Thursday, May 8, 2008

Socializing the Parents

The Heart of the Matter is a blog and online magazine for homeschoolers. Last last night, or early this morning, I clicked over there and saw that the weekly meme topic was up. I saw that socialization was the topic for this week. I was planning on posting on just this topic next. Below, you'll see part of my originally intended post, influenced heavily by writing from the heart rather than careful editing. The rest will follow at some later point. If you wish to read what some other homeschoolers have to say about socialization and ways that they socialize, click the above graphic to get a list of participating blogs.

The defensive side of me will jump immediately to defend how my kids are adequately socialized as homeschoolers. After all, my kids go to homeschool swimming lessons twice a week and homeschool gymnastics class once a week at the local YMCA. In addition to that, my son has 5-7 hours a week of tae kwon do. The classes range in age from 4 up to adult. My daughter is stuck coming with us because I can't leave her home alone, so she is slowly getting to know some of the tae kwon do kids as well. Then there's Awana and Sunday school. Add to that the fact that we are regularly out and about going to places that other kids frequent: science museums, children's museums, parks, and homeschool field trips. Do we get enough socialization? It seems pretty obvious that we do.

There are several reasons I've managed to over-extend ourselves to the point of insanity. It all started a couple years ago when my daughter's best friends' mother told me that I was doing a disservice to my daughter by homeschooling her. My extremely social daughter was going through a phase where she never wanted to leave a friend's house. She'd get terribly upset and cry and refuse to say goodbye to her friends in any way, shape, or form as we left their house. No hugs, no goodbyes, no see you laters...just silence as she tearfully left their house. To the mother, this was a symptom of being cooped up in the house with little to no social opportunities. The fact that we were involved in Awana, Sunday school, a homeschool social co-op that met weekly, regular field trips with other homeschoolers, and spent lots of time at the park and her house, didn't come into play with her opinion. Obviously, my daughter NEEDED to be in school. Well, I didn't handle it well. I told her exactly what I thought of her opinions and refused to let my daughter see her best friends again (until recently, but I still carefully monitor those interactions). I also got eye to eye with my daughter and told her under no uncertain terms that if she ever cried and refused to say goodbye to a friend when it was time to go, she'd never see that friend again. I reminded her of this new rule before every social opportunity and drilled her on what she was to say when it was time to leave. Well, it worked. My daughter quit crying and learned how to have a good attitude about leaving any play date. Or, she just outgrew that phase.

However, we continued to have social issues. For one, I've always felt guilty about my daughter's loss of her best friends. It is part of the reason I've cautiously reentered that old relationship. She's been able to see those girls again, but on a limited basis because I am still weary of the mother. Further, I recognize how much my comfort level around the parents affects my kids' relationships. There's the obvious issues that would make any conscientious parent think twice about sending their kids over to the friend's house to play. Unfortunately, I've met a few parents that fit into that category. But there's also the fact I've never been socially graceful and tend to alienate people I meet.

My lack of social grace stems from the fact that I spent my childhood surviving abuse in several forms rather than out learning the social ropes. I end up fighting, and losing, two battles: how do I get along with the parents well enough to receive invitations to play dates and how do I help my kids through the social pitfalls they encounter when I don't even know what to do myself. I'm constantly feeling like my kids' lack of friends (defined as other kids they get to know well and see often) is my fault. I'm the one who alienates the parents by my lack of social skills. If only I could have a little angel sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear telling me what to think and what to say.

Until I find an angel to perch upon my shoulder, I try to take comfort in knowing that every homeschooling mom I know has admitted to "socializing" being the most difficult aspect of homeschooling and that homeschoolers are known to be well-socialized both in childhood and adulthood according to the studies out there.

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Lori ~ The Simple Life at Home said...

Almost every homeschool mom I know feels "over-extended" to some degree by the activities their kids get involved in. There are so many good things out there!

I can certainly understand how upset you were when your friend criticized your choice to homeschool. Usually, that's the first scapegoat they go to whenever our children have any issues, even if it's something common to ALL children. It HAS to be because they are homeschooled. I'm glad you are allowing your daughter to see her friends again, but you are being wise to tread carefully.

Thanks for sharing. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your difficulties. It sounds to me like you are acting wisely and that you are doing a great job in the socializing aspect of homeschooling. I think the most important part of being social is wanting to learn and thinking about others, which you obviously do.


Letitia said...

As one who also suffered abuse during childhood, I wonder how much trust has to do with your forming friendships yourself. Do you subconciously hold people at arms length in order to protect yourself? It would be a normal reaction to do so. You do have angels, and a very big God, to help you. Even if you have already, take these things to Him. Healing takes time and emotional energy and pain, but it is well worth it in the end. If there are things you can't get past (there were for me), talk to someone in your church or a highly recommended Christian counselor. AS you begin to feel better about yourself, you will be more confortable and confident in your interactions with other moms.
Please don't let the opinion of uninformed, mistaken moms force you to overwhelm your schedule and life with too many outside activities. It sounds like your schedule was fine before you began more. Ask God to show you what your children need.
You're doing a great job!
Come by and watch the "mom" video I have on my blog right now.


Anonymous said...

Socialization is always a big issue for people who dont understand homeschooling. Honestly I am not a high social person either. I sometimes dont know the right thing to say but I keep trying. Does that mean that my life is terrible or I dont speak to anyone . Of course not. I am happy with my life and the friends I do have. I cherish them more. The number or amount of people you interact with really doesnt matter its about more about how you treat other people. The rest just falls into place.

I do understand you concern for your children when they play at that persons house. You do have a right to worry . Influences are plenty out there. I had to sit my mom down about the same subject or the children wont be visiting as often. We no longer discuss it. lol


Anonymous said...

I understand exactly what you stated and good for you sticking to your mommy guns on the crying issue. I lack social skills also from a bad history. I've always been very withdrawn but I don't want my dc to be that way. I think we all go through this. Wonderful post, Joann. Thanks for sharing your heart.

Deb said...

JoAnn, thanks for your brave post. It's hard when we feel like our own "issues" stand in the way of our children experiencing this or that. I just keep reminding myself that my "issues" are mine and so are my children and the two have to co-exist - after all, God did give me these children and He knows better than anyone what my "issues" are :)

Anonymous said...

WOW!! What an amazing post. A couple times, I could feel myself getting uneasy and there you were with such honesty.
From personal experience, honesty tends to alienate people which in turn keeps you in a hermit state.
I'm grateful for the internet and on-line friendships.
Hopefully, you can get the support you need (either in person or on-line) - - we all need it.