One of the things that most homeschoolers hear when they decide to homeschool is “Well, what about the socialization?” And most homeschoolers roll their eyes and share many thoughts about public school socialization from ‘I’ve seen the village and I don’t want it socializing my child!’ to ‘I don’t really want my child being socialized in such an unnatural way’ to ‘children don’t get to truly socialize in school- they get to have their relationships controlled and managed’. One thing homeschoolers often say is “Homeschooled kids socialize in a TON of different, real world ways- sports, clubs, church, volunteering, co-ops, etc”… And this is true- homeschool kids DO participate in more NON-academic organizations/activities than their public-schooled counterparts do.
But for someone like me, who has intended to homeschool my children since I was in public school myself, there comes a time when we actually have to involve our kids in those activities. Alex is 6 1/2. He’s finally at an age when he’s old enough to participate in community activities- mostly sports. My husband played baseball as a kid from age 5 through 13 (when he went to work in a gravel pit, ya know- cause that’s what all 14 year olds do), so we asked Alex if he thought he’d like to play this year. Well, Wii Sports baseball was fun, so he enthusiastically agreed.
We happily bought him a bat, glove, helmet and cleats. My hubby took him out to practice (Alex wasn’t really that interested in practicing- he’d rather run around looking at flowers and pretending to be a super hero) and we eagerly awaited Alex’s first ‘socialization’ activity…
When the practices began, my hubby took him to the first few. Alex came home happy, my husband reporting that he’d done alright for a first year player. Then I took Alex to a practice. Alex’s skills are clearly not up to the other kids’ who likely played T-ball last year. The coaches (SO GRATEFUL for these kind men) worked patiently with Alex giving him opportunities to improve his skills. Alex often had to use a T instead of being able to hit the coach’s pitch and he found playing in the dirt more interesting that following what the next kid at bat was doing.
But I- who went through public school- was aware of the other children’s grumbling. The coach put a quick stop to the criticism of his team mates, and Alex didn’t even notice they’d been saying anything about him. I did, though, an a sickening doubt filled my gut. These other kids could hurt Alex’s feelings so quickly- a few bullying statements could break his heart! Should we pull him out of baseball? But isn’t this the ‘real world socialization’ we as homeschoolers felt so sure we’d offer to our kids?
During one game, the boys in the dug-out (what I described to my husband as the cage they keep the boys in- yeah, baseball knowledge not so expansive here) were picking at each other. I could see that it was puppy-ish exuberance and they were tipping one another’s hats off their heads. They attempted to tip Alex’s hat off and he was so offended he came stomping out of the dug-out to tell me the other boys were being mean to him. We tried to reassure him that they boys were trying to play with him, even if it was annoying play… he didn’t seem convinced, but he marched back into the dug out and sat at the far end of the bench keeping a wary eye on the boys.
I spoke to my husband about it- we decided we’d follow Alex’s lead. If he felt unhappy or bullied, we’d pull him out of baseball. Alex continues to enjoy baseball and to look forward to his games. His skills are improving- he even got THREE HITS in one game last week! And between his coaches and the pointers my husband and I have been giving him- all received openly- Alex’s field skills are also improving. Or, at least he’s trying really hard and enthusiastically.
One morning, Alex asked me if what would happen if he let his team down. I wanted to use this conversation in an empowering way- it IS possible that his team might be unhappy with him. We may not always please those around us- but how to we handle these situations? I asked him, “Are you worried you might let your team down?” and he replied that he was. So I asked him “What do you think you could do to not let your team down?” and he said he could practice his skills more. So we did. And IF Alex does let his team down, I want to reassure him that doing is best- not pleasing everyone all the time- should be his goal.
It’s been strange for us, wondering if it’s the right time to involve Alex with those extracurricular activities, wondering about the value of failure in our boy’s history, wondering how he’ll navigate any situation when he feels put down OR when he feels supported (as he did when the boys chanted his name while he was at bat). This whole situation is FILLED with pitfalls and possibilities and has really revealed our own insecurities. But Alex is happy and this is the kind of ‘real life’ we homeschoolers pride ourselves on. We’ll simply have to trust that our boy will get the kind of lessons from life that he needs to be successful…
(Content below this line is not TSotD generated. Please disregard.)