I worry about my children’s socialization.

Not in the way you might expect.  When we first started homeschooling this was often the response we would get – what about socialization?  Aren’t your kids going to be isolated and socially stunted?  The short answer to that question is no, our children aren’t socially stunted.  They interact quite well with other children their own age.  And kids much younger than themselves.  And kids older than themselves.  And adults.  But there is one aspect of traditional schooling models that our homeschooling experience hasn’t been able to duplicate.  That aspect is learning about jerks.

My son loves to play a computer game called Clash of Clans.  He plays it with his siblings, he plays it with his cousin who lives out of state.  His cousin is the clan leader and our son is a co-leader.  Together they lead wars against other clans, assembling other members to bolster their clan’s strength and capabilities.  It’s a fantastic experience.  But the other day my son watched in horror as a newer member to the clan revealed his true colors.  This new member had asked for a promotion to co-leader and appeared to be a powerful player that would really strengthen the clan.  Trusting this person’s word, my son promoted him to co-leader.  Whereupon this person began kicking out all the lower-ranked clan members, decimating the clan from the inside out before resigning his membership with a lovely expletive.  Because of the nature of co-leadership, my son couldn’t stop this guy from wrecking the clan.  And my son had to deal with the knowledge that it was his decision to promote this guy in good faith that had destroyed the clan.

We constantly reinforce the idea of online safety.  Our kids don’t participate in chat features in the games they play, we caution them not to give out personal information and all that other very important stuff.  But there is also the need to explain human nature, and the idea that just because somebody doesn’t know who you are or how to find you, doesn’t mean that they still can’t hurt you by appearing to be something or someone they aren’t.

It’s a shame to have to have that sort of discussion with your child.  Not everyone is what they seem.  Sometimes trusting is not the best option.  Those are lessons that come naturally (and painfully) in a classroom and playground setting, but seem to be elusive in our home schooling community.  Our kids are genuinely puzzled by the one or two kids who are rude or unfriendly.  They have an intrinsic desire to befriend and make others feel welcomed and find it odd when others aren’t able or willing to reciprocate.

I guess it’s good that I have to educate them in this particular subject intentionally.  It’s a shame that it’s necessary but it is, particularly in our wired and interconnected world.  Socialization is a whole lot trickier than it used to be.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to help craft that for my kids.

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