4H – Art, Cloverbuds, Computer Programming, and Socialization

I really appreciate that our neighborhood school hosts a plethora of 4-H classes for the kids in the area. I also really appreciate that I personally know the woman who runs all of this stuff (she’s so good at it!) And I also really, really appreciate that each class is only $10. Homeschooling can be really expensive.

This year my 3rd child is old enough to join a 4-H class, “Cloverbuds.” This particular child, though very intelligent, made me nervous about putting him in this class. He is my independent child. He is not naughty or loud or rude. But he is accustomed to doing his own thing ALL THE TIME. In fact, with almost every single request we make of him, he responds with, “but I was just….” because, as he sees it, whatever he planned to do or was already doing is more important than what we are asking him to do. He doesn’t say it in a rude way, but more like a “yes, I hear you and understand what you want, but, sorry, I’m busy right now.”

Anyway, he loves it. 4-H, I mean.  And I assume he is doing great. No one has said anything otherwise to me yet. 🙂

Also they got to play with the parachute and make fudge. Obviously he loves it. Offer him chocolate, and this kid will adore you forever.

My 2nd grader is in an art class (because cupcake decorating was full), and my 4th grader is in a computer programming class. I have no idea what they do there. I have zero knowledge in that field. But thankfully, somebody else does! 4-H is like a co-op where I don’t have to teach anything, which is awesome, because I have no idea what I would teach.

(Maybe I could teach cloverbuds. I like parachutes and fudge.)

When anyone brings up homeschooling to others who aren’t already on board with it, one of the first concerns they have is “socialization.” I’m not going to go into this topic in depth, because it can get truly very deep (as in lengthy and complicated, not spiritually moving or intellectually awakening). However, I don’t mind adding my 2 cents on my own homeschooling blog.

To socialize means to “make fit to live in companionship with others.” Children are blessed to innately have so many good and loving qualities. But they also naturally become bullies, prideful, mean, rude, and disrespectful when left to socialize themselves. They also develop an emotionally painful and on some levels abusive social pecking order that I do not agree with. We all work so hard to teach our children what is right and good, and to stand up for the values of kindness, love, acceptance, and justice. But if you look at how “socialized” young people are today in general, and when you think of how the pull of popularity and the pressure (and maybe in some situations the necessity) to socially conform to the group for the worse, not the better, has not benefited the moral character and integrity of our society, you may come up with the same conclusion that I have. The socialization taking place in schools (and other institutions probably) is failing.

Of course it is! One teacher, no matter how saintly and how much of a miracle worker s/he is (and many are), can’t physically personally coach 30 little children to develop moral fiber and integrity. That is a lesson that must be reinforced at least hourly (or even more often.)

But mothers and fathers can.  I think the roots, foundations, groundwork, framework, and scaffolding of socialization should happen in the family. Parent’s who can school their children in harnessing their tempers and starving their pride while building up love and empathy for others, can counter that negative pressure that will naturally come in social situations. And it is a lot easier to give those at least hourly (and even more often) lessons when you are with your children hourly, instead of sending them to be socialized at school for 6 hours, then at after school activities and whatnot for another 2, every day. With gentle verbal instruction, a mature adult modeling such behavior (we can model admitting mistakes and saying “sorry,” too!) and a safe place to practice – the laboratory of the home – children can learn to live in harmonious companionship with others. And then socializing with others their same age will be much easier and provide an additional opportunity to practice with non-family members what has been learned at home.

(That was more like 95 cents.)

Anyway, 4-H is great for socializing with friends and learning how to be kind, gracious, forgiving, and have fun with people we don’t know very well and may be very different from us. One thing that traditional homeschooling (as in always at home with just your family) doesn’t do is help shy children break through their comfort zone and make friends. I have some of those shy children. I’m not sure how much group work they do yet, but these programs, and others like cub/boy scouts, will help with that as well.

And strangely, for being a homeschool mom and obviously not a member of the PTA or anything, when I walked my kindergartener in for his first day of 4-H, within those 3 minutes I think I recognized about 20 kids walking out of the school. My 4th grader already knew 3 kids in his class, my kindergartner already knew at least 2, and my 2nd grader knew about 4 or 5, one of which saw her come in the door and called out, “Yay! Come sit by me! Sit by me!” Plus we have a homeschool group, a homeschool play group, soccer friends, church friends, and preschool friends. So I think we are doing ok.