Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Socialization Nightmare

As we've prepared to homeschool, we've run into the Socialization Red Herring.  However, it is nearly always other homeschoolers explaining the issue isn't an issue! But it is an issue, just not not the way most talk about it.

Most public school teachers and administrators want to fix things and get them right, but the system has gone so far out of control with bureaucracy, politics, statutes, and regulations that they cannot pull the reigns back in.  So sad, for everyone involved.  Hats of to the teachers and administrators that continue the good fight to help the kids get what they need.  Enough of the rant.

We believe Socialization is important.  In fact, it is so important that it is another critical reason why we believe homeschooling is the best way to go if you can.

Wait? What?!? One of the reasons you homeschool is because of Socalization. Yes Sir.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of Socialization:
"Socialization is the term used ... to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, values, and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society."

"inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, values, and ideologies"
Who is to do this? The teachers? Principals?  In reality, it is the kid's peer group that ends up doing this.  There is no child my child's age that can be entrusted to share norms, customs, values, and ideologies.   Period.

"providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society."
It is my personal experience that the common school environment does not provide an environment that is like society and its professional working world, so the skills and habits acquired in navigating a public school are for a situation that doesn't actually exist in our society.  There are numerous points of deviation between school and the real world, but here are my top 3:

  1. Segregation by age.
  2. Weakest links dictate pace.  
  3. Knowledge kept in silos 

1. I've never worked in a place that segregated by age, that would actually be against the law.
2. In offices where I've worked, the slowest person is ultimately the one who gets fired
3. At work, it is the fusion of knowledge across all domains that makes things possible.  Accountants, for example, use math and business and English and computer science and history.

So, if Socialization is important to you, find or create an environment where ages are mixed, weak links fall to the wayside, and knowledge is not artificially segmented into neat groups.  Find or create an environment where the norms, customs, VALUES, and ideologies match what makes our nation great. Oh, wait, that's homeschool. Cool.

A final thought.  Look around at society today ... are you happy with what you see in its behavior?  I'm not, so to me ... it isn't working.  As a society, we've screwed up big time. It is our fault, we citizens.  There are too many theorists pontificating ways of how things should be versus how they really are, and they inhibiting those undervalued public servants who have to everyday help get the kids ready for the real world.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

School Toxicity Geiger Counter - Monitoring The Common/Public School Environment

If you're on the fence about homeschooling, or looking for a way to monitor when it is time to pull that trigger to start homeschooling, maybe our model would be of some use.

You may recall from an earlier post that we were watching our girls in the public school environment very closely, ready to extract our kids before our target grade (6th) should things go really bad.  But what is really bad, and how would we know?  There is so many things going on, some good and some bad, some matter and some don't.  To this end, we created a School Toxicity Geiger Counter that helped us watch areas that mattered to us.

We decided that there were three primary dimensions that we would monitor:

1. Values - Standards of Behavior
2. Attitudes - A Perspective or Viewpoint
3. Academics - The study and acquisition of knowledge

In each of these dimensions, we would monitor what our children perceived as coming from their school environment (*) as well as the actual adjustments to them we observed, and then compare those who what we wanted for our children.  The larger the deviation, the more frequent ping on our School Toxicity Geiger counter.

[*A subtle, but important, point is that it what the children actually receive and become Attitude wise may not be what the school intends, and this could be from two sources.  It could be that the school professes a particular Attitude, for example, but the children themselves don't get the message.  Put another way, if the Golden Rule is expressed in Chinese, it doesn't matter because we don't speak Chinese.  Secondly, it could be that the policies and procedures of a given school have resulted in the inmates running the asylum.  That is, the culture of the school's students has become more powerful and influencing than that trying to be expressed by the teachers and administrators.  This is another unfortunate reality. Since it is our children we care about, whatever message they actually receive is the important point regardless of the source. ]

In the category of Values, for example, we believe in Individualism, Equality, Self-Reliance,  Competition, and Patriotism.  As you can see, our Values are concepts that you may or may not be able to rationalize as to why they are important, but they are important to us none the less.

In the category of Attitudes, for example, we view life as a wonderful, happy experience, to be tasted and enjoyed in every way.  We view actual experience as more meaningful than theoretical mental jaunts.  We view consumerism as a key mechanism that powers the nation, but view materialism as a dangerous path.  We view all knowledge as being fair game for consumption. We view intellectual engagement (when the mind has to work with it) as good when information is sent, while its antithesis (just knowledge pushing) is bad (e.g. watching TV is primarily bad).  We view learning as a natural, life activity that doesn't have boundaries of when it starts or stops (school, home, whatever, always always always learn) and all opportunities to learn should be taken.

In the category of Academics, we monitored factual accuracy and completeness of comprehension of the basics.  That is, did the information dispensed at school match the commonly accepted facts within the discipline, and if not, was there a good reason.  For example, I listened to a lecturer dispense to my daughters class that there was no gravity in outer space because there is no atmosphere.  This is factually incorrect and hence, a ping on the School Toxicity Geiger Counter.

With our School Environment Geiger counter in place, we simply kept tabs of incidents when things deviated from our Values, Attitudes, and Academic expectations. For example, the girls had a fundraiser at their school.  It was one of those big productions where they had a team of people come in  to do a rah rah event, to charge the kids up to go out and peddle those widgets! Oh Yeah. Not.  Anyway, those that sold a certain amounts got charms, and bracelets, and stickers, and ... oh ... got to attend a special BMX bike trick show.   yeah.  Anyway, the girls came home and were puzzled by something.  They shared that if their class sold certain amounts, then their class would have any homework for the next night.  My girls didn't understand why this was a reward.  They had the Attitude that homework is a good thing, an activity that allows for learning to be bridged between home and school, an opportunity to dig into the material on their own at home at their own pace.  They were actually disappointed.  They knew other kids didn't like homework, but they didn't understand why the teachers/school shared the "homework is a thing to get out of" view. Big Big Big ping on the School Geiger Counter. For our family, this was the wrong Attitude. It was fundamentally opposed to our view.

You no doubt can imagine how many times our core values have been bumped into.  Self-Reliance was a common Ping.  The school system teaches a lot about relying on the system, both directly and indirectly.  Many times, this isn't even an overt intention, but because of our litigious society, school environment and rules have evolved this way.

So, if you're looking for a way to monitor the situation at their school and want to have a trip-line to pull them out, my advice is to codify your Values, Attitudes, and Academic standards if you haven't.  Watch for any deviations only to those things that fall within them.  There is simply too much going on to see everything, so focus on what matters to you.