Socialization? Me Too!7:30 AM
They were all giggly and comfortable, sitting up in front of the crowd, laughing when they almost misspelled a word, groaning when they were stuck on a vowel, sitting down with huge sighs of relief that sent their neighbor into another fit of giggles.
That, in a nutshell, is my sisters and our homeschool spelling bee.
Flashback to when I was nine, sitting petrified in a hard chair, a card dangling from my neck, hands clasped white in my lap. Everyone looked frightening and larger-than-life. I spoke to no one except to misspell allocate (which I'll never misspell again - a plus to losing the spelling bee, I guess).
That, in a nutshell, was me and my adventures with the spelling bee.
To be fair, I didn't know a single person in the crowd - regionals are much more stressful than a friendly bee at the local church. I get that. But I look at my sisters and I look back at my scrawny, pale-faced, shy self and see a world of difference.
A few years ago, at a friend's birthday party, I spent the whole evening thirsty because I was too afraid to call for a young "butler" to get me some punch. A few years ago, I could count on my left hand the number of words I spoke in my Sunday school class. A few years ago, I, Bailey Bergmann, was convinced that the world was out to get me and the only way I could survive was to stare it down with a hard, unmoved glare suited to my dignity.
I wouldn't talk on the phone. I wouldn't talk to strangers. I hated talking to adults. I hated talking to children more. My knees visibly shook when I had to stand up and read a poem or sing a song or play the piano.
"I was so shy when I was younger," I tell my friends.
"Yeah, right," they shoot back. "I don't believe that for one second."
With good reason. I jump up and down when excited - that or spin around in a circle shrieking with happiness. I give hugs to almost-total-strangers and make conversation with the new girl like we're best friends. I talk too much and too fast.
Sorry. It comes with unsocialization.
My sisters are the same way. They've blossomed into friendly girls who make room in their circle of friends for the new kid. They can talk to adults intelligently and somewhat normally (they will insist they do not but don't believe them). Yes, we've got a natural shy streak that tends to stick out now and then. Always will, I expect. But our shyness hopefully will translate itself only in demureness (*cough*) and not crippling fear.
What is the cause of this unnatural phenomenon? Let me put it plain and simple: homeschooling. More specifically, our homeschool group. We've got a tight circle of friends who get together for birthday parties and book clubs, physical science and presentation nights, game nights and goofy get-togethers that include wild singing and lots of giggles. But it's not so tight that we cannot include a new homeschooling family who's just joined.
We put each others' little siblings in our lap. We give big group hugs. We chat with the other moms and the other siblings who aren't our close close friends. We all love each other.
And that means freedom. We're confident in who we are as individuals since we're not constantly trying to live up to the impossible standards of a constant peer group. We're confident in our families and work together as sisters and brothers to make new friends and make sure everyone is included. We live real life and get along with real families, real situations, real beliefs in every day environments.
I feel so incredibly blessed with the homeschool group we have - and the other homeschooled girlies who make up our circle of friends. We do everything together. Being the shy, slightly-friendless girl that I was, I always wanted something like this. I never believed I would get it. But I have it. I live it. It's a blessing, to be sure - and it's matured me and molded me into a better friend and person, I believe.
Someone once worried that homeschooling deprived us of proper socialization. I smiled and thought back to the last group hug.
You can guess what I told her.