Homeschool – A Day in the Life, Part IV: Socialization

In Part I, I gave an overview of our homeschooling lives. In Part II, I provided information about the materials we use and how we chose them. In Part III, I tackled the thorny issue of maintaining balance while the kids are learning at home. In the fourth and final post in this series, I write about what’s probably the most commonly asked question about homeschooling, “What about socialization?”

I didn’t really want to write about socialization in this series because I really hate the subject (or at least the frequency and manner with which it’s tossed at homeschoolers), but it comes up so often, I thought I ought to say at least something about it.

Basically, I have two suggestions for those who worry about homeschooled children being adequately “socialized”:

CIMG83821) Get clear about what it is you mean by “socialized.” It’s an impressive-sounding word, but most people don’t really seem to have a clear idea of what they mean by it or what value it holds for children. Once you’re clear about your definition of “socialized,” look at the way schools are typically run and see if this meets your definition of “socialization.”

How well does being with only people the same age as they are prepare our children for jobs and community roles in which they will interact with people of a wide range of ages? How well does it fit or train our children for a social environment?

The vast majority of us have grown up in schools—either public or private—in which children spend hours every day with only children who were born within twelve months of each other. We have the sense that there is something important and valuable in this state of things, but is this because there really is?

Number 5 of “Manifesto, by Susan Cain” (formerly Sixteen Things I Believe, from her blog, “The Power of Introverts”) says it well:

We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it’s cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there’s nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.

And for another perspective on grouping kids by age, check out the series of blog posts by Peter Gray on his Psychology Today-hosted blog entitled “Freedom to Learn.” Here’s Part I of his “Why We Should Stop Segregating Children by Age” series.

I wonder if maybe we want to believe that grouping kids together by age is beneficial because it’s how we were raised and how most of us are choosing to raise our children. Maybe we don’t want to consider that perhaps grouping children by age in school is done for expedience rather than because there’s inherent value in the practice.

2) Ask real-life homeschoolers about the interpersonal interactions in which their children engage, rather than making assumptions about how much or how little their children socialize. I recommend that you do not ask your homeschooling friends how they “socialize” their children, but rather ask more open-ended questions about what types of activities their children enjoy. A lot of homeschoolers are really sick of the “S” word, and you’re likely not going to get on their good side by using it. If you don’t know any homeschoolers personally, try reading The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling by Rachel Gathercole. In fact, even if you do know homeschoolers personally, this is a great book to read.

So, what social activities do my children enjoy? Well, we’ve got tons of mixed-age activities: Sunday school, flute group class, Girl Scouts, birthday parties, sports activities, homeschool classes at Mass Audubon, play dates, library story times and crafts, dinner gatherings with friends of all ages, and loving caregivers that come to play. Come summer, we’ll have hiking excursions and playground trips and softball games and Girl Scout day camp and trips to visit extended family in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. My kids have the benefit of social interactions with not just their age-mates, but with babies and octogenarians and everyone in between.

Socialization is something that happens when each of us interacts in a real-world situation with other people and learns the give-and-take involved with being a member of our community. The community we have built is rich and varied, and my children are an active part of it. I am confident that they’re being socialized just fine.

So…how do you socialize your children?

Other Posts in This Series:

5 comments

  1. Stacy · March 25, 2013

    Amen and amen. I think the whole socialization argument is a little silly, to be honest. If I kept my children locked up in my house, and never let them talk to anyone else, ever, then we might have issues. But we have church groups, music groups, and they come with me everywhere: to the bank, grocery store, post office, etc. I regularly send my girls on their bikes to the store down the street (yay for small town America and a grocery store 4 blocks away!) to buy something I may have forgotten for dinner, they interact with music teachers, church teachers etc. I’m not locking them in a cage! Plus, one of the benefits of home educating is that they don’t get exposed to the “socialization” of public school- the bullying, the snippy pre-pubescent girls, the emphasis on fitting in at all costs, etc.

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  2. Tina Brown · March 25, 2013

    Ahh the dreaded S question! If you homeschool, people ask you about socialization. When people find out you live in Utah, theyask you if you are Mormon (like the coffee cup, shorts and halter top were not a dead give-away!).
    Here is my crafted response to the S question:
    “Ha ha ha…you know it is funny that that everyone asks that question. I think that if you are poorly socialized, then your children will be poorly socialized. I am a well socialized person therefore my children are well socialized. Children learn by modeling. “(At this point they are usually playing very nicely with the other children)
    I would say that my children are better socialized than their institutionalized peers. They certainly have their moments, but they are generally very nice well-behaved kids that are deeply passionate about their interests.

    The next question is usually, “What are you going to do for high school.” (My not crafted response is, “Well, what did you do in High School?” I got drunk, skipped school to smoke pot and chased boys”

    Another time I will give the crafted response!

    Thanks for writing these. I send them to my father-in-law.

    I have to get my taxes done. Thanks for the diversion.

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    • CJ · March 25, 2013

      Ah, yes. The high school question. Another “ugh” question. And I’ve definitely had people assume I’m Mormon because I used to live in Utah. I’ve decided to take it as a compliment and as my cue to go on and on and on about how awesome Utah is, regardless of one’s religion (except for the inversions).

      Happy to provide a diversion from your taxes (and something to forward to your father-in-law).

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  3. Ellery Davies · March 24, 2013

    Part IV is positively fascinating, CJ ! Your article gives me a better perspective and good reason to question assumptions.

    I am pretty sure that I was one of the blockheads who asked you about socialization when I first learned that your children are homeschooled. That would be my first and most natural curiosity.

    But I denegrate myself as a “blockhead” only for failing to recongize how my question was perceived and not for asking the question. And so here is a very minor peeve about your own assumption. You said…

    > Ask real-life homeschoolers about the interpersonal interactions in
    > which their children engage, rather than making assumptions
    > about how much or how little their children socialize

    When the parent of a traditional-schooled child asks about how or whereyour children socialize (or make up for a lack of institutionalized, peer interaction), please consider this… They may be asking the question exactly on its face value and with genuine curiosity rather than with assumptions or judgement. Of course, they probably have preconceptions (I certainly did), but that’s not a bad thing. Preconception is not a judgement. After all, your answer corrects the preconception, or at the very least, gives the earnest parent something to think about.

    Speaking only for myself, I have only one other home school acquaintance. I was open minded when we met, and I have gained nothing but great respect for your choices. Yet, you once told me that you felt judged by our early contact. Honestly, there was no judgement. The question about socialization was an earnest effort to learn.

    Even before I had answers, I never found your choice of home-schooling to be questionable (and I doubt that most parents would either)… A reasonable person could only come to that conclusion, if later–as they came to know you–they had reason to believe that you were ill-equipped to do research and apply the effort consistently.

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    • CJ · March 24, 2013

      My spouse and I have met people who are genuinely curious about our choice to homeschool, and we enjoy engaging these individuals in conversation. However, many people who ask the “socialization” question are not genuinely curious, but rather bring it up to point out where they think we’re wrong. Those with the latter purpose refuse to turn the question back on themselves and ask how their classroom-schooled children are being socialized. Many times they also use conversational techniques intended to shut down discourse and keep us from talking (interrupting, talking over us, reiterating the same question even after we have answered it, etc). My spouse and I see little point in continuing a conversation with someone who wants only to show us where we’re wrong rather than engaging in a back-and-forth exchange of ideas.

      If someone truly is curious, we’re happy share our perspective, but we’re not interested in justifying our choices to every person we encounter, which is most often how the question is presented. People who choose to classroom-educate their children aren’t asked to explain or justify their choice. Why should I have to explain or justify my choice? We’re all doing what we think is right for our children within our unique family situations.

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