It is true that one of the biggest questions we get as a family who lives without school, is what about socialization? For the people who ask me that question I wonder if they have given any thought to the sort of socialization that happens within the walls of a school. First off, people are divided into groups based on their age alone. They are then required to spend 6-8 hours in close proximity, performing tasks they have no control over, for five days a week, for the vast majority of year. I know there is time in our history as a human race when this model was setting folks up for the sort of life that would see them working in a factory for years on end. But we don’t live in that time any longer and I am hard pressed to find a reason as to why my children need to have the sort of skill set that comes from having to survive under these conditions. I think what people are asking is how will your children learn to get along with others, function in the world, maintain friendships and in general be a contributing member to society. And the simple answer to that is because a life without school affords them to do those very things right from the get go.
A more detailed breakdown of that looks like this. Because we are living a life without school we have had a freedom to travel on a schedule that doesn’t have to conform to anything other than our needs. As well, we have sought out relationships with others based on mutual interests and in the majority of the cases because they too are living a life with out school. This means that my boys have friendships spread out across two countries, varied in age, mixed in gender and based on mutual interests or the sort of connection that comes when you find those kindred spirits in the world. Which is evidence that my children are quite versed at making and maintaining friendships. In fact, they are super skilled at maintaining friendships because they have to go out of their way to do so. They do not have everyday in person access to their friends. They often have to sit in a car and drive for hours on end to show up for their friends. They have to go long periods of time without seeing their friends. And still they choose to remain connected to one another, to support one another and to show up for one another.
Recently, a friend of ours, was looking for a seat mate at an upcoming play. We are way to far to actually show up. However, my oldest son, who has always had a strong connection with this friend couldn’t help but respond. In a way that showed he cares. So here’s a look at this two sharing a laugh across the distance.
Another of the strong reasons we live in community is because we get the chance to truly enter into other people’s lives and see how they live. When I was growing up I really thought that everyone lived the same way as I did. I remember having my mind blown in college as I met and visited friends and saw there was a different way of running a household. It sounds silly, as I write it out but it was a truth that I remember blowing my mind when I first moved out of the house as a young adult. When we travel we quite often stay with our friends. Or at least jump right into the middle of their lives, spending countless hours in each others space and getting a real sense of how others live. My boys can tell you which states have the best water and who has the coolest system for filtering it. They know that their friends houses have different smells (in a GOOD way) and can be heard say “hey this smells like Noah’s house.” They have the chance to see that coupled adults have different ways of sharing household tasks and the list goes on and on. Basically, they are coming away from all of this with a sense that being in the world doesn’t look the same for each person but in fact is tailored to meet the needs of the individuals sharing the space. We with out fail come home from each road trip with something to add to our own home based on what we learned from our friends.
I touched on this a bit above however to expand, we live in community so we all have the chance to make friendships with people of all ages. It gives me great peace of mind to know there are other adults in the world who have a genuine interest in my children’s well being. And I don’t mean in the way that happens a lot in the mainstream world where adults will report back to me if my child misbehaves. I mean that my child has other confidants in the world who have taken the time to know their hears and as a result want to support them in the world. Even if it mean keeping a few things to themselves because my child has turned to them instead of me for some advice, as much as I want to be everything for my children the truth of the matter is no one person can be everything for another. So instead I build that village around my children for the chance for them to find all that they need. Plus I get so have some of my favorite relationships with the young people that my children are befriending. Which adds countless gifts to my own life.
Because my children have deep and connected friendships they also choose regularly to contribute to the well being of their friends. To drive for miles and miles to see them perform on stage, to pick up the Skype call after a heated moment to work through the conflict, to listen when they are frustrated and to walk away when space is needed. Since we are living outside of school there is space for time to pass between relationships when stages and interests don’t align so that the friendships can stay in tact for a time when coming back to one another makes sense. From this my boys have also developed a keen sense of what they are looking for in relationships. Which is the sort of socialization I would want for them. They are not going to stick around if someone is being abusive. They are not going to be talked down to. They are not going to agree to be in a relationship that is not respectful of both parties. They know this now at the age of 11 and 13, me 43, still struggling to work this out sometimes.
So it is true that my children are not receiving an education in socialization as set up by a system built to turn out factory workers. They are getting right in to the nitty gritty of living in the uncertain world of endless opportunities alongside the folks they have gathered to witness and support them to the best of their ability. Which is why we choose to live in community.