My Son’s First Rejection

February 19, 2012

Socialization.

I don’t know why I keep coming back to this issue. Maybe because when I was deciding to homeschool, that was the biggest objection that came up. I now know that I was mistaken in my belief that the main purpose of school is to educate. I mostly dismissed the “socialization” caveat as misplaced priorities. But I think if it’s going to be a priority for parents and educators, then we should at least make an attempt to do it right.

Last Thursday I attended a music recital at our local Elementary School. Our district allows homeschooled children to take part in extra-curricular activities and “special” classes like Art, Computers, & Gym. Nathan takes Art & Music with the other 1st graders 3 times a week.

During this event, my middle son, Brandon, was rejected by a group of boys who were all bent over a brand new Kindle Fire. At first they mostly ignored his inquiries and friendly gestures. But as he persisted in talking to them, they started to say mean things to him. I watched his attempts to befriend these boys and their rejection of him warily. I was curious to see how Brandon would react. Brandon doesn’t see new children as outsiders, he sees them as potential playmates. But he also gets that electronic “toys” are way cool and other kids don’t usually give them up or share them readily. I don’t think Brandon was traumatized, but it made me sad to see him pushed aside.

As I told this story later, most people dismissed my concern. “Boys will be boys” or “They didn’t know him, so why would they accept him?” But I want to question those assumptions. We actually are not used to this behavior at all. Parents of toddlers and pre-K children will often sit at the park and marvel over how their kids will just buddy up and play together without ever having been introduced. We assume they grow out of this, but I think they are schooled out of this.

I am part of a rather large homeschooling group and those kids don’t seem to lose this ability. Because of these classes at the school, we can only fit in homeschool Meetups about once a month. Every time we go, I feel like we are the new people. I have yet to notice my boys playing with the same kids twice. What I have not noticed is any of my boys ever being rejected. Nathan loves to play with older boys. I have seen 11, 12, and 13 yr old boys assimilate him into their woodland adventures without a second thought. Brandon will play with anybody and tends to bounce from group to group. It wasn’t until he tried to play with a group of boys from the public school that he faced his first rejection.

For some reason I haven’t been able to shake the unpleasant “taste” this experience has left with me. Naturally, whenever something lingers in the subconscious, the topic seems to pop up everywhere thereafter. My mentor posted an article on his blog today that discourages liberals from homeschooling because it doesn’t embody good, liberal “social values” (social on a societal scale, not necessarily childhood friendships). The comments led me to some interesting links, and I came across the following research:

I hope to elaborate more on these articles in future posts, but the bottom line is that I just don’t think schools are doing this “socialization” thing right. We don’t have to tolerate bratty kids, pre-teen angst, and teenage rebellion. We are teaching these things to our children. We can do better.

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