Yesterday was park day for local homeschoolers. My Friend called and asked to tag along with us. Just because she loves us and misses us and wanted to carve out some time in both of our very busy schedules. So she was there incidentally and for the love of us. She was not there to observe. She was not there clinically.
But my Friend also happens to have a masters degree in education and 20 years of experience teaching including founding a private school. She is now finishing the dissertation for her Phd in education and child development. She teaches teachers how to teach. Also, to be fair, she has not birthed kids of her own. Her perspective is not that of a parent.
We were in the park from 1 till 5:30. Four and half hours mostly spent lolling around on a blanket watching the group amass, mill, feed like baboons, and generally hang around. Its an all ages affair generally attended by anywhere from 10 to 20 families each week. The bigger kids and teens tend to stay well enough out of sight. (They are normal, after all.) The babies hang closer to the circle of moms. The bigger little kids own the middle distance. All of them cycle through for food.
After a couple of hours my Friend said, "Oh wow, this is wild. All the kids are so calm." Later she observed, "If this were a more typical school setting there would be a lot more strife. There is no shouting, no hitting, no grabbing, no crying." I added that no one was yelling at the kids. We sat there a couple more hours. She and I have taught together, worked a playground together. We know how "normal" schooled kids act.
I pointed out, watching a four year old nurse, that almost all the children in our group are attachment parented to some degree. Breast feeding through 4 or 5 years, per kid, is average for this group. These are children who've rarely been more than house distance away from at least one parent--hand raised, one might say. As we were leaving I mentioned that I frequently get in trouble when I say that homeschooled kids are different from schooled kids. That they come from a different culture, have a different kind of socialization. My Friend said, "I'm going to have to back you up on that one. They are way different."
She has often pointed out that my kids are different, calmer, and often appearing older than they are. Not in a burdened, forced to grow up too soon way. But in a reasoned, well grown, secure way. While that is surely flattering, I think today she saw what I've been trying to tell her all along. It is not that my kids are different. It is not something special about our family. Our kids have been raised in a different culture. The culture we've chosen, homeschooled attachement parenting, seems to consistently produce calm happy reasonable kids. Kids who aren't used to much fighting, strife, competition, or ugliness. Kids who almost never experience adversarial adults, have never been exposed to arbitrary or institutional authority, and who have never been set apart from an innate sense that their own personal agency is valued, in general.
No culture produces perfect little automatons who never make mistakes or behave imperfectly. And I'm not suggesting that's even a goal. But it might be helpful or interesting to learn that the behavior we've accepted as normal, the "childishness" we all expect from children, is a cultural construct. Brattiness, selfishness, discontent, and defiance are not normal childhood attributes. These behaviors are learned through social construct. Through the years I've been told my kids are an exception, that I'll see their true colors when they hit puberty or become teenagers. It ain't happening. My children have become teens exactly beside their friends becoming teens. They are all generally reasonable, smart, and calm. Reasonable and calm being the two most striking and consistent differences I see in this awesome group of kids. How often are we told that's what we should expect from our teenagers?