Friday, May 18, 2012

Homeschooling and Socialization

1935 ONE HAPPY YEAR 1930s Childrens Book Marion and Ross Henderson Vintage Illustration 15

Q. What are your feelings on the social aspect of homeschooling and how do you provide opportunities for your kids to learn how to socialize in a variety of situations? I never thought I'd be a socialization critic! Am I just overreacting and worrying too much about it?! I just want my kids to have the skills and abilities to function well in life and reach their full potentials.

A. When I sat down to write this post I thought about just leaving a one sentence answer. I have a friend who when asked "Aren't you worried about socialization?" answers "Yes! That's why I keep them at home."

I knew that wasn't the answer you were looking for. Then I started typing this: "For some reason socialization seems to be "the" biggest concern about those who homeschool. I think I can see why. Some have met homeschoolers who are awkward or weird or shy or geeky or .....well the list could go on. Truth be told I have met those homeschoolers too. I have also met public schooled children {and adults} who also fit those adjectives but for some reason public schooling is never to blame in those situations. Why is that?"

Going the whiny, whiny route wouldn't be good either. Two strikes! I hope the third try is a charm.

Socialization. What is meant by that anyway? I think that is why I am having a hard time writing this post. People mean different things when asking about socialization.

Some are really asking "Who will your children interact with if they are home all day? Won't they be lonely?" {That's actually called socializing}

Others are really asking "How will they learn to interact with others if they are home all day?" {In other words how will they be prepared for the 'real world'}

And there's the basic definition. defines socialization as "a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position."

First let's look at the typical day for a public schooled child vs. a homeschooled child.

Public School
Get up,
Get dressed,
Eat breakfast
Go to school
Spend seven hours with about 30 other children the same age and a teacher {two if you are lucky} with a break for lunch and recess
Come home, do homework
Music lessons or sports or both
Play with friends
Eat dinner
Go to bed

Homeschooled Child
Get Up
Get Dressed
Eat breakfast
Do school
Some days it's all at home, other days there are field trips {homeschoolers LOVE field trips}, or co-op classes with other homeschoolers
Eat lunch
Free time until friend get out of school
Music lessons or sports or both
Play with friends
Eat dinner
Go to bed

Obviously these are very basic outlines. Do you see how similar their days are? The biggest difference is where they do their schooling and with whom they are associating during those times. Public schooled children spend the majority of their time with a teacher and about 30 other people their same age. Homeschooled children spend the majority of their time with family, but also other children {of all age ranges} and adults.

Because of all the similarities then the questions about socialization can be reduced to: Whom do homeschooled children interact with? How do they learn to interact with others? And what do we want them to learn anyway?

Let's start with the last question first. What do I want my children to learn? {this is just a short list but you get the idea}

  • to treat others with respect
  • engage in conversation with anyone of any age
  • how to make friends
  • how to keep friends
  • how to cooperate with others
  • polite manners
  • how to handle difficult situations or people {bullying, discrimination, etc.}
  • to hold tightly to the moral values they have and not be swayed by others
  • to be responsible for their actions
  • to relate with others who are different than they are
Now who is responsible for teaching these to my children?  How do they learn to interact with others? When the question of socialization is brought up to homeschoolers there is an underlying thought that goes unsaid whether the person asking it realizes it or not. The implied thought is, "The public school is the best/only place for a child to be socialized. I believe this or I wouldn't be asking the question in the first place."

I tried looking up socialization in older pre-1900 dictionaries. The word didn't exist, which leaves me to wonder, much like the teenager thing, how society has changed in the last 100 years and skewed our thinking that in order for a child to be 'socialized' it must be done in a school setting with 30 other children their same age and one or two adult figures present for 7 hours a day 5 days a week for 12 years.

Going back to my whiny, whiny paragraph above I think it is safe to say that most social skills are learned from the parents anyway, regardless of where they are schooled. If you look at young adults {I'm not using children as an example because they are still young and learning} you will find for the most part they behave in public much like their parents do. If there is a young woman who likes to talk a lot during a lesson at church I can almost guarantee if you peek in at her mother in a different class she will be doing the same thing. Have a young man who likes to cut up in class making 'smart' remarks? His dad probably does the same.

Socialization is going to happen no matter where you are, whether at home or at school or in the community. The quality of that socialization is what differs and it is up to parents to make sure that no matter where their kids are they have the necessary skills to interact effectively with others. Which leads to the last question {or the first}. Whom do homeschooled children interact with?

One misconception about homeschoolers is that they stay at home all day, every day. They don't! Most are a part of homeschool co-ops where they get together with other homeschoolers of all ages to learn together. Usually a parent or two teaches mini classes. Homeschooled children are actually exposed to more ages of children and more adults {authority figures} than public schooled children are. Doesn't that sound more like "the real world" to you?

Back to your original question, are you overreacting and worrying too much about it? Yes! No matter where your children are educated - public or home - there are ample opportunities to learn to get along with other people and plenty of examples to look to, the best example being you.

This question was one of many asked in the Q&A: Homeschool Edition post earlier this year.

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