What About Socialization?

Any homeschooler out there has heard this question more times than they can count. It’s the big elephant in the room with non-homeschoolers. But it’s kind of funny because we distinctly remember our school teachers saying over and over, “You are not here to socialize!” So why on earth does everyone seem to think that if kids don’t go to a traditional school, they won’t ever have healthy relationships?

What’s the real concern here? That kids will be weird and irrelevant? That they won’t blend in with the crowd? Is that really what we want — homogenized kids?

We think what people are mostly worried about is that kids won’t be emotionally healthy if they don’t follow the traditional school plan. But let us ask you: how well has the standard American education system done in producing high volumes of emotionally healthy adults?

Are most of the adults you know good communicators? Or are they emotionally constipated? Are they deep divers (meaning, can they hold deep conversations about multiple topics)? Or are they mostly surface dwellers? Are most of the adults you know confident? Do they have a healthy self-esteem? Or are they insecure and self-conscious?

We’re not sure what it’s like where you are, but in all the places we’ve lived, it doesn’t seem like the the school system has pumped out a society of well-socialized humans.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Are we really saying that a classroom full of 20-30 kids the same age as our kids is the best model for developing excellent social skills? Who are these kids, anyway? According to a recent Nielsen survey, the average household watches more than 5 hours of TV a day. About half of all homes are split by divorce. If they’ve got teens in the home, we should note that recent statistics show that 72% of high schoolers are drinking alcohol, and 70% of kids have had sex by the age of nineteen.

If these are the stats, is this the kind of socialization we want for our kids? Proverbs 22:15 says that foolishness is bound in the heart of child. And Proverbs 13:20 warns that a companion of fools will suffer harm. You do the math!

Besides, how is a large building, full of age segregated classrooms, the best setting for preparing our kids for the adult social scene? Let’s think about this. For the most part, kids go to school with other kids from their neighborhood. Once there, they’re segregated into subsets by age, and then broken down even further into smaller factions by ability (the gifted group, the learning disabled, etc.).

How is this in any way preparing our kids to socialize in the real world? If anything, it’s creating a class system where older kids refuse to fraternize with younger kids and those who learn differently are treated like misfits.

Let’s Flip the Script

From now on, maybe homeschoolers should turn the tables on the public. When we hear that a kid goes to public or private school, perhaps we should wince a little and then gather our eyebrows together and wrinkle our nose like we just smelled poop and say, “What about socialization?”

We’re sure there are the few obscure cases of socially isolated homeschoolers who are only allowed to befriend their siblings and rarely leave their unibomber-style cabins. But in our 23 combined years of homeschooling, we haven’t met any.

Like any people group, homeschoolers have their creative people, their awkward people, their comedians, their brainiacs, their extroverts and their introverts. Sure there are weird homeschool families. There are weird public school families too and weird private school families. Bottom line — weird people exist in all cross sections of society.

But unlike their public and private school counterparts, most of the homeschoolers we know interact with kids and adults of all ages every day. And they spend a lot of time under their parent’s guidance, which means they’re usually coached through  difficult social situations.

Homeschool groups have Queen Bees and Wannabees just like regular school groups. The difference is, it’s harder for these kids to fly under the adult radar in homeschool groups.

When there’s a conflict (and there always is), parents can coach kids through healthy resolution techniques. Parents can see how their kids behave in groups and react to other kids, and they can mentor them through the rough spots. When they see their kids having a bad attitude (jealousy, self-pity, pride, arrogance), they can help their kids identify it and give them tools to work through it.

Parents of public and private schooled kids can do the same things, of course, they just can’t do it for about 6-8 hours of the waking day, Monday through Friday.

Homeschool parents also spend a lot of time around their kids’ peers and can help their kids choose the right friends, based on common interests and not just proximity.

So what about socialization? You decide.

 

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “What About Socialization?

  1. Well this has been an interesting read, and it really has gotten me fired up. Let me preface my comment (novel?) by saying that I grew up in a Christian school environment that had a unique combination of homeschooling and actual physical school attendance. I am 18 and at a public high school. I have truly experienced the full spectrum of schooling. I completely understand the point at which you are writing this piece from. You have “heard this question more times than [you] can count” and you are going to set the record straight. I laud you for this effort and I believe that standing up for what you believe is one of the fundamental parts of society: opposing views. Opposing views drive philosophy, design, innovations, religions, and countless other things that often go unnoticed without careful thought and consideration. That is why I am offering my opinion here. I apologize if anything I say comes off as brash.
    The piece began off with the purest intentions, to clear up a common question and provide an answer to many of the skeptics of homeschool. However, this quickly devolved into impudent, sweeping accusations of the public school system at large. As someone who has attended both types of schools, I have truly noticed this: for as many stones as private school families / homeschool families think are being thrown at them, they hurl twice as many back at public schools. This stone slinging is perpetuated by a group of like-minded people who believe that the public schooling system is this overtly horrible thing filled with dime-a-dozen mediocre teachers and students who do not care about their education or even basic decency. Excellence is the exception, not the standard.

    Looking at specifics, I would like to address lots of things that you wrote:

    “But let us ask you: how well has the standard American education system done in producing high volumes of emotionally healthy adults? We think what people are mostly worried about is that kids won’t be emotionally healthy if they don’t follow the traditional school plan. But let us ask you: how well has the standard American education system done in producing high volumes of emotionally healthy adults? Are most of the adults you know good communicators? Or are they emotionally constipated? Are they deep divers (meaning, can they hold deep conversations about multiple topics)? Or are they mostly surface dwellers? Are most of the adults you know confident? Do they have a healthy self-esteem? Or are they insecure and self-conscious?”– Okay, let’s look at them! Psychiatric disorders seem to be running rampant today, we hear about them everywhere. But let us stop and think (rationally) about this. First of all, what you are doing in this statement is nothing short of misleading. The utter lack of thought in these sentences is incredible. You rapidly form the conclusion that emotional well-being is intrinsically related to a child’s schooling. You then lead the readers (through basic deductive reasoning) to believe that current instability within adults is the direct result of the cookie-cutter mass education system that we have in place today. There is absolutely zero scientific basis for this claim. This ludic fallacy that is supported by circular reasoning creates non-substantiated claims that are not only ignorant, but also impudent to people with mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are caused by a variety of factors that can stem from various parts of anyone’s life or from a genetic or family predisposition. Almost every single question that you asked has little to nothing to do with an education, but has a TON to do with other cognitive and social developmental processes. Brushing off all of these factors as things that are directly caused by education is very “surface dweller”.
    Onto the next paragraph where the wild accusations only get more absurd: “Are we really saying that a classroom full of 20-30 kids the same age as our kids is the best model for developing excellent social skills?” – Yes! Of course placing your children with their peers is crucial to developing excellent social skills. Is it the only thing that is required in something as multi-faceted as human socialization? Of course not, however, I believe that it is a crucial element that needs to be in play. Here we go again… “According to a recent Nielsen survey, the average household watches more than 5 hours of TV a day. About half of all homes are split by divorce. If they’ve got teens in the home, we should note that recent statistics show that 72% of high schoolers are drinking alcohol, and 70% of kids have had sex by the age of nineteen.” What you have failed to recognize is that these statistics are averages. Every single one of these is just as true for a homeschool household and a public school one. Lies, [bad] lies, and statistics (keeping it clean) is how the old adage goes. By stating these cherry-picked statistics, you are once again trying to say that the same is not true for home schoolers. To say that homeschooled children do not watch as much TV, do not drink, and are not sexually active is nothing short of ignorant.
    You say that kinds in school are “segregated into subsets by age, and then broken down even further into smaller factions by ability (the gifted group, the learning disabled, etc.). How is this in any way preparing our kids to socialize in the real world? If anything, it’s creating a class system where older kids refuse to fraternize with younger kids and those who learn differently are treated like misfits.” This one I will have to go piece by piece on because it is chock full of … I do not even have a word for it. First, I feel that a discussion of the power of words is in order. “Segregated” carries a massive negative connotation with it, so you are thus placing an inevitably bias undercurrent throughout the proceeding sentences. Children are NOT segregated by age; they are “segregated” by what classes they are taking. Not only do I fail to see the logic behind placing two kids of different ages together that need to learn completely separate things, but I also fail to see the benefit of such an arrangement. Together, kids help each other learn and understand new concepts in different ways (see: opposing views). This dividing by learning topic is overwhelmingly beneficial to the student and is, in no way, age based. The accusation is then made that this system creates a place where older kids ignore and mistreat younger kids. I was a freshman in high school, and I am now a senior. Never once have I felt rejected by any class level. Socialization in these situations is up to the student. In public schools, there is a seemingly-innumerable amount of clubs available for kids to join that not only provide additional socialization opportunities, but also chances for leadership. Leadership is often gained after someone has had a few years of experience within the club, which, to me, is strikingly similar to the real world. This provides free socialization within a club (no one is forced to talk to people their age) while also giving a hierarchy.
    The next few paragraphs are strong and an actual argument is formed and backed up with some generalized evidence from personal experience.
    But that only lasts until “But unlike their public and private school counterparts, most of the homeschoolers we know interact with kids and adults of all ages every day.” Here again: generalization. Can you please provide me solid evidence of that? Ever single day at school I interact with peers, people in grades below me, teachers, club advisors, administration, and a whole other subset of people through community service opportunities (young children, organizations and their employees, special needs people, etc.). Saying that homeschoolers somehow have an edge over other kids is absurd. Unless they are actively being placed into the community by their parents, I would say that the range of people that they interact with would be far less.
    “…parents can coach kids through healthy resolution techniques. Parents can see how their kids behave in groups and react to other kids, and they can mentor them through the rough spots. When they see their kids having a bad attitude (jealousy, self-pity, pride, arrogance), they can help their kids identify it and give them tools to work through it.” I love this part! It is a parent’s job to help give their child a foundation in the basics of interaction. This perfectly portrays what parents should be doing. However (and this possibly delves into our differences as what we see the role of a parent as), I agree less with “Homeschool parents also spend a lot of time around their kids’ peers and can help their kids choose the right friends, based on common interests and not just proximity.” This is where something happens that really should not: the parent begins making decisions for their child. Let me fill you in on a quick story. Recently I was at the beach with my mom and siblings and I was watching kids play out on the beach. They kept on throwing sand up in the air, at each other, or at any general thing that piqued their interest. There was a wonderful way about the kids’ actions: pure, innocent, and alacritous. However, their mom sitting up on the benches had the mother-driven premonition that there was a risk of injury by throwing the sand. She told them multiple times to stop and at one point even removed one of the kids from the group. As soon as that child wandered back, they were back to throwing sand. I just chuckled and when my mom asked me why I said, “she warned them multiple times and someone is bound to get sand in their eyes” My mom, in her matriarchal wisdom responded, “Natural consequences are some of the best learning tools.” This was so right. As a parent, you can only do so much to provide a foundation for your children. However, if you begin to nanny your children and their every decision then they will never have a natural consequence and a learning experience. You may think that a friend is bad for them or that “foolishness is bound in the heart of child,” but the opposite of foolishness is wisdom, and wisdom is something that has to be developed from experience. Your child should have a decent moral foundation, which you have helped them build, but soon after you need to let them build on that. If they build incorrectly, then you are there to help tear it down and show them (by example) how to properly build that aspect of their life. Their natural consequences that will be suffered due to bad decisions will help make a much better child all around. This is in no way a call for ignorance towards your child or what is happening in their life, but it is a call to let them make mistakes while you are still there to catch them when they fall.
    So in conclusion, this op-ed-esqe piece is truly pretty hollow. Paltry evidence is given to truly substantiate your claims, you overtly bash public schools with very little consideration of their positives, and you make a mockery of children’s ability to make decisions while also making mistakes. In the largest dose of irony, you fail to answer your own question “what about socialization?” I still truly do not know. All I know is that there is an almost palpable disdain of systems that exist and that homeschoolers have the best system. This still fails to give me anything that answers the question of ‘how?’ Most people, when asking that question, are not asking for your view on standard societal social developments (which are very one-sided, mind you) they are asking ‘how do you plan to provide the same social opportunities for your children that exist for other children in the school system?’ Other than the brief mention of “homeschool groups” (not even in the context of ‘how’), no other reference is made to how you children actually have the opportunities. I will admit, your piece is written well enough that the intended audience never sees past some of your audacious claims. In the end, this piece ends up being nothing more than a massive mind-projection that preys on many of the fears and insecurities that your largely home

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