Studies have shown that homeschooled children are actually better socialized than mass schooled children because they have more time to devote to being with a greater range of people. Parents who care enough about their children to homeschool them in the first place are generally going to care enough about them to find them groups of people to socialize with. After a few years the homeschooled child is usually up to his or her neck in socialization opportunities. That said, the first few years can be rough until the family finds people for their children to socialize with, especially if the family lives in a rural area where resources for children are few and quite far between. This is the situation we are in.
The nearest town (pop. 3,000) has no playground, no dance classes, no Girl Scouts, and no Campfire Girls. The Big Town has a small inclusive homeschool group we take part in. They also have Christian homeschool groups, but they don't advertise their meetings because they don't want to risk "contamination". We've stumbled on two of these groups over the years. The people running them acted exactly like members of junior high cliques, including staring through strangers, not speaking when spoken to by newcomers, not playing with children they didn't know, incredibly strict but arbitrary standards of conduct, malicious gossip, and cutting down junior members. In my opinion, junior high school socialization is textbook "bad socialization" and the exact experience I want my children to avoid. I'm not going to rush out and embrace Fundamentalism just so I can relive Middle School Hell.
What a recruiting poster that would make: "Find the 'Real Jesus' and return to the glory days of Junior High conformity! Spend the rest of your life trying to get along with people who have the social maturity of 13 year-olds! Relax in the delightful company of Queen Bees and backstabbers! You may even become the Queen Bee yourself in 30 or 40 years!" I think not. I've been to churches like that before, so I'm not imagining them. I'm remembering them.
So my friend tells me of a wonderful group she takes part in that's started hosting children's activities. We go to the first one, and it's great. But the hosts aren't really fond of children, and each subsequent event gets less great until before long they stink.
My friend and I decide to revitalize the children's activities by bringing stuff from home. We spend hours coordinating on the phone, ransacking our houses, and running to the store. We show up with cookies, art activities, a boom box, music, show-and-tell, storybooks, childrens' game books and lots of determination to make this the greatest event ever! The kids love it.
At one point toward the end of the day I come back from taking a load of stuff back to my car to be told that my six year-old girl has upset a nine year-old girl by trying to kiss her. I tell the six year old to back off, that not everyone likes being kissed, and make a note to schedule a talk on boundaries.
Next morning I get this email:
Understand what? I couldn't make heads or tales out of it! I ask for clarification and was told that my six year-old had "sexually harassed" the nine year-old in ways my children don't even know about, and that my children must have been "sexually abused" to know about such things.
Due to the unacceptable behavior of your oldest child towards another child last night at the ****, I have to inform you that you are no longer welcome at *****. We are not judgmental people. However, the safety and innocence of our children will be protected. As parents, I am sure you can understand this.
My day melts into a pool of shock, outrage, horror, and disgust.
It's a few days later. Phone calls have been made, more emails have been sent, bridges have been burned, and nobody is happy. My inner voice of experience tells me, "It's better to find out that people are jerks sooner rather than later." I don't want to listen.
My friend and I are talking about using our new-found organization skills to do some stuff for our kids. The 4-H lady wants me to call her and find out about 4-H clubs in our area. I'll probably call her back in a few days. Right now though, I'm feeling a little bruised.