If there’s one area of homeschooling that’s completely misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized it’s the concept of “what about socialization?”
What baffles me most is that parents send their children to school for education, not socialization. If that were not true, why worry about skills, grades, or tests? Why teach concepts, monitor progress or provide remediation or enrichment?
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, you would see less notes to parents 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!
1. The activity of mixing socially with others.
2. The process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
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 kept 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 such as field trips, games, sports, play and p.e. activities on a regular basis. Co-ops find or create ways for kids to stay connected and involved in their communities.
Opportunities for 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 as healthy as other in person interactions.
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.
Homeschoolers are well versed in the communication and relationship skill set needed to manage a home as well as a business since many homeschool parents work from their homes or own a business. Homeschoolers often know more about family and consumer science than peers in a traditional school setting. As they get older, sometimes they take on responsibilities with the family business and learn valuable skills.
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 also does not resemble adulthood. Homeschool students are used to communicating with people of all different ages and backgrounds.
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 ideals are fun for kids but not the same as learning societal norms for adulthood. Kids learn to behave in a way that’s acceptable to society by growth, maturity and from influences of those closest to them.
While kids can learn some great skills in a traditional school setting, they can also learn behaviors that are not desirable or acceptable. Peer influences can be positive or negative. Some parents are homeschooling because their child’s interactions at a traditional school created 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 turn taking in a small group while kids in homeschool may practice turn taking with a board game. Both groups can transfer that skill to waiting in a line.
Many rules are in place in a traditional school for the management of a large group of children. Silent lunch or lights on/off to signal time for talking or silence 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 cut corners where they can. 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!
What about developing friendships?
Some kids crave human interactions and friendships more than others. It’s a parent’s responsibility to keep open communication with their children and meet their individual needs for more friendships or less.
Listen to your kids and if they want more play time- make it happen. If large groups of kids is stressful to them, then that will most likely apply to their adult years and they will be happy forming a few close friendships.
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 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. They observe and imitate the interactions of those around them.
Homeschooled students grow up and choose the same post-schooling paths and opportunities as their peers in traditional schools. They develop close friendships and would find it odd that people even ask “what about socialization.”