Much, perhaps too much, is made of the “socialization” issue in homeschooling. Non-homeschoolers fear for a child’s well-being when they hear that child is homeschooled. How will the child ever learn to function in society? How will he learn to fit in? How will he learn to get up early, stick to schedule, or obey authority?
A chasm of difference exists between the ideas of socialization and socializing. Basically, socialization is 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 (Dictionary.com). Socializing, on the other hand, means to associate or mingle sociably with others (Dictionary.com). While either or both may be a concern to non-homeschoolers, surprisingly, homeschoolers experience plenty of both.
Homeschooling parents, in general, make a concerted effort to find opportunities for their children to socialize with other children. Park days, play dates, learning cooperatives, scouting, classes, and clubs are but a few of the ways children interact with others. So, socializing is a non-issue.
Socialization, however, is much different. What the majority of people views as normal—20 to 30 children of the same age stuck in a classroom together five days a week with one adult—makes no sense. When else in life do we exclusively interact with people our own age, except for the older authority figure? How is this preparing our children for their futures?
Instead, homeschooling offers children the opportunity to interact with people of all ages, from different walks of life, in a variety of situations. While all children do this on a regular basis to a certain extent, homeschoolers do it consistently. Because they are not locked away in a classroom for hours at a time, homeschooled children are exposed to a more normal daily life. They don’t view the world with an “us (kids or grade level) versus them (adults or different grade level)” mindset. It is common to see children of all ages playing and working together at park days or co-ops. Rarely is it heard, “But she’s only in third grade,” mainly because the children do not view each other as a grade level. It just is not important.
Of course, a major point made ad nauseum is that homeschooled children will not learn to deal with life’s many difficult situations, such as bullies, cliques, failure, et cetera. Although these sound like horrific issues to wish upon children, the intent is actually well-meaning. Yes, life is full of awful situations with which children need to learn to cope. Yet, why do they need to learn to cope with them when they are only five? One only has to talk to anyone who has homeschooled for a while to hear stories of typical playground behavior happening within homeschool groups. The big difference is, and this cannot be overstated, at least one parent is present to help the child deal with the problem in a gentle, loving way, giving the child the tools (words, actions, comfort) to successfully cope with the same issue in the future. Often, the parents of the other children also help the situation. The most well-intentioned teacher cannot do that for a classroom of 30 children. Even if he were aware of all the problems and conflict, he would not have time to help each child grow positively from the encounter. How is the “sink-or-swim” superior to gentle guidance?
Of course, some folks may be concerned that all this amounts to mollycoddling, that homeschoolers will not learn to stand up for themselves. Yet, in study after study (see list below), homeschoolers are shown to be more mature, self-motivated, and community-oriented than traditional-schoolers.
When it comes down to it, homeschooled children are at an advantage in regard to socialization. They learn how to deal with difficult situations with consistent parental support. They are not left to fend for themselves on the playground or in the class when the teacher’s back is turned. They build self-esteem and self-awareness in a strong, supportive, and safe environment. And, after all, don’t we want our children to become strong, confident adults?
Article by Sarah J. Wilson
Article by Sarah J. Wilson
For more information on homeschoolers and socialization, please refer to these studies:
Want to learn more about homeschooling and socialization? Check out these books:The California Homeschool Guide - Second Edition
So - WHY Do You Homeschool?
But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question: A Review of the Literature
High School @ Home: You Can Do It!
Empowering Families: Starting the Homeschool Journey