OK... I wrote the beginnings of a way-too-long-and-wordy blog, yesterday... and it's going to be a while before I can possibly sit down long enough to pare it into something worth posting. Not that I'm sure I'll ever get around to it. So I'm going to steal a few minutes from my needy two-year-old today to try to post the main ideas.
The title was great (if I do say so myself): Socializing and Socialization: Not Just for Kids Anymore.
The huge long rant can be distilled into a few main ideas. At first I recapped the main arguments I've read and heard from pro and anti-homeschoolers about (drumroll) SOCIALIZATION. Ooooooh... If you are interested in homeschooling at all, you've already been introduced to them. So I'll move on to what I think is the biggest legitimate socializing/socialization issue for homeschoolers.
As far as kids are concerned, the world may not be the ideal place full of limitless possibilities - but they probably won't figure that out until they're much older. And at that point, they'll be able to pinpoint every mistake you've ever made, as a parent, and why it's shortchanged them. Regardless of what actual decisions have been made and how much privilege they did or did not have.
Please tell me I wasn't the only teenager to do that.
But until then, the world is full of endless opportunity and excitement. Kids are amazing, resilient individuals who tend to adapt quite well to whatever environment surrounds them. So we, as parents, may obsess endlessly about doing everything right and giving them everything they need... but from what I can tell, mostly kids just need happy healthy parents who love them. The rest kind of works itself out, eventually.
I could argue both sides of the quantitative merits of playground culture and whether a child is better off being thrown to the wolves, as it were, in a public school setting - or whether a child is better off being sheltered at home. But there's no point. It seems to me that, whether playground or backyard, the healthiest choices lie in the middle of the two extremes. The kids who thrive in public school are probably parented in a similar manner to those who are thriving at home. Which is to say that they have involved parents who are involved and protective enough to advocate for the best interest of their children, while having enough of a life and identity separate from their children to be able to give the kids the space and autonomy to work out and process some of their own thoughts and relationships.
I have to admit that the majority of homeschooling parents (including myself) whom I know tend to fall into what I would consider the too-wrapped-up-in-their-kids'-identities side of the spectrum. It's a personal weakness of mine that I tend to default in times of stress or insecurity to a martyred-supermom caricature of myself. Everything is about the kids and what I'm convinced they need - which is always what I most lack. Being human, I tend to think that this is a trait which I manage to keep to a mostly-benign level... there are many moms I know who are much worse than I am. ;o)
But this isn't exclusive to homeschool parents. You'll find plenty of hyper-volunteering stagemoms chauffering their kids to a billion different functions. And you'll find plenty of Soccer Dads ready to beat up coaches or yell at referrees. Same thing. Except *just maybe* the ps kids of these parents might get a little more space during the day to breathe and think their own thoughts. Maybe.
Or there's the other side, which I haven't seen much in personal experience, but hear about endlessly from anti-homeschoolers. Those are the parents who insist that their kids be sheltered from the mean and unrealistic expectations of school and instead spend their days feral, forever stunted because their parents don't bother to teach them anything or take them anywhere. Before my unschooling friends start frothing at the mouth, let me mention that I've read the unschooling books and agree with many of the ideas. I'm not convinced that it works in practice... but I suspect that may be because of the bourgeois ideas I have about what success looks like. Well, I know that's a component of the difference... there are more, but that's a different discussion. My point is that I see this "lack" of parental involvement/direction far more frequently in public schooled kids. And it seems to me that these are the ones who suffer the most from social exclusion and academic frustration.
The bottom line is that I think worrying about which choice (home vs. outside-home) is the "right" one is beside the point.
If you want to make the best choices for your child, you have to start by taking care of yourself. Approaching any parenting issue any other way is absolute hypocrisy.
Every issue and question you have to deal with as a parent on behalf of your child is the opportunity to step back and ask yourself if this is really an issue or life lesson for your child... or if it's actually something you need to figure out on your own behalf, first. Chances are good once you get your own baggage figured out, your child will already have surprised you with his or her own brilliant way of taking on the world.