Archive for the ‘Socialization’ Category
30 August 2013
“ARE WE BREEDING BIGOTRY AT HOME?” so asked a journalist in a recent article. Are kids being conditioned to ‘look down’ on others with different beliefs? A concerned homeschooling parent responds.
THIS ARTICLE IS A GOOD REMINDER for parents to nurture an appreciation of diverse worldviews in their children. Particularly so in a multicultural place like Malaysia- where we share each other’s cultures e.g. food, language, games, movies and stories.
But, what is worrying is the glibness with which the writer points the accusing finger- at the home. No home exists in a vacuum. Children are in school for at least 6 hours a day. Does our school system promote integration? Forget about superficial activities, for example, donning traditional clothing, singing patriotic songs, and reciting pledges. The questions that beg to be asked are: Do our school children – from different ethnic and religious backgrounds- play together? Do school textbooks, teaching practices, teachers and the curriculum forge integration or force us further apart?
Homeschooling has been liberating for us, and for many of the families that we know. Because of a common dream for our children– to nurture compassion, kindness, wisdom and hope – homeschoolers from different religious and ethnic backgrounds pull up our sleeves and actually work hard together to form friendships and interactions. We are often found gallivanting about in parks, beaches, galleries – you name them! – together. Isn’t this what Malaysia should be about? People with shared hopes for the next generation, willing to seek common ground instead of quibbling over differences?
In the article, the teens’ comments sound like thoughtless wise-cracks typical of youths, so I wouldn’t take these too seriously. (How many of our children have made remarks about a certain smell, food, or habit belonging to another community, group, person, etc? We, too, fall easily into the myth of stereotyping another individual, or community). And young people usually have knee-jerk reactions . For example, “You INVADED my privacy!” – when a parent opens a wardrobe door. And bigotry is a hefty word to swing around, especially when referring to young teens whose views are still being shaped.
Also, what did the journalist-teacher hope to achieve by organizing such a trip? Did she prepare them for this new experience of visiting other houses of worship? She should have, especially when these places of worship are so different from theirs.
Did she explain to them the religious practices of each faith-community, thereby bridging the youths’ understanding of how others practice their faiths and how they practice theirs? Good teachers mediate and build understanding.
Without first doing that groundwork, the teacher would reinforce stereotypes and prejudices. She could have guided the youths’ reactions to reflect more deeply about the multicultural society from which they derive their identity, belonging and sense of selves.
Without these explanations, such field trips lose much meaning, and worse, become a poor replacement of real encounters with other faith-communities.
As a teacher, I deliberately choose texts- stories, poems, articles- that reflect the diversity of our world: our capacity for beauty, ugliness, truth, and brokenness. During lessons, the children sometimes react with odd questions, outlandish remarks, and yes, even red herrings about what’s for lunch. But, there have been gems as well.
For instance, we read a story, ‘The Jacket’ by Gary Soto, about a boy from a poor inner-city neighbourhood who blames the whole world for his misery and one day, is given an ugly jacket that is the colour of ‘guacamole’, which was the only thing his mother could afford. The children’s responses were colorful, to say the least.
“Such an ungrateful guy!”
“He deserves the jacket!”
As we continued reading the story aloud, the children’s responses grew fewer, and more muted. At the end of the story, they were silent. Then, these insightful comments came:
“So, he accepts his lot in life.Hmm..”
“I think he was quite brave after all.”
“ Poor thing.”
“I know how it feels.”
“What’s for lunch?”
(Okay, red herrings are omnipresent in my classes.)
I guess learning is a process. Learning to truly appreciate other cultures and faiths is an especially long process, but one that is worth the effort. It takes patient and grace-filled parents, teachers and adults to walk alongside children and to point them in a life-affirming direction.
As for the youths in this article, I’m not sure where they are in their journey of understanding other faiths. But, surely, the journalist could have been more gracious in her depiction of their reactions.
I also find it hard to believe that the responses of the teens were so skewered to one side. Were there positive and affirming responses by the teens at all? Why weren’t they mentioned?
And if the reactions to the houses of worship were as negative and ‘bigoted’ as stated by the article, could this be attributed to a lack of guidance and explanation on the part of the journalist-teacher prior to the field trip?
Also, the terms ‘Chinese’ and ‘Christian’ were used so often to pigeon-hole these youths and their families. Well, my family is Chinese and we are followers of Jesus. But, some of our beliefs differ from that of other Christians. And as for being Chinese, I don’t even know where to start because our ancestry’s so mixed up. Therefore, in labeling (that’s what the repetitive references seem like) this group of youths and their parents as ‘Chinese’ and ‘Christians’, and thereby ascribing some false sort of homogeneity to them, it seems like the journalist-teacher herself is making the error of stereotyping her students and parents.
SIEW HOONG educates her daughters in their PJ home and conducts creative writing classes for other homeschooling children
6 February 2013
Are homeschoolers getting more and more unhealthily inward looking? Yes, and no, I guess. The percentage of homeschoolers who have chosen to educate at home for religious reasons is on the high side. Reading Michelle Van Loon’s article (which is directed at Christian homeschoolers) I can almost imagine why some families develop a siege mentality and maroon themselves on homeschool islands. As a Christian parent and homeschooler, I can appreciate the anxiety of many families and understand why the tendency towards isolation is rife. Hmm. Is there a happy balance, I wonder? Here’s an excerpt and link to the whole article in Christianity Today.
A NEW CHAPTER IN THE HOMESCHOOLING MOVEMENT
By Michelle Van Loon
No home school is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each kitchen table classroom is connected to neighborhood, big “C” Church and culture,
A part of the main.
With apologies to John Donne, this is a story that the homeschooling community hasn’t always been good at telling itself.
A generation ago, the first wave of homeschooling parents were doing the work of pioneers: fighting court battles, developing educational philosophy, creating and adapting curricula, and answering endless questions about whether their kids would be socialized properly.
These pioneers continue to shape popular perceptions of the movement: quirky, brainy children who get master’s degrees at 16; super-sized, ultra-conservative broods; or crunchy attachment-parenting families. There are flat-out negative stereotypes as well, like that of the barely literate truants parked in front of a flickering TV all day, eating bags of chips and playing video games.
Hard-and-fast numbers of homeschoolers are difficult to come by, since reporting rules vary by state. But reasonable estimates place the numbers between one and two million children – or at least 4 percent of the K-12 U.S. population – learning at home this year. The promise of homeschooling (closer families, less peer-dependent and more spiritually and emotionally solid children, a better, tutorial form of education than a child would receive at a public or private school) has been fulfilled in enough children over time that a second generation of “settlers” has moved into the space carved out by those pioneers.
Embedded deep within the DNA of the notion of homeschooling is rugged individualism. It takes a combination of conviction and chutzpah to make a countercultural choice. Even if 4 percent of the children in this country are being homeschooled, 96 percent are not. As a result of this DNA, there is no single “homeschool movement,” but a collection of related, not-always-harmonious streams within the larger population. Some associations form out of a specific educational or spiritual philosophy; others are created by geographic proximity. Though a few hardy souls go it alone, most families connect with other homeschoolers for at least a few field trips. On the other end of the spectrum, some families co-op with others for the bulk of their children’s academics.
My husband and I homeschooled our three children from 1992 to 2004, bridging the pioneer and settler eras. I was a local support group leader and writing tutor during and after our active homeschooling years. Though I replied regularly to the “What about socialization?” question, I can’t remember ever hearing the same concern raised about the parents of homeschoolers.
It’s a concern that should be raised. The pressure to conform is not limited to children. The responsibility of parenting coupled with the ongoing learning curve required of homeschool moms and dads leaves many adults vulnerable to socialization issues of their own. Bold pronouncements by various homeschool authors and speakers about how and why families should homeschool, coupled with alarming statistics about the state of public and/or private education and the sometimes-rigid or political culture of some local support groups, umbrella schools or church-based gatherings can play on the insecurity every dedicated parent feels at least some of the time. This peer pressure can play on the unvoiced fears and unresolved issues that many parents harbor from their own adolescence. With kids in tow, the stakes are much higher. An unhealthy, inwardly focused homeschool community can apply subtle social pressure to member families to live and learn in ways in which they are not wired to do so by God, or else risk getting voted off Homeschool Island, so to speak.
[Read the whole article here]
9 May 2012
GUEST WRITER: Martha NLand
RECENTLY IT DAWNED UPON ME that perhaps I should add a new aspect to my children’s education, which is the aspect of Emotional Intelligence. As parents we often have to deal with matters such as sibling squabbles, peer influences (bad and good ones), stuff that happens outside of home with friends/teachers/others, bad/good choices that were made by our children, often times when we were not able to be there to help them think/decide.
So while browsing through the library, I came across this book, “Teaching Emotional Intelligence: Making Informed Choices” by Adina Bloom Lewkowicz. I think it’s a pretty good book, that’s divided into 3 sections: Feeling Positive, Thinking Wisely and Acting Sensibly. Topics covered include Self Awareness, Managing Emotions, Choice Making, Self Acceptance, Perfectionism, Friendship, Strengthening Family, Peer Pressure, Put downs, Manipulation, Listening, Assertiveness, Cheating, Abuse and so on.
What I like about this book is that lessons provided are broken down into various activities such as discussion, stories, brainstorming, drama, role play and observation.
So today, we started with Chapter One, about making choices.
Then following an activity suggestion from the book, Nel and Jo took turns walking around the room while the other observed. After the walk, we discussed the choices made while walking around the room. Did they make deliberate choices, or simply walked automatically and then sat down?
After a discussion about how we can think about our choices, the girls walked a second time. The second time, both girls walked with consciously made choices about speed, posture, direction to take when walking, what to do with objects in the way etc. This was quite humorous as they made quite a drama out of it!!
Our discussion went like this:
ME: Suppose a friend visits and says “Let’s play together, but let’s lock your sister out of the room and not include her.” What would you do? Let’s talk first about how you would feel.
A) I’d feel that I really didn’t want to play with my sister. I might dislike her then if she’s been irritating.
B) I’d feel like I needed time alone with my friend, without my sister.
C) I’d want to play with my sister too.
D) I’d like to play with my sister and friend, but don’t know which to choose. Maybe play with my sister later.
ME: Ok, those are true feelings that we feel, and it’s ok to feel that way. Now let’s discuss how we could think these feelings through.
A) I’d think about playing with my friend first and my sister later.
B) I could think to include my sister even if I don’t feel like it.
C) I like my friend’s idea of leaving my sister out, but I shouldn’t hurt my sister.
D) Find a solution like find my sister another friend so she’ll be happy, then I can go play with mine.
ME: Ok, now that you’ve thought about it, here comes the important part. How would you act?
A) Invite another friend over, wait, then let my sister play with her friend, then go play with mine.
B) Sit my friend and sister down, and read them both a story and play together.
C) Encourage my friend to play with my sister.
D) Talk to my sister and explain that I need 10 minutes with my friend first, and promise to play with my sister later.
ME: Ok, good. So we’ve learnt that despite how we feel about a decision, we should first think deliberately before making a decision. Then act on the thought-out decision. We should always make deliberate choices instead of just acting on our feelings. About the above, if we didn’t think, we could have slammed the door on our sister and hurt her badly in reality.
Then a discussion ensued between Jo and Nel about how they’d been hurt by this situation before and we liked solution D.
I think this lesson was so needed and effective (at least for today it was.) I’m sure they will need many more reminders before they consciously put this into practice, but it is a start.
In fact, I realise I need to put this into practice too!
About the author:
Martha is homeschooling mom to two lovely daughters. She is also a volunteer at Start Society, an academy that employs the arts to serve underprivileged children in the community. Martha also blogs at flourpaint.blogspot.com
9 January 2011
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Socialization.
Of all the criticisms that homeschoolers find most irritating this one wins hands down: It is said our kids are so sheltered their lack of socialization will make them misfits. How will they survive (as in barely subsist) when they move from home to college, or when they finally start to work? Sometimes the derision can become ugly as a look of incredulity turns into a sneer that masks more unspoken scorn. When asked how 2 homeschooled kids could possibly be ‘socialized’ if all they had were their own parents, one mother I know shot back: “You don’t think we parents are capable enough for socialization? You think we are monkeys?”
So, I thought it was interesting to read an article in CNN that Harvard undergrads have problems ‘playing.’
“They’re all wonderful kids, but some can’t share easily or listen in a group. Some have impulse control problems and have trouble keeping their hands to themselves; others don’t always see that actions have consequences; a few suffer terribly from separation anxiety.
We’re not talking about preschool children. These are Harvard undergraduate students whom we teach and advise. They all know how to work, but some of them haven’t learned how to play.”
Erika and Nicholas Christakis who serve as Masters of Pforzheimer House, one of the undergraduate residential houses at Harvard College, say these students know how to work, “but some of them haven’t learned how to play.”
Oh wait. Isn’t Harvard where Mark Zuckerberg came from? The guy who taught the world how to make friends on Facebook?
And doesn’t the choice of word play say something? Like playing together? Perhaps they were avoiding the ‘S’ word, long seen as a mile-wide hole in a homeschooler’s neat argument. Undergrads who can’t share? Don’t know how to listen in a group? And gasp! Suffering from separation anxiety? Who would have thought?
When undergrads are said to not appreciate that actions have consequences, I say that schools have a bigger problem with socialization than homeschoolers.
The fact is, you don’t throw a bunch of wide-eyed kids in school and wait to see them coalesce into something resembling a civilized society. Think Lord of the Flies. If preschoolers and undergrads are to play together, they will have to learn how. Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. So reads a proverb in the Bible.
I happen to believe that homeschoolers tend to be better socialized even if their circle of friends is not as big as their school-going friends. Yes, because they do play more, but also because they have their parents’ attention. Homeschool provides that like no school can.
Of course, a lot of times, values are often caught than taught. But at other times, our kids will need to learn the basis for the faith we hold dear, the things we do, and why moral choices count. Like it or not, that will require some articulation. Let’s face it: if parents do not spend time to instill eternal values and cultivate social skills, nature will take over and fill that vacuum with something else. Natural selection, anyone?
Homeschooling and Socialization by Alicia Ling Horsley
Socialization and dealing with conflict by Carrie Jean Ross
Biblical or worldly socialization by Michael F. Haverluck
Socialization in the real world by Chris Klicka, HSLDA
5 February 2010
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Socialization.
Every time homeschool crops up in a conversation, critics usually warn if we risk raising social misfits. “How would your kids learn social skills? They don’t mix around with other kids, don’t join team sports like we did in school?”
However it occurred to me that instead of comparing what kids in a conventional school enjoy (more friends, competitive sports, etc) and what homeschool kids purportedly miss (more friends, competitive sports, etc) we ought to consider the bigger issue of motivation.
Homeschool isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t a ticket to heaven. For many families, it means a single-income lifestyle, making do with less, taking more risks than one’s comfortable with. Still, the whole idea of educating one’s children at home does seem so left-field, so back-to-the-kampung it’s romantic. So what’s it worth then?
If you have to ask, those of us who homeschool are fairly sure that the good outweighs all that regular schooling promises. Like the story of the merchant who sold everything he owned to buy the pearl of great value: what he gave up was nothing compared to what he gained or stood to gain. He didn’t have to knead his forehead, and wistfully say that with house(s) and car(s) sold, bank accounts emptied, stocks and shares cashed out and used up, his popularity rating down to zip (that happens when people think you’re crazy), yeah, life would have been way cool if, you know, he had all that AND the one precious pearl too.
I’d like to think homeschoolers are just like that merchant in Jesus’ parable. Of course people who educate their children at home are no more saints than the next-door neighbours who do not. Like all normal human beings we’re not exempt from the dilemma of difficult choices. But we’re not disappointed that life’s unfair: you don’t get to tick all the boxes. No one gets everything they want anyway. It’s hard, but if you have to choose a few good things from among heaps of other good stuff, you do what you have to do and stick it out.
Homeschooling families in Malaysia know their children’s circle of same-age friends will invariably shrink, competitive sports will probably be out of reach, there will be no trinkets to win, and goodness, even fewer tales of derring-do and great achievements to regale one’s family and friends. But is that so bad?
In some ways, the myth of socialization comes pretty close to the oft-touted ‘wisdom of crowds,’ that wisdom naturally and usually reside on the side of the many. Now this, I’m not so sure. Take a look around and see what years of socialization have done for our youths. Juvenile crimes and vandalism are on the rise, and so is violence in schools. Parents lament the loss of respect for elders while employers wonder at the dearth of social skills among new hires. And let’s not even go near the ever widening ethnic divide in plural Malaysia.
So let me burst a few bubbles here:
- Children do not need lots of friends.
- More socialization does not lead to better social skills.
- Kids do not need to be constantly pumped up on activities.
- It is not the parents’ job to keep their children entertained.
- Competitive sports are not the only place for young people to learn teamwork.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out this piece by Danielle Olander. Another study by Dr Larry Shyers reports consistently fewer behavioral problems among homeschooled children, and this was because they “tend to imitate their parents while conventionally-schooled children model themselves after their peers.” The same study concludes: “The results seem to show that a child’s social development depends more on adult contact and less on contact with other children as previously thought.”
When you choose to homeschool your kids, it does not mean they give up socializing. God forbid that you lock them in the house all day! It simply means redefining priorities and deciding how and with whom you socialize. Never mind that you’ll have to put in a bit more effort to let your children interact outside the home. All the better to have them cultivate meaningful relationships with everyone, regardless of their station in life, colour or faith, young and old.
Here’s an opportunity to teach that life is more than meeting every felt need, social or material. It’s not about collecting friends and weighing what you can get out of all that socializing. When children learn that it is more blessed to give than receive, they have learnt the most important social skill of all.
*Photo: Unsocialized homeschoolers camp at Forest Reserve Institute Malaysia (FRIM)
16 May 2005
CNN has a Back to School Special which includes a write-up on homeschool. While there’s the usual snapshot of a homeschooling family, nay-sayers weigh in their opinions too. This comes as no surprise as the National Education Association (the largest teachers union in the U.S) has been among one of the most vocal critics of homeschool for years. The National Association of School Psychologists is another group that charges that homeschooling deprives kids from developing social skills. Here’s an excerpt:
“Unless we are prepared to keep our children in bubbles their entire lives, we have to give them an opportunity to have some exposure to real-world problems so they can develop coping strategies,” says Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists.
Feinberg argues that as cultural understanding becomes more valued, social interaction and exposure to different people and ways of viewing the world are necessary components of education.
“It’s one thing to read about it,” he says. “Much of what we learn in life is a matter of interaction. I just wonder how that takes place in a home school environment.”
In any case, as Dr Gary Knowles of the University of Toronto said after years of study on homeschoolers, “Where did we ever get the idea that 2,000 13-year-olds were the ideal people with which to socialize other 13-year-olds?” As I see it, the assumption that interaction in schools develops coping strategies is a myth. If this is true, then what is self-evident is that schools aren’t doing a good job at all. The one single common denominator in the army of disillusioned, alienated, and self-obsessed youths and adults we encounter today is the fact that they have been to school.
David Guterson, the best-selling author (Snow Falling on Cedars) and homeschooling parent wrote in Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense that we need to look at society and question if schools are preventing it from unravelling or if it is a contributing factor.
Going further, Guterson argues that there is a world of difference between social health and financial success, between sound relationships and economic necessities:
“Those who assert that we are condemned to social struggle in order for our economic system to work assert by extension that we must live unhealthy lives. Schools should not be arranged so as to foment a perpetual and relentless social strife merely to prepare people to perpetuate the same arrangement when, one day, they go to work in the world. On the contrary, we should want our schools to aspire to something better.”
On the other hand research on homeschoolers turned adults since the 1990s suggest that being educated at home have not turned anyone into a social pariah. Instead, they tend to be entrepreneurial, professional, and independent, with a healthy connection with their families. What is also evident from research is that teenage homeschoolers are not angst driven nor do they demonstrate a desire to isolate themselves from their parents.
Homeschool is changing the paradigm in education. It may seem so obvious now, but it wasn’t very long ago that schooling was thought to equal education, or that schools are the sole repository of knowledge (okay, there are still many who hold this view). Above all, more and more families are now educating their kids at home not just because they see schools as a fading behemoth (which it is), but for reason of lifestyle too. Homeschool presents the best option for the life we choose, the values we cherish, and the goals we’re aiming at.
For additional stories, visit the following links:
First Wave Of Homeschoolers Come Of Age
Patricia Lines (senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, and former researcher for the U.S. Department of Education) writes about the progress homeschooling has made in the U.S:
Homeschooling Comes Of Age