"You're homeschooling? Do you ever let Johnny out of the closet? Does Jane have any friends? What about socialization?"
Wanna peek at homeschool socialization? The real inside story...
My teens and I (plus an honorary-Anderson-for-the-week) traveled to an out of state debate tournament. During the flight, the young people traded evidence and expertise, testing each other's reasoning, even though they knew they would likely face off against each other sometime during the tournament.
We roomed, not in a scantily-chaperoned hotel, but in the homes of perfect (and I do mean perfect) strangers from the San Diego homeschool community. But we quickly grew to be perfect friends. Our hosts were an extended family of grown-up homeschoolers, siblings and their spouses, whose infants were too young to benefit (except for the cuddles and dances with my debaters) from hosting a bunch of teenagers.
Though they live scattered across the city, the clan C still function like an old-fashioned family. Two generations now work together, re-investing in the community that launched these young parents. They find themselves gathering at Mom and Dad's place to cheer their favorite football teams or to plot their next service project. The whole family turned up to help with judging the tournament.
We girls stayed with Emily and Andy in their freshly remodeled bungalow carved into a suburban hillside with a glittering view across a morning-side valley. Emily is a vivacious young mother, designing House-Beautiful kitchen make-overs and women's Bible studies with equal aplomb. Andy is a wickedly funny gentleman, who rose early every morning to escort us safely down his vertiginous driveway, and stayed up late to shuttle our boys to their digs across town so that the girls could get a little extra rest.
They showed us land-locked mountain-dwellers the near-by beaches where we could explore sea caves and laugh at the lolling seals, or simply dream over the rainbow crowned surf exploding over the cliffs at our feet. Emily kept tucking extra treats into the debaters' lunches, and Andy initiated us into the mysteries of their gourmet coffee maker so that we could have brewed-to-taste coffee no matter what time it was.
The boys reported similar hospitality tucked into David and Joli's condo hidden among the rhodedendrons. David, armed with board games to dispel the boys' pre-tournament jitters, was chagrined to find our guys already sleeping the sleep of the just, shirts ironed for morning efficiency and showers done. Joli, not a morning person, was nevertheless found in the dark of the morning turning out creamy-crisp french toast from her belgian waffle iron.
The tournament itself was a hubbub of two hundred-plus homeschool students from all over the country. There were squeals of delight as old friends collided into orbital hugs. And online acquaintances lit up as they recognized digital sparring partners, "So it's you - in the flesh! I thought you'd be taller."
Unlike the fully-socialized debate squad of my public high school youth, these teams met between rounds to encourage, to strategize and to fortify each other with throat lozenges and Jamba Juice. That done, they could be found hunched over tables with teams from other states, discussing theology, current events and how to take over the world, while swilling coffee. For stress relief, they teach each other their newest swing steps or how to play Whist like Jane Austin. And whenever a piano can be found, someone will sit down to improvise some hot jazz or to gather the singers of Broadway hits and classic hymns.
When the eliminations are announced, winners turn to thank losers for helping them to hone their skills and solicit their losing teammates' advice about their upcoming finals rounds. Losers graciously congratulate winners and race to find the brief that will trounce the case their teammate will face. Sure, there are the abusive louts who think they made it to the top on their own, and who don't care who they crushed to get there. But those are the exception rather than the rule. And nobody is fooled when those debaters ostentatiously ask their opponents to pray with them before the round - as long as the judge sees it.
After the trophies were handed around, everybody went out to celebrate over a communal meal at a quickly-overcrowed local restaurant. Alumni of the program, returning as judges and administrators, congregated in one section, reminiscing and trading recommendations about life after homeschool. They were planning their next cultural initiative, coordinating across state borders and denominational lines. It may qualify as a conspiracy.