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.