One of the first arguments you will hear against home schooling is your child’s socialization. In my last post I did a little informal figuring regarding the time that many people wind up spending with their kids in our modern world. This world is one in which we have given over almost all aspects of rearing children to other institutions. In this post I want to deal with the myth that schools offer better socialization than good home school environments.
Often a typical school day begins with a hectic race to get children ready to catch the school bus. In many places the bus comes as early as 6:30 in the morning. Some kids spend two hours or more of their day riding buses to and from school. Unfortunately, in my experience, school bus environments have become much more aggressive and violent places. As the bus driver tries to keep his or her attention on the road, it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of many more students than would ever be placed in a normal classroom. Cameras in school buses are often cited as a way to keep students safe. In actual fact they function as a way to identify kids who do violence to other kids. They don’t stop the violence or misbehavior. They just record it.
Often 30 to 40 students are placed in school buses. A school bus is a small enclosed place that cannot be easily supervised by the bus drivers who are often doing the best they can with limited support. Keep in mind that I am a teacher with over 30 years experience. I know what I am talking about in this post. The bus ride is where a lot of school socialization occurs. This is the environment where kids are most likely to come in contact with profane language, violence and bullying. Don’t blame the bus driver. The bus driver is driving trying to get his or her charges safely to and from school. Whey they arrive they pile off the bus to meet hundreds of other kids in an unpridictable variety of moods and mental states.
Then the 8 hour day begins at the school. There are many, many dedicated people in schools who love working with kids. So many do the very best they can do but they are grossly outnumbered. There are just too many kids to watch. When classes dismiss hundreds of kids are released into the hallways. This is another critical time when there are multiple opportunities for bullying and other kinds of negative behavior. The vast majority of teachers do an excellent job of doing what is essentially impossible. They are charged with standing at their door supervising kids entering their classrooms. At the same time they are charged with monitoring the activity in the hallway. They cannot leave the kids in their classrooms without assuming a great liability. If a kid is injured while they are away from their rooms they are considered responsible. Nor, can the teachers see or hear everything that goes on. If a fight breaks out or if there is another kind of disturbance the teachers will immediately take action to stop it. But to do so they have to leave their rooms. Often there are 700 to 1000 or more students with a faculty of 50 or 60 teachers. Those numbers tell the story.
Kids in modern schools are thrown into an environment with every kind of societal influence concentrated in a building where the staff and administrators are just overwhelmed. They are subject to every cultural problem that exists in the surrounding environment. If it exists in the surrounding cultural environment it will show up inside the schools.
Imagine an environment in which every type of social and cultural problem is brought together in close proximity. The socialization of a public school is a social science experiment gone wrong. Anything can happen. Schools as they exist today are concentrations of all the good and the bad that exists in our society.
Additionally, government regulations force schools to categorize, grade and sort kids according to various characteristics. Our government has mandated that every child in America be stamped with a test score each year that is nothing more scientific than a gross and imprecise estimate of a childs achievement. Unfortunately, the scores are not diagnostic they are final. A child is given a number that categorizes them permanently. Some of the kids will pass. Some will fail with one or two points off the passing score. Any kind of failure removes the child from the mainstream. They are put into a labeled category that is treated differently than those who pass the test. The kids who pass the test my have a false sense of security because too often their time is coming. These actions are requirements of the government regulations regarding these tests..
A child cannot help feeling some emotion about such an event. There are so many variables. The kindness and competence of the teacher to whom they are assigned is so important. The degree of maturity of the child will impact the effect as well. Often classes are formed of students who have failed one or more sections of the test. Then, due to regulations, these classes are reduced to concentration on the areas of the test they failed. The motivation of these students will often be low. Their morale is damaged. Behaviorally these classes can become very difficult to manage.
None of this has to happen. Kids develop at different rates. The government regimentation does not take that into account. The test is nothing more than a crude snapshot of a kid on one day of his or her life. Some kids test well, some do not. Often kids who have parents who are highly educated do better than children who come from more difficult environments. Kids who speak little English are often required to take these tests in direct confrontation with native English speakers. There is nothing uniform about the current fad of high stakes testing.
Take two kids who are in the seventh grade. One child fails the math portion of their state test. Another kid passes the test avoiding all the negative implications of failure. Let ten years pass. You will find that the test that labeled the child who failed has no predictive value. Nothing about all the things that may happen to the child who fails the test has any value in telling you how successful he will be compared to the student who passed. Yet, he is labeled a failure in his own mind. Too often, he is labeled a failure by the school. Far too many people in the profession believe these tests mean something concrete. Far too many kids have come to believe that the tests tell them something real about themselves too. I can attest to this psychological reaction from my own experience.
When I was in elementary school I suffered from what was then called Croup. I missed a tremendous amount of school. In the fourth grade I missed enough school so that I was placed in a special tutoring group. I will never forget the day I was taken out of my class. All that went through my mind was that I was “stupid”. My behavior changed to such an extent that my mother had me placed back in my class regardless of the warnings of the school. I had the most wonderful teacher I could have been blessed with that year. Her name was Mrs. Burnes. She took me under her wing, tutored me and encouraged me as much as she could. I did better with my work. But I never got over that year. There may be some reading this who will talk about me seeing myself as a “victim” falsely. To those people I will say you haven’t been through it so you can just go jump. To the “seat of the pants” people who will argue that the kids should just get over it and improve I say the same. They are people of little understanding of kids and even less humanity.
One more incident comes to mind. One of my seventh grade students had a surgery of some sort a few years ago. I and the students family were great friends so I was at the surgery. I will never forget the moment that this wonderful boy was coming out from under that anesthetic. He was a model kid. He never used profanity, was never aggressive to his parents, and was one of the most cheerful kids I have ever met. As he came to consciousness his mother leaned over to say something motherly to him. His reaction to her was anything but sweet. A stream of profanity and anger came from this kid that I cannot describe. I am thankful that I was standing behind his mother because she actually started to fall backwards. The boy went back to sleep. Thankfully, he didn’t remember what he said to his mother nor will I help you with that here. You can use your own imagination. Suffice it to say he included most of the common expletives known in the late 90’s. I couldn’t help but break into laughter. His horrified mother turned around to ask where did he learn that language. I stopped laughing long enough to say “he hears them everyday at school”.
That is the socialization of the modern school.
I want to stress something here. There are so many people in schools who work so well with kids, who love kids and who truely care. My problem is not with those who work everyday of their lives in a failed system. My problem is with the government and its social experiment we call public schools.
Unfortunately, the government has made teaching nearly impossible. There are so many regulations, tests, categories and so much red tape now that everyone is caught up in the mess. Teachers are given point by point curriculum lists that coincide directly to the state tests. They are told they have to stick with those trivial bits of daily information or else. All of this flys directly into the mountains of research now being done regarding how the brain actually learns and deals with information.
Education has been reduced to a one size fits all formula that fails virtually all kids. The tragedy is that the American public has become so brain-washed that they can see no other form of education. And, unfortunately, the kids are the ones who take the hit in the teeth.
The kids are the ones who are being placed into a petri dish of social experimentation where they are socialized to believe about themselves what they government code tells them to believe about themselves. The more independent learning becomes and the closer kids stay to the family the more positive socialization becomes. Don’t worry about the myths that home schooling doesn’t properly socialize kids.
Soon to come will be posts on specific techniques as well as new pages of links to resources of all types.