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”:
1) 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:
- Homeschool – A Day in the Life, Part I: Overview
- Homeschool – A Day in the Life, Part II: Curriculum
- Homeschool – A Day in the Life, Part III: Balance
- Another Voice on Homeschooling – Homeschool Happymess
- Another Voice on Homeschooling – Music, Mayhem, Motherhood
- Another Voice on Homeschooling – Mindful Homeschooler