I am the oldest of 9 children; 7 girls and 2 boys (poor boys!). We’re all almost grown up now and it’s kind of amazing to see how wildly different we all are in many ways. We have liberals and conservatives and people who don’t know which is which, there are introverts and extroverts, scholars and airheads, city folks and country lovers, Christians and new age-y types, and on and on. Yet there are a couple of things which we all pretty much have in common. We tend not to be particularly materialistic or impressed by names, titles or celebrity.
The other thing I think we all have in common is that we are profoundly tolerant of people. None of us really finds it that hard to say, “I disagree with you, but if that works for you, then have at it.” We all know how to deal with difficult people without going nuts. If you ever need someone to talk to who won’t judge you, even as they offer advise, call one of us. You can be diametrically opposed to everything we think is right, know that we do not agree with what you’re doing and still be friends with us. We’re not perfect, but we do know how to get along with people as a general rule.
One of my sisters and I were talking and laughing about our youngest brother who as a kid had a notoriously bad temper. She was telling me about the time one of the sisters called his Tae Kwon Do instructor to tattle on him for throwing hissy fits around the house. LOL Can you imagine having to take that call? I think the instructor did sit him down and talk with him about self-control and eventually he did pull himself together. He graduated from Notre Dame last year and is currently serving as a teacher at a Catholic school in Uganda.
We were also remembering how my parents took two cars every time we went out to eat for about 2 years because they knew that one of my sisters would start acting up and have to be taken home. To this day, she hates going out to eat.
When you come from a family as large as mine, with as many unusual, difficult and strong personalities, there are a lot of stories to tell. And you learn a lot. You learn how to get along with difficult people. You learn not to take things too seriously. You learn how to laugh at yourself (and everyone else). You learn that some kids are just born difficult. You learn how to negotiate, how to pitch in and get things done. How to stand out in a crowd, or disappear into it when you want. You just learn so much about people and how to relate to them. All of which sounds suspiciously like being socialized.
Critics of homeschooling will often insist that it is by going to school that a child learns to get along with other people, negotiate, and all the rest. Yet if you really think about it, if there’s someone at school who is difficult, mean or unpleasant, it’s pretty easy to avoid that person. However, when it is your brother or sister who is difficult, mean and unpleasant you can’t very well ignore them (especially when you’re packed 3 or 4 to a room!). You have to figure out how to get along with them. At school kids split out into cliques based on interests, musical tastes, how they dress, etc. But in your home, it’s hard to avoid that tool who likes to blare New Kids On the Block on their boom box. (Trust me, when you are an alternative girl who loves Depeche Mode and The Cure, listening to New Kids On the Block is physically painful.) But you work it out. You learn to deal with someone who thinks you’re crazy and how to deal with people who hold opinions you are sure make them the devil’s spawn.
Contrary to what homeschool critics like to claim, it is not at school that we learn to deal with people who are different than us. More often at school we learn to avoid, bully or ridicule those who are different than us. It is really in the home where a group of people who may be very different in personality, temperament and interests are forced together that we are socialized. This is what makes families, of whatever size, so vital to raising people who know how to relate well with others. And what makes homeschool critics insistence that kids must be in school to be properly socialized difficult to take seriously.
My advise, whether you homeschool your kids or not is not to allow your kids to deal with each other the way they would deal with peers at school. Make them work together, live together and play together. Don’t allow them to retreat to their separate TVs, computers, video games and cell phones for hours at a time. No matter what anyone tells you it really is in the home that kids are socialized to be decent human beings. So don’t let your kids act like room mates! And when they’re really getting on each other’s nerves, just remember that years from now, they’ll be sitting on the phone on a Saturday night laughing like crazy over it. If you do a really good job, they might even include you on these conversations from time to time.