Monday Motherhood: Socialization

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Whenever I bring up that I will be homeschooling my preschoolers who are approaching kindergarten age, the response is often well-meaning concern over how my kids will be socialized.  I know my daughter is very social, and I understand what she loves to do right now.  This may come as a shock to many of you, but I don’t care about socialization.  I have no intention of stressing over socialization at all.  It’s the least of my worries.  It’s funny to me that people really worry anymore whether homeschool kids get enough social interaction.  There are enough resources now for homeschooled kids that it is overwhelming!  There are opportunities for groups, activities, and classes to pack our schedules.  I have no doubt my children will push us to use many of these resources, and I intend to use them.  If you still have a misguided worry that homeschool turns out “weirdos”, consider that public school has its share of “freaks” as well.

What kind of socialization are we really even talking about?  The kind of socialization kids get in public school often leads to peer dependence.  “Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner and his Cornell teams found that children who spend more elective time with their peers than with their parents until the fifth or sixth grades…will become peer dependent.  Such knuckling under to peer values incurs four losses crucial to sound mental health and positive sociability.  These losses…are self-worth, optimism, respect for parents, and trust in peers” (Moore, p49).  Children will adopt the values of the most influential people around them.  I would rather those people be their parents and siblings.  Children who spend a lot of time with their peers depend on peer approval, even though they are insecure about their peer connections.  “Does anyone who knows children believe that the yellow school bus takes children down the road to constructive, positive sense of society?” (Moore, p50).  If my kids seem strange to you, maybe it is not so much that they are weird as it is that they are just different because they will not base their worth on whether or not you like them.

I am not worried about whether my kids will get the kind of socialization they would get in public schools because I don’t intend to give them mere self-esteem, which comes from peer approval, and too much praise.  I intend to teach my children to gain self-confidence, self-efficacy, self-control, self-respect, self-worth, self-sufficiency, and a healthy self-concept.  This will come through exposure to true society, work, service, culture, classes, real life situations, sports, art, and music from a wholesome and eternal perspective.  Family is the foundation for these characteristics.  “There is absolutely no evidence to support the prevailing assumption by parents and educators that the average school is more of a positive socializing agency than a good home…And there is powerful evidence that we are schooling our youngsters today to be young narcissists” (Moore, p50).  I am homeschooling my children because I want our family to mean something.  I want our family to matter to them.  That bond that we create will give them the resilience they need to reach their full potential.

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

And more:

“The home … is the workshop where human characters are built and the manner in which they are formed depends upon the relationship existing between parents and the children. The home cannot be what it should be unless these relationships are of the proper character. Whether they are so or not depends, it is true, upon both parents and children, but much more upon parents. They must do their best.
“If I had to suggest one thing which I think we as parents are most lacking, it would be a sympathetic understanding of our children. Live with the children; follow their paths. … Know everything that claims the interest of the children, be a good sport with them.
“We have been trying to impress upon parents the need of paying more attention to their children, having a little more of the spirit of the gospel in their homes, a little more unity and a little more faith; a little more responsibility religiously, spiritually on the part of the fathers; also, of the mothers; more of the teaching of the gospel in the home.
“To parents in the Church we say: Love each other with all your hearts. Keep the moral law and live the gospel. Bring up your children in light and truth; teach them the saving truths of the gospel; and make your home a heaven on earth, a place where the Spirit of the Lord may dwell and where righteousness may be enthroned in the heart of each member” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith,Chapter 4: Strengthening and Preserving the Family).

There is a lot of pressure to just give in and let my kids go to public school.  There is a misguided assumption that parents are not capable of teaching their own children.  My first stand to resist peer pressure will be to not buckle under the pressure, but to remain firm in my belief that I am doing what I believe is best for my family.  Socialization will come naturally.  Learning will happen too.  Rarely do you hear people ask, “What about their education?”  There are innumerable resources for kids who want to learn, and parents who support them.  The most important resource I can offer my children right now is love.

(Moore, Dr. Raymond & Dorothy, “The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook”)
Image courtesy of lds.org

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Monday Motherhood: Homeschool – A Beginning

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I don’t claim to have any answers about homeschooling or parenting.  I just know that if I don’t start somewhere, then I’ll never get anywhere.  That is what I have learned about grace.  You do what you can with what you have without expecting perfection, and then you keep modifying the results until you get to where you want to be.  Maybe we will never “arrive” at where we want to be, but we will never even come close if we never begin.

If there is anything I have learned from studying about the different homeschool methods, it is how to be a better mother.  If I never hold a single day of “homeschool” in my life, I will at least have learned how to be a better mom to my kids, to manage our time better, to be more patient with them, and to respond more tenderly to their needs and their questions.  They are a real treasure that I hope to cherish whatever we end up doing with their education.

I have been enjoying reading about the “Moore Method” in “The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook” by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  Very encouraging.  I also gleaned insight from the LDS-NHA (http://www.lds-nha.org/homeschooling-philosophies/) to determine what kind of homeschool I want to run here.  I am trying to skim through books about the Montessori Method, and the Thomas Jefferson Education, and other books recommended for understanding the different methods.

On one hand, I really appreciate the Classical approach because I am convinced that making standard works a part of our education and character really is an eternal principle.  The Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 88: 118 “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”  The first thing God did when restoring His church was instruct Joseph Smith to translate The Book of Mormon.  And, within that book, the first thing the Lord needed Lehi to do was retrieve the Brass Plates so that the Nephites would not “[suffer] in ignorance” (Mosiah 1:3).  So, to that extent, I know it is important that my children read the standard works of our church and our nation, at the very least.

I guess that puts me in the “eclectic” category because, while I like classical education, I don’t want it to be the only thing we do.  I am leaning more toward the “Unit studies” method because I really like the idea of exploring topics thoroughly, understanding the whys and the hows, and exploring other subjects within that topic.  The Moores explain this method pretty well.  It pretty-much encapsulates what it is to be a teaching parent at all times.  It promotes natural teaching as part of the process of raising a child, and I love that.  But unlike “Unschooling” I like the idea of directing the conversation while fueling their desire to learn.

I also love the Moore Method’s idea of promoting “study, work, and service” (http://www.moorehomeschooling.com/article/68/about-moore-home-schooling/moore-formula).  I believe those are all crucial to raising balanced leaders.

I was excited when I read the schedule the Moores suggested in their book because it was almost the exact same schedule I was already trying to establish in my home!  In my mind, if I can establish this foundation, everything else will fall into place.  Remember, it may not be what works for you, and it might not always be what works for me, but it is what I have to work with at this time in the process of my learning.

6:00 am Mommy shower and study the scriptures
7:00 am Breakfast, and chores*
9:00 am “School”, beginning with morning devotional (which for my tiny kids, means play together, some phonics and basic math, music time, and motor activities)
12:00 pm lunch and quiet time
2:00 pm exercise, errands, service, projects, work, cook/prepare meals (this leaves room for extra chores, visiting friends, field trips, serving our neighborhood, and generating other ideas).
5:30 pm dinner, and family time
7:00 pm Kids’ baths, bedtime routine, and night devotional
7:30 pm Kids in bed.  Mommy finish up chores
8:00 pm Mommy free time, read, play, exercise, etc.
10:00 pm Mommy bedtime

Here is how I maintain my home: the kids and I always work together.  The rule is that if someone is still working, then everyone is still working because we’re a family and we work together.

*Morning chores: Empty the dishwasher, pick up main level, sweep/vacuum, switch laundry, do weekly chore.**

Throughout the day: put dishes into the dishwasher, pick up toys.

**Weekly chores:
Monday – collect garbage and recycling
Tuesday – Clean up bedrooms
Wednesday – Bathrooms
Thursday – Collect garbage
Friday – Catch up on laundry
Saturday – Landscaping

Evening: Clean up kitchen, switch the laundry, fold.  When you do this stuff every day, it starts to become a quick 15 minute fix (See http://www.flylady.net/d/br/2012/05/11/15-minutes-worth-of-messy/).

This varies a lot.  Maybe if life were perfect we would always keep this schedule, but it is ideal. I don’t beat myself up if it doesn’t work one day.  I just try again the next!  The point is to find what works for you and give it a try!

My goal at this point is to just keep this schedule, which includes being WITH my kids for that three hour “school” time block in the morning.  Like I said, if there is anything I learn from all of this, it is just how to be a better mom because I cannot recall any time in my kids’ lives that I have actually sat down and played with them for even that long.  While I was pregnant, I was too tired and awkward to get down and play with them.  I realized how much I relied on TV to get me through the day, or how often I would leave them to play and dink around on the computer/smart phone!  Now we watch very little TV.  It rarely even factors into our schedule except when the kids are up before I shower.

Anyway, this is a work in progress.  I think it will become easier as time goes by.  My daughter is really catching on to it and will occasionally tell ME what is next on the schedule.  She is pretty awesome.

Friday Find: New Blog

I read an opinion post on the New York Times about motherhood vs. feminism, and I loved one of the author’s perspectives on the matter. She says, “Good Riddance to Feminism!” LaShaun Williams has a sound perspective on motherhood, and the means of providing a healthy environment for our children, among other things.

She points out that we can blame feminism for the feelings of guilt and inadequacy working moms feel. “Feminism — a movement that, while liberating women to follow their dreams, devalued marriage and the familial and societal benefits of homemaking and encouraged self-indulgence.” Williams argues that attachment parenting is breaking down some of what feminism has created in a good way. (I have my issues with feminism, but I also have issues with attachment parenting. They both swing too far in either direction, or rather, overcompensate for each other).

So, I checked out William’s blog and it turns out that she has some pretty sound views on a lot of things. Check out Welfare, Food Stamps—What More of a ‘Safety Net’ Do the Very Poor Expect?, and Santorum: Kids get ‘weird socialization’ in schools.