Here are our answers to some of the common questions aimed at us when the topic of homeschooling or unschooling crops up:
Question: “How did your kids respond to their friends or other people on why they chose to homeschool?”
Our kids are aged 11, 18 and 19 this year and they have been getting these questions by those who are either too shocked to know that such a learning approach actually exists here, or that they could not believe that all their years of studying for exams could have been saved with homeschooling! Some of the responses they got from those who found out that they never attended school:
“What? You homeschool? But why???”
Answer: “I don’t know? Why do YOU go to school?”
“What about exams? UPSR, PMR, SPM…?”
Answer: “What’s that??? Never heard of them.”
“What about college?”
Answer: “What ABOUT college? Do YOU know what you are going to do with YOUR life?”
“Do you have any friends?”
Answer: “I don’t know…..We’ve cats and a dog at home….do YOU have friends?”
So one strategy really works – counter question! Throw their questions back at them!
Another strategy that they have found helpful is to tell them what they want to hear. For example:
Question: So, what school do you go to?
Answer: Private school.
Question: Which one?
Answer: The one in XXX location.
Ok. Line of questioning ends.
Now I would like to talk about the most asked question AFTER “What about college?” posed by people who find out that our kids are not schooled, which is: “But what about SOCIALIZATION?”
It is a difficult question to answer because there are many myths about socialization that people consider as normal, but which in fact, are not.
But first, let’s define the word: socialization is a noun that means the adoption of the behavior of the surrounding culture. The act of adapting behavior to the norms of a culture or society is called socialization. Socialization can also mean going out and meeting people or hanging out with friends.
So to socialize is to adopt and adapt to the social norms of a surrounding culture. In the school setting, the social norms that can be found are conforming (to rules & regulations) competing (in exams) and confining (of thinking in the box). These are often accompanied by survival-of-the-fittest behaviors in the forms of cheating, lying or bullying. On the more “positive” side, it is also about having fun like hanging out at shopping malls or doing some physical activities like ice-skating or going to the movies (also in the malls).
As kids grow into teenagers and early adulthood, socialization gets more sophisticated in the forms of “cool” activities like going clubbing – which often includes extremely loud music, drinking, smoking (not just cigarettes but other ignitable grass-formed or non-legal substances), or the current trend of vaping which is essentially e-cigarettes but marketed as flavored, smokeless smoking, and is believed by experts to be many times more cancer-causing than normal cigarettes. But that’s another debate. So to say no to these invitations is to say no to such socialization. And that, to my my mind, is NOT such a bad thing at all.
So if these are what our kids are missing out on when they do not go to school, then I would say very good – we won’t miss them! Our teenagers may not understand dirty jokes that their friends like to tell, and they get laughed at by their peers for their innocence, or they may risk being ostracized by their peers by declining their invitations to go to clubs or to smoke or to vape, and risk not being invited for any social events ever again. But at least they know they made the right decisions by saying no to the kinds of socialization that they are not comfortable with.
What our kids enjoy very much is the kind of socialization that is not age-specific (they mix perfectly well with 2-year-olds to 70-year-olds), nor gender-specific. Wait. Isn’t that what normal people do in the normal world? Right! Which makes socializing ONLY with people your age seems rather out-of-the-normal range in real-world circumstances!
“Sometimes when I’m with a bunch of friends, I wonder to myself why they are so loud? Then it occurs to me that, hey, people my age are like that. That’s ‘normal’!” (Confession by a late teen).
“It’s very difficult to socialize with people my age because they like to go clubbing, which I don’t enjoy due to the very loud music and the large amount drinking and smoking!” Confesses another teenager. “Because of our (homeschool) upbringing, we tend not to follow the crowd. Sometimes that makes us seem antisocial. But the truth is, we like to be out with friends just like any teenager would, but we draw the line when it comes to behaviors that we deem dangerous and unhealthy.”
So the verdict is: socialization is a big issue that needs our careful attention. What kind of socialization? That is the question. It’s not as easy as getting our kids out there with their peers so that they can socialize. It’s more of having them acquire healthy lifestyles so that they will make healthy choices based on their preferred lifestyles. And when they are out there socializing, they will (hopefully make the right choices rather than to follow the crowd.