What about socialization?
I, too, asked that question while investigating homeschooling. Reading what homeschool veterans had to say about it really helped me to see socialization from a different viewpoint. I’ve helped many people get started in homeschooling and I can tell you that almost every one of them has asked me that question.
Just so that we’re all on the same page, let’s start with a formal definition:
Socialization: : the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status
“Socialization.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 27 June 2016.
At the first homeschool park day that I attended, I watched intently while the children played. There were a range of ages from about four, to a big-boned thirteen-year-old boy. The kids started choosing teams to play “Red Rover” and in my mind I revisited my school days when that was one of the games I dreaded most of all. The kids would form two teams and line up opposite each other holding hands. Then they would chant, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send _____ over, ” inserting the name of one of the kids from the other team. Then that child would run as fast as he or she could and attempt to break the clasped hands of the team on the other side. I was very small and scrawny at that age so it was common that they chose one of my “links” to break through. Remembering that, I grimaced, wondering how a range of ages and sizes could play that game together. I was so surprised by what I saw! The team with the thirteen-year-old boy called one of the small children from the other team. That small child ran as hard as he could towards the clasped hands of the big boy and a kid next to him, and the big boy let him break through. Then he scooped him up and playfully swung him up in the air. All the kids laughed and joined back up to continue their game. I continued to watch as the kids cooperated, and compensated for the differences in age so that everyone had fun. That was one of my first impressions of homeschooling, and it was a big one!
I witnessed other interactions, such as big kids pushing smaller kids on swings, or helping them climb ladders. Once, when a little one tripped and began crying, two older girls rushed over to help her up and brush her off.
During my first visit to a homeschool convention, I attended a workshop. The small room quickly filled with families, including their children. They were going to record the guest speakers so that they could sell CDs. I wondered how, with so many children in the room, they could make a recording without too much noise. Again, I was amazed at how quiet the room remained. Parents had brought books or quiet activities and the kids either sat quietly beside their parent, or in the aisle nearby. Once when a baby started to cry, the father immediately got up and left the room to take care of it. That was another example of homeschooled socialization.
Before I started homeschooling, I had the “kids will be kids” mentality. I didn’t know that it was possible to train children to sit quietly and have good manners. Again and again I witnessed such situations. After awhile I began to be able to detect homeschooled children by the way they conducted themselves, and the way the family interacted. There really is a difference in the culture of homeschooled children, and it’s a good one!
A Good Kind of “Weird”
On one occasion, while grocery shopping with my kids, I asked my 8-year-old son to get something for me. He walked over to some older ladies and said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Would you hand me some butter?” Both of the women turned and looked at me with one of those looks we homeschoolers become accustomed to. They had odd expressions, like they had seen a ghost, or an alien. Then one of them exclaimed, “He’s so polite!”
Not too long ago I had to take my teen daughter to the doctor. While checking out, the office staff started asking me questions about her. Then they commented that they would have guessed that she was older because she looked them in the eye, had self-confidence, and spoke maturely. There was just something about her.
- The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
- Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.
The research based on adults who were home educated is growing; thus far it indicates that they:
- participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population,
- vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population.
Sticks and Stones
We’ve all heard the taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and we all know that it isn’t true. The ugly things that were said to me as a child are still alive and well in the back of my mind. Even as an adult that knows better, they still affect my self-esteem. I wanted to limit those ugly voices in my children’s heads as much as possible. I’m not going to assert that ugliness never occurs within homeschool circles, but it pales in comparison to what kids experience in schools. My experience was, that any time we gathered with other homeschoolers, most, if not all, of the other kids were accompanied by at least one parent. In the event that ugliness erupted, it immediately became a teaching opportunity for the whole group.
The Socialization Myth
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are in the research stage of homeschooling, or perhaps a new homeschooler with young children. The socialization myth is just another one of our enemy’s lies to discourage you from homeschooling. He’d love to help you socialize your children. It’s up to us to consider what we want for our kids, and then make decisions accordingly.
Although it’s tempting to laugh when asked the socialization question, we need to realize that the asker has been misled by the enemy just as we once were. Maybe that will help us to patiently give an explanation and point out the misconceptions behind it. Socialization occurs from any type of interaction, whether it’s between family members or strangers in public. Kids are socialized when visiting with grandparents, running errands, or participating in sports and clubs. The truth is that you’d have to try pretty hard to prevent your kids from being socialized.