I was at a convenient store with Edan, when he said, “I want to get something for Elijah because he got me something last time. I want to get him a snack.” I watched him go through each aisle thoughtfully, looking for a snack that Elijah would appreciate. He picked up a soymilk drink and a bag of oatmeal cookies.
It blesses my heart when my kids think about one another and do random acts of kindness for each other without being asked to. And while many people may question the socialization aspect of homeschooling, I really believe that socialization is so much more than children getting along with their peers and learning to make friends.
I think the broader definition should be about raising kids who show compassion, who know how to respond to people who are hurting, lost, or need a friend, who choose to respect others, and look beyond their own wants to seek the greater good of others. Often times, the harder context to develop these qualities is in the home.
My kids annoy each other almost daily and they behave selfishly on occasion. Their capacity to tolerate and accomodate each other’s differences is really put to the test. Because they are homeschooled and have a whole lot of daily interaction they have to learn to get along. Character traits like deference, thoughtfulness, benevolence, and joyfulness must be applied. Our children also have to practice humbling themselves to ask for forgiveness and choosing to extend forgiveness. In the process, they understand what love really means. They realize it’s so much more a choice than a feeling. But by choosing to love one another, they develop an affectionate loyalty for one another. They treasure each other.
The Bible tells us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Luke 12:34 NASB) Similarly, our children need to be taught to invest in the lives of their siblings. The more time they spend together, the greater the bond between them.
I remember just a few years back, my two older sons would constantly react to Titus. They would get so frustrated with him because he couldn’t really communicate well and he wasn’t able to play by their rules. He would knock down things they would build and he was a nuisance when they attempted to include him in their games. It got to a point where Elijah, my eldest, really struggled with being loving and kind towards him. He broke down in anger one day and I had to sit him down to talk. I explained to him that his responses to Titus were incredibly important. If he demonstrated unconditional acceptance towards Titus, Edan would do the same. And Titus would surely change and improve as he matured but he needed to feel our love. It was difficult for Elijah to change his attitude but he tried his best.
Two years later, and my three boys are inseparable. They always want to be together and Titus is very much a part of that trio. Without him, their fun wouldn’t be complete.
Titus is now learning to accommodate Tiana’s personality. But having bigger brothers who have shown him what it means to look out for a younger sibling has helped him alot. He has exhibited the kind of patience and kindness toward Tiana that I hoped he would. Of course, Tiana can be a pest at times and she knows how to harass her brother, Titus. But Edric and I are working on her character, too.
I remember a homeschooling friend who told me that socialization is about teaching kids the hierarchy of relationships — God, parents, siblings and then others. Children must first understand who they are in relation to God and how much he loves them, followed by parents reaching out to their children to pursue them relationally, and children learning to love their parents and siblings. Afterwards, relating to others comes naturally because a child’s most fundamental longings for relationship are fulfilled.
While I may not be a sociologist or psychologist, I have seen this ring true for our family. Our children’s first and best social context has been the home.
A photo of our sons, three years ago…