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Summer Reading - books for all ages.
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Well-Adjusted Child, The: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling


Well-Adjusted Child, The: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling

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Publisher: Mapletree Publishing

Author: Rachel Gathercole

List Price: Softcover: $14.95

Ages: Adult

Reviewed By: Virginia Jones

The parents sat in the principal's office. It was a private school with an excellent reputation, and yet the bullying had been merciless and the staff evidently helpless to intervene. The principal, deeply concerned at their decision to homeschool, raised objection after objection, each of which was answered with thoughtful consideration. At last, the principal nodded, paused, and brought out the big gun: What about socialization?

"What about socialization?" has become a byword in homeschooling circles. It's asked outright by concerned friends and relatives and by complete strangers. It's hinted at by those who say things like, "I could never stand to be stuck at home with my kids all day."

Our own family has heard it often enough. More often, however, we've heard compliments on how our children comport themselves in public, or how amazing it is that a ten-year-old (just for example; you might put in any age from two on up) can converse intelligently and unselfconsciously with adults, with both sides enjoying the conversation. Early on in our homeschooling experience, I felt the weight of the "s-word" cramping my style, and as a result we enrolled in just about every activity we could cram into the schedule. You name it, we did it: Scouts, music lessons, sports, choir, orchestra, art classes, 4H, Spanish for tots, drama, play days, park days, co-op classes, etc. We spent more time in the car than anywhere else. But when anyone asked the "s-question, I could rattle off an impressive list! Our kids certainly weren't moldering away at home, they were being socialized at a tremendous rate!

Of course, if I'd read The Well-Adjusted Child in those days, I might not have skidded so close to the edge of homeschool burnout in a frantic effort to adequately socialize our kids. It took awhile for us to learn that we didn't have to fragment our schedule and ourselves in order to have well-balanced, well-rounded students. As a matter of fact, nowadays we limit our activities to two or three days a week, and the rest of the time we're at home. Our kids get their academics done in the morning, most "home" days, and have all afternoon to play and explore, and that seems to work best for us.

The Well-Adjusted Child is a thoughtfully written, well-documented book about the social aspects of homeschooling. It's a good book for beginning homeschoolers to read, or for those considering homeschooling (but are afraid of turning their children into misfits or geeks). It's also a good book for experienced homeschoolers to read, especially if they are mentoring beginners. A diversity of homeschool families and styles is represented. Sprinkled with examples and quotes from numerous real-life home educators, the book makes the case that homeschooling can actually provide a superior sort of socialization, if you're talking about people who know how to productively engage with other people regardless of differences. It also gives a good idea, for someone considering homeschooling, of how differing families are incorporating education into daily life.

For the sake of those who don't know much about homeschooling, the author gives a general introduction of what homeschooling is (and isn't) and what homeschoolers do with their time. She goes on to discuss socialization (as in learning social skills) and how it is acquired (or not) inside and outside of school walls.

The type of "socialization" we were acquainted with, from experience with public and private school, included cliquish behavior, bullying, peer pressure, ignoring or ridiculing younger siblings, and worse. Certainly, our older ones, before we made the decision to homeschool, learned how to raise a hand and wait for teacher recognition, how to stand in line, how to walk in a line, how to do busy-work while waiting for the teacher to have time for individual attention, but these are all things we could teach at home, if we thought such skills important. I'm not sure this is the "socialization" that people are asking about when they question the value of home education, but this seems to be the bulk of schoolish socialization, in our experience.

The type of socialization we are now familiar with, after more than a dozen years of educating our brood at home, includes getting along with others no matter what our differences, cooperating in work and play, teaching and learning by turns, and developing a strong sense of self, not just being a member of a herd. The Well-Adjusted Child deals with these areas, and more, including citizenship, diversity, relationships with family and others, and preparation for the "real world" (Think about it: Unless your child is going to be an academic, in an institutional setting, for life either studying or teaching, school is hardly preparation for the real world) including high school - some homeschoolers do choose to return to the institutional setting for higher grades - and college.

The author even treats with socialization on the part of homeschool parents. (Contrary to popular opinion, I for one am not "stuck at home all day long with the kids!") I found this chapter, as I found the rest, to be both reassuring and inspiring.

Rounding out the book is an appendix of "Resources, Tips, and How-to" including a list of statewide homeschool organizations, places to look for other homeschoolers, how to start a homeschool group, helpful books to read, and how to get started homeschooling. The books listed seem to lean towards relaxed homeschooling or unschooling, but I found a number of them helpful in our own early years. Another appendix lists famous homeschoolers through history and in various areas of endeavor. When you consider that institutional schooling as we know it now is less than two centuries old, you'll understand why this is not an exhaustive list, only a representative one!

The author includes two bibliographies, one of works cited, and another of "Other" books. Finally, an index helps in locating specific information.

Let's go back to where we began the discussion, the private school principal's question to the parents who'd decided to homeschool. "What about socialization?" she said, and sat back, satisfaction evident on her face, certain that these parents who so obviously cared about education would see reason, faced with this question above all questions.

The mother paused for a long moment, then answered, "We've had about as much `socialization' as we can stand; thanks, but no thanks." And that was the end of the interview.

The funny thing is, as that mom told me years later, the socialization process didn't really begin until after they left school behind. Their social misfit - ruthlessly bullied, shy, angry, and resentful - when withdrawn from the mass-education setting, blossomed over the following years and grew into a poised and confident young adult.

If you are considering homeschooling, there's an important question you need to ponder. What about socialization?

(Hint: Read The Well-Adjusted Child. Highly recommended.)
More Information
Available From: Mapletree Publishing
Address: 6233 Harvard Lane, Highlands Ranch, CO 80130
Phone: 800.537.0414
Other Notes:
Purchase Now From the Eclectic Homeschool Resource Center
Virginia Jones
Virginia Jones hails from a small town in the Midwest, where "Nothing ever happens, thankfully!" Her family's interests include horseback riding, cross-country skiing, swimming, and, when they can manage to sit still, reading.
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