Why I Want to Ignite the Mommy Wars

Lately on the internet we see it everywhere we turn: End the Mommy Wars! It has become the latest trendy stance among bloggers and social media alike. Many jump on board because it sounds good. War? No one wants war. It must end!

But I stand on the other side of the fence. I want to ignite those Mommy Wars. I want to light the fires in every corner I can find in hopes that they never die out. I want to pit one mother against another on every aspect of parenting that we face day in and day out.  Read More...

5 Signs You Are in a Relationship with an INFJ

The INFJ Myers-Briggs Personality Type is a fairly rare group of people who tend to hide amongst the crowds. They can often be overlooked by those who are unfamiliar with what signs to look for. Even when someone is in a relationship with an INFJ, they may be none the wiser, consistently trying to determine the personality of their significant other.

While all INFJs are different, there are some similarities which may make it easier for you to determine whether or not your loved one is one of these rare and special intuitives.  Read More...

Ending Bullying is a Myth

Everywhere we turn there are stories of bullying. Children crying to stay home from school. Teens turning to drugs. Some even go so far as to take their own lives to end the torment. It is saddening and terrifying for parents everywhere as they send their progeny off to class each day, hoping their child will make it through the pain.

Numerous campaigns and awareness movements have arisen to combat this bullying epidemic. All over the country celebrities and media are pushing causes to cure this societal ail. While some are focused on harsher punishments, others try to offer love and compassion for the bullies.

Each of these campaigns, however, overlooks one very key point: Nothing is changing.  Read More...

Top 10 Signs Your Neighbors Are Unschoolers

In most neighborhoods it usually doesn't take very long to figure out that the neighbor kids are homeschooled. Seeing them out and about throughout the week is a pretty dead giveaway. But if you look a little closer, you may find some of these tell-tale signs that could indicate they are full-blown Unschoolers.  Read More...

My Writing Un-Advice

As a writer, I am always looking for ways to improve and perfect my craft. I love seeking advice on many topics and this area of skill is certainly no exception. But I tend to find consistent advice that just does not seem to jive with my technique. I try it out for a period of time and am usually less than satisfied with the results.

After many different attempts, I certainly have not stopped looking for more advice. After all, constantly seeking information is the best way towards improvement. However, I have come to realize that the "best" techniques are not always for everyone, especially in artistic fields.

For that reason, I thought that maybe my techniques would be helpful to others and so I wanted to share some of them. I urge you to not think of these tips as "advice" but rather "un-advice." Many points will go against what the experts teach, but they have served me well and they may serve you too.  Read More...

Radical Unschooling: No Food Limits

Radical Unschooling is a fairly foreign concept to most. Some have not heard of it, and most who have do not quite understand it. Unschooling is a method of homeschooling in which children are encouraged to learn on their own. They can pursue passions and interests without the need for curriculum or textbooks. Basically, they achieve their schooling without any outside limits while using their parents as guides and resources rather than leaders or teachers.

Radical Unschooling takes this learning concept and applies it to whole life. It essentially means that children control their own lives without arbitrary limits instilled by parents (from media usage to bed times to food choices). In these cases, the parents do not neglect or completely step back from their children, but are constantly there as a resource or guide as the child chooses to navigate the trickier areas of maturing.  Read More...

School Children Have Horrible Social Skills

A pretty harsh statement to make, indeed, but a statement that I, as well as many other parents of supposedly poorly socialized homeschoolers stand by.  But before I continue on to explain this blasphemous idea, I would first like to clarify what I mean by “social skills.”

Defining Social Skills

In my opinion, well-developed social skills lie in the ability to interact with a variety of indivudals, both new and familiar, of varying age, race, creed and IQ.  This does not mean being extroverted or becoming great friends with everyone one encounters.  Rather, it means being able to handle and be mostly comfortable with basic greetings, introductions and appropriate conversations of varying magnitudes (from the cashier at Wal*Mart to a sibling’s new significant other) whether expected or spontaneous.

I am not referring to the frequency, duration or depth of social interactions as these vary from personality to personality.  Well-socialized adults can prefer books to people while terribly socialized adults can submerge themselves in active social scenes.  This does not change the individual’s level of ability in socializing.

Most, in the realm of adults, look at proper social skills in essentially the same way (of course allowing for some variances) and that is the way to which I am referring in this article.

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Why School Children Lack Social Skills

Having said that, I believe that school children, as a whole, have extremely poor social skills.  They are not very good at formal introductions of themselves or others.  They usually shy away from or even look down on greetings from children they do not know.  And their ability to carry on meaningful conversations with anyone they just met is lacking at best. 

But it often is not looked at this way because the social skills of a child are measured in different ways than those of adults.  Rather than looking at their abilities to interact with unfamiliar people in various situations, socialization in children is measured by how often they are exposed to the same group of kids their own age and how much they like it.

So for twelve years, we stick children in these groups, call them automatically socialized by default based on a fabricated notion of what socialization means (fabricated in that it only exists because schools were created) and then make zero attempts to arm them with the actual social skills that exist within the rest of our culture.  So during the few times that they are out of the confines of school and existing in the “real world,” they are not very good at interacting with others of whom do not normally exist in their classroom subculture, be it adults, preschool-aged children or homeschoolers.

Then, when they graduate and are released into the cultural norms from which they’ve been actively held for the majority of their lives, they have to fumble through and relearn what socialization really is.  I cannot count the number of times teachers, guidance counselors and other adults told school-aged me that the real world is nothing like school.  And they were right.  The real world is absolutely nothing like school.  We all know it but no one bothers to acknowledge it, let alone fix it.  We continute on with two different standards of socialization, calling children who live up to the adult standards “unsocialized” while encouraging, praising and fostering the fabricated set of norms for school children.

Of course, nothing is across the board.  There are always exceptions.  I’ve seen school children who could talk a blue streak within anyone, formally and politely.  And I attended a private Catholic university, so God knows I have encountered my share of socially awkward, over-sheltered homeschoolers.  But on the whole, my experiences have shown that school children are taught how to socialize with their classmates whereas homeschoolers learn naturally how to socialize with, well, anybody.

Basically, when children live their day to day lives submerged in the world, it would actually take a great deal of intentional effort for them to not pick up at least some skills for socializing with others.  But school children who live the majority of their youth in a room with the same children of the exact age, usually for their full twelve year course, would have to be intentionally trained on how to interact with anyone outside of that group.  But the reality is, not only are they not intentionally trained, but they are often times actually discouraged.

My Experiences - Then and Now

I’ll never forget my elementary school experiences.  Recess was the only time when we may actually have the chance to interact with children of other ages, but instead they had the massive school yard segmented by grades.  If you were even caught standing at the edge of your grade’s section talking to children on the other side of the line, you got into trouble.  Do it often enough and they removed you from recess altogether.  We were told more often than I can count never to talk to strangers but to run away and get an adult.  Most of our field trips were to reserved locations void of any other life with the occasional exception of another school.  In those cases, however, it was made very clear that interacting with them would be a disruptive, and therefore punishable crime.

Of course, this was all many years ago, but a recent trip with my family to the local children’s museum has me believing that not much has changed. There were a couple of schools there for a field trip.  Each child had a large sticker plastered to their chest telling anyone interested the name of the school, the child’s full name and their current teacher’s name (notably the same information they discourage children from sharing with strangers on their own). 

These children were not allowed to run willy-nilly through this youthful paradise of fun.  Instead, in groups of seven or ten, they were lined up and slowly carted from one station to the next while a chaperone stood in the doorway watching over them, interacting only to scold for running or talking too loudly or to inform them their allotted time for pleasure and creativity was through only to be ushered back into their place in the chain gang shuffle.  No talking allowed, of course. 

So here they are in a place filled with other children, a beautiful opportunity for learning social skills with those of another subculture, and they are all actively discouraged and even punished when they take part in this opportunity.

Meanwhile, my children, fully aware of how to introduce themselves and strike up friendships with new people, proceed to do so excitedly only to be looked at with confusion or disgust by the school children or to be met with their own confusion as the behavior is condemned by the surrounding adult chaperones.

Lesson learned by school children:  Interacting with others is bad.
Lesson learned by my children:  Poor school children.  Let me go find other children who know how to socialize.

My Blunt Conclusion

Now I know everything I have said will cause defensiveness and even anger from parents who choose school.  “How dare you generalize,” they’ll say.  “My child has wonderful social skills.”  Well, maybe they do.  But one thing is for sure.  They did not get those skills from school.  They are one of the lucky few that have those skills in spite of school.

So next time you hear that a child is homeschooled and become concerned with their socializing skills, remember that they are the ones on the playgrounds, at the stores, in the restaurants, approaching the 3 year olds, the 10 year olds, the 25 year olds and the 60 year olds without fear of overstepping arbitrarily set limits of a fabricated subculture.  They are not the ones running away from or snubbing strange children.  They are the ones behaving as an adult behaves in the real world.  

They are the well-socialized children.

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