Another one of the big issues that comes up when people find out we homeschool is…..
Big Question: If a child is homeschooled, how will he be properly socialized?
The word socialization brings to my mind psychologists and professors with glasses far down on their nose studying what used to be called simply friendship or play as it pertains to children. However, my dismissal of the term will not answer the question I’m asked so often.
Dictionary.com defines it:
a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity
and learns the norms, values,behavior, and social
skills appropriate to his or her social
Which begs the question, what does social mean after all?
pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community
, rather than in isolation:People are social beings.
Not to oversimplify, but can I break those definitions down to a few key words? enjoying friendly companionship, suited to polite society, living in companionship rather than isolation.
I think we would agree that those are the social goals we have for our children, no matter what style of education to which we ascribe. Before I talk about those specifics, let me mention a few important facts.
- Children have different personalities.
My husband and I are both introverts. Neither of us were homeschooled except my husband for a brief portion of one year. While we can carry on conversation and function in group settings without anxiety or dread, neither of us enjoy parties or social gatherings with the sole purpose of gathering. We need alone time in order to function well.
We understand that our children are going to have different personalities, but as our family doctor says, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” None of our children except perhaps one have shown signs of enjoying crowds and large parties. Does that make them anti-social? I don’t believe so. Certain personalities gravitate to large social gatherings and others do not. Education style doesn’t change the personality.
Children that thrive on a lot of social interaction may do well in a group setting like a classroom where there is much activity and many people. However, for a child that is easily overwhelmed by large groups, it could simply cause them to withdraw which is the opposite of our socialization goal.
- The success of socialization largely depends on the people with whom children are socialized.
If I decide to regularly hang out with a group of ax murderers, I may be socialized, but most would agree it would not be a positive thing. The same is true for our children. They will likely model the behavior of those they are around the most.
For homeschooled children, this means they will model the behavior of the parents and form close relationships with siblings. In their younger, formative years, they will develop relationships with those outside the home when parents are fully aware of who they are with and often are nearby during those interactions.
If a child is in a classroom, a parent has less control. The parent can place them in a school with good teachers, but the influence of classmates is largely variable. Even if the kids have good parents, neither the conventionally-schooled child nor his classmates are with those parents for a majority of the day.
- Results must be studied factually without bias.
To look at homeschoolers who are not socially well-adjusted (whatever that means) and use them to paint the whole homeschool movement is not fair. Neither is it fair for homeschoolers to find a few children in a government school that are bad kids (whatever that means), and blame the public school system.
In 17 years of teaching music lessons to children, I have worked with a variety of children from all types of educational backgrounds. They could not be categorized according to educational choice alone. There are too many other variables that determine a child’s behavior and social adaptation.
- End goals of socialization may be different for a Christian, homeschooler or not.
As Christians, we take our faith very seriously and teach it to our children. While a non-Christian may simply want a child to “get along with others”, our goal is for them to “love others”. A person that does not follow Jesus will not have the problem with some social situations that my husband and I would have. Someone that is not an evangelical Christian will not understand our “salt and light” mentality which is living in a way that exemplifies Christianity and being ready to share our faith with others when opportunity arises.
The specifics of living out the Christian faith in education are up to individual families. Most evangelical Christians will agree that they want to teach their children to love others and be salt and light. The difference between homeschooled students, private Christian- schooled students and public-schooled students is the when. Only a parent listening closely to God can decide when your child is properly prepared to go out into the world as an evangelist without being influenced by its values.
Now, back to my summarized definition of a social person:
- Enjoying friendly companionship. We feel this goal can be met in the context of our family and church family and in controlled settings with other like-minded people. In situations when we are with people that are not like-minded, we can demonstrate friendliness without being influenced by wrong philosophies. Parents, siblings and other family members will usually be part of a child’s life for its duration. It only makes sense that companionship be enjoyed most often with the immediate family group.
- Suited to polite society. This seems to be a fancy way to say “have good manners”. Again, we feel that this is best taught at home. Interaction with adults other than a teacher is rare for children in classrooms. It is not practical for table manners to be taught in schools. The playground or lunchroom is the only place a child in a private or public school can interact with peers, so socialization in the sense of having conversation with others is even less than that of a homeschooled child.
- Living in companionship rather than isolation. This is probably the biggest concern people have about homeschooled children. It is the parent’s duty to be sure they are not isolated, of course. I don’t know of any homeschooling parents that keep their children home in isolation other than some extreme and rare cases where criminal activity was involved. Most homeschoolers experience a rich social life in their churches, neighborhoods and other community events in which they are able to participate more fully because they are homeschooled.
One More Thing:
If the goal of socialization is to teach children how to function in the “real world” (whatever that means), we feel the home is the best training ground for this. In most work situations, a person will have to know how to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds, not just peers.
The family is a good experiment for this on a small scale. Parents are older with more experience and function as the boss will in later years. Siblings will be of different ages, so a child will have to relate to those older and more educated than himself as well as younger and less educated. This early experience is taught in a non-threatening environment that will form patterns for later in life when the child is ready for the challenges the “real world” offers.
As far as those of different backgrounds and races, we have encountered more variety in our homeschool co-op and groups than we would in our local school system which is largely people from one section of the city with similar demographics due to location. In homeschool groups, my children have friends of multiple races, some with handicaps and mental challenges and of varying ages and economical statuses.