As a homeschooler, I spend a bit of time thinking about “the S word,” the socialization question. What socialization is, what people really mean when they ask about it and whether schools really have anything to do with socialization in the first place. As a homeschooler, I have all sorts of arguments and defenses for homeschooling.
As a mother, well, as a mother I confess to being a little concerned about my Mouse. And more on the “socializing” front, since we homeschoolers frequently point out the difference between socializing and socialization. “Mom, I don’t have any friends,” she complains. “I just want a friend.”
Since she’s somewhat prone to exaggeration, I name a few friends for her. But they are all in Lincoln and are a part of the various social activities our families are engaged in. This left me thinking about school, socialization and the friends I had as a child.
If socialization is supposed to be about learning to work together and get along in diverse society, schools fail miserably. Maybe I say that because I didn’t have that many friends in elementary school, but it seems to me that the other children made friends only with those who were most like them. There was very little crossing of ethnic or economic boundaries.
It was different in the neighborhood, however. Suddenly, other children to play with seemed a scarce resource. Scarcity created a demand and that demand let differences fall by the wayside. I was “friends” with every child within a reasonable distance from my house, regardless of their age or background. Kids who wouldn’t talk to me at school knocked on the door to see if I could play after school.
We learned to get along not because the teacher told us to or by simple exposure, but because we all wanted someone to play with and our choices were limited.
But not quite so limited as my daughter’s. There is one other girl in our town, and she is three years older. In school, they’d likely have little to do with each other. Out here…well…the only other girl for her to play with is my daughter. And they get along well.
Still my daughter pines for friends. At first, I thought it was mostly a problem unique to us. After all, we do live in a small and aging town. But then she and another girl really “clicked” during homeschool gym. On the way home, I heard all about what she and G. did. On the way there, I heard all about what she hoped she and G. would do. She was making a new friend…in Lincoln.
Then her mother told me something her daughter had said. Something that sounded very much like something my daughter could have said.
I hate it when I make a new friend but then I don’t get to see them again.
Transient friendships? Ones made during various homeschool activities? All of which have an ever-changing group of participants? We are not currently involved in a homeschool group, just occasional homeschool activities. But that part of my daughter that is yearning for a close friend cannot be appeased by opportunities to play and interact with a different group of children every quarter.
Suddenly my daughter has made two friends, two relationships which will be able to continue past the activities where they met. Her entire demeanor has changed. She no longer pines.
And it seems we have made a major accomplishment in our little homeschool, even though I never had the foresight to make it a goal.