, they'll be just fine as long as I stay on my knees. Praise God that He cares for them even more than I do.

Whatever you decide, is your own decision to make. Homeschool or "regular" school, you know your kids best, and you know what's best for your family.