Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Montessori Homeschooling - Socialization

Every homeschoolers faces the socialization question at some point or another, and usually repeatedly. And frankly, the answer lies in what definition for socialization is being used in the question.

  • getting along with age-based peers in a group project
  • getting along with age-based peers on the playground
  • interacting with adults as co-learners
  • interacting with adults as teacher-student (boss-employee)
  • sitting still in a desk when told to; waiting in line when told to; ask to use the bathroom every time; other incidents related to being a very large group
Socialization is all of these - and more. Homeschoolers can gain all of those skills - it will just look different, though the skills remain the same. My son learns to wait in line at the various stores we visit, when waiting to get into the museum, when more than one of his mates/friends in various activities all need a drink at the same time --- it is natural learning, not arbitrary. 


My all-time favorite line? It was said with ALL sincerity and love. And seriousness.
You should really put Lego Boy into public school. 

Why is that, dear Grandma? Not even a private school?
A public school. Yes. So he can learn to be teased. And he needs to ride the bus

Ok. So we'll ignore that private schools in our area share bussing with the public school kids, who all spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes (yes, 90 minutes!) on the bus each way.

And we'll ignore that teasing can happen anywhere, any time, any place.

And we'll ignore that not all children ride the bus anyway.

And we'll ignore that I spent 13 years in public schooling, sometimes riding the bus and sometimes walking (sometimes walking when I should have been on the bus and usually begging rides to avoid the bus!). And all the "teasing" left me was bitterness, a refined talent for nasty come-backs, a brick wall surrounding my true self, and hopelessness.

Did public school do that? Not directly. It was a much larger picture. There are fantastic public schools and private schools available; there are fantastic teachers and fantastic classrooms.

But of all the wonderful reasons to send my child to school, learning to be teased isn't anywhere near the list.

Would I send my son to school? Yes. When it meets our family's needs. He has already attended school. He attended a private Montessori school at age 3, 50 hours a week (coming from my having been a stay-at-home mom with a daycare in our home...); he attended a 3-day-a-week non-Montessori preschool (full days) at age 4; and he attended another private Montessori school for 3 months in kindergarten (I was subbing in another classroom). He spends an hour a week at the local public school. And he currently participates in a weekly middle school literature class (it's online).

This is in addition to the other daycares, camps and other educational institutions that met our needs from time to time.

And we sometimes ride the public transportation bus (or subways or other forms of public transportation). It's not the same bus experience from public school - but for those who live in the city, it's the bus that they could be riding a lot longer. Doing it every day doesn't make it a better thing. It just is.

So what about socialization?

What activities can fulfill this "socialization" without going to rows of desks in a line with the teacher gabbing on and the students sneaking notes to one another? or falling asleep? or (gasp!) doodling? Does it have to be either/or?

Yes, all of the following can be done by families who use public school as well. The point is that public school doesn't provide the be-all-end-all. And neither does homeschooling. There are options. You can't do it with public school alone, but neither can you do it sitting in a desk or at a table in your own home all day. REAL socialization happens in society. Period.

Please add your ideas below!

  • martial arts: typically multi-age settings, with ranks according to skill not by arbitrary age. Children and adults of all ages have basically the same expectations to promote to the next belt, for which a test is provided when people have met the requirements and are ready - not forced ahead or held back arbitrarily. 
  • cub/boy scouts: typically the smaller groups meet within their age groupings, but the  boys are able to move ahead at their own pace and there are bigger meetings with boys of multiple ages. They focus on skill and character development. 
  • why not girl scouts? most troops tend to be focused on one grade level; if you have access to a multi-age group that allows for the girls to move ahead when they are ready and not too muh before/after, then great. There can be other issues present, so be on the look-out.  
  • Other sports - whether personal or otherwise. As long as they don't rule your life (unless that is what you want) - that provide personal growth and team-playing. 
  • just play with other kids. Nothing fancy - this is where MOST socialization happens - in the adult-left-out interactions between children - whether at recess, on the playground, playdates, just getting together with other people of all ages. The adult guides moral behavior, but the children work most things out on their own. Older children will naturally lead into group projects, short-term or long-term. 
  • Goings Out: this is a Montessori concept of a "field trip" - the child helps to plan the outing, it is usually related to other things going on in the child's life or education. The children make the phone calls, map it out, interact with the other people involved, all with an adult's guidance. 
  • Being out in society: interacting with the people at stores, the employees at various businesses, people on the street, just being out there - and working through the various customs of various cultures. Isn't this the society that the children will have to interact with as adults? Might as well start now! 
  • All the better if you can visit as many other cultures as possible
  • church groups can count, depending on the situation. Multi-age settings such as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atriums, Godly Play worship centers, youth groups and the like. 
  • other classes: whether for fun or for specifically academics. Face to face is best, but online classes can provide for certain socialization skills. 

What to look for: 
  • multi-age - to reflect real society. My mother works with someone with whom I went to high school. They are co-workers. My first "real" job outside of summer camp programs, I had higher qualifications than the 40-60 year old women working there - and I quickly had authority over them. Yet I still needed to respect their years of experience and they respected my educational background. We learned a LOT from each other. This was not something to be gained from "school" of any sort. 
  • respect for all members - my son's tae-kwon-do has 3 rules: never mis-use martial arts, never criticize, and never forget your instructor's name ("master ___ "or "sir"). If they follow those rules, they are laying a strong foundation for RESPONSIBILITY when they have a power that someone else does not; RESPECT for those in authority over them; and respect for those under you and equal to you ---- they must NEVER laugh or make fun of someone else in class or out of it. There is also a foundation of respect, period; found in all 3 rules. No name-calling, no inappropriate fighting... that sort of thing. 
  • let the adult in charge BE in charge - we parents have to back off and share our authority. We will not always be there for our children despite our best intentions and desires. We need to help our children discern appropriate authority figures, so they do not naively put themselves in danger later in life. If YOU don't trust, then pull out of that activity (at an appropriate time - because we also want to teach our children commitment) - do not stay without that trust and that ability to pass the baton - it will only set up the children for confusion. 
  • fit with your family's values - yes we want to expose our children to other ideas and develop discernment in them; but that doesn't mean we "throw them to the wolves" until they are ready. :) 

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