Life is a classroom full of socialization.

Oh people! I’ve been doing laundry/cleaning out my minivan/sorting through piles of stuff, now that we’re back in California. I’ve always suspected that housework makes me lose brain cells, and tonight I have proof! Because I’ve been sitting here looking at a blank computer screen unable to put two words together, let alone a whole blog post!

Luckily, I know what makes me gain brain cells…Hubby’s chocolate lemon birthday cake! So hold on a sec. while I get me a slice…

Birthday cake love for Daddy

OK. It’s all good now. So, I received a comment on another post, and thought it was worth it’s very own special blog of it’s own. Jess asks:

I do not have an opinion about unschooling, I am sure it could be great sometimes and not so great other times, but I am curious about the social challenges?

I am confident that you would find all information you need online, but what about the social interaction for your kids? The situations where they are dealing with people very unlike themselves, and situation that one would actually like to avoid (such as bullying, group pressure, teasing etc) but that one – unfortunately – learn a lot from?

I guess my basic point is that your lifestyle seems very free and good, but how do you prepare/teach the kids about the harsher parts of life?

(Just curious, I am not criticizing!)

My skin has been considerably toughened on questions like this so I in no way took this as a criticism. In fact, for some strange reason, in the greater society mostly no one wants to deal with my children at all UNTIL they find out I home(un)school, and then all of a sudden they feel like it’s their job to make sure they inform me how to do my job to insure my kids are properly raised. To make sure my kids don’t grow up to become a drain on society at large. Or, as Juju pointed out during the interview of radical unschoolers for GMA, to make sure I’m not “handicapping” my children by not enrolling them in a public school.

I can’t speak for every unschooler, but I know what our experience has been and can share it from both sides of the coin…being in school and out of school.

In school, Naturalist was being socialized in a classroom of peers who were all her age. Aside from gender, the diversity was very little. One teacher with an aide all year long. Except for holidays and field trips, this was the group she spent every day with. What she learned there wasn’t positive. She learned to stay quiet so she wouldn’t get teased. She learned that being different from the group was bad. She learned that what other people told her was more important than what she felt inside. By the time she got to 4th grade, she was a shell of herself.

When we started unschooling, things turned around. We spent our days exploring the world around us. At 12 she was able to volunteer with a Vet and spend time around vet techs and their office staff. We also integrate ourselves into other homeschool groups, where the interaction is spread over different ages and abilities. We invite people into our home and lives that come from various backgrounds. We are constantly being exposed to life situations that challenge and engage us in so many different ways.


As far as bullying, group pressure, and teasing, I find that because my kids are growing up in a culture where that is NOT the norm, then they are more self assured and accept it much less than my oldest did when she was in school.

I’m finding that, as far as life experiences, both good and bad, making life the classroom is better than making a classroom life.

related links:

A great article about socialization issues.

Process of socialization, an anthropological look at it. I find this quote completely fascinating:

Successful socialization can result in uniformity within a society. If all children receive the same socialization, it is likely that they will share the same beliefs and expectations. This fact has been a strong motivation for national governments around the world to standardize education and make it compulsory for all children. Deciding what things will be taught and how they are taught is a powerful political tool for controlling people. Those who internalize the norms of society are less likely to break the law or to want radical social changes.

Homeschooling and Socialization.

A continuation on socializing and homeschoolers.


16 Responses

  1. being a sheep is so lame. a lot of kids who attend public school end up being sheep and can’t think for themselves.


    • Public school functions mostly due to the ‘follow the leader’ mentality of all involved.

      I feel sad when I watch kids being literally herded around on their field trips to the ‘outside world’…museums, zoo, wherever…while my kids run around with the freedom to choose what and how they explore their environment.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. I think your post title says it all 🙂

    My children have been out of school for a year now. We started out doing school-at-home but gradually we’ve become unschoolers. The exceptional social opportunities are probably the best thing about it!

    • We did that same process…out of school, then school at home, then gradually into unschooling!

      And yes, the social aspect is what I love most, too!

      Sent from my iPhone

  3. Holy Moly! Another great post! Just so full of truth. Things I see but am not putting into words….
    I love that statement “I’m finding that, as far as life experiences, both good and bad, making life the classroom is better than making a classroom life”…..

  4. One thing that always bugs me is the deep need of some that my child be bullied constantly to “learn to deal with it”. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that exposure only numbs one to the bullying. What’s wrong with keeping kids safe to a degree so that they have time to build a solid personal foundation that will hold them strong when they see the bullying? What’s wrong with them being shocked and appalled by bullying so that they want to stop it?

    Rape, drugs, and murder are parts of life. No one suggests we expose kids to these things on purpose so that they get used to it. Bullying can be just as damaging emotionally for many children.

    • I realy like what you’ve pointed out here, especially about not ‘numbing’ kids to unacceptable behaviors, so that they are properly outraged when they do encounter it.

      Sent from my iPhone

  5. I just started reading your blog recently, even though you have been a contact of flickr for months! I have a 2 yr old who, down the road, we may consider unschooling. But, I just have to say, the quote in your post is absolutely terrifying to me and absolutely true. Thanks for sharing, and keep up the awesomeness 🙂

    • Oh, thanks! And yeah, that quote really freaks me out but definitely opens my eyes.

      Sent from my iPhone

  6. What little exposure to unschooling I’ve had has come directly through you (via following your experiences through pictures on flickr & reading about your experiences on this blog) so probably don’t have much room to speak…but, having met your kids (even if only briefly), I can definitively say they are far better socialized than MANY of the kids I’ve spent times with. They are witty & creative & bright & observant & inquisitive & welcoming (I could go on & on 😉 …you’re certainly doing something right 🙂

    • Nicci, we had so much fun with you! I still need to upload all my butterfly pics!

      And thank you for what you said about my crazy kids, lol 😀

      Sent from my iPhone

  7. Rock on, Lady!! ;D

  8. Excellent answer, and your comments about making life the classroom vs. making the classroom life was awesome! I’ve copied it to my “great quotes” file. 🙂

  9. Summer,

    What you said is right on!!
    We unschool our kids too and we live down the street from a nice city park. My 3 boys go down there occasionally and have great fun with other kids. (all that go to public/private schools).
    Once in a while they are seeing and dealing with bullying and they cannot stand it! They come home after playing and are so torn up after seeing it. I am so glad that they are NOT numb to that kind of behavior and are appalled by it and want to do something about it.

    Great post. Love all the encouragement here 🙂

  10. i can’t remember now where I found you, but I’ve had you in my reader for a while and am loving all your posts! I appreciate how your posts are so full of the simple sharing of your personal experiences, and come from your open, inquisitive heart… I love it.

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