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Homeschoolers and the “S” word: What does the question really mean?

If you have been homeschooling (or thinking about it) for more than two weeks, you have probably encountered someone who has asked a question that seems more like a pronouncement:

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

In this post, I want to address what this question may mean to the one asking.  In the next article, I will discuss ways to respond.

Those who bring this matter up may be thinking along one of the following lines.  My comments are in italics after each point.

  • Teaching children at home means that the students will be isolated with “just” mom, dad, and the siblings and won’t have opportunity to interact with others.
    Training in social skills needs to begin at home.  Foundational concepts of listening to others, sharing, respecting others’ property and personhood, conversing, understanding one’s role in the family, self-esteem development, and nurturing and edifying others are all optimally gained within the family where there is the most availability for modeling and directing behavior and attitudes.
  • The children won’t have any friends, nor know how to make friends.
    The typical homeschool student is involved in 5-6 outside activities such as homeshool support groups, sports, music, church, scouts, hobbies, etc, in which they are around other people and have opportunity for making friends.  The key elements to knowing how to make friends again are nurtured within the family circle.  See the first point.  Most public school kids average 1-2 outside activities.
  • Since school is an American institution, it must be un-Amercian to reject it.  Perhaps there is some anti-social and anti-American thinking involved for families who don’t participate in institutional schools.
    I have spoken with hundreds of families who took their children out of the school system because of anti-social and anti-American values that were promulgated there.  The vast majority of home educators are very patriotic and purpose to train their children in the founding principles of America and their role as citizens.  As mentioned above, they are invovled in their communities and in civic activities perhaps to a greater degree than the public school counterparts.
  • The only way to learn to get along with a variety of people is to be immersed in all that group social occasions offer so you can be exposed to all kinds of behavior.
    Even these commenters usually agree that school children can be downright mean in their actions, attitudes and words, but they maintain that this is needed for “character development”.  I believe that children who know they are loved at home, and have learned how to love others will be MUCH more adaptable to interacting with a vairty of people and with unloving people. 
    Those who are subjected at a young age to criticism, ridicule, conditional relationships as a steady diet are more prone to anti-social or unhealthy behaviors themselves.  Documented studies of children in preschool show increased aggressiveness, non-compliance and withdrawal (1), (2) than those who were at home with family.
  • Without proper immersion, a child won’t be tough enough to handle what the world can dish out.
    Is toughness in our children really what we want?  Do we want them to learn to be cruel and inconsiderate of others.  Is peer approval and mimicry a high value when it involves behavior that is destructive to the child or others?  Wouldn’t we rather have children who know gracious and loving ways of dealing with people?
  • “We all” went through the public schools, and “we all” turned out ok.
    That may be true, but today’s schools have numerous challenges that weren’t there or at least not so obvious when we were kids.  Does tradition mean there are no other options?  Is the goal to be “ok”, or is the true goal of education to bring out the best in a student, to challenge her to be well-prepared for life,  ready to be the best that she can be in whatever direction life leads?
  • Prejudice is bred by not being around different cultures, lifestyles, backgrounds etc.
    Prejudice is a reflection of the attitudes to which we are exposed.  Institutional schools are masters at segregation.  Nowhere else are we cloistered for 1/3 of our days for 12 years with people the same age.  Often the playground and dining facilities have reserved sections for certain grades, and attitudes are encouraged which prohibit different ages from playing together.  Additionally, children group and re-group based on the most fickle of distinctions about appearance, intellect, background, athletic participation and innumerable other differences.  Parents who have respect for all people will train their children in the same way, and will guide the students into behaviors that are honoring to others.

Socialization can mean diverse things, depending on the speaker.  Try asking what the person means and what concerns they may have about you and your children.  A non-defensive response that is willing to hear the other’s position may be a step in building a bridge.


5 Responses

  1. […] This post was Twitted by nikyreynolds – Real-url.org […]

  2. Great article.

    Here are some more thoughts about socialization:

    Since we homeschoolers can dictate when, with whom, and how frequently their students will interact with others, not only in their own age group (i.e., Boy/Girl Scouts, after-school team sports, YMCA, etc.), but with others outside of their age group. With appropriate supervision, entire curriculums can be built around interacting with others such as your neighborhood postman, your local grocery cashier, or for older kids, the employees during a local corporate office tour.

    In addition, since core lessons don’t typically take 6 hours to teach (like public schools), the student has even MORE time to interact with community groups, non-profit organizations, or whatever worthy social interests the student wants to pursue.

    This gives the student opportunities to really build some notable accomplishments that would be tougher to achieve in a public school environment (You can just imagine this exchange from a public school student talking on the phone with her favorite charity, “What? A once-in-a-life-time series of charity events that starts at 10AM and lasts for the next 4 days? Sorry, but I don’t get out of school until 2:30PM”. Bummer).

    In fact, if the social environment is designed right, the parent can BETTER prepare their students for college in this respect because college is all about interacting well with people across ALL age groups (like the real world) instead of being forced to interact 99% of the time with people within 1-4 years of the student’s actual age for 12 years of the public school student’s academic career.

    • Thanks for the response. I totally agree with you. Continue on to Part 3 of my Socialization comments!

  3. Read your excellent article with interest and share your views that self-esteem building begins at home. Just wanted to add something that might be of interest to you. I am working with a team of psychologists who create interactive products for parents and children to boost confidence and enhance self-esteem in healthy ways. Please visit our website at http://www.toolkitsforkids.com and if you are ever interested in writing another piece on how parents can help children develop and maintain a healthy self-esteem, we would be happy to be a resource.

    • Hello, nellwade,

      What a great website and fun materials! I would love to have you submit an article about self-esteem!

      Thanks for the comment and sharing a great resource!

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