My youngest and I came to some conclusions last night.
For bedtime reading, we're finishing up the American Girl Julie series, the girl from 1974. I'll put aside my angst at having my own childhood period set up as an historical era for my children to read about. In this last book, Julie has a deaf friend who is being cruelly teased by some girls in school. Eastin's having a hard time reading this, because it hurts her how mean the girls are.
And she's relating it a lot to her year in public school last year. How mean kids can be. How everyone blows their top about something or other. How "everyone has something wrong with them" -- everyone has their own faults and frailties. Yet kids are still so mean to each other. She finds it very distressing.
Kids don't act that way in small groups, it seems. We talked about how, for some reason, school seems brings out that behavior. Being grouped en masse with a random set of children who happen to have been born within a year of your birthday. Starting from the tender age of 5 or 6, when kids are . . well . . immature. Selfish. Socially inept and inexperienced. Who expects otherwise from a 5-year-old? Thrown into a pool of piranhas to sink or swim, find an identity, fill a rank in the social order, or get swallowed alive. By the end of Leslie's first grade year in public school, I was very conscience of the social experiment we had been performing with her -- very conscience of it and very uncomfortable with it.
During our homeschooling years, I was very careful about my girls' social interactions. I paid attention to the kind of influence my kids were having on others, and they on my kids. I didn't keep them away from "bad influences", but limited their amount of exposure and always was present to mediate. We talked about these kids and what might be happening in their hearts and minds and lives to make them want to act that way. We prayed for them. We tried to train our girls to be salt and light.
Like so many parents, I would have done the same thing if they'd been in public school, too. I just couldn't have done it as effectively.
I've often heard it given as an objection to homeschooling that homeschooled students don't learn how to deal socially with kids who are different than they are. I find that argument very amusing. As if public school kids are so much more advanced in these skills.
Eastin's conclusion last night: "I like homeschooling better." My conclusion: ditto.