I recently had a reader comment on one of my socialization posts about his experience being homeschooled. He said that he feels that being homeschooled has negatively affected him, socially, as an adult. He mentioned that his education as a homeschooler was second to none, but he definitely feels that his time being homeschooled affected him negatively, though his sister, who was also homeschooled, is a social butterfly with no negative effects at all.
He acknowledged that many people would say that he would have been an introvert anyway. However, he feels his social awkwardness as an adult is a direct result of being out of the social network of public school from grades four through eight and being picked on as a shy, skinny kid upon his return to public high school. I warned him that he might see me posting more in depth on my thoughts about his comment. If you have any comments specifically on his experience, be sure to keep them kind because he was totally respectful about homeschooling and about my views on socialization.
Personally, I can’t help but feel that some people are just naturally more introverted or extroverted and that how or where they are educated has little to do with their overall psychological make up. However, what takes place wherever you are educated can severely impact your basic nature. I’ll never forget the year I was in sixth grade and the popular boys in my class decided that the two biggest “nerds” should be forced to fight each other to determine who was the bigger nerd.
When the fight was over, the winner found himself moved up a few notches on the social ladder and his attitude changed accordingly (can you say “arrogant”?), while the loser was simply humiliated and mercilessly picked on by the boys. I knew the loser and he was really a kindhearted, but quiet guy. He went on to a career in the military and, to this day, I think that his need to prove something to others impacted that decision.
Then, there was the guy in high school about whom was started a vicious, nasty rumor. It doesn’t matter if it was true or not; the teen-aged judge and jury had spoken. The fallout was so bad for him that his parents moved him to another school. I bet both of these boys would credit their school experiences for shaping the adults they became.
My school experience was middle of the road. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t picked on either. I was probably a nerd — I liked to read, I got good grades, I wasn’t into sports and I didn’t have a boyfriend until my junior year — but I wasn’t a nerd of the picked-upon variety. Still I found myself wishing, at least once a year, that I could go live with my dad so that I could attend a different school and have a fresh start, another shot at a better level on the social ladder.
These days, I’m quiet around people I don’t know well, have little in common with (I’m not a good small talker at all) or am intimidated by. Around friends or in situations in which I am comfortable I talk easy and don’t mind leading a conversation.
I might say that I would be a more confident, outgoing adult if I had been homeschooled. Or, if I had been allowed to attend a different school. Or, if we hadn’t moved when I was in third grade, causing me to lose any social status I may have had at my old school. And, no, I’m not just saying all that. Any one of those changes in experience would likely have changed the adult I am today.
Of my three kids, two are definitely of the social butterfly, never-meet-a-stranger variety. One, Josh, is introverted, but is starting to open up among friends and in comfortable situations. It’s a toss up as to whether attending public school would make him more introverted or less so. I can easily see it going in either direction.
However, I really think one’s overall social experiences, positive or negative, impact the kind of adult he or she becomes, regardless of the educational setting in which they take place. Despite what many people think, most homeschool families are not isolated. And the experience is so much different for homeschooled kids today than it was for homeschooled kids a generation ago. There are so many opportunities for homeschooled kids today — sports teams, social groups, proms. Nearly any opportunity available for kids in public school is available for homeschooled kids.
Unfortunately, the experience for public school kids is so much different today than it was for their parents a generation ago. The things that you hear about going on in public middle and high schools is mind-boggling. Obviously parents need to weigh the pros and cons of homeschooling vs. public or private school for their kids. I know that homeschooling is a decision that no parent makes lightly. None of us, whether we send our kids to public or private school or we homeschool, makes a decision about our kids’ educations with the intention of negatively impacting their psyche into adulthood.
The parents of the “bigger nerd” I mentioned earlier or the kid about whom the rumor was started probably wish they could have given their sons a much different educational and social experience. Those kids might have preferred the opportunity to grow, flourish and explore their interests in a setting free from ridicule and humiliation. I’m guessing neither of them was too impressed with their “real world” experiences. Most parents never set out to make choices that result in their children being harmed, physically or emotionally.
For our family, the possibility of our kids growing up to be a little shy is far better than having their personalities shaped by a public school experience (though for those who will cry “sheltered” or “over-protected,” this is nowhere near the top of our list of reasons to homeschool). For us, the pros of homeschooling definitely outweigh the cons and our kids love it. They don’t feel that they’re missing anything.