The first thing a non-homeschooler asks a homeschooler is “What about socialization??” (gasp!) And whenever I’m asked that I know in my head the answer, but I’m usually so busy or distracted with other things that it comes out all mixed up like I’m defending it as I go along.
Or, if I’m having a bad day the comment may be more on the snarky side like “Of course public schools socialize better, just look at all the bullies and standardized testing that will help them succeed in the real world if one of their suicidal peers doesn’t shoot them first.”
Yeah, probably shouldn’t use that one too much. All kidding aside, home-schooled children are more real-world socialized than those in a traditional school setting. I think the question that people are meaning to ask is usually “How will your kids meet new people?”
But I’ll get back to that, let’s start with the definition of socialization.
1. 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 position.
2. the act or process of making socialistic. the socialization of industry.
When you put 24 five year olds of varying backgrounds in a room together do you think that each child will seek out the most polite and respectful child to emulate their behavior or do you think they will pick the child that is doing something new to them or is gaining attention (positive or negative) from the adults and kids around them? You better believe that they are going to emulate the kids with the grossest, loudest or most demanding behaviors! These kids aren’t “socialized” to society’s standards yet, however we expect that putting them in the same setting is going to end up with positive results. The schools make an attempt at teaching positive behavior but with demands for higher test standards and shorter class days, character development is an afterthought.
Now to draw a parallel to the real world, how many of you have friends and co-workers that are all exactly the same age as you and have had exactly the same education as you? I would venture to guess NONE. But if I am mistaken I would love to hear all about it. It is more likely that you have wide variety of friends, co-workers, acquaintances and family that you choose to hang out with. The age ranges and backgrounds could be staggering! Yet, somehow, you all get along and enjoy each other’s company. How can that be?? (insert sarcasm)My best friend growing up was a year younger than me, not in the same grade, not even at the same school, but we were neighbors and spent practically every waking moment together. We live on opposite sides of the country now and have very different lifestyles and even though 6 months can slip away between phone calls we can pick up as if it was yesterday.
You don’t need to have friends your same age. You just need to have one true friend that understands you and will support you for who you are.
One of the drawbacks of having introverted children is that many extroverts would consider them anti-social. That’s not the case at all. And to be honest, public school (and private school) did nothing positive to encourage them to “come out of their shell,” in fact it tended to do the opposite since classroom teaching is developed for short attention spans. By the time my kids had observed the situation, made a decision to engage, the class had moved on to something else and the cycle started all over again. My daughter had the opposite problem. She was eager to jump in feet first without completely listening to what was required of her and then got royally bent out of joint when she’d have to redo her work according to the teacher’s requirements. She was also easily distracted by the other 24 bodies in the class making a simple task take forever to complete.
I really find the second definition intriguing. The process of making socialistic. Isn’t that exactly what our current president is getting lambasted for? His supposedly hidden socialist agenda. Yet, this is what is expected of our children.
Back to the intended question of “How will your kids meet new people?” My answer is simple, the same way you meet people everyday. When we homeschool out of a house you meet your neighbors who are out when kids are typically at school, like the little old lady with the lovely roses or the chatty neighbor who is raising chickens. When we go on field trips and really, nearly everything is a field trip! When we visit our own friends who love helping kids learn. When we volunteer at the Food Bank. When we participate in homeschool co-ops or go to playdates at the park. When we road school it will be meeting the people that are temporarily living next to you or the family you meet at the laundromat. When we visit National Parks it will be docents, volunteers or Park Rangers. We will also be visiting all our friends that we’ve left behind over the years including the kids’ friends. I feel that having the ability to strike up a conversation with a stranger is a very important life skill to have. What if you need to ask directions, most likely that person will be a stranger. What if you need to pay for your groceries, another stranger. Get separated from the family in a big store, ask an employee for help, who is a stranger to you. Can’t find a book in the library, ask the librarian, another stranger. Stranger Danger is dividing our nation and making everyone think the worst of everyone else. You have street smarts and instincts to help you discern a safe situation from a potentially life threatening one. And sadly, many of the potentially life threatening situations revolve around people who weren’t strangers to the child :(
But its difficult for a child to develop instincts if their parents never give them the opportunity to be responsible for themselves and possibly make mistakes.
My kids will also be keeping in touch with their friends the same way we will, by face time, texting, phone calls, emails and letters (and for Mr. T, facebook as well). They will also be making new friends along the way.
So did I answer the question? Probably not and kudos to you if you read through to the end! (Aren’t you glad you didn’t ask me in person!?)