Socializing With ‘Normal’ Kids
If there’s one area of interest that I share with Christian Homeschoolers, it’s the desire to have a strong social network of like-minded peers for my children.
I want my kids to see other families placing importance on issues that we feel strongly about. I want them to see and hear the things that we believe reinforced in their peers’ actions, conversations and beliefs. I want my kids to know and interact with other people out there who share our world-view and mindset. I feel that this is a key point in helping my children find their place in the world.
Unfortunately, living a secular lifestyle in the Bible Belt makes that desire somewhat challenging to fulfill. Though we have an active secular homeschooling support group, we’re far from the majority. ‘Normal’ people around here attend a Christian-based church. Most people admit, and prefer, that their primary social network is deeply rooted in the church. Even people who don’t attend church regularly espouse some religious preference or bias and still tend to form relationships with people who share an affinity for their chosen religious leanings. Though religious diversity is finally starting to trickle down this far south the vast majority of people, especially in the homeschooling community, are of a Christian denomination.
For the most part, that’s fine. Like most ‘normal’ people, our family places importance on being fair and considerate, being respectful to and of others, being a good neighbor and continuing to ‘better’ ourselves, and on other basic ethical principles. But that’s really where the similarities end.
We don’t place emphasis on the Bible or any other ‘holy book’. We respect that other people do, but it is far from an infallible source of authority in our home. When there’s a question, we don’t ask ‘what would Jesus do’, we talk about how doing XYZ ‘feels’ or how that might impact you in the future, or look to history to see how a similar action turned out. When faced with questions that can’t be answered, we emphasize that it is okay not to know all the answers and again encourage focusing inwardly to explore how different paths feel for you as an individual. We feel that it’s our job to guide them on their journey, not direct them on a path.
It’s just as important to me to have these concepts reinforced in my children’s social circle as it is for your average ‘normal’ mom to want her ideals echoed in her children’s peer group. It’s even more important when the issues are more complicated; things like LGBT rights, family planning and reproductive rights, sex education and sexual activity, language, censorship… there are many issues that we feel differently about than your average bear. It worries me that my children might be deemed a ‘bad influence’ when they’re around ‘normal’ kids just because of differences in opinion on what ‘right’ is. My children recognize injustice and hate, even when it’s painted with the church’s brush, and aren’t afraid to decry it. Some people find that offensive and though I feel that’s their issue and not ours, justifying wrong as ‘right’ in the name of religion is not something I want my kids exposed to.
So how does one go about establishing connections with like-minded people? The internet, of course! Something I have been looking for, and finding, is other secular and inclusive groups in my area. Granted, my ‘area’ has grown to include cities over 3 hours away, but still. There are more than a couple of close-ish groups that specifically call to homeschooling families that eschew the stereotype and not only are ‘secular’ but have members who practice religions other than Christianity.
I believe that making these connections now, while my kids are young, will afford them opportunities when they’re older. Expanding my reach and field of vision is important if I want them to think and live globally. I feel that the key to respect is exposure – exposure to differences of viewpoint and lifestyles that challenge their concept of ‘normal’; exposure to art, literature, ideas, beliefs and religions that aren’t represented or respected in our community. It is important to me that my children learn to look beyond external extensions of their peers and see the person as a whole; to find what is similar instead of what is different.
I’m fortunate to have found a local community of like-minded families to spend time with. I am glad that my children have friends who are being raised similarly, whose parents answer questions with the same sort of mindfulness that I strive to consider when replying. As the secular homeschooling community expands, I look forward to meeting other parents who share that world view, and the additional opportunities that will be available through those connections. Very fortunate, indeed.
This entry was posted on November 11, 2010 by HT. It was filed under Advocacy, FAQ, Homeschooling Tips and Tricks, Rambling Thoughts, Secular Thursday, Socialization and was tagged with balance, commentary, homeschooling challenges, religion, secular homeschooling, Secular Thursday.