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Homeschoolers and the “S” word: How can we respond?

In the last post, I dealt with some of the underlying thoughts that may be behind the question:

“If you homeschool your children, how will they be socialized?”

I want to share some of the thoughts that I have had on the subject over the years.

First, some definitions of socialization.

From Dictionary.com:

–noun
1. 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.
2. the act or process of making socialistic: the socialization of industry.
 
Notice in definition #1, there is no mention of the source of the learning of the social skills, thus public school does not have proprietary claim on this process.
Definition #2 gives room for some pondering.  Is school supposed to teach socialism?  In this day and political climate, that may be a desired outcome from some circles, however, that is a discussion for another day.
 
 
The word socialization had not been invented yet, nor had socialize, so I started with social:
 
1. Pertaining to society; relating to men living in society. or to the public as an aggregate body; as social interests or concerns; social pleasures; social benefits; social happiness; social duties. True self-love and social are the same.  
2. Ready or disposed to mix in friendly converse; companionable.
             3. Consisting in union or mutual converse.  
4. Disposed to unite in society. Man is a social being.

 Strikingly absent from any of these definitions is the idea that children need to be segregated into a group of 30 other children the same age in order to learn to appropriate behavior and companionable conversation.

Here is my definition:  Socialization is the process of learning and applying appropriate behavior in all social situations.  My personal standard for appropriate action includes:

  • Truth telling, respecting other’s property and personhood, honoring and loving others, looking for the best in others, obedience
  • Ability to relate to all ages, backgrounds, appearances, walks of life with honor and respect for the individual person
  • Knowing how to listen well and converse well
  • Thinking for one’s self, not dominated by peer pressure
  • Able to stand up for what is right and true and honorable, even when compromise seems more pleasant

Imagine that you are the only adult in a classroom of 20 five-year olds.  You desire to have a positive influence on the children, to teach them the qualities listed above.  You will probably do a great job of modeling these characteristics every opportunity that arises.  The question is, if the purpose of having a large group of children together is for them to learn these skills from each other, how likely is that to happen, knowing the typical social/emotional state of kindergarteners?  Whose influence will be greater on the majority of the children–the one adult or the 19 other children? 

If the answer is the adult, then wouldn’t every teacher enjoy a lower student-teacher ratio to have a greater, less-diluted impact on her charges?  Why not take that to the best possible ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 with someone who will have 18 years of vested interest in the moral and character development of her own child?  Someone who can be with the student  to guide and direct the behavior and attitudes even during the “non-school” hours.

Imagine now that you are brand new on a job for which you need to learn many new skills.  In order to learn the job well, with whom will you choose to spend the majority of your instructional time–the new rookies who were hired with you, or the person who has 20 years of experience with the company?

I believe that for any of us (at any age) to learn proper behavior, we need to be in the presence of and in communication with those who are more experienced and more mature in the attributes that we need to gain.  Unless we have a standard that is higher than our own perception and current abilities, we aren’t likely to grow beyond that which we can observe in ourselves.

I think that the need for socialization becomes a terrific argument in favor of home education.  After hearing countless stories of the negative social skills that are being conveyed within the public schools (and experiencing them to a lesser degree myself as a child), I would see homeschooling as the better alternative in most situations.

“How will they be socialized?”  I am so glad that you asked.

*******************

Next, I will look at some of the great opportunities that homeschoolers have for group interactions.

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