But What About Socialization?
One of the most common questions people ask when they learn that we are a homeschooling family is, “How are the children socialized?” Very often, I find that those that ask that question typically have the notion that all homeschoolers are the weird and socially awkward kids that have no friends besides their siblings and immediate family members. I think that as anyone explores the homeschool options and especially as they meet some homeschool kids, they will find that is often a very unfortunate misnomer that is quickly dispelled.
I suppose that first we should define what socialization is. According to Google, socialization is defined as:
- The activity of mixing socially with others.
“Socialization with students has helped her communication skills.”
- The process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
“Preschool starts the process of socialization.”
Mixing socially with others.
This is something that we begin teaching our children from birth. Starting with the family unit, then within the extended family and family’s social circle. For our family it began with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and the church family. Our children have had the opportunity to meet and socialize with people of all ages, from all walks of life, and they have never struggled with getting along and carrying a conversation with any of them.
The example sentence “socialization with other students…” gives the impression that socialization happens within a group of similar aged children. It does not specifically say that and I would disagree with that application. As the definition states it is “The activity of mixing socially with others.” I would specifically point out that “others”, in my opinion, should include all others, no matter their age, creed, race, religion, etc. My husband and I have purposefully decided that we want our children to be fluent in communicating with all “others” not just like minded, similar aged people.
We, of course, do not condemn the thoughts of others who would disagree. Simply, we, for our family, have the desire to develop skills in this area that go far beyond the boundaries of age, sex or creed. As adults, my husband and I have both had to learn and are still learning these skills. For our children, we tend to lean towards the mindset of raising and training our children to be adults that are prepared and able to communicate as and with adults.
For anyone wondering though, our children have also been involved with extra-curricular activities, such as dance, sports, clubs, martial arts, swim lessons, play-dates, bible studies, mom’s groups, AWANA, 4-H, YMCA, etc. Each of these provide practice with mixing socially with others. Many of these activities provide opportunities to mix with many people outside of their specific peer groups. However, those skills are introduced, specifically taught and honed in a much smaller place – our home. It is during these various activities that we have the opportunity to practice the skills.
Behaving in a way that is acceptable to society
Typically that means being polite using your manners and general hygiene; saying please and thank you, shaking hands when you meet someone, making eye contact as you speak, don’t hit, don’t eat your boogers, sneeze into your elbow, wash your hands after using the bathroom, don’t stand too close when you are talking to people, chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk with your mouth full. All these are things that we as parents are perfectly capable of teaching our children at home and are usually no-brainers common to most homes.
Many people are under the impression that homeschoolers are at home all day without any outside interaction. Many homeschoolers chose to participate in co-ops, community outreach, church activities, sports, and outside lessons and classes such as music or art. Each one of those opportunities is a unique chance to teach and provide experiences to practice what has already been learned at home.
I have yet to meet a homeschool parent that is somehow sheltering their children from most or all interactions outside of their home. They may exist, but they are by far the exception. IN my experience, in general most people start out the homeschooling thing with a real desire to make sure their children have these outside activities. Therefore, they have many things scheduled early on. Before long though, many find themselves overwhelmed with how busy they are with all these things. Then, there is the natural reaction to want to retreat from all the busyness. It is at this point in our experience that we had to learn better how to be busy and operate as a family in the busyness. Efficiency is the name of the game! This forced us to start looking specifically at activities that allow for involvement for more than just one of us. Also, we have learned that it is not required, nor do we think it is healthy, to always have something scheduled
By and large, like every person, each homeschooling family is different. How involved in your homeschooling community you are is entirely up to you. For us, we have found that most homeschooling parents are plenty busy with outside activities, field trips, lessons and groups that they often struggle to keep up with. On the other hand, some families may choose to be more socially isolated than others. That’s one of the beauties and flexibilities that are offered in a homeschooling situation. To be clear though, being more socially isolated does not mean less socially capable. Also, to be candid, most people that are considering homeschooling are likely looking for a way to isolate themselves to some extent from the outside world, or at least to have a closer connection to how and when interactions happen.
No matter what your children’s school situation looks like, how you and your family work together and live day to day is going to be foundational in teaching them how they ought to behave in all other situations. Homeschooling provides parents the best possible way to be directly involved in training their children. When you see your child behaving in a way that is not acceptable to you, you are able to stop and correct that behavior immediately. You will have the opportunity to teach them right from wrong according to your family’s values. For us, our values come from God and what He teaches us from His Word, the Bible. It is our instruction guide on how we ought to train our children to live in this world. Loving them enough to correct them and teach them diligently. When your child’s behavior is inappropriate, is there a chance that you have influenced that behavior or attitude? In our home, we often will see attitudes from our children that are not always the most favorable. Typically the first thing that we need to do is look in the mirror and see if that attitude in our children is something that they are reflecting back at us. If that is the case, it becomes a learning and teaching opportunity for both parent and child. Humility and strength have been one of the biggest things that I, as a homeschooling parent, have had to learn. I am still learning to be willing to take every opportunity as a learning and growing experience and I am thoroughly blessed to join my children in that learning experience!
In a typical school setting, students are confined to a classroom for 5 days a week for roughly 9 months out of the year. They have little freedom to pursue their interests but rather are subject to the agenda that the institution, whichever one that may be, has mandated. That model in its foundation does not provide them opportunities to engage with the outside world. Studies that have been done with both public and private schooled students vs. homeschooled students show that the homeschoolers have no disadvantage to socializing. In a 1992 study, Dr. Larry Shyers compared behaviors and social development test scores of two groups of seventy children ages eight to ten. One group was being educated at home while the other group attended public and private schools. He found that the home-schooled children did not lag behind children attending public or private schools in social development. (1) Homeschoolers are better equipped to handle peer pressure and negative peer influence, and are more mature than their public schooled counterparts. They have less behavior problems as homeschoolers tend to imitate their parents while children in a classroom typically will replicate their peers – the people they spend the most time with.
When homeschooling, you, the parent are in the driver’s seat. You control the amount and the influence of the interactions your child has. Teaching them how to appropriately handle these various situations are what will transform them into the adults they will become. The responsibility is tremendous and sometimes quite daunting! However, for our family, it was an obvious decision with implications that we could have never foreseen. The lessons and the blessings have been tremendous and we look forward to the future!
For more details and additional studies regarding homeschooling and socialization, check out the article issued by the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) at: https://hslda.org/docs/nche/000000/00000068.asp
- Dr. Larry Shyers, “Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students,” unpublished doctoral dissertation at University of Florida’s College of Education, 1992. Dr. Shyers is a psychotherapist who is the Chairman of the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling.