A little homeschool-style socialization

Seated around our table with five of her friends, Mouse celebrated her eleventh birthday.

  • One is two years younger than she. One is three years older. The other three are her age.
  • All five are Christian. Only three attend our church.
  • Three are homeschooled. Two attend public school.
  • One lives down the street. Four live thirty minutes or more away.
  • One is Hispanic. One has enough Native American in her that you can tell. The other three are white.

And this in an area that is 91.4% white.

And I wonder, for all the concern about how homeschooled children will learn to appreciate diversity when raised in the bubble we have supposedly manufactured for them, how many children truly select friends who are so diverse?

We note how many opportunities homeschooled children have to play with others. We note that children do not learn to value others by sitting quietly next to them. We note that the playground is little more than a miniature stage for all our social ills.

We don’t like to talk so much about the challenges of giving our children the opportunity to develop friendships. Real, close, lasting friendships as opposed to numerous polite interactions with other children in an ever-rotating cycle of activities. Maybe that is because it isn’t a problem for many, but a number of homeschoolers I have talked to have sympathized readily with the need to be intentional in this area.

As I passed out scones, I thought that maybe that isn’t all bad. In school, you are surrounded by children. You have the option of forming bonds with others like you and building distinct barriers to keep those who are different away. With scarcity, however, comes a willingness to set aside superficial barriers such as race, income, location, etc., in favor of fulfilling the social needs every human being has.

When your class is 90% white, you notice the one Hispanic girl. Outside of that context, however, when you just want someone to play with, you are much more likely to notice that she is nice.

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0 Responses

  1. Depends on what you mean by diversity. But not all my daughter’s friends are through our church.

    It isn’t a homeschooling issue on its own.

    For me personally, it isn’t really about diversity on its own. It is about learning to value people, regardless of external characteristics. I think the church’s message of unity through Christ and the calling to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you teach us to value other people more than being left to sort it all out on the playground.

  2. Right, not all from your same church but the majority and all from the same faith community, Christianity. I am genuinely curious about perceiving that as diversity, since I think we all agree that’s not a superficial difference but a life-altering one. . .

  3. Yes, but that isn’t really the point. I’m not going for a checklist of character traits for her (or anyone’s) friends to determine how they score on a hypothetical diversity scale.

    Most people won’t form deep friendships with people with radically different values from their own because that’s just the way humans are. The point of the entry is that homeschooling itself, though it naturally puts some limits on the number of children a child has daily interaction with, does not limit a child’s ability to learn to interact with others.

    It also isn’t about being diverse so much as it is about appreciating each other, despite those differences, and that is the message of the church.

  4. 🙂
    Yes, of course, to all that.

    I’m not trying to argue but to engage your best thoughts, because this post was startlingly on point for me to see while pondering Scott Somerville’s FaceBook discussions this week. He is asking us as adults, how we can make friends and real relationships across our passionate differences, the ones based on deeply held values that get carried into our public political lives.

    Apparently our own childhoods have not made it very easy for us, and I am seriously wondering whether there’s *anything* that will make it better for our kids diverse or not, and if so what it could possibly be. I was hoping you and Mouse were onto something, and trying to identify it if so.

  5. I haven’t seen those discussions. Maybe I should go read over them. Sounds like an interesting one.

    I’m also trying to be a little careful what I say about socialization in the schools. The system itself may contribute to the problems we see, but largely the children are acting on the values their parents have demonstrated to them.

    So yes, my daughter’s friendship circle may not include people of other faiths at the moment. That isn’t intentional. We just live in a small town. In fact, most people out here even have Dutch last names because it was a Dutch settlement at one time. There are also lots of tulips.

    But whether or not she would be allowed to have such friends is a parenting issue, not a homeschooling one or a church one. That whole issue of developing relationships with nonbelievers is one of the things that churches hold against homeschooling, so we have to defend ourselves even in an environment where one might assume there would be at least understanding.

    Some of the strictest parents I’ve known have kids in public school…or private school. One of my friends in junior high had to call home every 15 minutes and another wasn’t allowed to talk to boys, let alone have any sort of friendships with them.

  6. To the point of the actual question: How do you develop relationships across passionate differences? Do we really want to? In order to do so, both sides have to either give up something, or find something else in common I think.

    Another thought. The point of this post is more or less that scarcity prompts children to set aside some things that might normally be barriers in order to develop those social bonds we all need. A child isn’t going to do this, but we can then reflect on these barriers and how important they really are. How are we really different? What are the core values we seek to affirm in our friendships?

    I think you see the same sort of things in a neighborhood. I played with children in my neighborhood who would never talk to me at school. It is a different environment, and scarcity of children led us to get along if we wanted someone to play with. That’s a warped lesson to teach children, but I think maybe the more people there are in close quarters, the more we will segregate ourselves into homogeneous groups.

  7. . . . whether or not she would be allowed to have such friends is a parenting issue, not a homeschooling one or a church one. That whole issue of developing relationships with nonbelievers is one of the things that churches hold against homeschooling. . .

    Not something churches hold against SCHOOLING? One of things I’ve held against very conservative Christian homeschool parents is being pushed away in open hs discussion, with chants about no “unequal yoking.”

  8. Our church is actually WAY more diverse from a race/ethnicity and socioeconomic standpoint than our neighborhood government-run school is. My brother actually made a comment after he attended my youngest’s baptism how nice it was to see all the diversity among the worshipers.

    We also have a number of friends who belong to other Christian denominations, other religions, and some who are not religious. As long as they are willing to take a “live and let live” attitude towards me, I’m willing to do the same for them.

    I believe the best way to evangelize is by doing my best to follow Christ’s teachings in the way I conduct my own life. I don’t want to be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 but rather focus on taking the plank out of my own eye as in Matthew 7:3-5.

  9. JJ, I think you may have misunderstood me. I know there are very conservative Christian homeschool parents (and even churches) that hold those views. But mainstream evangelical churches, even the conservative ones, often are not as supportive of homeschooling as one might assume. “How can we be salt and light” and “You do not light a lamp and hide it in a well” are frequent arguments used in churches against homeschooling.

    If you say “church,” I generally assume the more mainstream ones. There’s too much diversity among us to speak universally about anything, however. 🙂

  10. . . .mainstream evangelical churches, even the conservative ones, often are not as supportive of homeschooling as one might assume.

    Wow, no, Dana is right. I was coming at it from outside that (or any)mainstream I guess, so didn’t appreciate that side to it — make everyone march in formation into educational diversity as conformist doctrine? lol! —

  11. Your birthday party sounds like ours! Our little girl turn 4 this weekend. At her party: 8 children who were not siblings. Not one of them was a 4 year old girl; my daughter specifically invited them all, though. We had white, Asian, African (from Nigeria) and African-American children ages 3-10. She invited the next door neighbor boys who are my boys BFFs, because they often all play together.

    If she was in the local preschool, that would not have happened. I’ve heard the school has a “whole class” policy, meaning that a child can’t pass out invites at school unless the whole class is invited, so she may have been pressured to invite people she didn’t care about! And the guests probably wouldn’t have been so diverse. As it is, these are the kids she sees frequently and plays with – scarcity, as it were, since we definitely do not have 35 of the same age kids for her to choose from as the local school does.

    We just had a socialization discussion here today. My 30 month old son receives speech therapy in our home. I was discussing with his coordinator what happens when he turns 3, and the services will be provided by the school district and what that would entail.

    She advised me that I better start taking him to the library story hour so that he would be able to listen to his school therapists. (We’re going to homeschool, but receive services in addition to the homeschooling.)

    Yeah, I’ll get right on that. ::sarcasm:: Because, actually, I DON’T want my 2 year old to be totally comfortable and chatty with whatever adult happens to be around him that day. I LIKE that he has boundaries and will open up to adults he knows and trusts.

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