- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Nearly our whole family was at our softball game two weeks ago. Nine of our 10 children including both of our married daughters, their husbands and their two babies were there. Angie our fifth daughter pitches and plays second base for this 14-and-under fast-pitch league. She is one of four home-schooled girls on a team of 13 players. I am in my 12th season of coaching the Purcellville (Va.) Angels.

Members of our family chatted with parents and friends of the players on both teams. I chatted and teased with some of the players on the other team, many of whom I had coached in previous seasons.

We won that night, taking our record to 6-2. We are a good team, but not as dominant as a year ago, when we finished the regular season 13-0.

Christy, our oldest, waddled very slowly down the walk toward the parking lot. I told her, "You are going to have that baby tonight."

Sure enough, we were eating at Al's Pizza when my son-in-law called my cell phone. "Christy has gone into labor. We need to go to the hospital." He asked if we could take care of our 1-year-old granddaughter, Emma.

About 90 minutes later, I arrived at the hospital after taking care of our children and Emma. (She went to the other grandparents, who also live nearby.)

After being intensely involved with the births of my 10 children, I found the situation quite different for me as my daughter was giving birth. I was uncomfortable being in the room during any real "action" mainly from a sense of needing to give my grown daughters more privacy.

But as I walked briefly into Christy's labor room, I was struck by the strength of the relationships apparent among the four women in the room my wife and our three grown daughters. I waited outside the door a fair amount especially toward the end and just hearing the voices of encouragement coming from Christy's three coaches was deeply satisfying.

My wife, Vickie, told me later that Katie, our third daughter, just glowed with awe as our healthy little granddaughter, Rachel Lynn, was born. Even though Katie has a 10-month-old of her own, Rachel's was the first birth she had witnessed. The marvel of seeing her older sister give birth deeply touched her soul and her womanhood.

So why do I write all of this in a home-schooling column?

Home-schoolers are quizzed routinely about the issue of socialization. There is an underlying suspicion that we are somehow abnormal and have no clue about how to get along with other people.

As I sat in the hospital about 2 a.m., it struck me that the events of our day reflected the truth about socialization in most home-schooling families.

We are a part of our communities through activities such as softball, ballet, Scouting and church. Our community socialization is high, but our family socialization also is high. The intensity of family relationships is positive and strong.

Home-schoolers are not the only ones with these kinds of experiences. Other families have similar positive relationships both with the world about them and within their own homes.

My point? We play ball. We chat in the stands. We have friends. We get pizza at Al's. We give birth. We have intense family relationships. We have children. We have grandchildren. Life is good. Life is normal perhaps a little like an Ozzie and Harriet kind of normal, but that's OK.

Many times I have been called on to defend the normalcy of home-school socialization using facts, figures and social-science research. Sometimes a glimpse into a single day of real life speaks more than 10,000 data points.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

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