If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times—that age-old question asked of every homeschooler by every homeschool skeptic: “What about socialization?”

Whether asked by genuinely concerned and well-meaning relatives or posed by our most ardent critics, the question has become so routine that many homescholers are able to answer it without a moment’s thought. But for years, we’ve been answering this question the wrong way.

“Well,” the standard answer goes, “our kids go to soccer practice once a week, our youngest daughter takes music lessons, our son is in 4-H and Boy Scouts, the oldest two are part of the church youth group, and they all have lots of friends around the neighborhood. They get plenty of socialization.”

Question answered, critic silenced. We feel good. Vindicated. “You can’t get us with that question,” we think to ourselves. “Just look at all the socialization my kids get!”

However good it may feel to give this answer, it amounts to little more than an “Oh yeah?” response. “What do you mean my kids don’t get enough socialization? Just look at everything they’re involved in!”

Is this the best answer we can give? And is it possible we’re compromising our own values and allowing the world’s thinking to become our own?

Meeting the Critics on their Own Ground

As homeschoolers, we’ve encountered many criticisms and attacks over the years. Many of us want to be able to justify our choice of lifestyle to the naysayers. We want to face them on their own turf and show them we can measure up.

But there’s a problem. If we get too caught up in trying to prove to our critics—or perhaps even to ourselves—that homeschooling measures up to some preconceived notions about life and education, we’re in danger of living our lives according to the standards of the world. As we measure our success by their yardstick, we’ll be in danger of falling for all the misguided beliefs and actions of those around us. We need to be careful about being too eager to meet our critics on their ground. We need to be cautious about letting them define the debate.

Answering the socialization question with nothing more than a list of activities our children are involved in risks forcing us to live by the world’s standards so we can justify our lifestyle to the world. After all, if we aren’t involved in enough activities, we lose our entire answer to the most common question about homeschooling. And we can’t let that happen! Thus, we adopt the world’s standards and definitions, surrendering ours without so much as a word.

Ultimately, if we’re giving in to pressure (consciously or unconsciously) to pursue numerous activities and opportunities simply to satisfy those who would criticize our lifestyle—or perhaps to appease our own society-induced fears and insecurities—then we may be falling prey to a dangerous fallacy that we should be challenging rather than following.

More to a Question than Meets the Eye

At this point, we need to understand something fundamental about the nature of questions. It’s a simple truth, but it can revolutionize how we respond. Every question, however simple it may be, has a set of underlying assumptions that motivate that question.

This is one reason why questions can be so powerful and even deceitful. We can be led astray in our thinking by a question which sounds reasonable but which has a subtly incorrect assumption behind it.

Every question is motivated by our understanding of the world and the issues we deal with. People who approach life from a different perspective from our own will probably be asking different questions than we do, or will at least have different reasons for asking them.