By Brenda Hoffman
Many public school parents often ask homeschool parents, "If children are taught at home, won't they miss the valuable socialization that takes place in school?" Truth be told, most homeschool parents feel that the public school's social life is enough of a reason for them to homeschool. This is because, in the majority of schools, the social life that takes place in public schools is mean-spirited, competitive, exclusive, status-seeking, snobbish, full of talk about who went to whose birthday party and who got what Christmas presents and who got how many Valentine cards and who is talking to so-and-so and who is not. This begins as early as first grade. You'll see classes divide into leaders (usually the popular kids), their bands of followers, and other outsiders who you can tell have been excluded from these groups for one reason or another. Many parents will even note that they haven't ever seen their children doing anything really mean or silly until their child(ren) went away to school.
Many homeschool parents have realized that their children already know most of what is being taught in school: how to be quiet, how to listen to children's stories, and how to sing. They have realized that their child(ren) want to learn about the adult world. Public schools restrict these children to a world which adults believed children wanted. This causes many children's enthusiasm to die an early death. Why? Because shame is one of the first lessons that children learn in school. Oftentimes this happens when children want to be "different" from those around them. These children want to be recognized as individuals. However, public schools shun this.
Another characteristic that is shunned in public schools is spontaneity. Why? Because it conflicts with the teacher's view of how children should act. When children learn this lesson, they also learn that lying is a valuable survival technique. They often discover that it's better to lye their way out of "trouble" than to stand up for themselves because of the dire consequences that they may face in that case.
Children are also taught, at an early age, not to question anything that happens in the school. Schools are very authoritative, leaving NO room for creativity or imagination. Instead, children are left standing in awe of the authoritarian system. This is why many homeschool parents compare public schools to jails. In public schools, even a child's ability to use the restroom is restricted to when and how the teacher feels the child should use the restroom. Then when a child has an accident they often are humiliated and even punished. These incidents of fear and humiliation are numerous in public schools.
If you have a timid child they will probably face a lot of bullying, especially as they grow older. They face physical as well as verbal taunting. Since children often sucumb to peer pressure, children will often join in with the group to bully the other children. While this may just seem like a prank to the children, it's really quite sadistic and even the most kindest child will find themselves drawn into participating in this taunting. These children will not stop until they themselves become the victim, even though they may feel empty and unhappy inside. The beginning and ending of this sadistic behavior can often only be traced to the public school system.
I'm sure by now that you can see the damage that public school socialization causes. Most children in public schools will openly admit that they don't see kindness. Instead, they say that they see meanness, name calling, hurt feelings, etc. This is because the social life of most schools and classrooms is mean-spirited, status-oriented, competitive, and snobbish. Even the majority of public school parents will admit that the social life at school is not kind, generous, supporting, democratic, friendly, loving, or good for children. Of course, most of these parents will also counter, "But that's what the children are going to meet in Real Life."
I say that this is untrue. Why? Because we tend to force children into "peer groups" which have many powerful and harmful effects. Peer pressure often leads children to try such things as smoking, drinking, and even drugs. In fact, we are hearing a lot more about drinking, drunkenness, and alcoholism among our youth today. We're also seeing a lot more youth smoking. While some states have tried to deal with this problem by raising the minimum age, it doesn't help. In fact, usually the problem only gets worse. These children will often admit that these things taste terrible but they do it because "all the other kids" are doing it, or soon will be, and they have to stay ahead of them, or at least not fall behind. These children are enslaved, even addicted, to their peer group. We might even go so far as to call them "peer group junkies." When parents make a fuss, these children are already master liars who know how to sneak around and do things behind their parents' backs.
Of course, these are just a few of the fringe benefits that public school children derive from their public school experience. What do we expect though? Public school children spend the majority of their time in groups of other people their own age. They have almost no contact with any adults except those who are watching them (ie teachers). This leads them to think and feel that what "all the other kids" are doing is the right, the best, the only thing to do. Is this what you want for your child(ren)?
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