If there’s one area of homeschooling that’s completely misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized it’s the question people ask most often…
“But what about socialization?”
What baffles me most about this commonly asked question is that parents send their children to school for education, not socialization. Parents want to know about skills, grades, tests and how teachers will provide remediation or enrichment. They typically do not ask the teacher when or how socialization will be worked into the school day!
Any kid who shows up on the first day of school with the intentions of socializing on their terms all day is quickly disappointed! If traditional schools were designed for socialization, parents would not receive notes that say “too much talking in class.”
Why then has the socialization of homeschoolers even become a hot topic and common point of discussion?
I truly believe in the near future people will finally realize there’s no longer a reason to keep asking about socialization. Here’s why!
Socialization is defined as:
1. The activity of mixing socially with others.
2. The process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
Let’s start with definition #1.
The activity of mixing socially with others.
Homeschool students mix socially with others day in and day out. They chat with other kids and adults of all ages in different environments and situations. They are able to express themselves, have opinions, likes, dislikes, and preferences just as their peers in a traditional school setting.
Students who learn at home are not isolated or prevented from interacting with others. That would be an abusive or neglectful environment and in no way resembles a healthy home learning environment.
Instead, homeschool families are actively involved in their communities. They go about their normal day to day routines the same as anyone else. They are busy families with kids of various ages who participate in activities inside and outside of their home.
Homeschoolers participate in sports, martial arts, perform in community plays and are actively involved in clubs like boy scouts, girl scouts, 4H and more. They take music lessons, driver’s education, and have the same opportunities for dual enrollment and high school electives as students in traditional brick and mortar schools.
Groups of homeschooling families in communities form co-ops that plan special events for kids on a regular basis. These groups may go on field trips together, play games, and participate in organized sports or physical education activities. Co-ops find or figure out ways for kids to stay connected and involved in their communities.
Opportunities for healthy online social interactions are growing. Kids are starting to connect with other kids virtually through gaming and online classes that offer small group activities. These must be monitored by parents to ensure safety but they are becoming a normal part of the way kids meet and spend time together. As remote work becomes more commonplace, close virtual friendships will become more natural and common for both kids and adults.
Homeschooled students are Tim Tebow, Bethany Hamilton, Joey Logano, Condoleeza Rice and many other well known athletes, entrepreneurs, politicians, doctors, performing artists, military leaders, authors, and scientists.
Homeschool students are successful entrepreneurs who are thankful for the opportunities a home education provided.
Many homeschool parents work from their homes or own a business. This gives their children every day experiences with the communication and relationship skill sets needed to manage both home and business. Homeschoolers often know more about family and consumer science than peers in a traditional school setting. As they get older, they sometimes take on responsibilities with the family business and learn valuable skills that can’t be taught in a curriculum.
Simply put, homeschool students mix socially with others every day. They may not be interacting daily with a group of same age peers, but that scenario does not resemble adulthood. Homeschool students are used to communicating with people of all different ages and backgrounds.
So now let’s take a look at definition #2:
The process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
Kids create games, ideas and rules that are often funny to adults. We admire their creativity and curiosity. These games and ideas are fun and should be encouraged with our kids while they explore and make new connections. Kids learn acceptable behavior from growth, maturity and guidance from family and friends… not from a specific educational setting.
In a traditional school setting, kids are exposed to both positive behaviors and others that are not acceptable. Peer influences can be positive or negative. Some parents are homeschooling because their child’s interactions at a traditional school developed into unhealthy or problematic behavior.
Both kids in traditional school as well as homeschool gain building blocks for acceptable behavior, but perhaps in different ways. Kids in traditional school may practice taking turns in a small group while kids in homeschool may practice taking turns with a board game. Both groups of students can transfer that skill to waiting in a line.
Many rules are in place in a traditional school for the management and safety of working with a large group of children. Silent lunch or lights on/off to indicate when students can talk is very common in the school cafeteria. This wouldn’t make sense or be appropriate in a homeschool setting nor does it translate to adulthood when coworkers or friends meet for lunch.
Some homeschoolers have a quiet and studious personality while other homeschoolers are more outgoing and like to procrastinate. This typically doesn’t change whether they are 10 years old or 20, or whether they are homeschooled or in a traditional school.
Are some homeschoolers quirky? Yes!
Are some public school kids quirky? Yes!
ALL kids (and adults) have their quirks, and homeschooled kids are no different. Quirks are part of personalities, not a result of schooling. Sometimes parents have chosen the homeschool path to encourage the quirks and allow them to fully develop into natural abilities and talents.
Thankfully, all kids have unique and different personalities and what makes one child’s heart sing is not the same for another! Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Temple Grandin, Nikola Tesla- thankfully they pursued their gifts despite anyone’s opinions about their quirks!
Okay, but… What about developing friendships?
Some kids crave human interactions and friendships more than others. It’s a parent’s responsibility to keep communication open with their children and meet their individual needs for more friendships or less.
Listen to your kids and if they want more play time with other kids- make it happen by whatever means is possible with your schedule. If being around large groups of kids is stressful to your child, it could mean that they will be happier forming a few close friendships later in life.
Developing friendships will be unique to your child’s personality and interests. Their educational background is not a deciding factor for who has friends and who does not.
Forming friendships with groups of same aged peers in a pre-selected classroom under forced socialization is not a guarantee for lasting friendships. Some kids mature at different levels and may relate better to kids that are younger or older. Real, lasting friendships often develop after the schooling years in more natural settings.
Socialization is not just how to make friends. It’s social skills that are applied in all types of settings among all types of people. Homeschool students practice the same social skills as peers in a brick and mortar school in all different settings.
Homeschooled students grow up and choose the same post-schooling paths and opportunities as their peers in traditional schools. They become our co-workers, neighbors, and lifelong friends. It’s past time to stop asking “what about socialization.”