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What About Socialization?


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This is probably the number one question homeschoolers hear either from those opposed to homeschooling or those considering it. To accurately answer this question, we must first determine the definition of socialization about which we’re being asked. First, here are a couple of examples of how the dictionary defines the word socialization:

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. (1)

or

1. To place under government or group ownership or control.
2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable.
3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society.
(2)

To make fit for companionship

Most people, when asking about socialization are referring to number 2 in the second citation – playing, talking, and making friends, basically. The truth is, most homeschooled children don’t live in a bubble. They’re out in the world playing with kids in their neighborhoods, going to scouts or church, playing sports.

There are plenty of opportunities for homeschooled kids to make friends. Aside from the potential for friendships available in normal, everyday life, there are lots of opportunities for homeschooled kids to meet up with friends through local homeschool support group activities and classes.

My kids are involved in church activities, scouting, baseball, music and art classes and much more. Do I involve my kids in outside activities just to provide them with chances to meet other kids? No, I just let them get involved in the things that interest them.

One of the really great things about homeschool friendships is that they have the potential to be much deeper relationships because they’re based on common interests. They aren’t simply born of the fact that these kids are in the same classroom together for several hours a day because their birthdays fall within the same 12-month period.

Think about it. With how many of your former school mates are you still friends? How many of those in your circle of friends are people born within twelve months of you? My friends range in age from 21 to 40-something. Why should kids be any different?

My twelve-year-old daughter’s friends range in age from 8 to 15. There is no way, if she were in a public school setting, that she would be friends with a second grader…or that a ninth grader would be friends with her! There’s entirely too much social stigma involved in being friends with kids so much younger than yourself.

I’m not sure what aspect of public school that I would need to make my kids “fit for companionship.” The bullying? The drugs? The school violence? Maybe it’s standing in line? No, I think I can manage perfectly well on my own in making my kids fit for companionship, but now I’m probably starting to wander off into the definition in the first citation…

Learning the norms of society

This is probably where the “you’ve got to prepare kids for the real world” argument often comes in. The real world argument is probably the least logical of all anti-homeschooling arguments that I’ve heard, with the possible exception of “if you sent your kids to school you’d have more time for housework.”

Some of those things that people consider the “real world” are things that we, as adults, would not expect to have to tolerate in our daily life.

Bullying

In our real world, this is known as workplace harassment, assault and battery, or slander. What happens as a result of these behaviors in school? Often nothing. Occasionally a short suspension. Rarely, expulsion or removal to “alternative schooling.” What is the result in the real world? Termination of employment, counseling, anger management classes, lawsuit, or jail time.

Sexual harassment or indecent exposure

Again, in the adult real world, these issues also often result in termination of employment, counseling, lawsuit or jail time. In schools, they’re often ignored or dealt with lightly, as in the case of an Alabama boy who sexually molested a first-grade girl and returned to school after a week’s suspension. Or the case of the twelve-year-old boy (from PA, I think) who was moved from school to school for sexual harassment and ultimately raped three first grade boys after being left unattended outside a boys’ restroom. Then, there were the fifth graders who decided to have sex in front of their classmates when they were left unattended in a classroom.

Add to these things school violence, kids bringing guns and knives to school, drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity in the hallways, rape, and other things unimaginable when I was in school and it’s simply mind-boggling. These things don’t go on, under normal circumstances, in most people’s “real worlds.” I hope that this isn’t the day-to-day for most school kids either, but you can’t deny that this stuff goes on.

Deviant behavior aside, let’s look at what’s going on in the classrooms. Which is more preparation for the real world, talking about economics or going to the store and seeing first hand how prices are affected by things like supply and demand, rising gas prices, advertising, and shop-lifting? Talking about agriculture vs. spending the day with a farmer? Talking about glass-blowing in ancient civilizations or going to meet a glass-blower? What is better preparation for the real world than living in it daily?

What is the best way to prepare a child to interact socially? Would that be to put the child in a room of 20 or more kids his same age for six hours a day, seven days a week, nine months out of the year with one or two adults? Or, would it make more sense to have a one-on-one relationship with a loving adult who is there to correct misbehavior and encourage good behavior as it’s happening?

As an example, earlier this year, I was taking my kids to a playground inside our local mall about once a week between music and art classes. During the time of day that we were there, the kids on the playground were almost all toddlers and preschoolers.

When we first started going, my kids would run, full-speed, and chase each other around the play area. Every time the running started, I would remind my kids that this particular playground was not the place for that. Every week, I would remind them, on the way in, that the playground was full of little kids and they needed to watch out for them and help them on the equipment, not run and risk knocking a little one down or push their way around a little one climbing on play equipment.

Because I was there to remind them of the correct behavior and stop the misbehavior as it occurred, it wasn’t long before I saw my kids, with no prodding from me, actively including the younger children in group games or helping them navigate the play equipment. Being a presence in my kids’ lives is proving to be a great way to teach them acceptable social behavior.

Do we really want our kids learning the norms, values, behavior and social skills of their peers or do we want those lessons to be based on our family’s norms and values and our family’s interpretation of socially acceptable behavior?

To place under government or group ownership or control

I really hope that this definition really doesn’t need too much discussion. Why would we want to place our kids under government control? Do you know that the current public school movement was begun by Horace Mann and was set up to mirror the school system in Prussia – modern-day Germany?

The word kindergarten itself is German. If you’re a Christian parent who is homeschooling or considering homeschooling, I highly recommend reading the book Let My Children Go, by Ray Moore. Also, I recommend that you take stock of the things that the government has slowly, but systematically removed from public schools – the Bible, prayer, the Ten Commandments.

Regardless of whether or not you’re a Christian parent, you’ll want to look at the things that are missing from today’s public school system. There is little or no room in today’s public school classroom for individuality and creativity. There is little room in today’s public school system for kids whose minds are active or those who learn differently than the “average” students. These kids are often quickly labeled ADHD or learning disabled.

I don’t blame these shortcomings on individual teachers. Most of them are wonderful, caring people and they’re doing the best that they can for their kids, within the system. However, the system demands a lot. The system demands high test scores, so teachers are forced to “teach to the test.” Innumerable hours are wasted teaching kids how to fill in bubbles, how to achieve desired performance on standardized tests and taking said tests. I find it interesting that homeschooled students consistently outscore their public schooled counterparts on standardized testing and we’re not teaching to the test! Homeschooling moms have no idea what’s going to be on these tests.

What does today’s school system desire to produce, if not creative, innovative free thinkers? Once again, government-funded public schools really came into being during the industrial age when the U.S. needed lots of worker bees to operate its many industries. So, it was important that the workers know how to follow instruction, do things in groups or assembly line fashion and basic skills like reading and math were definitely a plus, though not totally necessary.

Creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson has some great thoughts on how schools kill creativity. It’s really great food for thought on what’s going on in today’s educational system and what we consider the “basics” of a good education.

There is so much more that could be said about the “socialization” question, but to me this is really a non-issue. With recesses down to about twenty minutes a day (if a child doesn’t have to sit out due to misbehavior) and lunch rooms becoming a “quiet zone,” the socialization available in public schools is not the rosy picture many paint.

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(1) socialization. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. https://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialization (accessed: May 22, 2007).

(2) socialization. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. https://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialization (accessed: May 22, 2007).

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13 Comments

  1. Thank you! This best rebuttal to the “what about socialization” question I have ever heard. My Mom got this question all the time when we were home schooled.

  2. Thank you for this! I was just doubting myself for choosing homeschooling for my daughter because of some social issues we were having (she’s 4). What 4-year-old doesn’t have social issues? And why would I put her in a place that wouldn’t address them correctly, pointing her back to Jesus. Thanks.

  3. I post my comment with mixed feelings on this subject.
    I was home schooled from grades 4 through 8.
    I am currently 42 years old now. There are “socialization” issues and how I “deal with the world” as a direct result of those years I “missed” .
    I know this will not be the case for every child that is home schooled.
    My sister was also home schooled and she’s a social butterfly . I on the other hand am the opposite. I tend to “keep to myself” more, or making light hearted general conversations doesn’t come easy for me. In most of my relationships, there have been communication issues. I know alot of you that read this will go… how can you say all of these things were a result of those crucial years I missed as a youth “socializng” with other kids. Believe me… I know firsthand it was from those years I missed.
    The education I received while homeschooled was second to none. My grandfather was a college professor,so my education in the areas of math, english, and the other subjects kids at that age (9-13)get went above and beyond what the kids got in “real school”
    I can remember my first year back to “real school” in 9th grade (age 14) It was kinda traumatic for me psychologically. It was then that I had to learn how to deal with the “real world”….and being a skinny introverted kid at that time constantly being ridiculed by my peers… wasn’t easy. Eventually I was able to “adapt” to this new way of life…and grow up to be who I am today
    You bring up some serious issues in this post, and all should be considered when deciding to home school.

  4. @Urban

    I appreciate your perspective. However, I’m not sure that I agree with it. 😉 I went to public school and “small talk” doesn’t necessarily come easily to me, either. Among a small circle of friends, I communicate easily, but there are many times with friends and even family when I just don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to the conversation.

    I have two children who are definite social butterflies, with lots of friends. One has always been homeschooled, ther other was in public school for Kindergarten and first grade. My son has always been something of an introvert. Knowing him as I do, I’d say it would be a toss up as to whether ps would make him more introverted or less so.

    I am 38 years old. School these days is *very* different than it was when you and I were there. I can honestly say that I prefer the possibility of them growing up a bit shy than the possibility of having their personalities shaped by their peers in a public school setting.

    Homeschooling is also much different than it was when you were in grades 4-8. There are innummeral social opportunities available for homeschooled kids today, at least in the area in which we leave.

    For us, the pros of homeschooling most definitely outweigh the cons — for me and for my kids. They don’t feel that they’re missing any opportunities.

  5. Kris, I respect your reply to my comment, and you do indeed bring up a valid point that today’s world is waaay different than the one you and I grew up in.
    You have a great BLOG on this matter, and I look forward to reading it and following in the future.
    Respectfully,
    Rob

  6. Thanks, Rob. Don’t be surprised to see a more in-depth post about this in the future. You’ve got me thinking about some things that I’ll probably explore further in a blog post. Nothing negative, just good food for thought — your thoughts and the things that have been rattling around in my brain as a result of your comments.

    I like when good comments make me think and reexamine my ideas.

    ~Kris

  7. Amen sister! Let me start by saying I homeschool my kids as well, and I get that same question all the time. Thank you for giving some more ammo to fire back with.

  8. We are beginning home preschool, and moving toward officially homeschooling when my daughter is at that age. Do I have permission to copy your post as I journal to our overseas family about our journey to homeschool?  Homeschooling is not as widely accepted as it is here in the U.S.

  9. Hi, Haley. Congratulations on beginning your homeschooling journey. I know that is a time filled with both excitement and nervousness. I hope you find homeschooling to be the blessing that my family and I have found it to b.
    I appreciate your interest in my post and I especially appreciate you taking time to ask for permission before reprinting. I would ask that you do not copy it for use in any other print publications, including blog posts and newsletter, though you are welcome to use an exerpt and link to the post. If you would like print the webpage to share with family members in person or in a letter, you are welcome to do so.

    Good luck on your homeschooling journey!

  10. Thanks for your reply.  I'll find a small excerpt and then link to back to this page. 

    I have found lots of wonderful information on your site to help my confidence in homeschooling.  You are right, it's exciting and nerve-wracking.  I just settle on the fact that everyone says "you can do it" and "it's not that hard" and all the other positive affirmation.  I haven't come across anyone who says "there's no way you can do it" or "after a certain amount of time you'll have to give it up".  So by realizing that I just am learning as I go and gathering a plethora of information and tools to assist me/us on this wonderful journey.

    Thanks again, for your reply and your website.

  11. LOL I love your outlook. Let me know when you find the person (who has actually homeschooled) who tells you that there's no way you can do it and you'll eventually just have to give up. 😉

  12. I am soooo adicted to reading your thoughts, so well said. I was actually asked today about this very topic. I said, “No, I don’t worry about socialization at all, actually…I trying to cut back on their social lives to give us margins.” Thanks for your posts, I am loving it. I am in my seventh year of homeschooling. I have three kids: 11 ,9 , & 5 .

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