What’s the first thing you get asked? Seriously. We all get asked this so much – we are sick of hearing about it. Sick of reading about it. Just sick of it. “Oh, you homeschool. Aren’t you worried about socialization.” I don’t think people expect my response. “I’m not.” I’ve got a good reason though. It’s the surprising truth about homeschool “socialization” which is often overlooked.
So first – I want to clarify. What do you mean by SOCIALIZATION? Are you talking about the process in which students are grouped by peer level and allowed to interact in a socially engineered environment such that students learn the “pecking order,” learn to form groups, learn to deal with the bullies, learn to play by the rules, stand in line, raise their hands, and maybe even make friends?
Are you asking me if my kids are going to know how to “socialize” in a group setting such as a party or in the office? Are you asking me if my kids are going to learn how to become dependent on the government (authority) and expect handouts? Are you asking if my children are going to understand the importance of the role government plays in oversight of every facet of our lives? (Insert sarcastic emoticon here.)
Just to further clarify — here’s what I’m talking about. Socialization is the ability of a person to interact socially with people of all ages, in all settings, for the purpose of forming relationships and impacting others. And for that purpose here’s the secret.
Homeschool Socialization ROCKS. Here’s why:
- My kids go to the grocery store with me and learn to answer awkward questions from college students and adults — RESPECTFULLY. “Oh – you are homeschooled. I bet you hate that! When do you ever get to spend time with your friends?” or this one, “Were you good for Santa this year?” or my all-time favorite, “You already have all your schoolwork done for the day?? What did you learn about? (proceed to grill child during the entire checkout process.) So yeah – who doesn’t need to know how to field awkward questions?
- My kids are learning to interact with people of all ages just like in real life after school. My kids spend time with each other — my nine-year-old and my twelve-year-old collaborate on school projects together. My seventeen-year-old and my fourteen-year-old work together on certain subjects. My seven-year-old twins occasionally get to learn history from Grandpa and work math problems with Grandma. We are learning to interact with people of all ages. My children have friends who are both younger (for example – the twins play with a four-year-old fairly frequently) and older (my twins also play with a nine-year-old neighbor boy on a fairly frequent basis). My nine-year-old plays with other boys (not just family) who are three years younger and also has a few really good friends who are 1-5 years older.
- My kids are learning to be respectful of other adults, whether they are authority figures or not. They are encouraged to shake hands, answer questions politely, and engage in conversation. It’s not all perfect – but we work on it. And they get to work on it with mom and dad as a safety net.
- My kids are learning to serve others and be a contributor in society. We set an example of service, and expect our older children to participate in service projects such as leading younger groups at AWANA or heading into the inner city for Tae Kwon Do demonstrations for the poor. We all work together for events like Feed My Starving Children, and we spend time purchasing and contributing food for the hungry.
- My kids are learning conflict resolution skills first hand – daily. There is no way you can put six siblings together with one teacher, aka Mommy, and not have some conflict. And I’m glad I’m the one getting in between them and teaching them to count window panes instead of throwing punches.
Do I think the social skills my children are learning in our homeschool are perfect? Actually, I think we could do better. I have a few children who have definite room for improvement. But, do I think that my children are underprivileged socially because we homeschool? No. Do I think those same children who need improvement with social skills would flourish socially in a school environment? Not even close.
School is not the panacea of all social ills. Quite the contrary. We had just as many socially inept people graduate from my high school as we had social rock stars. Every class had a nerd or geek or two. Every class had misfits. That’s not going to change when you homeschool – but how those children are treated as they grow up is drastically different. I am so thankful my preciously *different* kids aren’t labeled in socially negative ways!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you that homeschooling is not the panacea of all social ills either. But if you are looking for a really good way to teach your child positive social skills – homeschool socialization has your back.