Integrating on your own terms

With home education, the need to confront that bus-full of strange faces and pick a reasonably friendly one to sit next to, or go through the rituals of acceptance into a new group, are removed. Integration into a new community is easier if you do it on your own terms and at your own speed regardless of the claims by some of the efficacy of being ‘thrown in at the deep end’ and having to sink or swim.

I can still remember the locker room whispers concerning Jill, a new 4th-grade girl, who had a large brown area of skin on her stomach.  It looked like a birthmark, but the ‘cool girls’ said it was “scum.”

What a curious artifact of schooling is the PE shower. What aspect of socialization is served by making groups of strangers shower together? If a family did this would it be considered a ‘red flag’ if the neighbors found out that a family’s bathroom had a ‘gang shower?’ But I digress. The horrors of PE well-covered on television programs, but the knowledge that your discomfort and dread is universal is no consolation at the moment of disrobing.

But how does a home educated child make friends if he or she isn’t in school? One overlooked source of friends in our contemporary, age-graded, everyone-out-the-door, see-you-later life is siblings, the ultimate in home-made amusements.

Through the age-segregation of schooling, and reinforced by the images of contemporary entertainment, brothers and sisters are thought to be either indifferent to one another or to be mutual rivals. In the newspaper I saw an advertisement for cell phones. The graphic was two girls, apparently sisters, impaling each other with what I call the teenage Valley-sneer. The point of the advertisement was a buy-one-phone-get-one-phone-free deal that would remove one more cause of sibling rivalry: sharing a phone. No explanation was necessary because ‘everyone knows’ that brothers and sisters don’t like each other.

Of course events and situations can impose barriers between brothers and sisters and can create competition. Children in a family where each person is ‘cut from the herd’ each day may have to position themselves for things they want or need such as:

  • time with their parents
  • entertainment items
  • a share of the smaller military-family cash-stash nibbled at by frequent PCSEs

In the homeschooling situation, there may be more camaraderie because of mutual-use entertainment items (such as baseball gloves, bats and balls) and the fact that if a sibling isn’t included in the activity, it doesn’t proceed. Newly- PCSed siblings can also recall the recently departed-from-home and share memories. Brothers and sisters can be fellow-adventurers in discovering the new home station:

  • Where is the Exchange?
  • How far to the youth center?
  • What are the hours of operation of the bowling alley or library?

New geographies are more easily explored if you have a trusted comrade-in-newness.  The anticipation of moving is more easily worked through if your buddy has been with you all along.


Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon

This work may be copied and distributed for free as long as the copyright and this notice are included.

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