Children are running and playing outside and throughout the house on the warm summer day, while the adults are scattered throughout the main floor chit-chatting and solving at least one of the world's problems.
Alexa's five-year-old cousin, whom she was playing with downstairs, staggers up the stairs and plops herself on a chair next to her mom, eyes brimmed. I then notice my Alexa (6) wandering into the room looking a little uncomfortable and guilty.
I quietly excuse myself and gently escort Alexa back to my room.
"Alexa, do you want to tell me what happened between you and Rose?"
"She wanted to play with Drew and it was messing up our game!" She blurts out in an accusatory voice. "So I told her she wasn't my friend anymore."
I try not to show my disappointment in her pulling that card on her cousin.
"Oh sweetie, these are your cousins and they are Drew's cousins, too." Rose is exactly between Drew and Alexa in age. "I know that may have disappointed you, but it's never okay to make somebody feel bad for not wanting to play your game."
I continue, "You see, when you try to get your way by saying that you're not going to be someones friend, not only does it hurt their feelings, but they learn to act that way, too, and nobody wins."
I know this because she has learned this uncharacteristic behavior.
After a back and forth discussion about kindness, she blurts out, " WELL, AT THE END OF KINDERGARTEN, I WAS GIVEN THE AWARD FOR BEING THE KINDEST GIRL IN THE CLASS AND STILL KIDS TOLD ME ALL THE TIME THEY DIDN'T WANT TO BE MY FRIEND!"
Alexa had a good year with lots of friends and very well-liked. I understand, sitting there, that there were no bad kids or negligent teachers in her school. Unfortunately, this is just the culture that starts in Kindergarten. This is the culture that is impossible to monitor and re-direct when feelings get hurt and a child, at five, six or eight, doesn't know how to properly deal with it on their own.
I pull her on my lap and empathize with her and I offer her a better way.
We walk back out and Alexa immediately goes up to her cousin and apologizes for her actions. The two are standing face to face and Alexa continues to say, "It just made me feel bad when you wanted to play with Drew cause I thought you didn't like me anymore." Rose chimes in, "Oh, well I do like you, I just wanted to...." The two of them exchange a few more words and then run off giggling again.
They had no issues the rest of the day. And the culture remained kindness within the family that day.
There is a lot of concern out ther for children being properly socialized by as early as age three or four.
Socialization is a broad and deep topic, in which the above scenario cannot possibly cover the scope of. Yet, contrary to popular thinking, I believe the absence of individualized, loving parental supervision and guidance could be the beginning to the very breakdown of well-socialized children right from the start of their schooling.
I can't tell you that we do everything right in socializing our children. On one spectrum, we have and alway have had very exuberant children in church. I guess if we socialized our children better in this area, they would be more controlled, right? But, we'll always fall short somewhere. We're not perfect.
I can't argue that our children wouldn't succeed in a compulsory school environment. And I am not arguing that they are guaranteed better socialization in a different environment, such as homeschooling.
Yet, I am going to address the irony of our thinking when it comes to this topic.
We seem to think that unless our children are in school and around lots of other children their own age, they won't be around people enough, therefore will not be well-socialized. And unless our children are in school and around lots of children, they won't know how to handle conflict or the problems of the real world.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
Socialization can be argued both ways and I think it comes down to a few critical questions:
1) How do we define socialization?
2) Is age-segregated socialization really the better kind of socialization for our children?
3) Is our culturally-obessessed idea of socialization possibly hindering our ability to raise great thinkers?
How Do We Define Socialization?
Socialized: To adapt or make conform to the common needs of a social group; to subject to governmental ownership or control. Webster's New World Dictionary
Children who are around one another every single day learn how to cooperate with one another, learn what it takes to be accepted, and certainly can have fun together. They learn to follow the rules of the school, accept direction and they figure out how to solve their own social problems, one way or another. And that can be good.
However, socialization goes much further than what our children experience in school. To me, socialization is the ability to get along with others in a way that builds up and strengthens their culture. It is the ability to engage respectfully all ages of their culture. It is learning from the example of the older and helping to teach the younger. It is learning to solve problems ethically and less selfishly.
Raymond S. Moore, in Better Late Than Early, says, "To be truly sociable means to have concern for others, to know how to practice the golden rule and be willing to serve."
In addition, Moore says, "Seldom mentioned in early childhood literature is the small child's need for freedom to be by himself, just to be himself. Yet one of the young child's greatest needs is for solitude...Let him alone to play out his visions and his dreams...His need to be alone is certainly as great, and sometimes greater, than his need to be socialized, especially in a school setting."
Being well-socialized is more than adapting to a group of children and getting along in that group. It's about real life, real people and real situations. It's about learning to contribute because you've discovered you have something to contribute.
Optimal training starts within the security of family and can be practiced in a variety of settings with a variety of people of all ages i.e homeschool groups and field trips, service opportunities, organized activities, friends of family, church, the grocery store, etc.
Which brings me to my next question.
Is Age-Segregated Socialization Really the Better Kind of Socialization for Our Children?
I will address this point in Part 2 of "What About Socialization?" next Friday. I hope you'll join the conversation!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
You can read previous posts on this series, Reasons Why I'd Never Homeschool, below:
I Wouldn't Have the PatienceI'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Stay with me on this journey by subscribing or join Heavenly Glimpses Facebook page.