No, Really -- What About Socialization?

If only homeschoolers had a nickel for every time they heard the question, "…but what about socialization?" I'd be rich! That infamous socialization question, for any seasoned homeschooler, is quite a humorous one!

Although non-homeschoolers worry that homeschooling may turn children into social misfits, we know that the opposite is true and the positive socialization is one of the best reasons to homeschool your children.

For centuries, children have learned socialization within the context of their own family and community. Institutionalized education is relatively new to the human condition. It is, and it always has been, through the home environment, that children learn the vast majority of their socialization skills.

Research supports this.  According to Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization by Richard G. Medlin, "Home-schooled children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. They are certainly not isolated; in fact, they associate with--and feel close to--all sorts of people."

He continues, "Home schooling parents can take much of the credit for this. For, with their children's long-term social development in mind, they actively encourage their children to take advantage of social opportunities outside the family. Home-schooled children are acquiring the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes they need. They have good self-esteem and are likely to display fewer behavior problems than do other children. They may be more socially mature and have better leadership skills than other children as well. And they appear to be functioning effectively as members of adult society."

This and other studies support the irony of the socialization issue in homeschooling that we have known for years, which is that traditional schools are actually more on a path of de-socialization.  In traditional schools students learn to stay in a class to which they've been assigned and are grouped according to age and academic level, and generally with students from the same geographic area and socio-economic background.

So in a sense, as I like to say, many people are homeschooling because of socialization reasons.

I remember my daughter, while she was in a traditional school, getting in trouble because she wanted to talk to her friends in class and the teacher kept saying ‘We're not here to socialize, young lady." The structure and reality of traditional schools are teaching students to be passive and compliant, which can follow the children throughout life.  Children can learn to take abuse, to ignore miserable bosses or abusive spouses later on.  In a traditional school someone else usurps authority.

This is where homeschooling comes in.  Kids in homeschooling develop self-confidence and self-esteem; they learn to deal with difficult people when they are developmentally ready.  When they are ready to go out into the world they know they have choices, a foundation developed in homeschooling.

So, the big question in homeschooling socialization is "Who do we want them learning life skills from?  Caring adults, or peers who don't know any more than they do?"

In other words, socialization in homeschooling works better because children have more opportunities to be socialized through the modeling of good social behavior by caring adults rather than through peers, who do not know much more than they do.   Parents give their kids the skills they need to interact with other people and also have the chance to protect their children.

Now what about the good stuff like Prom and Graduation? Many non-homeschoolers ask if I feel that I am depriving my daughter of these experiences. However, my daughter both participated in Prom and Graduation—they were just not organized by the state or a school. Many states and homeschool organizations have established proms and graduations for homeschoolers and a homeschooling family can even create their own private way to celebrate rites of passage. 

Homeschoolers get to participate in organized spelling and geography bees, math leagues, and science clubs that give them a chance to compete academically; and swimming, soccer, baseball and other sports also allow them to interact with their peers in athletic competition.

Even scouting, 4-H, and other activities are community-based and open to anyone. In short, homeschoolers are provided with a variety of choices for socialization. 

*This article published November 3, 2009.

Copyright 2009 To sign up for their free weekly e-zine, click here.