On Being Well-Rounded or Socialized

youth school teens uniform catholicschool privateschool learn study teenagersWe homeschooled our two daughters for 8 years from kindergarten/2nd grade until 7/9th grade.  They didn’t have a boatload of friends during those years, but the friends they did have were special, kindred spirits, and we got together as often as we could.

When we took the kids out of the Catholic school to home-school them, people said we were taking them out of the real world and unsocializing them.  They will be isolated and develop slower than the children being socialized the institutionalized way.  After a year of being at home, our girls were fine, they were happy and they were themselves.  They prayed, studied religion, math, English, social studies, gardening with their daddy learning earth science.  We built volcanoes, baked bread and tried new recipes, they learned new instruments and played in a home-school quartet, sang in the city choir, played softball and soccer in the county extension sports program and played handbells at Church.  They weren’t bored, until our eldest daughter reached 9th grade.

As we began to struggle to find new options for our daughters who were outgrowing the home school scenario and in desperate need for advanced math and science instruction, a Catholic high school opened up close by.  We prayed and then enrolled them – one the first year, her sister the next.

Then the real socialization nightmare ensued!  Those that secretly wondered how our daughters would fair in the “real” classroom, both academically and socially, were surprised at how intelligent and mature they were.  The teachers and faculty were impressed at how respectful both girls were towards authority, prepared they were for class, faithful they were to the Catholic identity as they attended the school rosary during May, adoration every Friday, and the Stations of the Cross during Lent.  The high school faculty admired them and doted over them to us; at the same time, however, their peers kept their distance.  No bonds of friendships were extended to them outside the school day.  What was a shocking truth about children being raised by each other instead of their families was verbalized at a parents meeting the first year by a parent who also was a physician in the local hospital,  “After spending the past 9 years together in school, these kids know each other better than they know their own siblings.”  Holy cow, was that an eye-opener!  So where does that put the family ranking against their peers and like-minded school mates?

There are lots and lots of written testimonies on this subject, here are just a couple: Catholicsistas.com, and a quote from a dear friend, Allison, who also is a Catholic homeschooling mom on her blog, Totus Tuus:

The mass socialization conducted within schools has brought about a proliferation of delinquent behavior within this nation’s youth, reports education researcher, Dr. Michael Slavinski. He notes that student bodies are increasingly riddled with violence, drugs, promiscuity, emotional disorders, crime, contempt for authority, desperate behavior, illiteracy and peer dependency – just to name a few.

How can healthy, well-rounded socialization happen within a group of children vying for attention, popularity, and power inside their tightly bound age group, while being reared by adults too busy with their own lives as they vie for attention at work and in their own social circles for popularity and power?   These parents can’t see what is happening to their children, the cliques and inability to converse with others outside their little comfy circles; they just know that their children are happy and connected.  It is a shame. Is this everywhere?  Research says, Yes.

As far as Catholic families go, they have nowhere to run for support, except to the Catholic home-schoolers and the Baltimore Catechism, funny huh? This socialization, coupled with the poor state of parish catechesis in the US, which is well documented, is producing a generation of falling-away Catholics in record numbers, especially since many students go off to liberal, non-Catholic colleges and get indoctrinated with liberal professors for 4 years.

If we could have had a better support group in our town with an active academic co-op to keep our girls interested, challenged, and happy, we would NEVER have put them in this situation where they are required to be the example to measure up to, but are ignored; where they have the pressure to keep up a high level of maturity amidst their radically over-socialized peers, where their faith and interests are not shared and the isolation that both feel on a constant basis within the walls of their institutionalized school is painful.

Our daughters are mature, smart, talented, and faithful, and they want to stay that way.  As their mom, I pray for them everyday and feel convinced that we did the right thing having them at home those precious 8 years, where they belonged. They will be ready for their future outside of high school as fine Catholic adults.

A Master Catechist,  Ebeth Weidner is the wife of a scientist and mom to 3 wonderful young people.  She is the author of “A Catholic Mom climbing the Pillars” blog and a contributor to CatholicMom.com, Catholic Lane, and the new blog:  Association of Catholic Women Bloggers.  Ebeth shares her journey with others as she climbs the pillars of truth in the Catholic Church.