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The Social Skills of Woodlice by PATRICE LEWIS

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My older daughter spends time on an (age-appropriate) online teen forum where everything from religion to Lord of the Rings is discussed. She gets an enormous kick out of reading the opinions of other kids her age. The reason she finds this so educational is because she is virtually the only homeschooled kid on the forum. As such, she is constantly amazed by the depth of ignorance and misinformation that abounds about homeschoolers.

“They’re social misfits!” is a common rejoinder. “They have no social skills,” quoth another.

The common theme among all posts directed toward homeschoolers, I am informed, is the alleged lack of social skills endemic among all kids schooled at home.

I suppose this makes sense. After all, “socialization” is the last battle cry among critics, young and old, who for whatever reason simply can’t stand the thought of children being kept out of public indoctrination centers lest the little tykes actually question the prevailing Marxist philosophy taught therein. And after all, unable to criticize homeschooled children on the basis of manners, morals, civic duty, academics, language skills, work ethic, patriotism, style of dress, attitude, and just about any other facet of childhood, they fall back upon the worn and tired excuse of “socialization.” Critics are convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that homeschoolers uniformly have the social skills of, say, woodlice.

This opinion always makes our kids fall over laughing. “They can’t communicate in anything but chatspeak and they criticize ME?” our older daughter asks. “They can’t seem to write anything clearly, much less spell correctly.”

The reason she finds the old “socialization” excuse so amusing is because of the contrast between homeschooled kids and publicly-schooled kids.

Frequently you can spot a homeschooling family from a distance. My girls and I were leaving Costco one time when I happened to notice a mother and five children eating a meal in the food court. Homeschooled, I thought. As we walked out the door, my older daughter observed, “I’ll bet they’re homeschooled.”

I was startled because she echoed what I was thinking. So I asked her why she thought the family was homeschooled.

She ticked off points on her fingers. “They weren’t slouching, they weren’t texting, they had table manners, and they were dressed modestly.”

Yes, it’s true: you can now distinguish homeschooled kids at a distance because they’re (a) not dressed like skanks, and (b) polite. Therefore, by extrapolation, skankiness and lack of manners are now called “social skills.” Isn’t that nice?

Another time we enrolled our younger daughter with a small music school run in the basement of a private home. The teacher, we learned, had four homeschooled kids. “I knew they were homeschooled,” confidently stated my daughter after we left.

“How?” I asked.

“Because they have an advanced vocabulary.”

There you go: a poor vocabulary is another example of advanced social skills.

Another common identifying feature of homeschooled kids, particularly girls, is modest clothing. These girls are rarely caught in anything which bares their midriff, cleavage, or thighs. This, of course, sets them miles apart from their publicly-schooled peers. Modest dress? Oh no, there go their social skills.

But back to the opinions voiced on this particular forum. To quote some replies to the topic question, “Why would you ever homeschool your kids?”, I supply the following evidence (spelling intact):

“Seriously, you’re robbing them of social skills and life experiences. Home schooled are usually really awkward and just don’t fit in with regular people.” (“Regular people?” exploded my daughter when she read this. “What makes them think they’re the kind of ‘regular people’ I want to associate with?”) “If you don’t want them to drink or do drugs, just raise them right. I’ve been publicly schooled my entire life and I’ve never drank, smoke, or done drugs.”

I guess at that age it’s normal not to be able to see beyond the evils of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. What aren’t noted are the other, perhaps less tangible evils such as bad attitudes, a poor work ethic, and snarkiness.

To continue the general criticism: “they would be creepy shut ins. I don’t wanna be my kid’s best friend, that’s kinda pathetic. Like, of course I would want my kid to like me but get a social life, honey bee.”

And this: “oh god no i went to public school and im a shy, introverted [obscenity deleted] anyways i can only imagine how my kids would turn out if they were homeschooled”

And of course there’s this charming conclusion: “My kids will go to an elite private school, and be super geniuses. I wouldn’t give up my career just to make my kids socially awkward. Anyway, I really doubt that I’ll be able to not kill my children if I spend ALL of my time with them.”

I confess I burst out laughing when my older daughter read this last one to me. Give up my career “just to make my kids socially awkward”? Yeah right. Have you thought that perhaps you wouldn’t WANT to kill your children if you actually DID spend some time with them? That way you could teach them some (cough) social skills so they would be pleasant to be around. Just a thought.

This is why my kids think it’s hilarious when someone accuses them of having no social skills because they’re homeschooled. “So,” concludes our older daughter caustically. “In order to be socially skilled, we have to slouch, text, write in chatspeak, speak in chatspeak, have the vocabulary skills of kindergartners, and dress like a skank.”

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Upon reflection, I believe I’ll take the woodlice.

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