The ‘S’ Word: Socialization.
Has that casual friend from yoga class asked you about that yet? Or maybe, deep down, it’s your own personal boogeyman?
If you Google “homeschool socialization,” the results you’ll get amount to a collective eye roll from the community of homeschool bloggers and journalists. But I’m not quite as flippant about the concern. (Usually.)
To be honest, it was absolutely one of my biggest worries once I realized we were going to do this homeschooling thing for more than just kindergarten. I lost sleep over how “weird” my kids would be, or what could go wrong. Let’s be frank: if my public-schooled kid ended up a juvenile delinquent, I would hope I wouldn’t shift blame, but at least while I coped, I could. Homeschooled and it doesn’t turn out well? No one to blame but the parents.
On top of that, I had a boy who was extremely compliant in preschool, yet aggressive and hot-tempered at home. Sometimes the latter attitude spilled over into behavior at the playground or grocery store.
Given that pattern, it was hard to convince myself that what he needed was more time outside of the classroom environment rather than in it.
Yet over the first few months of being free of a school schedule, all of those ups and downs, those seemingly polar opposites, evened out. Yes, that meant the very reserved and subdued version of my kiddo had disappeared, but so had that angry, frustrated one. He was active, but easy-going and curious, too!
10 years later, he’s still stubborn and contrary more than I’d like (ahem, he comes by that honestly), but he’s also incredibly at ease with himself and his peers. At 15.5, he is a first-degree black belt, has landed his first summer job, is my go-to babysitter, and has his sights set on entrepreneurship. Seems he deals with people just fine.
What do we really mean when we worry about socialization?
This thing that everyone is concerned about has come to mean the ability to sit in chairs for large blocks of time, to answer the questions in the way they are expected to be answered, to normalize ourselves with and measure ourselves against our peers.
These are the negative aspects of socialization that many homeschoolers seek to escape. But is it possible that the Nosy Nellie asking the question is really blind to those negatives? Could the curiosity really reflect the fact that most of society has forgotten what life is like without classrooms?
We have come to depend on schools to teach how to wait patiently in line, to include the marginalized, to manage our time, and to take responsibility for what is expected of us. Those are all good things, right? Right! (No, that’s not sarcasm. Those are good things, friends.)
And if your worry is missing out on those lessons – or just that your mother-in-law will worry about her grandkids missing those lessons – here is your reassurance: you don’t need to be thrust into 8 hours a day with a same-aged peer group to learn good things!
Mom, Dad, neighbor, tutor, minister, older sister, Grandma, the librarian, and the gymnastics coach are all going help to mentor children toward interpersonal relationships and life skills.
While homeschooling, we’re afforded the opportunity to socialize our children in the real world, in the way they’ll live their adulthood.
They can wait in line with us at the Post Office where they will learn to be respectfully reserved, but they don’t have to be silent. They may strike up a conversation with the elderly patron behind them.
The marginalized little girl they have the opportunity to befriend might be two years older, but she needs a friend because she just moved from another state.
Responsibility will kick in when their peers in the theater group are counting on them to have lines ready to deliver.
And what of the other part of socialization we worry about for our homeschooled kids: those memories of social milestones?
I am lucky to have amazing memories of school with my friends. I didn’t choose to homeschool because of a bad school experience myself. Maybe I am a teeny bit jealous though that my kids have amazing memories of learning with their friends AND their family.
And yes, they’ll even have prom memories, and team traveling memories, and birthday party memories should they choose to participate in those things.
Homeschooling isn’t the same as school socialization, but it’s certainly not isolation. I challenge anyone who thinks that homeschoolers are too isolated to try staring at the same four walls with the same four kids for 24 hours a day for just four weeks. Ok, days! Even proposing that is preposterous and should immediately put to rest any notion that your children won’t encounter the world.
I mean, really… who could do that?! Yikes! THAT is why homeschoolers get out plenty!
And there you have it. That’s how you tackle that socialization thing. Simply get out of the house. (Like on a field trip!)
Go, and take your kids along and show them what it means to have a life well-lived, and well-socialized!
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