Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teens, Homeschool Peer Pressure and Bullying (Five Days of Blogging)

One of the reasons we decided to homeschool was the climate at our local schools.  Having had our two oldest graduate from the public schools, we were painfully aware of the peer pressure and bullying that went on.  We felt that it created a climate where students were more concerned with fitting in and flying under the radar than they were being themselves.

However, this is not to say that peer pressure and bullying does not exist in the homeschool environment as well.  People are people. 
Peer Pressure, for us, is much lower than it was for our older kids.  There is still pressure to be “cool”, to dress in the latest fashion, to listen to the latest music, etc.  However, it’s rarely mean-spirited.  We’ve been blessed to be around parents and students that accept each other’s eccentricities rather than use them as a means to demean one another.  I believe it’s important to expose my teens to a wide range of people and personalities.  It’s important for them to fit-in sometimes and not others.  They need that experience, they just don’t need it to be the focus of their day-to-day life.

There are still cliques.  Since homeschoolers tend to group together -  those that go to the same church, grew up in the same co-op or live in the same neighborhood still do tend to clique together leaving “outsiders” to feel a bit left out.  However, this is life.  We fit in sometimes, and sometimes we don’t.  I don’t want my kids to grow up overly sheltered, I just want them to grow up to be who they are and to be that wonderfully.
As for bullying, there have been instances where boys don’t like each other and pick on one another, but it’s never an on-going, can’t-get-away-from-it, day-to-day thing.  Jealousy as kids grow into teens and begin “liking” each other rears its head, but can often be resolved by time or conversation.  Facebook, Skype, and other social media make it easier to pick on one another as well.  (You know I believe in allowing internet interactions, but this is one downside.)

Having a “thick skin” is something we are trying to instill.  People will be mean.  It’s life.  It’s how you deal with it that matters.  Do you let it eat you up?  Do you allow yourself to be angry instead of just shrugging it off?  How do you behave when it happens? All teaching moments. 
As much as building a bubble we can keep our kids in sounds nice, it’s obviously not realistic.  As homeschoolers, we have to acknowledge that we can’t and shouldn’t protect them from everything because at some point in life they will have to deal with peer pressure or being bullied by others.  Being able to do that in an environment where they have the opportunity to learn from these instances instead of having to live in fear of them makes all the difference.

Has your family experienced peer pressure or bullying while homeschooling?  How do you handle it?
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