Friday, September 18, 2009

Bullying & Being Bullied...

I just recently shared scarring experiences of my childhood in my article on home schooling and socialization. My belief was that being teased, humiliated, and left out, among other things is absolutely not a neccessary part of life. Today, I received an email from Focus on the Family with review of Frank Peretti's new book, 'Wounded Spirit.' Wow. My experience is petty compared to his, but his point is the same as mine. It's not neccessary and it does effect your life long after the bullying is done.

Here is a link to the article I read. This kind of torture happens everyday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

HomeSchooling: To Answer the Questions #3: What about socialization?

Part three...

3) "What about socialization?" I believe this is the most asked question and the 'issue' that is made the biggest deal about concerning home schooling. Honestly though, I believe this is the least important issue. I'm not saying that 'socialization' isn't important. I just believe it's not as big of a deal as others make it out to be. I'll explain myself.

The definition of socialization from is as follows: "noun 1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position."

Based on this definition of socialization, do I want the current public educational system to be the standard for which my child acquires his personal identity, norms, values, behavior, and social skills? Not really. Except for a few individuals within the government and political arena, our government of today is void of standards and values that reflect my worldview. (I'm not saying they have no standards or values.) Even with all of the Christian teachers and leaders that are in the public school system, their hands are mostly tied behind their back when it comes to bringing any of their worldview into what they are teaching. I personally don't want my children learning to base their identity, norms, and values on a system void of any reflection of Christ.

I have the wonderful opportunity to show Christ in all parts of my children's education. That Christ is part of it, not something separated from it. The study of Christ isn't something we should just be learning at church or aside from school work. It should be integrated into all parts of it. I can't force my children to choose Christ. Ultimately, that is their decision alone. But, I can show them how Christ is in everything we say and do, every part of our world. In the public school system, evolution is taught as the norm, as if it is fact, not theory. Christian parents, then have to 'undo' what is taught to them, tell them their teachers are wrong. Homosexuality is also being pushed in the classroom as something that should be embraced, not as a sin. In fact, this year in Knox County public schools, (I'm not sure about the schools in Tennessee overall), they have to now allow students to look at homosexual websites. Although these are educational sites, (non-pornographic), I don't want my child to over look another child looking at these sites and then have to explain something to them that I didn't want them exposed to yet. How many more values and norms do I need to list that are being taught in the public school system then has to be 'undone' by parents at home? What message then are we sending to our children when we send them to an 'expert' to educate them, but then tell our children later that they are wrong on so many aspects? No wonder children don't have a firm foundation on who they are or what they believe. Perhaps I home school because I don't want my child 'socialized,' not in this way.

What most people mean by the word 'socialization' is the interaction with others and opportunity to make friends with others. Most people want to label home school kids as 'weird', or 'loners', 'socially inept.' I dare you to take a walk in any public high school hallway, or even a junior high school for that matter, and see how long it takes you to spot the 'loners' and 'weirdos'. You can even spot a few already developing in elementary schools. I would be willing to wager money that it won't take you very long, and I don't bet. I believe home life and/or school peers have more to do with being a 'loner' or a 'weirdo' than where or how a child is educated. School shootings and killing sprees are evidence of that.

That thought brings me to the next point. I'm far from convinced that it is necessary for children to be forced to deal with bullying, teasing, and being stereotyped into a specific group, which often stays with you through the rest of your graded school years, as a 'normal' part of school and of growing up. In my own experience, it has no positive benefits. I was a skinny, buck-toothed girl growing up. Though my parents loved me very much, I was often made fun of by my school peers for being so skinny, among other things, to the point that I remember crying both during school and after school and it only got worse in the junior high grades. Once I hit high school, it wasn't so bad. But, because of the ridicule and rejection I had experienced for so many years, I constantly doubted myself and what others saw in me. I carried these feelings all the way through college. In fact, it made for a rocky start when I first started dating my husband and through his efforts and the wonderful grace of God, I have been finally able to shrug that lack of confidence and self doubt. I don't believe for a minute that any of this was necessary, except that I might have more understanding for others in that situation.

One of the frequently asked questions on the Focus on the Family website is, "Do you think home schooling might negatively impact the socialization process?" James Dobson had a lot to say on this issue, but this sums up my feelings on the current matter, "If acquainting them with ridicule, rejection, physical threats, and the rigors of the pecking order is necessary to socialize our children, I'd recommend that we keep them unsocialized for a little longer."

For the most part, (just as there are 'weirdos' in the school system, there are a few being home schooled too,) home schooled children are very well rounded and adjusted among their peers. Home school students are privy to all kinds of activities where they can learn to interact and become friends with others. They are usually busy with some kind of sport activity, music, dancing, 4H clubs, Boy/Girl Scouts, name it, they do it. Home school kids are exposed to a wide variety cultures, backgrounds, family dynamics, and other situations that will help expose them to the wide world we live in. There are home school cooperatives, known as 'co-ops', that many home school students attend with others in a class-like setting. In fact, studies conducted over several years are now showing that home school students are actually more confident with themselves, more socially adjusted, and less peer dependent than their traditionally schooled counterparts. Contrary to popular opinion, home school is more than just sitting at the kitchen table. It is a very busy and active lifestyle that takes education out of the doors and into the real world. While traditionally schooled students are put in a class, behind a desk, for several hours a day with same age peers and not given much opportunity to interact with different ages, home school students often take classes and participate in activities with many different ages, giving them the social advantage of learning how to interact with peers of different ages and interests from early on, which I'd say is better preparation for the 'real world.' (I've yet to work in a job where they separated us by age, have you?)

I am in no way saying any of this (regarding parts 1,2, or 3) is true of EVERY public school student or EVERY home school student. There are always exceptions to the rule, both for the good and the worse of the situations. I just want you, whoever you are reading this, to know that there is more to home schooling than what is on the surface. It is hard work, but, so is everything worthwhile in life. Even if you don't feel a calling to home school, educate yourself on it. There are a ton of good books out there on the subject of homeschooling. I will try to post a list of some of my favorites that you may find helpful to understanding this way of life. I'm sure you can find them in your local library, or from a friendly home schooling parent, so you don't have to purchase them.

I hope you have found this interesting and useful. And again, feel free to leave comments, tasteful, thought about, disagreements, and yes...agreements are welcome too.

HomeSchooling: To Answer the Questions #2 - Aren't my children missing out on opportunities?

Part two...

2) "Aren't my children missing out on opportunities?" In my own mind, this is probably the most valid question and concern about home schooling that one can ask. It is definitely something not to be taken lightly when deciding on how to educate your children. Ultimately, there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides of this issue. In the end, you have to decide what opportunities are worth giving up for the other opportunities, and which ones are not optional. Obviously, this is a very personal decision because each child and each family are going to be different, have different goals, values, etc.

One of the biggest opportunities that parents are often concerned about is sports. If I home school my child, then he won't have the opportunity to play on team sports and he also might miss out on a scholarship. I will admit, this was a concern within my own household. However, if you know myself or my husband, then you know that neither one of us went to college on a sports scholarship. I would actually much rather my children go to college on an academic scholarship because, in my opinion, intelligence is more profitable than physical ability in the long run. Just to be noted, many Ivy League colleges and universities and other very elite schools are specifically seeking home schooled students out and recruiting them to attend their schools. This is because on average, home school students are mature, independent thinking, creative, and oh yes, perform above the national averages on the ACT and SAT.

There are also other venues to play on a sports team than just through a traditional school setting. Upward Sports is a great way to get your young child involved and their are leagues and other teams for the older child. Home school children are often eligible to play on private or public school teams, as well. (We do still pay taxes for public education, so I don't feel a bit guilty about this.) Tim Tebow was home schooled all the way through high school. A local private school allowed him to play on their football team, he was recruited by University of Florida, and achieved the Heisman Trophy as a college sophomore.

What about band, homecoming, and proms? Home school students have all of these. Well, maybe not homecomings. But, they have winter formals and other alternatives.

Home school students also have opportunities that their traditional schooled counterparts may not have. Did you know that many local community colleges welcome home school students to take part in their classes, as well? A high school level home school student can graduate from high school with an associates degree, at the same time!! (We happen to be friends with one such young lady!) They can also take their dance lessons, music lessons, swimming lessons, and other lessons during the day, instead of trying to work them around after school home work and other after school activities. It is part of their education, not something thrown in extra, if you can manage the time. The world is their classroom! Every outing can be a field trip, an educational experience. Oh, yeah...and way too much fun!

Because we are home schooling, we didn't have to fit our vacation somewhere between June and July, when everyone else has to fit there's in. We are actually on vacation right now, the week after Labor Day. Since President Obama recently went on what he called a 'working vacation,' I'm going to call ours a 'schooling vacation.' We took Joshua's basic school lessons with us, then used the great out doors and our other visits we decided to take as hands-on learning time. (Our "sit down" lessons only took about an hour, so don't feel too sorry for Joshua.) We observed a turtle in it's natural habitat, went to a museum about the local history of Waynesville, NC, then we spent a whole day on a 'field trip' to Cherokee, NC to learn about the history and culture of the Native Indians. Who knows where our 'schooling vacation' will take us before it's all over!
What student is going to complain about a week of school like that?

I could go on, but I hope you get the idea that home schooled students may miss out on a few opportunities, but there are so many more opportunities out there for them, they really aren't missing anything at all.