When you mention that you're planning to homeschool, often, the first response you get is "But what about socialization?" That's an interesting response to me for many reasons. Why isn't it the actual educational experience that's first and foremost in someone's mind? Is socialization that much more important that what is learned? Or would it just be more rude to essentially be asking someone if they were smart enough to homeschool rather than social enough?
Some homeschoolers get pretty offended by this question. I tend to think of it as more a knee-jerk, don't-know-what-else-to-say kind of a response. Asking questions back is one of the best ways I've found to deal with it. What about socialization? "Umm, well, you know, being around other kids their own age..." is a common response.
If I look at our circle of friends, I find something completely different than what I learned in school. We have friends of all ages- some much older than us, some much younger, some roughly the same age. For many of them, I don't know their actual age because it just doesn't matter. We enjoy their company and derive something from the relationship. It has nothing to do with age. I think about how boring life would be if we had only friends that were at the same stage of life as we are and how much of the wisdom of those older than us we would've lost.
So what brings all this up? On Tuesdays, M (don't want to post real name since she isn't my child!) comes over to take care of Dillon while I work at home. Her younger brother and sister come in with her at least while she's being dropped off. Sometimes her sister who is a year older than Dillon stays, sometimes not. Her brother T loves to come in and build forts for Dillon out of the couch cushions simply because Dillon thinks it's the coolest thing in the world. Yesterday morning, their mom called with a request from T to stay the whole time M was here. He had some fort ideas he wanted to show Dillon. Fine by me. When we got off the phone, I told Dillon. Her reponse was "I will probably play with him the MOST!!!" She was so excited that he was staying.
So, what's so cool about this? T is almost 7. It didn't occur to him as anything other than perfectly acceptable to play with a little girl 3 years younger than him. They have shared interests- trains, dragons, forts, so why not? I heard tons of laughing while they were here and by Dillon's account, she had a ball. Her only complaint was that he ate all the strawberries that she'd had to talk me into buying the day before.
Recently, we were with some other friends and I heard Dillon and another little girl D laughing. D' mom commented that D really liked Dillon. Really, how could you not? :) But, Dillon's always been really good with kids younger than her and they do tend to just love her.
I want for Dillon and baby sister Jab to know how to make friends of all ages. I think it's wonderful. There's so much to be gained from not limiting yourself to one age group. I see it all the time.