Every homeschooling parent is familiar with the question, “But how are the children going to be socialized?” or some other marked query of concern along the same lines.
It’s one of the questions that I prepared myself to answer right from the start, knowing that it would come up and come up often.
But really..what is socialization?
From what I gather from the people I talk to, from reading others’ opinions about socialization, and from looking up actual definitions it seems to mean being able to engage with others appropriately or, learning acceptable behavior from the people around you.
Keep in mind that when I’m asked how my kids are socialized, it’s implied that if I sent them to school this would happen automatically and properly.
Does that really happen, though?
It’s been a while since I’ve played on a school yard at recess but I remember there being a lot of unacceptable behavior and conversation. Children playing selfishly, leaving the new kid or different kid on the sidelines day after day. Bullies teasing, children name-calling and pushing through the line for swings or slide.
Of course, this isn’t the case for every child..but it does exist in every school I’m sure.
Generally speaking, children are immature. Bullying, bossiness, and name calling is going to happen. They’re still learning to make right choices and control their emotions. Something that many adults don’t seem to have mastered or made a priority to conquer.
But children are also easily influenced by peers. Which means that when children are picking up social cues in school, they’re picking them up in the school yard from other children who are just as immature and trying to impress others as they are. The blind leading the blind, so to speak.
How many kids learn their first swear words in school, and start using them because their friends do. How many teens start drinking or smoking or having sex because their friends do? How many kids join the bully or refuse to stand up for the bullied because they are afraid of being the next target? Growing up I was often the kid picked last or left out entirely, bullied, teased, and never stood up for. My only friends were the other “different” kids..the girl who recently moved and only spoke French, the girl who was overweight, the girl who was Chinese and brought “weird” (different but delicious) food to lunch.
And why do I specify “in the school yard?”
Because for the most part, children aren’t allowed to talk in school anywhere else.
You can’t talk in class unless it’s a specific class discussion. You can’t talk in the hallway or in line waiting for lunch. The higher the grade, the less talking time you get. All that’s really left is recess and lunch time and eventually, you don’t even get recess any more.
I’m not trying to say that the school system is doing it all wrong. What I’m saying is that schools weren’t designed to socialize. Teachers have a lot to cover with a lot of children in a short amount of time and if children are talking, it won’t happen.
So why is public school the standard for socialization?
Kids learning from kids for only a short period of time each day.
Wouldn’t learning to socialize be so much more effective if children were learning from mature adults, looking to please these adults instead of other children, and learning how to talk to other people in all sorts of situations?
Basically, learn how to behave in real daily life.
When children are homeschooled their peers are their family. People who care about them the most, whose relationships will be the most important and long-lasting, are the ones they are wanting to please with their words and actions. They learn how to play with and include children of all ages, whether sibling or friend from a homeschooling group. They do errands with Mom or Dad during the week, engaging in conversation with the bank teller, the grocery store cashier, or the elderly gentleman who asks, “no school today?” They are learning to behave appropriately in society from a young age and not thrown into it as a young adult.
Are homeschooled children sometimes shy and awkward? Yes. But sometimes public schooled children are, too. I’m very shy and introverted. I’ve always been awkward and quiet in social situations. It’s a personality thing, not a schooling thing.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not anti-school. I grew up in public school and I turned out OK I think. I went to college, got a degree, had my own apartment, got married, and worked as a nurse until I had my eldest child.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone and I don’t believe that my family is “better” for homeschooling.
But, if someone is going to have an argument against homeschooling, it should be a valid one. And the socialization argument really goes in favour of homeschooling, not against.