Written by Caitlin Curley of My Little Poppies
For the past six weeks, our homeschool routine has centered around that dreaded s-word: socialization.
In January, our family rescued a puppy. His name is Gryffin and he was born on October 30th in a hospital parking lot adjacent to a major freeway down in Louisiana.
Anyone who has had a puppy before knows that socialization is a priority throughout the entire first year, but particularly during those first six months.
This is especially important for pups like Gryffin, whose mother was fearful due to maltreatment.
And so, for the past six weeks, we have been focused on socialization 24-7.
(As a homeschool mom, I find this focus hilarious. More on that in a minute.)
When socializing a puppy, the goal is to expose the puppy to as many new experiences as possible. Notice I didn’t say that our goal is to expose Griffin to as many new puppies as possible, or as many new people as possible – socialization is so much more than that.
We want him to experience new sights, smells, sounds, places, and events on a daily basis.
This means that we want to expose Gryffin to:
- Children, adults, puppies, and dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages
- ALL the noises
- Traffic (cars, bicycles, skateboards, strollers, and shopping carts- you name it)
- Car trips
- Trips to the vet
- Visits to pet store
- Parking lots
- Walks on dirt, gravel, sand, and asphalt
- The ability to be alone
- Puppy training
- … and so much more!
Our trainer asked my children to take photos of Gryffin doing at least ten new things each day and she joked that the goal is to have one thousand people pat his head every week.
My children are always up for a challenge and they have made it their personal mission to socialize Gryffin. They brainstorm new experiences, plan day trips, and schedule events. They solicit help from strangers and friends.
“Hey, Mum! Can you ask your friends to ring our doorbell when they drive by? So that he gets used to unannounced visitors and UPS deliveries?”
“Hey, Mum! What if we take him to one of the horse trails? So that he’s not afraid when he comes across a horse on our hikes? Oh! And the farm. He needs to get used to farm smells and sounds.”
“Hey, Mum! Can we dog-sit for Ms. Paula? Then Gryff could meet her dogs, cats, and bird. He’d have some new friends!”
“Hey, Mum! Gryffin hasn’t been on sand yet and he’s going to need to walk on the sand this summer. Let’s take him to the lake today and see if he’d like to get his feet wet and dig in the sand!”
Gryffin’s daily calendar is chock-full of excitement and fun.
I kid you not – we have friends ringing our doorbell every day, both planned and completely out-of-the-blue. We have friends’ dogs asking us over for playdates and hikes. When friends see us playing in the driveway, they honk their horns a little louder and a little longer than they normally would.
My children have taught all of their friends how to approach a dog and earn trust. We have spent so much time on the local trails that “strangers” now greet Gryff by name and offer treats when he doesn’t bark at them.
My children delight in Gryffin’s triumphs. Once scared of everything, Gryff now sleeps through dance parties, surround-sound movie nights, sibling squabbles, and the hairdryer. He’s no longer terrified of our humidifier, cars driving by, people wearing hats, Alexa, crossing bridges, trash bags, kites, or … (you get the idea).
The world is Gryffin’s classroom and he is our willing student, happily accompanying us all over New Hampshire.
Our goal is daily variety; no two days are the same. And our job is to support him through these new experiences so that he can be successful. We want him to be self-confident. We want him to connect with others- fur-friends and human, young and old. We want him to delight in new experiences and overcome obstacles.
Our goal is to raise a dog who will one day be a calm, loving, and well-mannered member of our family and the world at large.
Photo by Manuel Ingle
I know we are completely immersed in puppyhood, but does all of this sound like anything to you?
According to Dictionary.com, the word socialization means:
- personal identity social skills appropriate social
As homeschool parents, we all kind of dread the socialization question, don’t we?
I get this question all the time- at the farm stand, the grocery store, the bank, the gas station, you name it.
When out in the world with my children (and now our pup), we are often asked, “No school today?”
And as soon as we answer, we know what is coming next:
“But what about socialization?”
The thing is, those folks are getting socialization all wrong.
Socialization is not dependent upon being in brick and mortar school building from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday through Friday. Socialization is not something limited to the classroom, recess, or a hot lunch with thirty other children who share a birth year.
Socialization is an ongoing process through which a person learns the norms, customs, values, social skills, etc., that help that person to become a functioning member of our society- of our community.
Socialization happens all the time.
We are not always home just because we homeschool. (We would drive ourselves bonkers if we spent all our days within these four walls!)
We constantly have new experiences, whether that is a volunteer opportunity, a field trip, or an excursion with other homeschoolers. We spend days out in the community, interacting with people of all ages and walks of life.
The world is our classroom and no two days are the same.
Yes, my children are involved in activities with same-age peers (i.e., sports, nature class, library programming, art and music classes, etc.), but they are also involved in a host of activities that are multi-age (i.e., homeschool meet-ups, volunteering, online courses, and church events).
My kids have a much broader peer group than I had when I was their age and was attending public school. (My 9-year-old son has a friend from Slovenia- they attend an online course together!)
I honestly believe most homeschoolers are “socialized” in the truest sense of the word.
I’ve seen my kiddos interact with people of all ages, from babies to the elderly. Their friendships are not limited to others who share a birth year. I have watched them grow and discover themselves, and I have no concerns when it comes to their ability to make friends, show compassion for others, and conduct themselves in the community.
Now, the puppy is another story. Just ask my husband, my children, or my friends- they will tell you that I constantly worry about his socialization. Gryffin is a work in progress. He needs to learn the vacuum is not the enemy, and that most people are friendly. He needs to learn his puppy manners; to know when to bark appropriately and when to relax.
But my kids? They’ve got this. And I know they will help Gryff to find his way, too.
And that’s why the only time I worry about the s-word is when it relates to puppies.
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How do you handle the socialization question?