Last Friday I mentioned that our boys were too busy socializing to get any schoolwork done. I decided this was a topic worthy of it’s own post since this blog is to be a record of our school year and the most important aspect of any education is, according to some, socialization. At least that is what comes across through most of the conversations we have with people who disagree with our particular method of educating.
The fact is, years ago before we had even started homeschooling, I had very clear ideas of how I thought my kids ought to be socialized. We lived in a very nice suburban neighborhood across the street from my sister, whose children I considered very appropriate influences for my own and we attended a church where all the other families either homeschooled or were planning to, just like we were. God in His providence moved us away from that seeming utopia to a little cabin in the woods surrounded by nothing but mountainous forest terrain and wild creatures of every kind. Here, there was nothing to influence our impressionable boys but wild animals and the weather. I actually considered this an improvement to our former conservative, Christian suburbia.
Our next move kept us in the mountains but this time we were smack dab in the middle of a Christian camp right next to the chapel where we were lullabied to sleep by live worship music every night. Now this was a slice of heaven, I thought. The best of both worlds. Surrounded by natural beauty AND God’s people at every turn. I really couldn’t think of a better environment to raise children in and I was frankly, quite proud of myself for having discovered it.
So the Lord decided to humble me by promptly plucking us up and putting us down in the very last place on earth I would ever deem fit to raise up God-fearing, flag-waving, self-reliant mountain men: an ocean-front resort community on the Big Island of Hawaii. Not another Christian in sight from our third-floor, golf-course-view condo. But we do have a small view of the ocean. And the ruins of a heathen temple formerly used for human sacrifices. Not exactly family friendly digs, but surely 9 months of this couldn’t damage them permanently. Fast forward 2 years and yes, we’re still here. And yes, I’ve been humbled (at least in this regard). And yes, my boys are absolutely thriving in a situation I never would have chosen to place them in.
Now about that socialization thing. As soon as we arrived we found a nice, healthy, family-oriented, AWANA-hosting, Bible-believing church and figured we had the social thing settled. But the Lord soon showed us, that as comfortable as we were, this was not to be our crowd. Instead He led us to the oldest church in Hawaii. And I don’t mean “oldest” because 99% of the congregants had grey hair, which they do, I mean “oldest” because this literally was the church that the first missionaries who arrived to the islands planted by permission of the king almost 200 years prior on that very spot. So there our boys sit, Sunday after Sunday, the only children in the building, singing hymns and reciting liturgy alongside these dear, grey-headed saints. Again, not most parent’s ideal social setting for little ones.
Which brings us to Friday and our boys being too busy “socializing” to get their school work done. Our oldest son, Titus, had a play date at the tennis courts. He plays doubles there Mon., Wed., and Friday mornings with some of his buddies that live here in our condo complex. One of Ti’s favorites is Al, with whom he shares a birthday. They are exactly 90 years apart to the day. Bob is 92, Tim is in his 70′s and recently widowed, and Phil, who tragically lost his own son at a young age, is about 60. The great thing about Tim and Phil is they aren’t just good for a tennis match, they like to play everything: catch, soccer, badminton, golf, whatever the boys are up for. They’ve even shown up at the boys’ hockey games (Yes, like many homeschoolers they also participate in a team sport). Tim also hosts awesome beach bonfires and puts on the best fireworks shows ever. There are other great friends around here, too, like Dick, the retired helicopter pilot who’s a pro at teasing and Shirley, their adopted great-grandma who keeps her fridge stocked with treats just for their visits. These are just some of our neighbors and friends. They are the people our boys interact with every day and because they are all retired and mostly all alone they have a lot of time and attention to spare.
But lest you think our poor boys have been assigned solely to the geriatric section of society know this: while Ti was playing tennis with the “old guys” the other boys were enjoying some pool time with their friend, Sei, and the day before Ti and Joel were playing doubles with 2 boys from France. And the week before it was soccer every day with Bailey from Washington. And the week before that it was football every day with Alexi from Russia. And the week before that Joel was begging me to teach him more German so he could talk to some kids visiting from Germany. We are surrounded by vacation rentals so every week there are new kids coming and going from all over the world. The only two other families that live here full time are Japanese and have one boy each which brings the boy count around our place on any given day to 6. This makes for about as lively and vibrant a social setting as any mom can tolerate.
So through these rather unusual circumstances this is what I’ve learned about homeschool socialization. The real fact of the matter is this: God loves my kids even more than I do and only He knows the plans in store for them and the experiences that will best prepare them for their life’s work. My goal can’t be to make them like a particular “brand” of person by socializing them with people who are exactly like I want them to be. My goal has to be to be pliable enough for God to use as He makes them more and more like who He wants them to be. Any kind of socialization is a failure if it doesn’t serve to make our kids more like Christ.