Logs, Specks and Socialization

The two cliché questions that every homeschooler hears a zillion times are, “But what about socialization?” and “What about college?” Actually, I think these are being asked less frequently now that homeschooling has become almost mainstream and homeschoolers have excellent track records in both regards. Nonetheless, people do still wonder if homeschooling results in awkward nerds who will never fit into society. (OK, sometimes homeschoolers are nerdy. But we do want our children to be able to live with and love all kinds of people and to be able to live in the world while not being conformed to it.)

I’m currently reviewing The Well-Adjusted Child by Rachel Gathercole. Mrs. Gathercole shows how the unique social setting of educating children at home can actually serve to benefit them socially. She talks about the many activities homeschoolers are typically engaged in and the advantages of having peer friendships without large peer dependencies. Mrs. Gathercole also correctly points out the most important unifying factor among homeschoolers of all stripes is that homeschooling is family-based living.

So, not surprisingly, it is primarily in our home that my children are learning social skills. It is at home where they have the opportunity to learn to love someone who is sometimes (often?) not lovely, to overlook an offense, to forgive and to ask forgiveness, to serve one another in love, and to bear one another’s burdens.

We realized years ago that each time we added a new child the number of relationships went up geometrically. Just take a look at this chart:

Number of Children: Number of sibling relationships
2(A and B): 1 (A-B)
3 (A, B, C): 3 (A-B, A-C, B-C)
4 (A, B, C,D): 6 (A-B, A-C, A-D, B-C, B-D, C-D)
5 (A, B, C, D, E): 10 (A-B, A-C, A-D, A-E, B-C, etc.)
6: 15
7: 21
8: 28
9: 36
10: 45

(If you are into numbers you will recognize that this as the triangle series. Sorry about the formating; I just couldn't get it to come out properly.) With our nine children we have 36 different relationships, and now that we have added a son-in-law there are 45 relationships. And every relationship has a different tenor. Some are typically sweet while others are much more prickly. Some of my children have the ability to set each other off pretty easily. And all this is good – it gives so many opportunities to teach living together with one another, or as some would put it, socialization!

This morning early two of my younger children were not living in harmony but causing each other a great deal of friction. An argument erupted when one tried to run away from his chore of unloading the dishwasher, preventing the next child from loading the breakfast dishes. In the ruckus that ensued one ended up hitting the other and harsh words were spoken all around.

As I dealt with the two offenders I quickly realized that their biggest issue of the day was not what each had done, though I did first deal with that. Instead their greatest issue was self-righteousness. Each could only see the sin of the other. (“But he…” “But she…” ) I asked each one to tell me what he had done and for a long time they could only say, “I did… , but he …” We had to talk about logs and specks and about how a true confession will not place the blame for one’s sin on another person. We talked about how we are to live at peace with all men “as far as it depends on you.” I’m not sure, but I think eventually it started to sink in. At least both were able to articulate the concept and tell me what THEY alone had done and to make a confession to the other without making excuses. I was weary by the time we prayed together, but thankful for the opportunity as well.

When I told Tim about it later he reminded me that this is nothing new. These younger ones are not any more self-righteous than their older siblings. We’ve been through this before and will continue to as we try to reach our children’s hearts, not merely go for outward behavior. I’ve heard it said that it is common for children who grow up in Christian homes to have a harder time than others in realizing the true ugliness of their sin. Kids from Christian homes too often don’t see their sin as that serious or they feel smug and sanctimonious when they compare their lives with others. As parents we need to do all we can to help them see that ALL sin is filthy and to take responsibility for their sin. It is a frequent prayer of mine that my children will have tender hearts to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. May they quickly know when they have sinned and quickly repent. And may this be true for their parents as well. God grant me a soft heart.

Matt 7:3-5 3 "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”


Amy said…
What a great post! I wish I were so wise in dealing with strife between my two children. You need to write a book...
Anne said…
Oh Amy, I wish I was truly wise as I teach and discipline my children! Too often I just try to deal with them quickly and move on with whatever we were in the midst of. That day the Lord just made it so obvious what was going on in their hearts that even I could not miss it.
Lydia said…
Hi Anne,

So glad you are posting again. I missed your posts but imagined you were busy with the wedding.

My biggest reservation about homeschooling is this: will it hinder my children's ability to love the lost in our own neighborhood if they have limited opportunity to have relationships with non-Christians? I don't worry about traditional socialization, but rather about teaching compassion (versus "tolerance") for people around us lost in a non-Christian worldview.

I think I have a response to most of the non-Christian objections to homeschooling but I'm still grappling with some of the objections I hear from Christian families I respect.

No need to respond at length, I just thought you might address it in a future post.

Take care,

Lydia Carter
Anne said…
Lydia –

That’s a great question, and it really deserves a long answer. Yes, some children and teens might be effective witnesses to their peers in public schools. The balancing truth is that this often comes at a tremendous spiritual cost to that child.

I’ve taken your advice and have started working on a post that deals with your question in more depth. I hope to show how rather than a lack of love or compassion for others, in the long run, the converse is very often true for homeschool graduates.


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