I was having a discussion this evening with a neighbor whom I also consider a friend. We have known each other 3+ years and her youngest is the same age as my oldest. We both love that our neighborhood contains oodles of children who hang out together and rove from house to house by two and threes or in a big pack. There are eleven kids between the ages of four and eleven in our cul-de-sac.
So, this neighbor and I were talking about school work – her kid’s and my kids’. The conversation turned to an acquaintance whose child just started kindergarten at the local public school. The teacher called the child’s mother the first week of school to let her know that the teacher believed the child already knew everything that would be covered that year in Kindergarten. The mother was glad of the phone call and asked what the next step would be. The teacher didn’t know, but assured the family that they would be involved at every step of the process. They were involved, although they had to push to get things moving past that one phone call. After over a month of testing and meetings, the school admitted that this five-year old wouldn’t get much academically out of first grade. He was beyond that level. The school would not even consider putting him into second grade. The parents of this advanced child have decided to pull him from the school at mid-term and homeschool him so that he can work at his own level in each subject.
My neighbor/friend asked in a somewhat offended tone, “So homeschooling is the only option?”
I was taken aback by the tone and the question and responded that it wasn’t the only option, but it was the one the family had chosen. Being able to personalize curriculum to your child’s level seems like a great option to me. It was my friend’s next comment that truly floored me.
“Well, that child will definitely have social issues.”
I queried her as to what she meant. I thought, “Surely, she isn’t worried about socialization?!?”
Indeed, she firmly insisted that the child will now be removed from his peers and “isolated” at home. His ability to fit into a group, deal with other people, and have friends would be in jeopardy. She pointed out that there would be a social stigma on this child and that every child needs the interaction that schools provide in order to get them “ready for college [socially].”
I was shocked. Not by the sentiment, of course. I have run across this idea from relatives, former co-workers, friends, and strangers. But, this neighbor had always seemed to accept (our) homeschooling as a positive option and I had never heard her express a negative opinion about it. Did she think that my children would be socially inept if I continued to homeschool them all the way through high school? The same children she sees almost daily interact happily with all the other kids on our block? I was amazed.
Coincidentally, I am currently reading a book called “The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling” by Rachel Gathercole. I’m not far enough into the book to see if it would address my friend’s concerns.
In the meantime, what are other options for really-far-advanced Kindergartners in a small town? Heck, what are other options in a big city? Would a private school have more options for this family? What would you do with a five-year old who was reading at a third grade level already?