Monday, November 18, 2013

Know When to Fold'Em

Ever have that wonderful feeling that you just found THE ultimate curriculum that will be so completely perfect for your kiddos, will not only facilitate learning the subject material you have targeted to learn this year, but also build up bonus material of life skills or something else on the side?  This pile or box or set of plans just has you quivering with anticipation to get started . . . you are SO excited to unleash the excitement for learning that you know will happen when you merge these materials with your teaching skills and your kids . . . and . . . WHAM!!!

That was the sound of everything hitting a brick wall when the completely over the top perfect, exciting plans you have are a complete, total, abysmal, cataclysmic failure.

Ever have that happen?

We have.  The vast majority of what we try works pretty well for us.  But when we swing and miss, we go big.  So what then?  Start over.  Either look back at something else that worked or start from scratch.

This year we experienced that brick wall in a big way.  Although I still feel it is a terrific program -- for families that are not ours-- our brick wall this year was Exploration Education physics.  I was terrifically excited about it from the time I saw it in in a friend's hands.  I KNEW it was exactly what I was looking for in physics-- experiment based, mathematical, kid-directed, and it had two levels for my two kids, standard and advanced, that could still work together very nicely, without needing "tweaking" to make them work together; the more advanced mathematical pages were just left out of the standard book, so younger could watch or assist with older's additional labs without being responsible for the extra data recording and analysis.  What more could a homeschool Mom ask for?  Right?  Wrong, in our case (I still think it's a worthy program, for what it's worth, and know another family who is doing really well with it-- this post is NOT a ding against EE itself).

As an added bonus for us, I liked how the instructions for building projects were written directly to the kids; I really felt one of my DS's could gain some self-confidence from learning he could follow the instructions to put together the projects without me helicoptering over him and make these cool motorized race cars, gliders, sail boats, and more that are involved in this super cool kit.

The reality turned out differently.  I'll spare you the ugly details, but let's just say when you have a kid who has never been interested in building, don't buy him a physics program predicated on building the experiment components required for conducting the experiments.  It is one thing to set up the experiment; it is another thing to have to build the car or glider or boat first before you can experiment with it.  This is NOT the time to convince a kid he can learn to love building.  For a kid who LOVES building already, this will be a great experience.  For a kid who has never loved building . . . not so much.  Physics time was turning into, "OH, I think I have a headache, Mom, sorry, can't seem to concentrate today!" time.  Not cool.

When homeschooling, we all eventually face this dilemma-- usually more than once.  In many cases, it is wise to teach your kid to buck up.  We all have to do things that are not inherently fun, but have to be done anyway, and it's a bit of a disservice to teach kids that they can abandon necessary work just because they "don't wanna."  Young kids work can generally be crafted to be pleasant by an observant homeschooling parent, but as they enter the upper logic stage and rhetoric stage years (7th--12th grades for non-classical folks) it is time to start training them to do things even when they don't feel like it if you haven't yet.  You don't feel like writing this paper/doing this math assignment/finishing this project/cleaning the litterbox?  Do it anyway.  Life is like that, and you will find it hard to hold down a job or pass in college if you only do the things that appeal to you, kid.  However, in this case, the situation had a different feel.  When I looked at the situation, I felt that my biggest objective for the kids-- learning about physics-- was being impeded by road blocks in the learning plan that had nothing to do with physics.  I had to decide:  what was more important this year?  Physics, or learning to glue balsa wood together?  Different families could really have gone different ways on that for a 12 and 10 year old.  There is value in learning to use your hands and create stuff, and follow directions successfully.  I, however, chose the physics.  I did not want to leave the kids with a bad taste in their mouths regarding science.

So how, three months into our "year" do we reinvent the wheel?  We looked to last year's successful year of biology.  I sat down with a set of physics books that I like for their clarity of organization (Prentice Hall Science Explorer) a science encyclopedia, and the Creek Edge Press task cards, and I prioritized a list of concepts and mathematical relationships I wanted the kids to get over the remainder of our year.

Our first week looked like this: 

Monday:  Go research inclined planes and wedges.  For each one, draw me a diagram in your science notebook, and label all the parts.  Tell me what you find out about effort and force.

Tuesday: (stack of books on science and physics supplied, at various levels of intensity)  Read more about simple machines, focusing on inclined planes and wedges.  Make a list of things they are used for in everyday life.  Where do you see them around the house?  In living things?  Have you found mathematical relationships that describe what they do?

Wednesday:  Lab day.  We did a whole slew of labs revolving around inclined planes (wedges were harder).  We also worked on DS10's K'Nex roller coaster kit.  They explored the effects of mass on things going down inclined planes as well.  Not really related, but they also started watching a mini-series on the origins of the universe at their request (NOVA).  We kept data on white boards, and found averages and medians of different runs.

Thursday: Go research different classes of levers.  Label them, including the fulcrum, effort, and force.

Friday:  Read more about levers.  Show me where you find different levers being used around you, and what class each lever is.  Have you discovered anywhere that describes the mathematics of levers?  What do levers do for you in terms of force and effort?

DS12 also started reading a high school or college level text on physics-- reading is his preferred mode of learning.  I'm no longer forcing him to learn in a mode that is completely against his grain.  Everyone is happier, and learning a lot more physics.

I'm feeling a big difference too.  I no longer dread telling the kids it's time for physics, which really ought to be a ton of fun-- it really is, as one of our books is titled, "Physics with Toys!"  And Snap Circuits.  And a chance to learn stuff on your own and go on treasure hunts.  And drop stuff, bang stuff, stretch stuff, throw stuff . . . 

Most of all, I just have a feeling that we made the right call by chucking EE, which was not working for us at all.  Sometimes you tell the kids to buck up and get it done.  But other times, it is just the right call to quit what isn't working, ask yourself what your priorities are, and find a way to head towards your actual priorities and stop doing what isn't working.  Because . . . 

You gotta know when to fold'em.  Know when to walk away.  Know when to run . . .

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Pensieve

I recently installed a journaling app on my kids' ipads, and I am now insisting that they use them.  I have told them that I will not necessarily read their journals, but I need them to keep journals, and that I will give them assignments for them.

We purchased the Day One journal from the app store.  I like how it is organized; you can move to a specific calendar date, or you can view a running log of entries in a list.  It is simple to use, and you can make entries by voice dictation or keyboard input-- making this assignment as painless as possible was an important consideration for getting started, as is any new habit you wish to take hold, whether exercising or journaling or changes to one's diet!  There are many good choices, including the tried and true pencil and spiral-bound notebook that fits in a hip pocket-- my husband's PhD advisor, prof. L.  Nick Trefethen, FRS is well known for keeping notecards in his pocket at all times for the purpose of jotting down thoughts or things the people around him say that strike him as amusing or profound.

One assignment my kids have received recently came from the Bravewriter curriculum; inspired by author J.K. Rowling, it consists of jotting down unusual and interesting names and words in a journal entry, for possible later use in writing as people or place names.  They can include interesting words they might wish to use in a writing lexicon.  As my kids are studying Ancient Greek, Latin, Spanish, and German, and we travel a bit, study geography, and read widely, I expect their personal lexicons should become quite interesting.  I am starting my own as well-- who knows when the writing bug might strike, and such a journal section would be quite handy!

Another section also relates to studying the craft of writing.  I have asked them to note down any bit of writing they find particularly thoughtful, well-crafted, or descriptive, so that they can study it at will later to figure out why it works for them.  Studying published authors is a time-honored method of learning the craft of writing.

However, probably one of the more important reasons for journaling, is brought to mind for me by Albus Dumbledore's Pensieve.  In fact, the pensieve, that storage place for stray thoughts you wish to sift through at your leisure later, is how I think of my journal.  Today my older son, 12, came to me with a question.  I thought it was a great question, and I look forward to him really digging into it in detail-- later.  He can (and will, knowing him) continue chewing on the problem now; however his skills are not yet ripe for a really well-organized, in-depth, well-argued essay or debate on the topic.  Those are strong rhetoric stage skills, and at 12, he is, though in the gifted spectrum, strongly grounded right where he should be, in the logic stage part of his argument building skills, and not yet ready to give his question the full attention it merits.  So I told him to absolutely record it in his journal, so that we would know to go back to it for very serious thought in a few years.

He thought I was crazy.  "Mom, I have been thinking about this for a LONG time.  I will NEVER forget this question!"  Ah, how many times I have said that to myself!  How many grand ideas and themes I wish I could call back to my memory now!  Write it down or dictate into that journal son, please, do it now, before we forget.  I do not doubt that he has been pondering this question, probably for months.  We will talk about it now, too; I am not pushing it under the rug.  But I think it is a great question, one that will merit revisiting in his high school (rhetoric stage) years.  Why risk losing such a great writing and research prompt that he generated himself?  He may even find it interesting to do it again four years from now and discover whether his perspective has changed.  Maybe even again in college?

This is why we journal.  Because we are human, and we forget, and some things are worth writing down in our pensieves.  In today's world, we have so many options to make this easy-- we can use an inexpensive app on an ipad, we can blog, we can video record ourselves on our computers, or we can still scribble it down on notecards or in a spiral notebook.  But we should get our thoughts and questions down somewhere where we can look over them again, and maybe connect the dots between today's thoughts and next week's thoughts and questions.

His question today?

Was Gandhi really a good person, or did his devotion to pacifism blind him to other good that really needed to be done?  His refusal to engage in any kind of violence meant he refused to participate in WWII, even though he knew Hitler was horrifying and needed to be stopped, so he basically said that he knew Hitler had to be stopped, but it would be somebody else's problem to stop him so that he could go on being a pacifist.  Or would his pacifist resistance have ever worked if everyone had signed on?  Which is it?  Can you be so stuck on one path, that you fail to see that you are letting great evil happen around you just so you can stick to what you said, or does that make it more important that you stick to your principals?  How do you know to that degree that you are right?

Big stuff for a 12YO.   He just told me he did put it into his journal, so I know it will be there to look back on and remember the question later, and I know him well enough to know that he will want to wrestle with it again later.

 I look forward to an amazing essay from him in a few years.

I encourage anyone, of any age, to grab a journal of some type and just start jotting stuff down-- names of places, unusual names, vocabulary words, funny stuff people say, news events of the weird, and yes, these questions that pop into your head.  It may take as little as 30 seconds a day.  Put them into your pensieve, and you may be surprised at what could pop out years or decades later.  It may not net you a few billion pounds, but it may help you sleep at night, because your thoughts have been safely stored for later.

Thanks for reading!


PS I included a link to Prof Trefethen's collection of index card thoughts below!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Jen's First Law of Homeschooling

The more I have planned for the boys in a given day, the higher the likelihood that at least one will sleep in late.

corollary one: The boy for whom I had planned the most one-on-one work will be the one who sleeps in.

corollary two: The more non-school-related stuff I planned to do for myself  after school is done for the day, the later the child will sleep in.

corollary three: As pertains to Jen's First Law, it turns out that resistance is NOT futile.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Plans for 2013-2014

It’s that time of year again.  Whether homeschoolers are following a traditional school calendar or schooling year round, many do turn thoughts around this time of year to what they will be teaching in the coming year.

Those of us who do go all year round tend to not wrap up all of our subjects at once.  We finish our subjects at different times; we finish one math book, and start the next when the last one was completed, not on a specific calendar date.  The next “year” of math might begin in April, and the next “year” of history might begin in October, while the next grammar year might begin in July.  For us this makes sense.  We recall a certain frustration from our public school days—I always wanted to FINISH that history book, certain that the most interesting material were those chapters in the back of the book that we never got to discuss or read!  And why did we never finish a math book, ever?  What knowledge was being withheld?  Sometimes I took schoolbooks home and finished them on my own time, my own weird form of rebellion.  So in homeschooling, we do away with those arbitrary time cutoffs, and explore those dark, forgotten corners of our textbooks, and put them away only when we are ready.  We don’t set aside algebra when our students are still only showing 75% mastery, and then wonder why they struggle in algebra II; we back up, try again, maybe pull out a different algebra book or consult another homeschooler or math tutor, and get that confidence up until the student has mastered the material before we move on. 

However, the planning stages are still helpful, and I am among those who will plan a “school year” as if it will all take place beginning and ending at once, so that when that math or history or grammar is completed,  the next thing is already ordered, present, and ready to go, and any prep needed on my part has already been done in advance.  I don’t want to be caught in “Gosh, I dunno!” land.  Truth be told,  I have a basic outline in place of roughly what my kids will probably study from here until graduation already in place, though there is room to tweak it as they grow and change.  But the basics of a plan are in place so that I won’t have to improvise.  And now, the specifics for the coming year are in place, so that as we continue to finish up “last year’s” material, the next thing in line is here, ready, and waiting.  I’m excited—this looks like a fantastic year of discovery for the boys!

Did I mention that this summer my youngest will hit double digits???  I won’t have any babies left in the house, and my older will be rapidly approaching true teen-dom. 

(Sorry about the weird outline format-- Word did that automatically-- I would have used a capital letter as my first indented level, really!)

      I.         Language Arts
a.     Grammar
                                               i.     DS12: Diagramming and Practice Voyage.  We have put in two very intensive years of grammar, so this year we will forgo formal grammar instruction.  We will spend a small amount of review time, practicing our sentence diagramming and using a practice text as review for a few moments a day, but that’s it.
                                              ii.     DS10: Diagramming and Practice Island.  Ditto for DS10.  He did a year of Rod and Staff 3 and a year of Michael Clay Thompson’s Town level, and like DS12 will do the practice book from one year back in grammar to stay fresh before returning to grammar next year.
b.     Writing
                                               i.     DS12: Continue IEW Medieval, Start Bravewriter and Kilgallon.  He enjoys the assignments in IEW, and I like the structured approach to building a writer’s toolbox.  After looking at the program for a year or more, I am taking a plunge into Bravewriter, for a chance to let him to more freeform writing, and to spend more time looking at good published writing in detail as we did in Writing With Ease.  Kilgallon will also help us pick up the details.  Our alternating every two weeks schedule will allow us to schedule these three programs without it becoming overwhelming, even though there is a fair amount of writing in his history program as well.  This focus on writing is one reason why we are cooling off on grammar a bit this year.  Naturally, grammar will also be reinforced during the editing phase of writing.
                                              ii.     DS10: IEW SWI-A will be continued, and like big brother, he will be joining us in Bravewriter and Kilgallon as described above.  He adores Andrew Pudewa on the DVD lessons, one of the very few I allow in our homeschool, and his writing is improving dramatically in this program. 
c.      Vocabulary and Spelling
                                               i.     DS12 has been working through Michael Clay Thompson’s Word Within the Word, which will continue, as well as Saddler Oxford’s Vocabulary Workshop, on alternating weeks.  This pairing will continue.
                                              ii.     DS10 has been alternating Spelling Workout with Michael Clay Thompson’s Caesar’s English.  This pairing will also continue.
d.     Literature
                                               i.     Reading together: As a family, we read out loud together on a daily basis.  We also have a few audio books loaded into Audible on our phones.  These vary from fun to challenging.
                                              ii.     Individual reading:  This kids have some ambitious reading lists ahead of them for individual reading.  Some of these selections are tied to their history programs, some are not.  Some are more challenging than others. Some are fun or silly.  But one thing is certain.  They will read read read daily.
    II.         Foreign Language
a.     Latin
                                               i.     DS12: Continue Lively Latin 2.  This program has proven its legs for us.  I’m not actually sure where we will go from here, but we are really happy we found this one.  DS12: prefers to work his on paper, and I just made all of our lives much easier—I printed each group of four chapters double-sided and bound them with my comb-binder (I have a list that tells me what pages to print in what order, so all the lessons come out together, then all the exercises come out together, all the history pages come out together, and I put tabs to mark each section, and in the front I place a syllabus so he knows what order to do the assignments in.  Easy-peasy!).
                                              ii.     DS10: Continue Lively Latin 1.  DS10 prefers to work on his ipad, and port each lesson into Notability, which allows him to write on the worksheets directly.  I comb-bound his workbooks anyway, just in case, and sometimes he elects to work there too.
b.     German
                                               i.     DS12 is working his way through Usborne’s Easy German, but has let me know he wants to get back to Rosetta Stone.  I want him to stick with UEG for a little bit, because I like the explicit grammar instruction.  Maybe we’ll alternate between the two.
                                              ii.     DS9 is doing really well with Usborne Easy German while we take a short break from Rosetta Stone, and he says he will enjoy going back to Rosetta Stone in a bit now that he understands a bit more about the grammar and has more confidence in some of the vocabulary and ideas after having a chance to discuss them with me.  He also likes practicing the dialogues with me—they are longer than RS.  Both boys actually do like RS and have been doing well with it, but I like to break things up when sticking with one program for so long.  I looked at many German texts, and decided I liked UEG the best for now.
c.      Spanish
                                               i.     DS12 will be picking up a new language this year along with his brother.  They went back and forth between ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, and Spanish, and finally chose Spanish.  I have no background in this language beyond Sesame Street, but I was happy all the same because of the abundant resources available.  We settled on a really neat looking package called Breaking the Barrier.  It starts with 10 initial steps, which are ten questions and answers common to most languages, so the kids will start out speaking and writing in complete sentences right away, and in these lessons, it explains just a bit about the sounds of Spanish (with a word about different groups of Spanish speakers, such as different treatments of the ll consonant group).  After those ten steps, the first chapter begins.  I note that there are three books in the series.  We received a worktext, teacher/answer guide, audio CD with native speakers, and a quick reference chart of common phrases.
                                              ii.     DS9 will use the same program, but he prefers the ipad app version instead of his worktext.  It has the same material, and the audio CD is embedded in the text throughout, and he can click in the margins to check his work, click a box to erase his page and try again to practice more.  I note there is also a French version of this app, which must be used through iBooks.
  III.         Math
a.     DS12 will work on a monstered together math program this year, both geometry (AoPS) and algebra II (Life of Fred) at the same time, in alternating weeks.  Just for fun, he’ll continue using the online Elements of Mathematics.  He’ll stick with Life of Fred for algebra II, though we will periodically do a chapter test from Tobey and Slater for the chance to see problems presented from a different point of view; just as in German, in math I fear for students who stick with one series for too long and get stuck with a single presentation of problems.  For Geometry, I am curious to see how he does in AoPS.  We tried AoPS in PreAlgebra, and he hated it.  I  disliked it as well, finding a pretty simple (and generally unnecessary) year of math presented in an overblown fashion, but I have higher hopes for the geometry text.  We’ll see. 
b.     DS10 has been zipping through both Life of Fred Elementary and Singapore Primary Mathematics.  Over the summer he’ll take a break from Singapore and focus on Penrose the Mathematical Cat and begin Life of Fred: Fractions and begin to move through that series independently, and in the fall, he will resume the Singapore series, with Singapore 7 DM.  Looking through the scope and sequence for 7DM, I am very excited for him, as he enjoys being challenged in math, and I think he will be very pleased to leave simple arithmetic behind.  His favorite sections of the PM series have always been the geometry sections and encountering new ideas such as ratios.  We’ll see if we have finally reached a level where he feels challenged.
   IV.         Physics
a.     DS12 will embark on only the second DVD program I have ever permitted in our homeschool, Exploration Education, Intermediate Advanced.  It is designed for students up through the tenth grade, according to the label but looking through the material, I suspect that is commensurate with mathematical ability rather than difficulty level, and he should be on par with that.  It come with a building kit and most of the material is presented in context with projects the students must build and learn the principals from, including taking measurements and recording them in a lab book.  We also have the Thames and Kosmos Physics Workshop, and a number of Science Wiz kits, including the fascinating looking Inventions kit, which will have them building a working telegraph system with a relay.  We also have the book, “Physics with Toys,” which looks like fun.  This year of science should be filled with hands-on fun, math, and adventure and silliness.  Dad has a degree in physics, so there should be some great dinner table conversation this year, too.
b.     DS10 will be mirroring much of what DS12 is doing, only he will be using the standard version of Exploration Education rather than the advanced.  He will be additionally using the Science Detective from the Critical Thinking Company.  He also has a supply of Snap Circuits.
     V.         Logic
a.     Computer Programming
                                               i.     DS12 is working on programming in Python with his Dad, who as a mathematician, programs for a living.  DH leaves 99% of the homeschooling to me, but this is awesome DS/Daddy time for the two of them, particularly as DS is closing in on those teen years.
                                              ii.     DS9 will continue working through the absolutely fantastic book, Super Scratch Programming Adventure.  We love how he is writing a program in every lesson, and the book moves from using the language to actually discussing what these functions do, are called, and how they apply more generally in programming in different places in the book.  We started out with me showing DS10 how to write his programs, step by step as they are laid out in the book, but now we have improved to the point where I can ask him, “Okay, you want your program to do <this> next; can you figure out how to make your program do that?”  He is clearly starting to learn how the logic of it all works, though this inside-out approach will have to be carefully managed to get all the way back to the beginning.
b.     Brain Teasers: we work on these together to start off the morning.  We have a variety of books from The Critical Thinking Company, including Balance Benders, Red herring Mysteries, Mind Benders, Think-A-Minutes, and more.
c.      Logic
                                               i.     DS12 will finish up Art of Argument and Discovery of Deduction, and then will move into formal Logic with the James Madison Critical Thinking course from the Critical Thinking Company.
                                              ii.     DS10 will begin his study of logic with Building Thinking Skills from the Critical Thinking Company, and work his way through Fallacy Detective.  As if this kid needs training in how to argue.
   VI.         History and Geography
a.     DS12 will stick with History Odyssey by Pandia Press, at his request, and will move into Level 2 Early Modern History.  He has finished reading K12’s Human Odyssey volume 2, and will begin reading Volume 3.  He is working his way through CTC’s History Detective.  For fun, he continues to watch videos from Horrible Histories and reads Learning Through History Magazine and investigates primary sources as we come across interesting ones.  We will continue to incorporate related literature into our history studies.  At some point, I am hoping our classical cooperative will also work together on the "You Decide" constitutional law/critical thinking course, which is quite a lot of fun in a group setting, one of the few true coops I would consider.
b.     DS10 has is completing his first survey of world history, from ancients through modern history, and is ready to begin again, and a slower, deeper pace.  He too enjoys Pandia Press’s History Odyssey, and will begin Ancients Level 2 along with related literature.
 VII.         Art and Music
a.     Meet the Masters: we have been enjoying this fantastic art program together this year and will continue it into next year, learning about the lives, contemporaries, important works, and favored techniques of famous artists, one at a time.  We listen to the music they listened to, find out who they hung out with, and practice some of their techniques, before completing a project inspired by that artist’s style or technique.
b.     Composer and genre studies will continue to take place from a variety of sources we have on hand.  We’ll learn about some famous opera story lines this year, as well as the lives of more classical composers, and a few contemporary musicians. 
c.      Instrumental lessons will continue.  DS12 is doing well on his piano, and DS10 is making beautiful music on his recorder, though consideration of a new instrument is on the horizon.
VIII.         Phys Ed Gym class will continue in the fall at the Hockessin Athletic club.  If you are in the area, we encourage you to sign up, because this class has a fantastic instructor!  We also try to ride bikes, run laps, and play catch or soccer daily when weather allows, or ping pong or something if it doesn’t.  When we’re out an about in other classes, DS12 is working toward his brown belt in karate and is enjoying fencing lessons, though he’ll take a summer hiatus to allow for more free play time with friends, and DS9 enjoys gymnastics and swimming lessons.  Again, summer will enjoy a hiatus to allow more free time to enjoy the pool and friends.

We are really excited about this upcoming year!  We have a lot of really cool things on deck here!  Our heaviest foci for the year will be writing, literature, history, math, Logic, and Physics, followed by Foreign language with the addition of Spanish to their studies.  Grammar, vocabulary, and spelling will play supporting roles to writing and literature.  Art and music also support history and literature as well as mathematics.  Phys Ed supports all!  I will add links as I have time.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Social Homeschoolers

What about socialization?

I was writing a long discussion about why homeschoolers and their non-homeschooling acquaintances can't seem to have a non-snarky conversation about this topic, but it got to be too long, so I shelved it.  Instead, let me share what the elder of my two homeschoolers has been doing over the past couple of weeks.

Son#1 is currently 12.  On Sundays, he goes to youth group with our church, with a mixed group of junior and senior high youth.  They spend part of the time just hanging out and part of the time dealing with the evening's topic.  I say "mixed group" because most of the kids are young Methodists or kids of Methodists (if they have not yet chosen to join the church on their own); however others are atheist or kids of other faiths who just enjoy hanging out with the group.  Sometimes they also just go bowling, play frisbee golf, or have pizza.  He has also just completed his confirmation class series with a small subgroup of the kids.

One night of the week, he goes to fencing with a group of kids he has known for two years now.  They are serious about fencing, but they also have a blast, as it should be when you are 12.  Two afternoons a week, he goes to karate; he is soon to get his brown belt.  Often, he will hang out with the kids in his karate class before or afterward to play for a while before heading home.  He has known that crew for closing on four years now.

One afternoon a week he takes a gym class with a mixed group of kids ranging in age from 7 to 15, male and female.  Oftentimes those kids will hang out afterwards and play in the gym or in the pool and goof off together.  Sometimes there are park days together as well, or birthday parties.  These guys have had gym together for going on three years; it's a tight knit group.  This same group also takes a science class together every other week at a local museum.

 In yet another homeschool group, the kids (a cluster of them happen to be 9-12 years old boys) get together at different houses on a regular basis and take field trips together.  Sometimes, they get into trouble together.  Mostly, they get along really well together.  Sometimes, they get on each others' nerves a bit.  We moms stay out of it for the most part and make them work it out amongst themselves.  They get along pretty well together and do manage to talk and work out their differences and get along again.

He also runs his own Minecraft server, where he has had to learn the ins and outs of leadership-- when to give a friend a time-out, or even the boot-- and how to redirect somebody before they cross the line in the first place.  Things were rough going at first, but his leadership skills in this area have grown tremendously.  Again, we avoid interfering directly, allowing him to run his server, though we may consult later and talk him through the ups and downs of different leadership scenarios we have overheard developing (his group Skype conference calls while they play, so we can hear everything that is going on and who is playing from the other room).

On weekends, holidays, and occasional "surprise" days, he still gets to see his old school friends as well.

We also have had our random opportunities through homeschooling-- a Friday spent volunteering at the Food Bank, packing lunches for school kids who don't have enough food at home to make it through the weekend, providing a church service to the needy elderly who don't get visitors, a trip to the butcher shop to chat with the butcher, and watch him break down a chicken, carve a steak from  side of beef and trim off the fat, going with Mom to the doctor's office and learning quite a bit from the different charts, equipment, and staff there, and sharing our schoolwork with everyone from the hairdresser to the auto mechanic.

Now, most of that would be what I would call "socializing" rather than "socialization," though there is definitely some element of the latter present in any social interaction.  In the mixed age groups he is learning compassion toward the younger kids, and the fun balance between self confidence and deference to the older ones.  On field trips he has to learn how to balance his wishes with the wishes of the group he is hanging out with, and in the church group attended by people from different backgrounds, he is learning some sensitivity towards different perspectives.

What is socialization?  My kids know how to answer a telephone properly.  They know how to stand in line because they get that it's polite, not because somebody bigger than they are screams at them if they don't.  They know to take care of library books even better than their own and return them on time because somebody else might want to read them next.  They know to show up for appointments on time because the doctor or hairdresser has a schedule, and so does the next person after us with an appointment as well; they aren't on time because somebody will give them a detention if they are late.  They know this from going places with me and seeing what happens when people are late (or when we are late).  They know the power of a sincere apology, and the difference between a real one and a muttered one, though of course, as humans, that will remain a work in progress.  My kids are starting to learn that learning is important to them, and not just to their teacher <koff>.  They are learning that if they act like jerks, it's hard to get a brother to cooperate (another work in progress).

In short, socializing is awesome.  In our homeschool world, like most other homeschoolers we know, there is an abundance of social opportunity.  Socialization is different from mere socializing.  Socialization is not just the experimentation on your friends; it is behavior both modeled and explicitly taught by your parents and other adults around you, such as coaches and teachers and pastors.  As homeschoolers, we have many more contact hours with our kids in which to provide that socialization-- how to behave properly in society.  We also provide coaches and access to other appropriate adults who interact with the kids out in society, which is where socialization happens.

We do not "hand pick" all of our kids' friends.  Our kids have friends from all social, religious, ethnic, educational, and economic backgrounds.  They definitely see and try out some behaviors from their friends from time to time, and this influence will become increasingly important as they grow older.  However, they try these things out on us first at this age, and we are available, almost 24/7, to let them know which of their new habits are okay and which ones are not going to fly.  They are not spending half their waking hours, five days per week, away from us where we can't help them sort things out, during these critical, younger years.

For homeschoolers, this is socialization.

Thanks for reading!