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