Socialization: Debunking the Myth

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Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Child Socialization and World Travel

Parents considering long-term family travel, as well as those already world schooling, face the following question.

Will my child, educated outside my home culture, have sufficient opportunity for socialization?

In this post we will consider what socialization is and debunk many of the assumptions behind it.

The purpose of this post is to start a discussion. After you read this article, I am hoping you will weigh-in with your thoughts.

This post is only part of the discussion. Make sure to read another perspective on socialization written by my friend, Nancy, over at Family on Bikes. Nancy has been a public school teacher for 21 years and has authored five books. While her twin sons were babies, she and her husband raised them while teaching in places like Ethiopia, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Seven years ago, she and her family took an amazing bike tour from Alaska to Argentina.

Nancy believes that world travel is beneficial for a time. After a year or so, however, she thinks parents need to consider staying put for the sake of socialization. She believes that full-time, long-term travel may prevent kids from developing deep relationships with other kids their own age.

Brent and I disagree with the commonly held assumption that children need to spend extended time with peers in order to fully develop. Rather, we believe that socialization is the natural outcome of healthy family life. By contrast, an unnatural form of socialization occurs in the traditional classroom setting.

Brent and I believe that family travel provides every opportunity for a child to be prepared for adulthood without ever stepping foot into a classroom. In our home, we often say, “We are not raising children, we are raising adults.” As parents, we must be ever mindful of that.

As a result of some of our private chatting, Nancy and I have decided to go public with this discussion on socialization. We invite you to read this article and leave your comments here. Then, go over and read Nancy’s perspective.

Socialization; Debunking the Myth

Definition of Socialization

Merriam Webster’s Medical Dictionary provides the following definition of socialization.

The process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.

Every parent wants to have an emotionally well-adjusted child that is able to interact socially. What parent wants to knowingly raise a socially backward child that is uncomfortable interacting with others? For parents raising children overseas, the fear is often compounded by the unknown.

To allay these fears, parents may turn to traditional schooling (boarding, public or private) where the educational opportunities will presumably allow “normal” socialization.

In this article, we will also demonstrate that travel outside of a family’s home culture can provide and broaden authentic socialization opportunities in a non-classroom setting.

A Brief History of Socialization

Most Americans of this past century have been the subjects of a massive, largely unquestioned social experiment: compulsory government-subsidized education. At its inception, efficiency was one of the great values. The one-room schoolhouse, with multiple ages and development levels interacting, was seen as hopelessly inefficient.

Spearheading the streamlining effort were great industrialists like Henry Ford (whose view of education could best be summarized by his own words: “History is bunk”). Independently-thinking, creative or artistic students would not function best on the Model T assembly line. Branded with grade levels, the masses could be herded through the system and fit into the gleaming vision of a mechanized society.

Around this same time, William Torrey Harris, US Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906, expressed the vision of socialization in his Philosophy of Education (1889)

Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.

From its outset, the vision of American public education (and due to its influence, classroom education worldwide) is not to develop the individual student socially but to “subsume” him into society.

Over a century of this vision has played across the educational landscape. As a result, two great assumptions have become a part of American educational life.

Great Assumption 1: Socialization occurs best among age-similar peers.

Other than the classroom, where else in the universe do people stay strictly age-segregated?

Three generations of public educated Americans have been primarily socialized among peers. Even after graduation, we age-segregated Americans have a penchant for generational label-making: boomers, busters, gen-x, and so forth.

US culture is stifling inter-generational interaction. Where are the grandmothers who are content to pass down heirloom recipes and traditions? Where are the young men who look to grandfathers to teach them a trade? Industrialization has wiped out the vital role senior adults once had in the US culture.

When we remove the family as the primary hub of socialization and instead cram children or teens into a classroom setting, the overwhelming influence becomes age-similar peers. The child in that setting will often have a void in knowing how to interact with those outside his age-range. How many eighth grade boys do you know that can change a diaper? How many are comfortable sitting and listening to the instruction of an 85 year-old elder? This “generation gap”, formerly considered a blight on society, is unquestionably accepted.

Family-based socialization

The family predates the machinery of Ford and Harris by millennia. In a pre-industrial age, education took place naturally at the table and workbench. Father, mother and siblings worked, learned and grew together. The values of thrift, honesty and hospitality were learned at the family table.

For world-schoolers, the family table is still the hub of socialization whether that means eating street food under palm fronds, tossing a blanket down on the white Caribbean sands or picnicking at a zoo in Mexico. The immature school cafeteria banter between provincial peers, is eclipsed by the enduring interactions at the table of a traveling family.

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Our family enjoying a picnic around the ”family table” at the Guadalajara Zoo.

Infant socialization begins in the womb as mother talks to baby. After birth, baby learns to trust at his mother’s breast. As mother and child spend hours nursing together, authentic socialization happens. Baby emerges a confident, nurtured and trusting person. He learns that his needs will be met. He senses that he is valued and cherished. That lifelong lesson accompanies him into adulthood.

I realize that not all mothers choose to breastfeed for many reasons. Those of you who do, however, will find an even greater acceptance and normalcy in nursing while you travel through developing countries. I love how women in southeast Asia and Latin American just nurse wherever and whenever.

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Breastfeeding is the start of socialization.

Socialization and Siblings Building on the foundation of secure infancy, lifelong friendships start at home. This is one of the unfortunate losses of age-graded education. When children spend most of their day with peers, they often lose the ability to spend time with younger siblings.

It is a priceless treasure to raise siblings who will be genuine friends for life. When there are siblings, socialization has portability. That is, socialization happens in our backyard, whether that backyard is a Mexican beach on the Pacific or the playground of a busy Manila suburb. I love how world travel has allowed our children to deepen the relationships they have with their siblings.

Side Note on Size Our own family has nine children, five biologically and four by adoption. We are thankful that our children have multi-age peers wherever we travel. We joke that our family has built-in birthday guests. We believe that children in large-sized families have an advantage in being able to interact with multiple age ranges.

That said, even one other sibling provides a significant base for “portable” socialization. Expatriate parents with only one child may need to be more intentional to provide opportunities for their child to learn certain values (e.g. sharing, resolving conflict, etc.).

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Siblings playing together in the backyard–Manzanillo, Mexico.

Bridging the “Generation Gap” Age-segregated, classroom-based socialization is no match for the opportunities found in full-time, long-term, world travel. I will never forget watching my pre-pubescent daughter learning fiber arts in a roomful of international ladies at least 50 years her senior. The discussion turned to menopause. Over their looms, the ladies laughed and chatted. As our daughter learned to weave, she listened to ladies from diverse backgrounds talk openly and comfortably about their bodies in the most humorous and natural way.

Would you rather your daughter have her first gleaning of female sex education in the open context of mothers and grandmothers? Or, would you choose the plastic environment of an eighth grade classroom (or worse yet, a fifth grade playground) where young girls taunt and teach what they think they know?

Socialization; Debunking the Myth

Ladies discussing the cycle of womanhood over fiber arts.

Where Did the Family Go?

Industrialization and its handmaiden, compulsory education, efficiently removed the functions of income generation and education from the home. Age-segregated groups appeared in all parts of American society. Peer-to-peer groups like sports teams, clubs and church groups often tear away at the fiber of family, vying for attention. Is it any wonder that family dysfunction in the 20th century should increase when socialization was placed in the hands of professionals?

Although Nancy values world travel, she believes that long-term world travelers need to seriously reconsider socialization. I believe that parents sending their children to traditional classrooms need to seriously consider the outcome of their children “acquiring the habits” or “accumulating the knowledge of society” through age-similar peers. Even homeschooled families can fall prey to the myth of socialization by constantly hunting out peer-based groups.

Traditional schooling worldwide has children spending the vast majority of their childhood (and the best hours of their days) not only sequestered in a classroom but also shaped by their peers. Yahoo news recently ran an article on the humorous way an eleven year-old boyfriend / girlfriend ”couple” broke up through texting. The innocence of childhood is lost when the child’s focus becomes peer-focused. Early on, children become accustomed to the breaking up-making up cycle. This apparently, we are told, is the ”process of friendship.”

Great Assumption 2: Socialization best occurs in the parents’ home culture.

A fish is the last creature you want to ask about water. The average Britisher watching BBC probably has a better grasp on US partisan politics than the average American CNN viewer. The reason? The words “too close to the situation” come to mind. In other words, the Frenchman knows not Paris until he lives in London.

Travel, the Fulcrum of Culture  Archimedes asserted that he could move the world with a lever of adequate length. Likewise, as parents, we give our children that Archimedean point when we provide cultural distance and diversity. While they may not share the narrower perspective of their home bound peers, the wisest of those peers will ask them for their more globally informed opinion.

We all have blind spots, conditioned by our socio-economic, ethnic and linguistic background. Traveling with our children—and seizing the cross-cultural learning opportunities–opens horizons that a mono-cultural, peer-conditioned child could not begin to grasp. These opportunities include the ability to interact with people from other cultures or socioeconomic backgrounds.

On our last visit to the US, we met several Americans who had nothing but grim pictures of Mexico to offer us. In their eyes, we were unfit parents to bring our children into Mexico. Of course, they had never been to Mexico. Our traveling children were able to see through the naive ethnocentricity of those statements.

Travel, the Family-building Tool  Every hour we spend as a traveling family– seeing new places, daring to go on adventures, struggling to leave our comfort zones, and tasting new foods—is an hour invested. We are not ticking off the hours for an educational bureaucrat or home school evaluator. Rather, the challenges we face in travel help forge relational bonds, bonds that exceed largely temporary, classroom-based socialization.

Test time
For those who feel most at home in the traditional classroom setting, here are a couple multiple- choice exam questions

1. Choose the child most likely to befriend the child of Japanese descent.
(a) the public schooled child that just finished a unit on World War II in the Pacific
(b) the world schooled child that both biked around Mount Fuji and visited the war memorial at Pearl Harbor.

2. Which child would be most likely to treat a Mexican immigrant with respect and fairness?
(a) the Texas 10th grader who watched NBC’s footage of Mexican border violence and recounted it among his peers at lunch hour?
(b) Or the Pennsylvania 15 year-old that learned to paint from 69 year-old Mexican master muralist living peacefully in the interior?

A Word from New York’s Public Schools

John Taylor Gatto taught in the New York City Public School system for thirty years. As a teacher of the year, he is eminently qualified to speak on the subject of education. For anyone contemplating sending their child to school in the interest of “socialization”, his books are a must read. The titles alone betray the heart behind this innovative educator.

The Underground History of American Education (2006), Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling (2010), and Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1991)

In a recent post on his blog, Gatto responded to a mother that was wanting to rekindle a desire to learn in her three traditionally schooled children. She bemoaned the fact that she had “trusted the system” to do so. Although Gatto is addressing the issue of “rekindling curiosity”, the answer is equally relevant to socialization.

Mr. Gatto, even in the context of a New York City Public school, used travel and exploration to motivate learning and growing. He states,

“How much more can a parent, unencumbered by the limitations of culture and location, seize the adventurous opportunities that arise for her child?”

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Jan’s experienced hands teach Hannah a skill that she will have for the rest of her life. There is value in the younger learning from the elder.

A Tapestry of Authentic Socialization Through World Travel

Authentic socialization is listening to those that are older and wiser. Jan is a friend we met in Mexico. She is in her seventies. She has devoted her life to the study of Alaskan tribal groups. Throughout life, she learned basketry and other woven arts.

After teaching adults in Mexico for many years, her skilled hands imparted that wisdom to our daughter. As our Hannah learned to weave a basket, Jan shared years of business experience as well, sparking thoughts of entrepreneurship in my eleven year old.

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

World renowned artist teaches Josiah painting while sharing his thoughts on the meaning of life.

Javier Zaragoza is in his late 60s and is a respected artist. His realist murals adorn walls throughout the area, including a massive mural chronicling the 450-year history of Chapala, Mexico. In his quiet art studio, he taught our son to paint.

While he teaches, Javier gives his philosophy on realistic art and how it reflects the created order. This man, for a season, gave up his dream to pursue the dollar. Now, in the winter of his life, he cautions our Josiah against doing the same. He tells him how fleeting money is and how priceless it is to follow your own dreams. He believes in Josiah; Javier teaches him to believe in himself. Two years later, Javier Zaragoza remains an important figure in Josiah’s upbringing.

Authentic socialization is befriending–even for an afternoon–young girls who eat only tortillas for breakfast and lunch. It’s helping them chase a chicken out of their home (a concrete shelter) and seeing the rain drip through the roof. It’s going through your small backpack hunting for some small gift to leave them. Although these girls may not become lifelong friends, the lessons they teach will be life-transforming.

Socialization; Debunking the Myth

Authentic socialization is befriending.

Authentic socialization is working, side-by-side Whether slinging concrete, running wiring, or hanging drywall, the twenty year-olds warmly welcomed the help and companionship of our fourteen year-old son. With his father beside him, he experienced the joy of sweat and of serving others. How can a classroom compete with that?

The Amish pictured here attend school through eighth grade. However, with their one-room schoolhouses and sibling interaction in large families, Amish youth are well accustomed to interaction among various ages.

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Authentic socialization is working and serving. World travel opens service opportunities.

Authentic socialization is communicating, even by long distance

Of course, many of us have relationships that last a few moments on a Sunday morning, a friend we know only through a mutual interest. We all long to have those lifelong friends. The ones that– as my grandmother reminded me–can only be counted on one hand. If you have a lifelong friend–one who keeps the door open in every season of life–you are indeed fortunate.

We all want that for our children. Many worry that children who travel with miss out on deeper friendships. Travel need not compete with lifelong friendships. E-mail, social media and Skype, all help maintain the open door of friendship across the miles.

This is a picture of our Hannah and her best friend Kaitlin. These girls have been friends as long as they can remember. They send each other little gifts, write often and enjoy those special moments when we get back to the US. Our Hadassah and Damaris are their little sisters; Hadassah has several handmade cards from Damaris. Our Jeremiah and Josiah were born just three weeks apart. Although they are young, they have already exchanged gifts, remember eating grapes in the backyard and anticipate playing on the miniature pony together.

Socialization: Debunking the Myth

Best friends across the miles

These are friendships that continue to be nurtured. As parents, we encourage them to lay good foundations for friendships that last into adulthood. Time and distance have a way of weeding out short-lived (or superficial) friendships.

Travel does not eliminate lasting friendships, it broadens them. Real friends stay friends through the physical separation.

Friends on the Go

Yes, there are soccer matches in Mexico and horseback riding and fishing in Belize with friends. Josiah has been traveling for the past two years with some fishing tackle he purchased in the US to give his buddy in Belize. Here and elsewhere, our children have opportunity to develop out-of-family peer relationships.

Those peer-to-peer opportunities are treasured; some go deeper while others will only be in what Nancy calls the ”honeymoon” stage. Is this not true even for us as adults?

In travel, I constantly meet new people. Some, like my friend Beverly whom I met in a campground a few years ago, remain close to this day. Others have eaten at our table, but I can’t remember their names. It’s all a part of the ebb and flow of life.

Social media is a valuable tool for keeping up with the happenings of friends back home. I love that my childhood best friend and I can stay so closely connected thanks to Facebook. Josiah and Hannah each have friends who keep up with them through e-mail.

“Education and Training for Adult Status”

The last four words of the definition disclose the critical focus of the discussion. Every parent, consciously or unconsciously, chooses the socializing vision of the industrialist or the family.

The Industrialist Vision was to socialize individuals into a particular society. Education in an age-segregated classroom would accomplish this most efficiently, passing on the habits and beliefs and accumulated knowledge of a society.

The Family Vision is to educate and trains the individual child for adulthood. Parents have the power to pass on the habits and beliefs that will enable his child to think and act like adults, without being overly peer-influenced.

Such a vision creates adults willing to take a stand for what is right, honorable and compassionate. We are raising adults. We want our children to be free to think, to create, to learn from multiple ethnicities, and cultures without being overly peer-influenced.

Considering world travel? Go for it. Authentic socialization through language learning, trying new foods, and learning from new cultures will set an amazing course for your child. Go as far as you can, as long as you can. The experiences your child will gain will be wide enough to embrace a world of diversity and yet deep enough to set a firm foundation for adulthood.

Don’ forget to hop over to Nancy’s post to read another perspective. While you are over there, check out her books.

We would love to hear from you. Please Leave Us a Comment. Is there something else I should have included? Let me know.

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Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion, parents of nine (including four children adopted with special needs), 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year and the National Geographic Travelers People's Choice Travelers of the Year. They love to laugh, to read and to explore as a family. The secret to their marital bliss is an early morning cup of freshly brewed coffee before the children awake.

33 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this and appreciate the depth and passion of your convictions. The truth of the matter is that children live with the consequences of their parents’ decisions, no matter what those may be. And we can only hope that we are making the decisions as a family unit that are best for each child. I am concerned about the many aspects of institutionalism and government presence that make the world a far different place than the one I experienced as a child. I think you articulated your thoughts and supported your position in a very comprehensive and respectful way. I’ve no doubt your family is benefiting from your commitment to their well-being.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      ”The truth of the matter is that children live with the consequences of their parents’ decisions, no matter what those may be.” A true and sobering thought.

      Thanks for weighing in on this. I appreciate your desire to make decisions that are best for each of your children.

  2. Very interesting and thought provoking article! I admire the closeness of your family. I think it’s wonderful that your children are growing up with so many worldly experiences, certainly memories they will cherish for a lifetime as they grow into adults. I like how travel is such a learning opportunity for your children. I imagine it’s much easier to understand something by hands on experience rather than primarily through reading books.

  3. Will says:

    Very interesting post! travel, family and friends are hugely important.

  4. As with anything there is unlikely to be one solution that works for everyone. Each person, child and parent are different and the parents have a responsibility to make the decisions they think are best, they’re in the best position to understand the childs needs and best interest.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      I absolutely agree that parents are in the best position to understand the child’s needs. Too often, that decision-making is relegated to ”professionals.”

  5. I totally agree with Toni above. However, to make the decision they think are the best for their child, I believe parents need to be fully informed about all the available options as well as the pros and cons of each decision.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Thank you. I fully agree. This post was not to knock those who choose a different lifestyle, but to share the reality of how worldschooling can look. We are often asked about socialization.

  6. I first read this post a few days ago, and just had to come back and comment today because it has really stayed with me. I just love the part especially about your daughter learning about menopause from the older women. You’re so right that having mixed age, inter-generational socialization is critical. As I have a tween-age girl I just have to agree that I am SO glad she’ll be getting other influences traveling with us full-time. Memorable, and thorough post!

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Thank you so much, Jen! Yeah, that discussion among the ladies had a profound impact on me just watching and listening in the background. The ladies likely do not even remember the moment, it was just such a natural conversation among many others. I am very happy for your daughter as well. There is a lot of beauty in inter-generational socialization.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Very thought provoking article. Because I’m not a parent myself I hadn’t considered alternative and deeply meaningful ways to socialize children. Lovely way to open a world and a mind.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Brent and I started thinking about these issues. It’s great to go in the parenting journey having thought through some of these topics.

  8. Claudia says:

    I don’t have children, but issues such as education and socialization are interesting to me regardless. I enjoyed reading your post – it looks like you put a lot of effort, time and research in it. Children are a work-in-progress and I think it is important to observe how they feel, behave etc when taking decisions. Sometimes parents take decisions that seem the best at one time and then regret them in the future. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt as only time will tell if the decisions were the right ones and one can only hope for the best.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      That’s true. The proof is in the pudding. We will have to see what our children say when they are adults. For now, they are begging for more family adventure.

  9. Great post. I personally think socialization can and cannot occure depending on the (mostly family related) circumstances of a child no matter if stayin put in one place or travelling the world. I have heard different stories from friends who traveled and move a lot when they grew up and most of them have only positive words for their experiences, so bottoms up and keep going 😉

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      That’s great to hear. I agree, family-life is a major, determining factor on how well children learn to socialize.

  10. Aileen says:

    This is a very insightful post, and it was a joy reading through it. I don’t have kids yet myself but I definitely like the ideas that you’ve mentioned here. True enough, at this point in time, I’d love to expose my future children to different influences — I’ll just have to wait and see if I can juggle traveling with kids when I do have a family 😉

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      I love that you are even thinking about it. Too many young singles focus so much on the present that they give thought at all about choosing spouses who will make great parents and how to raise children. Brent and I talked a lot about how we would raise our children before we married. Of course, some things change after you actually have kids, but the discussions in those pre-marriage/pre-parent days have been a compass in our parenting. Happy travels.

  11. Mia says:

    Very insightful post! This is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I don’t have children yet but when I tell my friends I’m going to take my children with me all over the world they roll their eyes. I think the experiences gained from traveling outweigh learing solely from a book. I can’t say I’d take my children out of school completely but I will make sure they are world travelers with incredible experiences under their tiny belts. Each family has to make their own decisions but I see nothing wrong with people choosing a differnt path as long as they’re happy!

  12. Jessica says:

    What a deep post! As a speech pathologist who works in an elementary school, I definitely feel children should be exposed to many different cultures and have many different experiences at a young age.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Thanks Jessica. Our youngest son has Down syndrome. It has been interesting to hear his language beginning. He is speaking in both English and Spanish and doing it appropriately.

  13. Meg Jerrard says:

    This is a really interesting topic – I had always wondered about this; having seen family’s who now travel full time and homeschool their kids on the road. I’ve always been of the mindset that travel will give a child a much more well rounded education than a classroom ever will, because you gain life experience and actually learn about what it takes to live in the world. I think these skills are more valuable. Though socialization is definitely a factor to consider, but I’m sure it varys depending on the child in question.

    I’m sure some children thrive in a full time travel situation, and if you’re raised in that kind of environment I would assume that’s the life you come to know. Socializing with locals, people you meet along the way, that’s where you gain your social skills from and learn how to interact with people. Your children are definitely very lucky that they have such a wonderful family and many siblings to interact with. I think it may be a different case if you were traveling full time with one child alone, but once again, I think it really does come down to circumstance and the individual child in question.

    Great post!

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      ¨that travel will give a child a much more well rounded education than a classroom ever will, because you gain life experience and actually learn about what it takes to live in the world.¨ We fully agree. When considering a classroom for the purpose of socialization, you have to ask yourself, how is this actually preparing my child? When else in the world do we stay segregated by age-groups?
      I love that you are thinking about these issues and do not even have children, yet. Creating a philosophy of education before you have a child is going to give your child a major advantage. Happy travels, Meg.

  14. Karen says:

    I think the traveling with our youngest 7dc has benefitted them socially, strengthening their confidence in making friends (not age-peer based). Like you mentioned, many of those friendships are short-term, but occasionally one of our kids makes a long-term friendship. Plus, they do have some friendships from way back before we started traveling in 2007, kept alive predominantly via Skype. Our kids have had tumultuous periods of working thru hurts/misunderstandings/forgiveness with some of those long-term friendships, so I think they do learn to work thru the seasons of friendship without skipping out necessarily. However, as morphing individuals it may be healthy for us to let some friendships go. When to work it, when to let go…tis a good question.

    I also percieve that us moms-of-many see socialization outside of our family as less important because we have built-in vast range of personalities. I would image your family maybe even more so, Stacey, with having many that are adopted. Although, I am shocked that with only 2 DNA-inputters :) our 9 are very different from one another, and if some of them weren’t born at home I would have thought there was a mix-up at the hospital!! Where did that one come from???

    I agree with Nancy’s (Family on Bikes) encouragement for us traveling parents to be aware that some of our children might be having an issue at some point learning how to deepen and work thru friendships. But again, as a mom with many, I see certain siblings under our own roof who might otherwise never be their siblings friend by choice. So right in front of them they have major relational issues to work thru, with no running away from it. For harmony in the family they must learn tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, mediation, etc. If you just think of the dynamics of 11 people having unique relationships with the other 10 individuals in their family….mind-boggling how many inter-relationships there are! Intensify that when we live in proportionally smaller spaces often than smaller families.

    And lastly (sorry for the book) its easy for people to say “Do what’s best for your family!’ which is far easier to figure out when you only have 1 or 2 kids. Jeesh, if I had just 2 kids and there seemed to be an issue re: traveling, then of course we would reconsider doing what we thought was best for them. But coming up with a working solution for 6 or 9 or more? Staying might be best for 4 of them, going back might appear best for 3….does majority win?

    Ok, I lied…one more point.

    Healthy relationships, in my books, is benefitted by slower travel. Sure there’s excitement in quick travel, but from my perspective too much energy is required for organizing and the execution of it in the long haul.

    You and Nancy both wrote great articles.

    • Stacey-jean Inion says:

      Karen, Wow. I really appreciate your well thought-out response. I had to laugh about how two parents can create such a variety in personality. I very much agree with you when you said, ¨moms-of-many see socialization outside of our family as less important because we have built-in vast range of personalities.¨ That is true and it’s a major advantage that larger-sized families have.

      You bring up a great point about how families with one or two kids have an easier time deciding what’s best for each child. This is where having a philosophy of education comes in handy. We have already decided that raising children who will be indoctrinated with public school ideology and setting up our children to be another cog in the wheel is not our goal as parents. That decision changes the playing field. It is great to see children thrive. I love the freedom your children have to explore, create and develop at their own pace. Thanks Karen.

  15. I believe that each family will have to find its own way, depending on the children. Either way though, being world-schooled I think will create more well rounded human beings and people that are more compassionate towards others.

  16. Laura Lynch says:

    We do live with the choices our parents made for us, no matter what it is, but hopefully even if it was socially stifling, we come out the better for it in the end. I appreciate the discussion about age-specific socialization. I do think we limit to age groups a little too much. After high school age, it doesn’t matter as much and sometimes we fall a pattern of thinking we can’t relate or get along with those older or younger than ourselves, which is completely untrue.

  17. A large world, no matter how small the surroundings. You seem to be sharing that with your family. This is awesome.

  18. Thanks for a great discussion! This topic is so very important, and one that is of great concern to most families. Kids are all unique, as are families. We need to be willing to consider them all.

  19. Jeanne says:

    What a thoughtful post & one close to my heart. We’ve been a non-stop traveling family for over a decade now so I have thought & experienced much on this topic. Unlike you or Nancy, we have an “only” who was born when I was 48 and she is a very social girl. I think HOW you travel, the number of children you have & deeply learning languages like a native makes a HUGE difference in socialization. I’ve written our experiences & opinion here:

    http://www.soultravelers3.com/2011/02/kids-friends-travel-on-the-ultimate-family-adventure.html

    http://www.soultravelers3.com/2010/05/globe-trotting-location-independent-kids-friends-perpetual-travelers-tck-long-term-family-travel-.html

    Like you, I am a big Gatto fan, worldschooler & iconoclastic by nature, but dealing with a single child is a different experience than a large family or even twins.

    My child is now soon to be 15 and has an amazing perspective of the world & just graduated high school & started college at 14 & is still very close with dear friends all around the world and keeps in regular touch with them in several languages. We also have rich memories of people we didn’t keep in touch with but hold dear. The travel and living in 48 countries on 5 continents on a tight budget, making friends of different ages & different languages ( sometimes translating for a group of kids who don’t speak common languages in play) already has a HUGE impact on her life & will forever as a true global citizen. Fluent & literate as a native in Chinese, Spanish & English makes her a unique blonde American child of monolinguals & allows her to communicate fully with most of the world. She now writes songs in all 3 of her languages, has 2 in 2 movies, way beyond her years in life experience, so a unique ministry to the world.

    Although I am no fan of schools, I am grateful that she “dipped” into local schools for short periods to give her the languages & culture deeply. As outsiders/travelers, instead of being a victim of schools, we took them to our advantage and went in and out of them as we pleased just for the language immersion & connections. In Spain she was the only American in our tiny village in a small class that had 6 sets of cousins & she fully participated in all the village festivals and ceremonies & bonded deeply ( since she was already fluent in Spanish from birth) & is still in touch with those close friendships from 1st through 4th grade. We just did school there for 5 months from Late November to late April or early May & travel in our RV/Camper for 7 months around Europe, so she had the best of both worlds. We often stopped in Barcelona ( 2 days drive from our village) as it was a cheap camping luxury spot & good jumping off point for other parts of Europe….so she has a local best friend there who we still keep in touch with.

    Chinese is a difficult language, especially the written/reading part, but we are grateful for her time in Beijing and Penang where she went to local schools & even was the first Caucasian in 63 year history to win a Chinese elocution contest. Because she spent time immersed in the school & culture, she knows Chinese culture in a way that few do. Chinese language learning never ends, but she is more literate than most Chinese in China!

    Just going to a foreign school as a 6 year old in Spain or a 10 year old in a 1000-kid high school ( where she skipped 3 grades) was a brave and courageous thing & strengthened her. She knows what it is like to be a minority & different ( usually only one different) and I think that is an important thing to learn. She knows what local schools are like in foreign lands which is extremely rare in this world & enriches her perspective as an worldschooler who was part of it, yet not part of it, freer than the rest to come and go & influenced most by her parents perspective.

    So unlike Nancy, we did not have ANY social problems. If anything she is BETTER at making new friends because of our travel. Like your family, she made friends in many ways with many ages,as we mostly world schooled as we roamed, but she also gained from her short stints in local foreign school. She did get to do those extra curric things like joining a school choir or doing a play etc ( some of this she did when in school & sometimes just joining school kids as a homeschooler as some international schools allow homeschoolers to join in.

    For us there were 3 big keys to give her the sure shelter of deep friendships as we roamed. First, listen to her needs. Second to slow travel mostly from bases that we would return to regularly ( with bursts of some fast travel). 3rd deep language immersion , so she could form deep friendships in other languages.

    With a very social, extroverted, only child ( with introverted parents) we found ways to combine socialization in many, many ways and she remains a very happy and fulfilled human being, very connected to her family, but also the whole world with an exceptional education.

    Each family will have different needs and ways of doing it, but for us, world travel gave her BETTER socialization on so many levels than if we had stayed home and homeschooled her or schooled her. Not to mention a MUCH better education, freedom and fun!

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