One of my favorite homeschooling resource books is The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and her mother, Jessie Wise. I have supplemented our traditional schooling program with some of her suggestions in the areas of music, language, and history. In fact, while Will and I are on volume 3 of Story of the World, I found volume 1 on Mary's bed yesterday. It seems that after ignoring pleas to come sit with us and listen she decided to read them in order all by herself. I am constantly finding chapter books in the house and car with bookmarks stuck in them. She takes after her mother, always reading 5 books simultaneously.
The best quote in TWTM heads up chapter 36, The Confident Child: Socialization:
The Smithsonian Institution's recipe for genius and leadership: (1) children should spend a great deal of time with loving, educationally minded parents; (2) children should be allowed a lot of free exploration; and (3) children should have little or no association with peers outside of family and relatives.
H. McCurdy, "The Childhood Pattern of Genius"
I certainly don't know if my children are going to be geniuses or great leaders, but they do spend a great deal of time surrounded with learning opportunities and stimulating, intellectual conversation. Other than Scouts, lessons, and socializing with a few friends they spend most of their time within our family. And Will and Mary certainly get a lot of free exploration, which leads to creative play in most cases and worry from me occasionally. Mornings in our house are usually taken up with book work, leaving afternoons free for playing, reading, and child-initiated projects.
Yesterday Mary and Will asked to walk the 1 1/2 miles home from the farm where she takes riding lessons. The path is through the woods and is very safe so I said they could and drove the little ones home for lunch and naps. When almost an hour had passed I started to get a little nervous, "What if kidnappers were lurking in the shadows? What if they were hit by a car? What if they fell in the ditch with 6" of water in it and drowned?" I asked a neighbor if she could come over while I went searching and of course found the two on the very next block. "What were you doing that took that long?" I asked them. "Exploring," was the casual reply.
Later, after lunch I went out to fetch the mail and heard, "Hey Mommy, I'm flying!" My neck almost snapped I whipped around so fast and my stomach lurched as I saw Will jump off a ladder under the big pine tree. The two of them had wound a rope around a thick branch, and using a carabiner snapped on their back belt loop had constructed a homemade belay system. They took turns jumping and hoisting themselves up until Mary got scared because she pulled the wrong rope and had a crying fit.
So far in terms of academics and social skills our children are about average, not geniuses. They are bright, polite, interesting, and outgoing and certainly have their moments of fighting (and biting). However, they usually play well with each other and always look out for the little guy. And that is my definition of successful socialization.