What about socialization?
I, too, asked that question when I began investigating homeschooling. Reading what homeschool veterans had to say about it really helped me to see socialization from a different point of view. Since then, I’ve helped many other parents 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. 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 was a range of ages, from a small child of 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 own 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 happened next!
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. When a small child 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 young children. They were going to record the guest speakers so that they could sell the CDs and I wondered how, with so many children in the room, they could make a recording without too much background noise.
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 tend to it. That was another positive 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 developed the ability 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 took my teen daughter to the doctor, and 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.
Cold Hard Facts
In his report, Research Facts on Homeschoolers, Dr. Brian Ray, of the National Home Education Research Institute, has published the following findings related to socialization1
- 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
Socialization comes in both positive and negative forms. We’ve all heard the taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and we all know 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. Once those weeds are planted in a child’s mind, it’s really hard to eradicate them.
I wanted to limit those crippling 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.
What other forms of negative socialization would you like to spare your children? Bullying? Pressure to experiment with sex, drugs, and alcohol? Indoctrination?
The Socialization Myth
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re 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 interrogator 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 with 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.
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Great read, Michelle! And very true, Satan would love nothing more than to convince us homeschool moms (whom God has called to this job) to listen to the discouraging lies. I was always thankful that my children were NOT socialized by clueless peers but comfortable spending time with people of all ages. I too love to watch the interaction of all ages in homeschool group settings; it’s really so good for everyone.
Thank you very much! I appreciate you taking the time to share your comments.
Great article, Michelle! I’m sure it will be an encouragement to anyone considering homeschooling…or for anyone who isn’t quite sure how to answer questions about the S word!
Thank you! I hope that it’s helpful to someone!
Great posts! Such good observations and points!
Great points! Thanks for sharing on Homestead Blog Hop!
Thank you, Liz!
Have you read any of the stories from Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out? I think those stories and voices are very, very, very important too. I think homeschooling does not need to continue to evolve more to take socialization and fun more into account, and not simply dismiss this. Sometimes socialization occurs only with the most like-minded, carefully selected friends, some homeschooled children are only socialized in their own large families. I agree that homeschool kids tend to be calmer and more respectful, but I do think socialization, or a social life, is much more important than we make it out to be in homeschool communities. And let’s be honest, many homeschool families are downright anti-social, and perhaps have picked homeschooling because they just don’t like people. lol
I’m not familiar with those sources so I can’t speak to them, but if they reveal negative aspects of homeschooling, then I’ll agree that there can be some at times, just as with any group of people. But the article refers to the general opinion of professors who have taught homeschooled students, and I would say that it is positive.
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Thank you, Michelle for such a well thought out, clear, professional article! I love how you give such personal observations along with blaring facts and research. Well said!
Thank you so much, Joy! I appreciate your kind words!
“There really is a difference in the culture of homeschooled children, and it’s a good one!” I agree!
Thank you, Susan!