Friday, September 21, 2012

An Unforeseen Benefit

When my daughter, Punky, was in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade, at both a private and then public school, her best friend was a little boy, Dylan.  She and Dylan were as close as two friends could be at that age.  They not only played together at school, but afterschool and on the weekends as well.  Their play was very imaginative.  They created entire make-believe worlds for themselves and acted out story lines in their worlds that kept them engrossed and entertained for hours.  They had their differences, of course.  Some of which were a product of different personalities and some of which were the product of the inherent difference between boys and girls.  They learned resolution strategies as a result of any conflict that arose from these differences.  My daughter thought nothing of being best friends with a boy and Dylan had no concerns that his best friend was a girl.  Each had same-sex friendships that they enjoyed immensely as well, but they treasured each other as only best friends can.  Even now, years later, though Dylan’s family moved out of the area, they remain friends.
During their 1st grade year at public school, it became apparent that the other children did not always view their friendship with the same perspective.  Little girls who ‘liked’ Dylan would be ugly toward Punky and other little boys would tease Dylan about his ‘girlfriend’.  One incident involved Punky getting punched in the face by a little girl for talking to Dylan because this little girl wanted him to be her boyfriend.  I was stunned; not because children can’t be thoughtless or cruel, but because this happened as a result of jealousy over a ‘boy’ at the age children are when in the 1st grade!  Dylan and Anna prevailed in their friendship and with parental guidance they remained comfortable and confident.  When Dylan moved the summer before 2nd grade Punky was heartbroken to have her best friend move so far away.

For a myriad of reasons, we pulled Punky from public school and began home schooling in October of her 2nd grade year.  Despite being new to home schooling, and having decided to home school after only a handful of weeks of research and preparation, I was very aware of the supposed socialization fears of home schooling a child.  We joined home school groups, including a Co-Op, so that she would not ‘suffer’ from lack of socialization.  Punky formed friendships from these various home school groups that included both girls and boys, some her own age and some a bit younger or a bit older.  Three years later and those friendships continue.

 Punky remains friends with a few girls from her public school days and one of these girls is her ‘best friend’.  She has the opportunity to ‘socialize’ with girls and boys, both home schooled and public schooled, on an almost daily basis.  An interesting and unforeseen benefit of home schooling has arisen that I believe is a very valid one.  As a result of spending a large majority of time with her home schooling friends she interacts with both girls and boys on the same level of friendship.  There is no real distinction made between the sexes.  The amount of ‘teasing’ she receives for having friends who are boys is almost non-existent.  These children are entirely used to and comfortable with engaging with a variety of aged children and both sexes.

As I’m sure is this case in home schooling communities everywhere, I personally *know* most of these children and their families, many of whom have become my personal friends as well.  I know the parenting styles of these families, their value systems, their expectations for their children and their children’s behavior.  If, or when, an issue or conflict arises, I do not have to enter into the situation ‘blind’ because I’ve never met the parents, nor am I clueless as to what to expect.  For me, that is a huge benefit of homeschooling, especially compared to the exact opposite scenario when dealing with issues or conflicts with Punky’s public school classmates in the past.

The unforeseen benefit of homeschooling is that my daughter does not view boys through a single, sexualized lens and she is not being viewed by them in that manner.  With all the talk about how home schooling children won’t be properly socialized (which anyone who home schools know isn’t a conversation even worth engaging in any longer because the ‘proof is in the pudding’) we need to make the connection between how our young people learn to socialize with the opposite sex in public school versus home school.  Our personal experience showed us that today’s children, young children, are more aware and interested in sexual matters long before they have the proper maturity to actually deal with such issues.  They do not seem to be able to relate to each other as ‘people only’ for a very long period of time before sexual influence enters the relationship. 

Friends who public school their children tell me of the issues their children are experiencing.  One friend relayed to me how her 4th grade son was told by his male peers that they needed to get him a girlfriend so he could start having sex too.  It’s not that these children are actually engaging in the activity, of course, but that this perspective of girls is already being discussed is not only disturbing, but I personally believe this can be very damaging to the children and it can lead to the sort of problems and issues we know tweens and teenagers experience today.

Home schooling, for the most part, has freed us from these conflicts and issues.  The one or two issues we have had arise as a result of the boy/girl dynamic were so minor in comparison and were dealt with easily, quickly, and positively by all the parents involved!  My daughter is learning how to be social with boys as people first, not some foreign entity to be either frightened of or sexual with.  I know that the day will come when she will develop feelings for a boy that stretch beyond mere friendship.  That is a normal part of growing up.  Those types of feelings are supposed to begin around puberty when ‘awareness’ starts to set in for both sexes.  It can be, of course, an awkward time.  It is not that I believe she won’t experience this milestone as all young people do, but I believe that these years she has now of being ‘free’ of such awareness and pressure will have given her a better foundation for interacting and connecting with boys as they become young men as she becomes a young woman.  For our family this is an unforeseen, but most welcomed benefit of home schooling!

~Mari B.


  1. What a wonderful benefit! I hadn't even considered my girls interaction with boys as a benefit (my 4 yo's closest friend is a boy), though I had considered the benefits of children of different ages interacting with one another rather than being confined to their age brackets.
    I'm still considering homeschooling, my 4 yo is currently attending a small preschool. I've already been afraid of bullying scenarios because she has to wear an eye patch for the time being. I hadn't thought about the ways interactions with boys would come across to the other kids, and definitely not about anything sexual at such a young age. 1st grade?! I think I was in 4th or 5th before anyone really started talking about thing, but I was still so young and innocent I didn't understand it.
    And I'd say I'm still awkwardly socialized with men because of the way I was brought up and what I experienced in my youth.

  2. It is such a more advanced moving world we live in today than I was a child! I, too, don't remember the boy/girl stuff until about 5th grade and I wasn't interested either -- I was still playing with my baby dolls and Barbies!

  3. So true. My daughter had a boy best friend when she was little, they grew up together almost daily from babies through about age 6. Sadly, he went off to public school full-time very early on, or daycare as I like to call it when they are only 2 years old...anyway, over time her perception of him did not change but his did because of things he was learning at school so finally by age 6 he didn't want to be her friend any more because she was a girl. Hmph.

  4. Great point! In my experience with public school, I encountered the same thing. I just mentioned in my most recent blog post that in sixth grade I knew people that we're doing drugs and experimenting sexually!


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