Exactly what kind of socialization?

Any homeschooling parent can tell you that the number one question they hear from people who find out they homeschool is, “How will you socialize your children?”.  In spite of the fact that homeschooled kids have been shown over and over again to be at least as socially adept as their peers who attend public and private schools, the most common question asked of homeschoolers is, “But, how will your children be properly socialized?”

(The voices in this video are computer generated, so that’s why it sounds a little odd.)

No matter how many clubs or other extra-curricular activities your children involve themselves in, no matter how many spelling or geography bees or academic fairs they participate in, no matter how many homeschool group field trips they go on, no matter how many homeschool co-ops they participate in, no matter how many friends they have or kids in the neighborhood they play with… somehow, the idea remains that a child not in public or private school is sheltered and will be unable to cope in the “real world” (whatever that is), and will turn out “weird”.

Yeah, I never knew anybody who was educated in public or private school who was weird.  Never.  Is my nose growing?

I started out in a private school, but only through first grade.  After that, it was public school.  I had some good times, and I had a few friends.  But I was also bullied.  And I was bored.  I learned new material very quickly, and often already knew it when we got to it, especially in math.  I was bored enough that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do, and got bad grades as a result.  I finally applied to the gifted and talented program and was accepted.  The work was challenging, and I got good grades, but I had to be bused across town to go to school.  So I didn’t live anywhere near any of my friends.  At least I wasn’t bullied there.  But some of the stuff that happened at that school was pretty bad.  Kids from other schools were surprised to learn you went to this school, and would ask, “Have you ever been stabbed?”  I had a friend who had been burned as a kid, and had scars on his face and down his arm.  Other kids would ask him how he got them, and (just to mess around with them) he would reply, “Oh, I go to ______ High School.”  The other kids would say “Oooohhh,” and nod knowingly.  It was bad.

I remember the socialization I got in public school.  I remember being surrounded by some 30 kids who were mercilessly teasing me.  I remember the girls teasing me in gymnastics.  I remember the daily verbal pelting I got in middle school.  I remember the everybody’s-doing-it pressure about makeup, sexy clothes, drugs, alcohol, and sex.  Yeah, socialization was wonderful.

I would have loved to be homeschooled.  But when I was going through school, the homeschool movement in this country was just getting started.

Until very recently, nearly everybody in history was homeschooled.  Yet, somehow, we still managed to survive as a vibrant, well-socialized people.  We still produced great thinkers and mathematicians and scientists and writers.  If public school socialization is really so vital, then why is this the case?

Socialization itself is a very recent concern.  It was not among the reasons the public schools were founded.  The focus was on learning.

The idea seems to be that placing your children in a situation in which they will never again find themselves somehow prepares them for the “real world”.  I know that at no point in my life after school have I ever been expected to work in a group comprised of people who are exclusively almost exactly my age.  When I worked in retail, the employees and customers there were not all 22.  So if the socialization environment in a public or private school is an artificial one that does not resemble the “real world”, then how does that help the kids involved learn to handle the “real world” later, and deal with people of all ages?  How does it prepare them better than the environment of a homeschooled child, who has regular interaction with kids and adults of all ages?

This post is not a my-way-is-better-than-your-way post, but an is-there-really-something-wrong-with-my-way post.  The studies have been done.  Homeschoolers have been studied as they have grown up and become adults, and it has been shown time and again that they have no socialization deficiencies.  How many more studies need to be done before this is accepted, and homeschoolers stop having to deal with this maddening question for which no answer seems to be good enough?


Exactly what kind of socialization? — 14 Comments

  1. I have heard the socialization question so many times.

    My reply is actually “But what kind of socialization do you get in school? Walk down the hall in any middle school you like between classes and point out just one behavior you would like my child to emulate.” Your title grabbed me. My own words! Or actually, probably we have read the same books!

    Public school kids can behave well when adults are present, but unsupervised they generally go a little nuts.

    • You are so right. That’s a great reply! Another question I’d like the answer to is, “What do you mean by weird?” I wonder if they think a teen is weird if he or she is responsible, respectful, respectable, helpful, well-spoken, kind, and loving…

      Oh, wait, that’s right — they call that “sheltered and brainwashed”. Go figure.

      Yes, any unsupervised kids can go crazy. Homeschooled kids tend to go less crazy partly because they tend to be less unsupervised. Having lived in both worlds, public school growing up, and homeschooling for my kids, I figure I (and most of us!) have a pretty good idea. I have a 1 adult:2 kid ratio as well, and I like the fact that they don’t have to grow up with all the harassment I had.

      The one year our daughter spent in a private school, she had to deal with a bully, too. Grrrr.

  2. I can’t say “What do you mean weird?”, I know what they mean–my oldest is painfully shy and sometimes self-conscious and awkward…But she has been from the toddler years, throwing her into school would have just been a mean thing.

    As she gets older, she gains confidence and skills to handle social situations and has been improving. I was like that too, and I went to public school. Oddly enough, years of taunting and torment didn’t help me get over my shyness. Age and the self-confidence that comes with genuine accomplishments did. Some kids are just a square peg in a round hole for a while, trying to jam them in wont change them and just hurts them.

    • Shy, self-conscious, and awkward describes most teenage girls I’ve known… so maybe we’re all weird. LOL

      I’m guessing you’re not talking about garden-variety social awkwardness, though… ILoveBunnies has Asperger’s, so we’ve been dealing with this too. She’s 14, but socially and emotionally she might be closer to a 10-year-old’s level. I think we’re going there with Bunny-Wan Kenobi, too.

      Homeschooling is definitely the best option for them, and, I’m sure, your kids. They are missing out on so much bullying and meanness. They’re at home where they can be loved on and given the individual attention they need. :)

  3. I really could have done without the “socialization” of junior high through high school. I’m used to that term being applied to dogs and what I experienced was more like letting a bunch of people kick your puppy. Then wondering why it grew up to hate people and be suspicious of strangers. All my ambition was pretty much killed before I even got to junior high. I got in trouble for going ahead in my work. I got detention (twice) for reading a book in math class after I was done with homework. When they decided I was learning too quickly they solved it by giving me more work with our equivalent of the TAG program. So my reward for doing the work I hated faster and better was to get more work I hated. I just refused to go one day. In the end they basically kicked me out of high school but gave me a diploma since letting someone testing in the 99th percentile fail would have looked really bad.

    • Yeah, that would have looked pretty bad on them!

      That’s another beef I have with the public school system. It’s a one-size-fits-all thing. If someone isn’t getting it, they get left behind. If someone got it a long time ago, they’re held back.

      My son’s dyslexic. I tried him on letters and numbers for Kindergarten. He couldn’t remember anything the next day. After a week, I just stopped. I didn’t want to frustrate him and get him off to a bad beginning with school. It isn’t like you don’t learn anything unless you’re “in school”, so I put it aside and didn’t even do Kindergarten with him, and ended up starting first grade with him at age 6 instead of 5, because I could legally do that, and because it was best for him.

      Now he’s 9, in 3rd grade, and reading well. He’s doing math just fine, though he’s not as far along in it as he could be. But that’s okay. He’s dyslexic. I’m just happy he can do it, and he is slowly catching up. My daughter started reading at 4. She didn’t have to wait for everyone else to catch up, and my son didn’t have to get left behind.

  4. wow, havent read blogs in a while, but I LOVE this post. I get that question all the time, and I am just PLANNING on homeschooling at this point. My brother and Gramma went so far as to tell me homeschooling is abuse.

    I was homeschooled, and I was abused, but those were two different things. Eighth grade was the last one I did at home, and I went into public school after that. I hated it, the kids were evil mean, the home work was so boring I failed every class but english, art, and okay, yeah, english and art. I like those things so it wasn’t a hassle to get stuff done. I refused to do ANYTHING else.

    And then at 17 I passed my GEDwith almost perfect scores,so I couldnt have been stupid, but they had me in remidial lessons.I think that is a prime example of the lousiness of school. I hated it.

    When I was younger in the beginning of my career as a P school student, a girl was being a brat to a friend of mine, so I pushed her and told her to knock it off. I didnt realize that girl was in a gang. For the next two months, I literally hid. I would cry and shake everytime I went in the halls, would hide in the toilet stalls during PE. I was attacked multiple times EVERYDAY, and no one noticed to help me for TWO MONTHS.

    Yeah, I wanna put my kids in public school. Cause homeschooling is abuse. Right.

    • Wow, Shara! I’m so blessed that my family has always been very supportive of homeschooling. With members of your family so against homeschooling, it is very important for you to join HSLDA when you start homeschooling. They will help you out and give you legal assistance if someone calls in an “anonymous” tip that you are “abusing” your children.

      I am a member anyway, just because you never know what your next-door neighbor thinks, really… or the people a couple of houses over across the street.

      Interesting how it looks like a number of us were bored in school because we could proceed faster than the material was taught… and how our experiences in public school really ruined the whole idea for us.

      Also interesting… you mentioned how you were homeschooled, and abused, but that those weren’t connected. I’ve noticed that every time a homeschooled student is abused (or supposedly abused), the media make sure to point out that they were homeschooling, like that had something to do with it (“oh, they must have been homeschooling so they could abuse their kids without anybody knowing about it.”). But they never mention that other kids who are abused as being public schooled, in a way that makes it sound like that has something to do with the abuse.

      They also never mention that the incidence of abuse among homeschoolers is much less than that among public school kids.

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