To be honest, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the sunsets in November, other than that they got a whole lot earlier. But I realized there was an L.M. Montgomery quote for November, and I couldn't help myself.
“It was November--the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”
Now we are almost through December, so this is getting posted a bit late, but I'm still going to break the two months into separate posts.
[Image Description: Partial images of four preschool aged children gathered around a piece of paper with trucks on it, using paper and blocks to measure the trucks. Title says: The Unsocialized Preschooler]
"Those poor unsocialized homeschoolers."
"Aren't you afraid your kids will be weird without the socialization of school?"
"How will you socialize your children?"
I realize that these comments often come from a place of love and concern, rather than judgment. There have been some great blog posts on this subject already. This is one of my favorites because I really identify with it, even though my kids are younger. I also recently came across a piece that addresses both sides of the socialization question, from a homeschool-positive point of view. I'm interested to see future research particularly focused on secular homeschoolers like us.
But for now, I thought I'd address it from our family's experience.
AW is particularly social. She told me this morning that she never feels shy with strangers, and that's basically true. She makes friends everywhere she goes, regardless of age, and I think I can safely say that she is well liked by children and adults. I don't think we could change that about her just by keeping her home, even if we wanted to!
DC is a little bit more reserved, and we are definitely working actively on appropriate social behavior, like gentle hands and appropriate volume levels. Of course, he's only two, so this is very developmentally appropriate.
Now that you know a bit about the kiddos in question (if you don't know them personally), we can move on. In the book The Homegrown Preschooler, which is a book published by the creators of AYOPS, they recommend working on social-emotional skills daily. I make sure that we work on some skills explicitly throughout the week, like good manners. We also have social experiences throughout the week.
Here is a semi-typical week for us:
Mondays: I have a standing appointment on alternating Mondays. Our current caregiver brings her four year old son with her, and AW likes him already. Starting in two weeks, we will be joining up with an outdoor preschool group on every other Monday.
Tuesdays: We now have a standing hiking date with another family. In addition to the benefits of a nature walk (well, really, amble because preschoolers), we work a lot on social skills for all three kids on these outings. Sometimes they sort things out on their own, and sometimes they need a little bit of help.
Wednesdays: I just started having a once a week meeting and co-working session with my boss, and it's going great. She's another homeschool mom, with six kids. My two kids disappear for hours with her four middle kids. They play outside for the most part, and AW comes back with stories of their imaginative play.
Thursdays: Mornings are our quiet at home time. In the afternoon, we go to the library or have playdates, especially with AW's best friend.
Fridays: I take the two kids with me to volunteer in the morning with our local rec center. We work in the daycare which means, yep, more social time for the kiddos. Then we leave the rec center to go straight to our preschool science class at the local science center. There are usually a few kiddos there too! Then we go have lunch at Nana's house since it's near the science center, and the kiddos have fun entertaining their baby cousin.
Saturdays: Weekends are often busy. If we are lucky we get some family time, but we also do living history events or get together with friends on the weekends.
Sundays: We start off the day with church*. The kids go to RE (Religious Exploration) classes while I attend the service, and then we all go out to the playground. AW has some particular friends at church and it's always difficult to drag the kids away afterwards!
As you can see, my kids have social interaction with peers almost every day. We also have periodic events with our homeschool group, and will have more opportunities in that area as AW gets older. I'm an outgoing introvert, so sometimes our social schedule feels a little overwhelming!
I agree with the second article I linked at the beginning: It's important to be aware of providing social opportunities for homeschooled children. Most of the homeschool parents I know do an excellent job in this area, but I know there are homeschooling subcultures that are much more isolationist. And I have to say, unstructured socialization is a very minimal part of the public school environment. If the kiddos are lucky, they have a teacher who provides cooperative learning opportunities. If not, they get 30 minutes for lunch (including the lunch line) and 10-15 minutes of recess (at my old school). I think my kids easily get more social time than that each day.
One final note on "weird" homeschoolers. I agree. Homeschooled kids are weird. But I also know that I did not feel comfortable letting my own "weirdness" show when I was in school, and I used to beg to be homeschooled because of bullying. It was weird to be a reader, weird to love history, and weird to have an active imagination past a certain age. I felt a lot of pressure to conform in my interests, how I dressed, and my behavior (beyond just good manners). Finding theatre in high school helped a lot, but I still didn't feel like I fully got to be myself. It took years to rediscover who I truly was and overcome the shame I felt from being bullied. So, I think I would have been a pretty weird homeschooler--but it would have been truer to my real identity. (That being said, I also had a lot of really great public school experiences and have no regrets about my public school education). I think homeschool kids are weird because they get to be themselves AND because they likely have non-mainstream parents. Weird parents have weird kids. Of course, I'm talking about kids who are free to be themselves at home too. There are definitely families that provide a different kind of pressure that results in a different kind of weird kid--but that's not because of homeschooling either.