Take me, for example.
You know how, in every school, there's at least one kid who is a complete outcast, whom all the others tease? That was me. I'm not playing for sympathy here, just saying it like it is. In elementary school, I got hit, tripped, spit on, called names, excluded. How much do you think that taught me about interacting with other people? Even to the extent most people mean socialization, I missed out on it. As I moved to other schools in other parts of the country later, which seemed a jubilant second chance to me, I still was unpopular. It wasn't as bad as before--I was an outsider, not the one everyone had picked on since they were 6 or 7. I just didn't fit in. I had a couple friends, but I didn't really know how to stay in touch when I moved again, or what friends did together, or how to evaluate how good a friendship was.
Looking back, the fact that I didn't get involved with drugs or sex is purely by the grace of God. I would not have been able to defend myself or known that I should. I don't think I was ever even taught that sex outside of marriage was wrong. I did not grow up in a Christian home (not a bad home, not bad parents, but not Christian).
I moved after my freshman year of high school, and after my sophomore year went to a specialized school for math and science. My husband still finds it funny I ended up there, because I ended up majoring in English, which is a much better fit for me--but it was the school for smart kids, and that did make a big difference. My oldest current friendships are with those who went to the Academy--not all even at the same time. It was my first taste of belonging to a community, and it was where I started getting some socialization--through chess, of all things. It was where I learned I was a geek--and that was freeing. At least one problem I once had--acting violent/angry--completely disappeared. And most importantly, it was where I met my husband.
I'm still a geek. I still lack many social skills other people take for granted. I still have a hard time beginning and maintaining friendships. I will never be normal. I think people instinctively dislike me. Some of this may be appearance, or mannerisms, and some may be my flawed perceptions. I will never be normal, I'm pretty sure. I remember learning in my first high school that the number one thing kids my age feared was not being liked by peers, and I almost laughed out loud.
I am not looking to change my past, which helped make me the way I am. But I can't help but think that I might be different if I had a different school experience. And there is no way I will send my daughter to that sort of environment. Much of my problem may be genetic; my parents don't have a lot of friends, and my husband was never really popular either. He ignored or doesn't remember it. He also had one of those weird school experiences where he was moved up and then held back for social reasons... At any rate, it seems like Firstborn is more likely than most to end up in the position I experienced. And the alternative--that she would be the one making fun of someone else, or that she would just live in a culture where exclusion, mockery and abuse were okay between children--how could I condone that? I know that some parents want their kids to be a light in their schools. In high school, maybe, for a particularly mature teen, but I don't think elementary school kids are ready for that. I certainly don't remember any kids out of the hundreds at my elementary school being a light, and it seems to me that telling a five year old to be like Jesus and throwing them in a public school environment is like telling her to make good nutritional choices and sending her to a candy store every day.
Socialization is one of the main reasons I plan to home-school my daughter.