I have only been homeschooling a short time. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, nor do I claim to be perfect at it. In fact, I fail, daily. Just like every parent, and every teacher in the world. We all feel like we could have done more, or explained it a little differently. I just happen to be a mom, who is schooling my kids at home, that is a public school teacher as well. Or, maybe I used to be. I am not entirely sure where I am at, in this part of my life.
Let me tell you how nearly every person who truly does not understand homeschooling has responded when we tell them we are homeschooling. Are you ready? “Oh! Aren’t you afraid you aren’t giving them enough socialization?” To this, I want to laugh.
I’m pretty sure socialization doesn’t mean what they think it means. Socialization is the “process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and value to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community.”
I am pretty confident that those things can be learned without being in a school setting. In fact, I am positive it can be. Perhaps even more effectively.
There are several things about socialization that I want to point out. The first is this: forced socialization is not the same thing as socialization. Forced socialization occurs when people are forced to interact with others, of no choice of their own. School is a form of forced socialization. You are placed in a room with a group of people, of which you have no control over. You are expected to maintain a level of civility with them, even if they are not people you want to associate with. You are partnered up with them, or seated beside them. You are being forced to interact with them and are given no choice of the matter. If they are bothering you, you can’t walk away. If they disrupt you, they aren’t just bothering you, they are actually impeding your education.
I know that this happens as an adult. We work with people we don’t like. We encounter people in social settings that “rub us the wrong way” and part of being in school is to teach us how to get along with others that we don’t like. I get the importance of teaching your kids how to get along with those you disagree with, I just don’t think it has to happen in a classroom. As an adult, if I don’t like someone, I avoid them at all costs. If I work with them, I keep my distance as much as possible. If I do have to interact with them, I am as kind and considerate as I possibly can be.
Was I taught that at school? No. I was taught that at home, by my parents. I was taught to treat people the way you want to be treated. I was taught that if my sister was irritating me, as she always did, to walk away from her. If I was mean to her, I got in trouble. My parents taught me these things. Not a teacher in a classroom. I don’t blame teachers. Their hands are tied. They can’t let you walk out of a classroom when someone is bothering you. They have to power through the curriculum and two kids arguing only take away from that time. I also know that not every kid has parents who are invested in them, and teach them right from wrong. But then again, those parents wouldn’t be homeschooling their child’s, which means they have every opportunity to learn those skills at school, right???
The next point I want to make is this: socialization can happen anywhere. My children were adopted from foster care. They came to us at the ages of 3, 5, and 6. They do not know a stranger. In fact, they were expected to live with people they had never met, so if anything, they have no fear of strangers. We have had to teach them stranger danger. With that being said, they have friends of all ages, races, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds. They have made these friends at church, through sports programs, and just being in the community.
In fact, my daughter only had two real friends at her school. Most of her friends are people she interacts with outside of school, in softball or at church. One of my daughters favorite people is an elderly gentleman in the community, who is wonderful to kids. Not in a creepy way. Most kids would ignore him, and as they got older, would maybe even mock him in peer-pressure, but I am teaching my kids to be friends to these people. Everyone has so much to offer, and friendships can span cross ages or any other barrier. I can teach my children how to interact with others at the store, at sporting events, at church functions, at state parks, or anywhere.
Another point to think about is: Who are your children socializing with at school? Not their friends, but just people they come across. There are wonderful kids in the public school setting, but there are also kids who are a bit more challenging. There are kids who know about “the birds and the bees”, or at least part of it, and they are telling your child about it. Mostly incorrectly. There are kids who see parents abuse drugs, and think that this is acceptable. They come to school talking about it, and glorifying it. There are kids who cuss because they are exposed to it at home, and they are saying these words to your kids.
True story: one night I went to tuck my son into bed. I noticed the dread “F” word CARVED into his bed. I was livid. For one, we don’t use those words in our home, nor do we watch shows with. For two, it was a new bed. He had to pay to have it fixed. When asked where he heard it, he responded by telling us a kid at school. That’s what my kid was exposed to.
Bullies are also a real problem in the public school system. Two of my children were bullied severely. In fact, my daughter was bullied for an entire school year. The kid told her that nobody loved her, not even her real mom, that was why she had to be adopted; that she was going to Hell; that she was stupid, etc. My daughter was tormented, and couldn’t concentrate at school. That child moved away during the summer between her third and fourth grade years. During the middle of her fourth grade year, she came back. The moment my daughter saw her she became hysterical. The confidence she had accumulated in that half year, dissolved in minutes.
I am not saying that I want my kids to live in a bubble, and not be exposed to anything negative. I know that realistically, no matter where they are, they are going to see and hear things that are unfavorable. They could even be bullied at church. It happen’s. However, my point is this. Not all of the socialization that happens at school is good. They will see and hear things that are not appropriate, and are at ages when they are very impressionable. I am sending them to school to learn, and in many cases, the behavior of other kids was preventing that from happening. Teen pregnancy, drugs, violence, peer pressure are all negative impacts of socialization.
Another important aspect of socialization is that every kid is different. Some kids are naturally more introverted. Crowds make them uncomfortable. As a society, we are getting more and more introverted. You can shop from your couch. You can have someone else grocery shop for you, and pick it up at the curb. Social media is taking the place of having actual conversations with others. Even when you do go out and socialize with others, most of the time you have your eyes fixed on your phone. Socialization has changed over the years, but yet, we still send our kids to school, expecting them to socialize.
The final point I want to make is that children truly do not socialize at school. There are very few instances that a child actually gets to socialize at school. Before school, lunch (if they’re lucky), recess (if they get it), and after school. At the other times, they are being forced to sit in their seat and remain quiet, or only are allowed to talk about their work. So maybe 1/7th of their school day is spent actually socializing. If they do try to socialize during that time, they get written up, or clipped down. Most of the kids your kids are friends with are people they play sports or do activities with, or live in close proximity to.
Somehow, overtime, people have begun to see school as a way of socializing their kids, not just a place of learning. Socialization cannot only occur at school, and shouldn’t be the basis for whether a kid is homeschooled or not. It also shouldn’t be used as a way of shaming someone who has chosen to homeschool their kids. Studies have shown that children who are homeschooled are actually more social, in that they are in society more than traditional public school students. They don’t spend 180ish days in a building for 7 hours a day. They are being exposed to culture, and the environment, and learning in a variety of ways. That “weird kid” who is homeschooled isn’t “weird” because they were homeschooled. They may have a legitimate medical condition, could have been overly sheltered (which is not just in homeschool), or maybe are just like that. We need to stop thinking that kids who are homeschooled are unsocialized, and start understanding that this is a stigma that we need to let go of.