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    • Messy moments? Oh there are so very, very many. First, the actual physical mess. Papers and books and forts, oh my! I need to interview a panel of minimalist homeschoolers because we are definitely not when it comes to school supplies.

      Plus, the kids are constantly at home and my attention is divided between them so if I don't have a plan for the toddler when I'm immersed in pre-algebra, I may discover a scene like this when the math timer beeps. Someone had been "making it snow" with the flour bin in the garage.

    • The messy moments I was referring to, though, were more along the lines of personality conflict, power struggles, and strong emotions.

      If you ever experience pushback when asking your kids to do their chores and despair that they will ever learn to just do what needs to be done, imagine the feeling of their entire education resting on them doing what you ask them to do. I have one child who is extremely strong-willed and unless she is "bought in," she won't do an assignment. (She gets this from her father. ;) )

      Some days it feels like I'm trying to spin plates while everyone does their schoolwork. I'll start one plate spinning but as soon as I reach over for another plate, the first plate has a meltdown over Latin or has started bugging her brother.

      Even just among the three kids I'm homeschooling so far, we have some awfully strong personalities represented and it turns out that being family and loving each other doesn't make getting along easy.

      Most days I feel like we're learning a little about historical events and dividing fractions and a lot about patience, diligence, forgiveness and human nature. And I'm of course not talking just about my children. When I'm the single biggest influence on their lives, they'll pick up on my impatience, my distraction and my laziness and model that back for me. Homeschooling is a refiner's fire in many ways. It magnifies relationship issues, but it also provides a path for strengthening those relationships through shared work and play.

    • What do your neighbors think of your homeschooling?  Is it more difficult for your kids to make friends? To get involved in team sports or after school activities?

      If you ask most homeschoolers about socialization, they'll either laugh or get huffy. The general consensus is that it is *not* a problem based on the following:

      1) Only associating with children your own age all day is not real socialization. With only 20 minutes of recess at some schools, this is far from a perfect avenue for learning to work and play well with others.

      2) Homeschoolers are often out in the community taking classes, at a a co-op, or playing with other kids at the park. They interact with people of a range of ages in a variety of settings.

      3) There are plenty of kids at school who are awkward as well, so obviously even traditional school doesn't automatically yield a well-adjusted populace.

    • My experience with socialization has been a bit different. I think traditional schooling provides a few key things that are more difficult to come by for homeschoolers.

      Let me say first, though, that I am glad that my kids' model for healthy interactions is primarily their parents. We try to be calm, clear and kind in our interactions with others and I'm glad our kids have that as a baseline (rather than the example of their peers).

      Also, my first two kids are wildly different in terms of social interactions and they are the product of the same schooling. So there's a major component of nature here as well.

      Three things homeschoolers may need to work harder for?

      1) Opportunities to take direction from other adults. My strong-willed child and I have an understanding and rarely have power struggles anymore because I know how to avoid them. However, I actively seek opportunities for her to respond to other adults so she can practice handling what she views as unreasonable requests/demands. They're a part of life, after all. Likewise, not every adult is fascinated by what my 6 year old has to say. Lots of adults would just like him to sit still and listen, and he needs to learn that as well.

      2) The critical eye of peers. Bullying is no good, but homeschoolers tend to be extra polite and accommodating so some negative behaviors needlessly persist. Sometimes having a peer "check" an inappropriate behavior is far more effective than a parent's efforts. One kid your age telling you your breath smells might be all it takes to start paying attention. My daughter has a blunt friend (not homeschooled) who will matter-of-factly tell her when she's being too loud or overwhelming. It's awesome.

      3) Cultural competence. This was really lacking in the homeschooled kids I knew growing up, and I know my kids will struggle in this area as well. We don't watch tv and they spend most of their time with their family so they are mostly clueless about the latest toys, music, movies, etc. This is obviously by choice to a large degree, but I recognize it can make making friends a little trickier at least during later elementary school and junior high.