What does socialization have to do with education?

“What about socialization?” is the question I get asked most frequently when an acquaintance or friend finds out I homeschool. I could feel pressured to reel off all the social activities my child (and children) did or do participate in to sooth the mind of the person asking. I don’t do that any more. There are plenty of opportunities for kids to be social, whether homeschooled, private schooled or public school, that is a fact. I can or cannot participate in said opportunities to the comfort level of my family.

“Noah Webster, in his original 1828 dictionary, reveals to us four minimal goals of education.  He writes: “Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to [1] enlighten the understanding, [2] correct the temper, [3] form the manners and habits of youth, and [4] fit them for usefulness in their future situations…””- America’s Providential History

There is nothing in the 1828 definition of education that leads me to believe the goal is socialization. I think when people say our kids need to socialize, they may be saying that kids need to be around other people and learn to get along with them. I agree. Maybe that falls under number two and three, “correct the temper” and “form the manners and habits of youth”, those are important goals, but they don’t have to happen in a brick and mortar building, they can happen in the kitchen fixing breakfast with your siblings. A child may have to tame his temper if someone else got the last pancake. I taught my children to say, “Life is not fair, but God is good”. They may have said it with clenched jaw and steam coming from their ears, but they said it. By saying it aloud, they reinforced the idea.

Another opportunity to form the habits of youth is working together for a common goal. Take seven children, one mama and pack a lunch for an out of town field trip and you have a recipe for taming tempers and forming good habits. Another phrase I taught my children to say, “What can I do to help?” Before you get some idyllic picture of my children lining up like in the Sound of Music, wearing drapes for clothing and saying things like, “Yes, Mother” followed by sweet smiles on angelic faces, think again. When I say, I taught, that means it was a process, it was work, it took training. There may have been three children crying while I coached one of the older ones in the phrase. Forming good habits is building character. See that word, building? Think of your kids building a Lego creation, they dump out or line up all the pieces, but it takes time, an instruction book and some patience to put it together. That is how character building is. You have the pieces you need, you have an instruction manual (Proverbs in the Bible is a great place to start). You have the time, by that I mean you can survive the chaos without any character development or any taming of the temper, or you can start one Lego block at a time, sixty seconds to repeat a phrase, five minutes to help a younger put shoes on, fifteen minutes to make some sandwiches and put them in the cooler. You get the idea. If you can get along with and function with grace in your own family, you can get along with anyone.

Back to the word socialization. Like I said, I do understand what people are getting at, how do you teach your kids how to function in society, to “fit them for usefulness in their future”? It doesn’t happen just being in the same room with their peers. That can stagnate or go down hill very quickly. Just get a group of boys together and watch. After a few minutes, they are wrestling or trying to start a fire. What is missing from the equation? Number one, “enlighten the understanding” must be accomplished in degrees before a child is able to function in society. This too, is a process, it takes work and it doesn’t happen over night. A child needs to know his place in the world, that he matters, he is important, he has purpose. Then he needs to move on from there to what he can do to help.

If the goal of education in any form is to be spoon fed knowledge in a group setting where ideas are visions are NOT shared, then it will soon become stagnate. Children will be bored, then they will act up and out. There is nothing socially appealing about that scenario at all.

We must teach our children that they have a place in this world, that their ideas matter and that with knowledge comes great responsibility. If we treat them like cows, putting them in the same field, feeding them the same hay, then they will begin to form to the conveyor belt mentality. Everyone be the same. Do the same. Wear the same. Same. Same. Same. An erroneous definition of socialization, but a prevailing one.

If this whole concept of education is new to you, then take some time and re-evaluate your idea, write your definition down. Are you running around like a crazy person, dragging your kids from activity to activity (been there, done that) because you feel an external pressure to make sure your kids are socializing, all the while you have an internal voice saying slow down! Take some time to settle in your nest and do some training. You’re less likely to be reactive if you are proactive in taking the time at home to correct those tempers and form some manners and great habits. After you have some great times of training under your belt, pack up the van, head out and enjoy!

Schedules, School and Grace

 When I began my homeschool journey, I didn’t know anyone who homeschooled. I was alone and frantic. I wasn’t sure what I should or shouldn’t do when it came to doing school at home. Should we have a schoolroom? Should we sit at desks? Where those important parts of education? Was it okay to accomplish everything one day and not the next?
I met a few families during the first year and that just seemed to put more pressure on me. These families were clean and well coordinated. The kids wore khakis and polos. My youngest son wore the same shirt with a _____ on it, all the time. My eldest daughter preferred boy’s tennis shoes to girls and liked her hair kept short. My middle daughter wore dresses all the time and thought she lived in a musical production, all the time. She had breakdowns if her hair-bows and socks didn’t coordinate.
When these other moms talked about schedule, the importance of this textbook, that curriculum, I just wanted to hide under a table. Most of the time I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn’t know who Charlotte Mason was or Kathy Duffy, Sally Clarkson or fill in the blank.
Sunflower- honey-flavored
I went home from events with other homeschooling moms determined to schedule better, to get it all done and find out who they were talking about. I began a round of re-educating myself. Most of the process was great, except for one thing. I put my schedule, my schooling on a pedestal. I thought if I did all the right things, at all the right times and read the right books, my kids would be well educated. I could pat myself on the back.
It backfired. When I had my schedule on the altar, when I worshiped it, checking the time, plowing through when the kids were frustrated, when I was tired and no one was learning anything, my sticky-noted schedule became my frenemy. It could have been my friend, but I let it push me around, just like those feelings of inferiority I got when I listened to those more seasoned homeschoolers talk. They weren’t trying to make me feel badly, I did that all by myself.

You think that in two decades I would make exponential progress in the area of giving myself grace when it comes to schedules and school. You’d think I would have pushed those ideals off of their pedestal.  Some days I leapfrog forward and sail through with God’s peace and joy as my companions. Other days,

I am waking up in a panic.
And why?
After all these years?  My baseboards have to be clean to start school?
I was working on my schedule for school today and I told myself, after I started getting worried about whether I could do it every day or not, if I can do it all two days, three days, a week…isn’t that better than not doing it at all? When I say “it all” I mean everything on my schedule, all the school subjects, perfectly completed by joyful, compliant children. All the chores accomplished. Baseboards sparkling. Kitchen shiny. Errands run. Pantry full. Doctors appointments, meetings and practiced attended with nary a whine by child or parent. Check. Check. Check. Check.
In my dreams. Reality is more like chores somewhat finished most days. Load of towels in the washer too long. Run it again. Clean up the kitchen most of the time. School subjects worked through completely some days, other days we chuck it and go for a real life field trip.
I’ve studied some of the works of the names mentioned above. I’ve changed my philosophy of education. It’s been tweaked, but I am the same person who wants to do everything, every day, perfectly.
So, give yourself some grace. You may hit some weeks where you do all the stuff every day and then you have that under your belt for when you can only hit two good days one week.
It's not about
It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence to keep going. It’s about what you have under your belt, not what you don’t. It’s about grace in the journey, educating your child and enjoying the trip.

Good Brain Food (Three Word Wednesday)

When the Positive Adoption team decided to focus on the topic of education for the next few months, my mind immediately drifted to schools, children, apples, pencils, backpacks, libraries, homeschooling (because that’s what I do) and then I got out some of the books I have read, marked up, written in and I started writing/studying in another direction. I love studying. I know, I’m weird. I love research. Mostly the sort when I can mark up a book. I self-educate. I can credit my parents with introducing the habit. It began years ago, when I had a question and there was no google, just books.

Education quote Ben Franklin

My step-father, Bud was famous for his stack of reference materials and the time he spent with a child when they had a question about life in general. When I asked, or my children in later years, asked him a question, there was an unwritten guarantee that you would be in his study for at least an hour looking information up in bulky books, the yellow oak floor, well worn by the chairs sliding back and forth between shelves of books.

What created this desire in me? What is education? And how did Bud (and other family members, including my dad who helped me in my homeschooling journey, but that’s a story for another post) ignite the love for learning? Does everyone have the ability to love learning? How do we impart this to our children?

Today, I want to focus on education as it pertains to adults. Most of you reading this post have had some form of schooling under your belt. You know how to read. You may have a college degree. You may have a high school degree or working on a master’s or doctorate. You may be tired of schooling.

I got into a bit of a slump mentally, recently. I couldn’t really put my finger on what was going on. I was feeling fine physically. Something was just off. It took me some praying, reading and thinking before I realized, I wasn’t eating enough healthy food when it came to my educational diet. You see, the truth is, we are eating, educationally as well as physically.

“Diet for the body is abundantly considered but no one pauses to say, “I wonder does the mind need food too, and regular meals and what is the proper diet?””- A Philosophy of Education, Charlotte Mason

What was I feeding my mind? Was I introducing new ideas? Or was I vegging on netflix, the modern junk food for the brain. I had briefly left behind my habit of feeding my mind a healthy diet and it left me feeling bloated and foggy.

“The mind of the prudent is ever getting knowledge, and the ear of the wise is ever seeking (inquiring for and craving) knowledge”- Proverbs 18:15

When I am used to eating junk food, that is what my body will crave. When I eat healthy food, I then begin to crave healthy food. Ever try to eat a piece of salmon after a steady diet of chocolate cake, chips, and candy? It tastes terrible. On the flip side, if you have been drinking green smoothies every morning for weeks and you try eating a donut instead, it may make you feel sick.

A few things I have learned about the habit of self-education.

When you begin the habit of self-education as an adult, let’s say you haven’t dusted off a decent work of literature for years or months, it will be hard. Education is a discipline. You may feel bored or as if you are sitting and staring at the words on the page. You may feel ignorant and want to give up. Don’t. Just don’t. One thing the body of Christ needs is intelligent, well-educated thinkers who can sort out ideas and decide whether they are true or not. If you are not a Christian, you still need to do the same and teach your children to do the same.

“Education is that process by which though is opened out of the soul, and associated with outward ….things, is reflected back upon itself, and thus made conscious of its reality and shape. It is Self-Realization….He who is seeking to know himself, should be ever seeking himself in external things, an by so doing he will be best able to find, and explore his inmost light.”- Bronson Alcott

You might feel in over your head. You may get angry. You may throw the book across the room when confronted with a new idea that doesn’t match your suppositions. It’s okay, education is a work. We feed on ideas. The goal of education is not simply to stuff facts in one’s head, but to understand them, to put them in place in your worldview. Are they true? Do they pan out with what you previously thought or do you need to do some rearranging in your current beliefs?

“A well-trained mind is the result of of application, not inborn genius.”- Isaac Watts

See the word “trained” in that sentence. Training implies work. Dedication to a particular task. Whether I am training my body to be in the habit of reading junk books (those that don’t teach me anything) or watching too many hours of television, I am still training. What do I get out of the junk diet? A flabby brain. I don’t want that, do you? I’m not saying never eat junk, I enjoy reading some things just for pleasure, but everything in my educational diet cannot be pleasure driven.

What does this have to do with the  education of our children? Everything. Our children watch our every move. If I constantly am watching Netflix or on a tablet, they will follow suit. If I have a book in my hand,  if I discuss ideas over dinner, if I talk  about what I’m reading, they will pick up on it. You can’t raise intelligent children without working on your own intelligence first.

How do you start? If you aren’t a reader, if you haven’t been in the library since grade school, it’s better to start by small, baby bites of information.

Some of my favorites:

C.S. Lewis

Screwtape letters

Francis Schaeffer

These are just a few of the books that got my brain gears turning.

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”- Francis Bacon

Do you have a list of books that are good brain food?

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday!

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School and Adoption Sensitivity: The Challenge of Homeschooling Adopted Children

Homeschooling adopted children is a great option, not the only one, but a great one. I think when i say that I homeschool my adopted children, it’s as if I took the easy road, I had it in the bag. I can tell when I explain our education choice, a person has that look on her face. I took the low road, right? I didn’t have to get them up in the morning and they could do school in their pjs, right? Wrong (well, maybe pjs sometimes).

I didn’t choose homeschooling my adopted children because it was easy. It wasn’t. It isn’t. Their fears don’t disappear because I homeschooled. Their developmental delays didn’t vanish because they were home. I didn’t let them hide and settle in comfortably where they were academically, emotionally and physically. I challenged them. Every day. It was/is hard. For them. For me. And so worth it.

Last weekend, daughter Ania and I hiked to Raven Rock, about 1.5 miles to the overlook and I’m pretty sure it was ten miles on the way back, straight up. Homeschooling is like the hike. It was rocky terrain. The climb was steep. We babbled all the way down, ignorant to what lay before us on the way back. Still we enjoyed the view, both ways. We high-fived when we hit the finish line, dripping in sweat and in need of food. Homeschooling is not an even ride for adopted children. They may babble excitedly about the year until you hand out some assignments. It may be rough terrain, but the view when you and your child crest the hill, when he gets a concept, when he understands a problem, when he conquers. It’s breath-taking.

So, if you choose to homeschool your adopted children, there are some things you should do.

  1. Find a support group.

I host a Mom’s Tea at our local homeschool co-op (THESIS) every Friday during the school year. I think I got asked to host because I am on the older/wiser side of life, but this tea has been such a blessing to me. There are so many families homeschooling special needs children nowadays and the Moms at the tea understand. We have common goals and common struggles. We support each other. One Mom shared with me that she wouldn’t have made it through her first year of homeschooling without this group!

2. Don’t be afraid to throw out the formal curriculum for a season.

We parents can get so caught up in our children being academically on target that we forget that some of the children came from hard places. They don’t know how to be part of a family and we are more concerned about the fact that they cannot write their name. Practice some life skills and family habits for a while. Read books aloud. Again and Again. Practice sitting at the table for a meal as a family. Talk about what families do together as if it were natural. “See, you can do it, we sit at the table and eat together because we are a family.”

“We do chores together as a family.”

“We play games together as a family.”

3. Don’t be afraid to backtrack.

My eight year old son knew how to read and write when he joined the Guire family. The only problem for him (and me) was in Polish, not English. He had made it clear he wanted nothing to do with his native language and we had to go back to the very beginning. The alphabet. Phonics. And we did. I didn’t want him to be embarrassed, so I made sure he was in the room when the younger kids were covering phonics lessons so he got double duty.

A lot of parents are afraid their child’s education may have gaps if they go back and recover the basics instead of moving forward with the rest of his peers. I say, the child’s gaps will be wider and more noticeable if you don’t backtrack. The truth is, no one knows everything they need to know when they graduate. No one knows everything. There is always room for improvement and education is a life long habit, not a brick and mortar building. It is emotional intelligence, critical thinking and character, not just book learning.

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4. Don’t try to school like everyone else.

The culture of the United States is sameness, whether we admit it or not. Never has Pete Seeger’s tune, Little Boxes rang true as much as it does today.

“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same,
There’s a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there’s doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”

We are all trying to be the same. Just go to the sidelines of your child’s soccer game or swim meet and listen. Watch. Kids are wearing basically the same thing. Moms talk about school projects, work, recipes, shopping or their kid’s progress. We try to measure up and fit it to some sort of agenda we learned on the side lines.

Education has increasingly gone mainstream. No child left behind means teach to the middle of the class while kids at the top and kids with learning delays fall behind. No child left behind cannot work because it doesn’t fit each child’s need for education. We don’t have the resources and manpower in our school system for all of  the children with special needs, learning delays, emotional issues and then there are the kids who knock the IQ tests out of the park. So, why would we bring these kids home and do exactly what the classroom is?

Why would we mimic the classroom for the child with ADHD or a child on the spectrum who cannot hold still? Why would we follow the What Your Child Needs to Know Guide when a six-year-old child missed so many days of school in his former placement that he doesn’t know how to write his name? When he doesn’t know the difference between a letter and a number?

Find out what your child needs. Does he need to learn to be part of a family? Does he need to go back to the basics? Can he read? Can he sort colors? Shapes? Does he know what money looks like?

Homeschooling is not for everyone. I’m not knocking the school system. I come from a family full of hard-working educators. I know some awesome teachers, child psychologists and administrators. If you decide to homeschool your adopted child, it should be based on what he needs, not what other’s expect of you,not what everyone else is doing. Choose the best choice for him long-term and enjoy the journey.

Time for Adoption Talk Link Up!  Join us!

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