Alice in Texas

Not writing here anymore- see top post for details of my new blogs.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

horror stories

Not ever so long ago, I was informed by a person who shall remain nameless that children are better off at school "because then they can make some friends". This was after quite a lot of years of home-educating, and the person concerned had actually known my family for the whole time. Of course I explained that making friends was no problem at all, gave a brief outline of the social situation at the time, etc etc.

The problem with people like this is, they then just shift the argument. If I recall rightly, something like, "but it's not the same as friends you make at school- school friends share a unique experience which makes their bond unmatchable!" Something like that. But more implicit. Because saying it explicitly would sound ridiculous, obviously.

So even if I had memorised this (found on Wikipedia) it wouldn't have made any difference:

ERIC, the Education Resources Information Center of the U.S. government, has published multiple articles on homeschooling. Here's an excerpt from one which examined several studies on homeschool socialization:
"According to the findings, children who were schooled at home 'gained the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to function in a rate similar to that of conventionally schooled children.'
"The researcher found no difference in the self concept of children in the two groups. Stough maintains that 'insofar as self concept is a reflector of socialization, it would appear that few home-schooled children are socially deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some home-schooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled children.'"

Sometimes people just do have half-baked ideas they don't feel like thinking about properly, and they try to force them on others when they feel like they can get away with it, because that just makes them feel better. It's a common phenomenon that occurs whenever a person does anything out of the norm, which challenges people's preconceptions (uncomfortable) and threatens their existing frameworks for making moral judgements. People cling like limpets to their frameworks, because it helps them avoid dealing with difficult issues and often personal or emotional problems.

When you home educate, you get used to this sort of thing and learn to stay away from it. However, when big changes like divorce occur and things are temporarily up in the air, people see an opportunity to stir and steer things in their own direction. It's a sort of unconscious instinct, they don't actually know that's what they're doing most of the time, but, it happens. On the other hand, it sorts the sheep from the goats, so to speak. I can't honestly say that I feel great about having discovered in the past year exactly what various people really thought of me and how I'd been spending my life, but in general truth is good, so hopefully the knowledge will somehow prove useful eventually. In the meantime, should one initiate communication after such events, or merely appreciate the stony and/or embarrassed silence?

Anyway, my advice to people who know someone who is getting divorced is this: offer help, but refrain from the personal and moral judgement. Telling someone where their kids should live and who with, how they should be educated, what they are doing wrong and how they have been going wrong for the previous decade is not a good idea. It's also not a good idea to complain behind people's backs about what you see as their catalogue of irresponsible failures. None of those things help your case, and when the dust has settled you might find that seizing on what looked like a free-for-all has left you embarrassed, compromised and cut off from people who still matter.

It's shameful that adults still act like this, really. What any kids overhearing such behaviour are going to make of it in years to come one can only shudderingly imagine.

P.S. On the subject of school friends being the best most unique kind, how many of your schoolfriends do you still know? Were you able to make friends from different environments than school, as a child- and was there any difference, in your view? I imagine the main factor is that most kids spend more time with their school friends than any others.


At 4:19 PM, Blogger Sigivald said...

I believe the apt phrase is "shared adversity bond".

That or "Stockholm syndrome".

At 5:51 PM, Blogger gcotharn said...

During the years of grades 9-12, I spent after school hours mostly playing athletics, or working. My after school friends were mostly athletes. At 25 years distance, I can see I didn't have a lot in common with them.

They were mostly interested in starting families over the 1 to 5 years after graduation. I wasn't interested in doing that, and I lost touch with almost all my friends from that period.

I could still regenerate some of those friendships, but I'm not especially interested in doing so. I do not imagine they are now interested in the things I am now interested in.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Sharon Ferguson said...

we have just begun homeschooling and the people I get the most flack from now for doing so are the little old ladies who are shocked and amazed that I would "deprive my daughter of diversity." There is a little old lady in my church that repeatedly asks me every week why I would choose to do such a thing, and is quite indignant that I would find the local public schools, shall we say, 'unsatisfactory.' Aside from figuring out that she borders on forgetfulness quite a bit, I have given up trying to discuss this with her, as she is convinced that I am harming my daughter.

On the other hand, I have met with nothing but support and praise from a majority of the people I have encountered. It could be that homeschooling has an exceptionally large presence here in Fort Bend County, but for the most part, I am not as nervous as my husband is at times.

Still, I have been trying to sum up my own personal reasons why I vehemently reject putting my daughter through what I went through. I went to a public school that through the 70s and 80s was highly regarded as an excellent place of education, and yet the majority of the time I spent there is a huge blur to me, because I spent much of my time alone. Yes, I was around a diverse number of people, but those people formed cliques that I was often hard pressed to join. Is it socialisation when you feel like you are the only one in the school that likes what you like and dresses the way you do. Since I didnt choose to conform, does that make me an outcast, despite the fact that I was among a diverse crowd?

Knowing my daughters temperament, I could see coming down the line a completely different response to that kind of isolation, and having witnessed the bad times of friends while in school, I am hoping to spare her much of that pain.

But how I can sum this up for a little old lady who forgets every week that we already discussed the week before can be very trying at times.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Alice said...

Yes, "shared adversity bond". We need to get away from this whole venegeful idea that making kids suffer is inherently good for them.

And my suspicion is that this kind of bond is far from the best possible kind- they often end soon after the adversity is over. Shared interests and values (positives, not negatives) are the basis of friendship, in childhood too, in my view.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Alice said...


Yes, the pressures of social convention, which is many people's modern substitute for religion, can be appalling. I have never come across *any* definition of school-"socialisation" that meant anything other than, or better than, fitting in with the conventions of the school.

On the other hand, for quite a few kids this is the best way of learning about social *morality* that they are ever going to get. A lot of families would in practice provide far less of an education than the average school, including morally. But the number of these families who *want* to homeschool is surely infinitessimally tiny!

Homeschoolers think they can do better than school. If this is true, they are also doing better than a lot of other parents could or would want to. Until they are respected and even admired for what they do, they will continue to be attacked by those who can't handle the fact that some people's achievements do imply other people's relative lesser success.

At 4:06 AM, Anonymous Alan Little said...

I still have several good friends from the time when I was at school, and I'm in my mid-40s now. I think I absolutely prove your point, though, because I didn't go to the same school as any of them. A lot of them went to the same school together, but I don't think that now has any bearing on how close they are or aren't to one another compared to with me. Thirty years of intervening Real Life has ironed out any difference there may once have been.


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