“Well, my only problem with homeschooling is the lack of socialization,” is by far the most common argument I hear against homeschooling. Having encountered this particular comment so many times during the past two years, I practically became immune to it. Most people view school and peer interaction as a critical component of socialization, and many of them are worried about the social status of homeschooled children. When you answer honestly after the S-bomb has been repeatedly dropped on you, most people just shrug and move on without paying much attention to what you’ve actually said.
It’s true. I chose not to have my child socialized at school. Because sitting in silence for hours, with only a short break for lunch and recess (if you’re lucky) is not my ideal for healthy socializing. And neither is forced association, conformity, peer pressure, bullying, or teasing. All are rather common these days.
Yes, homeschooled kids might be considered odd by definition. In fact, they ARE the odd fish swimming in a large, standardized social pool. They aren’t pushed, shoved, and forced to fit the arbitrary social mold of their peers. They might actually have a chance to be themselves. And that’s great! Isn’t it?
And you know what, fellas? Yes, socialization CAN be a big problem when you homeschool. Sometimes we take a whole day off or more and just chill at home to take a break from all that socialization. It can get exhausting…
THE MYTH: Homeschooled children are sheltered and not properly socialized.
THE MANIPULATION: The entire population is frequently reminded of the importance of school as a socialization agent. As in: “Your children will not be adequately socially equipped if you homeschool. They will be shy. They will have no friends. They’ll be super-awkward weirdos unable to fend for themselves.”
THE REALITY: We’re being brainwashed. Homeschooled children aren’t LESS socialized, they’re just socialized DIFFERENTLY. I won’t argue about the fact that not all homeschooled kids have equal opportunities for social interactions. But I will also say that school is nothing but a social suicide.
However, the myth persists, so let’s take a closer look…
How well are TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS doing in terms of socialization?
The current system seems to be breeding compliant and passive students, managed by bells and strict schedules and taught to move in single-file lines. In reality, there is a lot less wiggle room for school socialization than most people are willing to admit.
The need for SILENCE is rather high, and students often get punished for breaking the rule of silence.
Some of the largely unstructured opportunities for social interactions that provide a very important break for students, such as recess or a lunch break, are being redesigned. These changes usually mean more restrictions and less free time, both leading to fewer opportunities for socialization.
Then there is AGE SEGREGATION. Separating children by age for a significant portion of the day on a regular basis doesn’t seem very natural, practical, or an accurate reflection of life in general. Students are basically being socialized with other students within the same age group due to forced proximity. As a result, could children be actually losing the ability to interact with other age groups?
Let’s talk about what students often hear at school…
“You’re here to learn, not to socialize! Please sit down and be quiet.”
“This conversation will have to wait until school is over.”
“Do not talk during class.”
“Form lines. Quietly.”
“Walk slowly and be quiet.”
“Do not talk in the halls!”
“Be quiet in the lunch room.”
How do children socialize at schools?
- Instructional time takes up the majority of a school day. During this time, teachers try to keep their classrooms QUIET so students can pay attention and learn. There are also tests. And test preps. Many tests and many test preps (courtesy of Common Core) which require silence as well.
- When students move around the school building, straight and quiet single-file lines seem to be strongly favored by teachers.
- After being in class all morning, kids are eager to act like kids by lunch time. But the problem is that their excitement over finally (!) being able to talk may be as pleasant as an unruly buzzing swarm of African bees to the lunch supervisors. So, some schools have solved this problem and adopted the SILENT LUNCH policy.
- During recess, undoubtedly the favorite part of a school day, kids can finally let loose! As long as they don’t run too fast, talk too loud or use any banned words, hug each other, play with dangerous items like sharp pencils, or engage in a perilous game of baseball, soccer, football, dodgeball or tag. (School regulations vary.) Unfortunately, recess forms a negligible portion of the school day, and recess time seems to be ON THE DECLINE nationwide. Many schools have shortened or even completely gotten rid of recess to create more room for learning (and more time for testing) despite of the alarming statistics on childhood obesity and many obvious and scientifically proven physical and psychological benefits of recess.
- The occasional distraction of a security drill requires students to be QUIET.
- Students MAY BE ALLOWED TO TALK in class during various projects and assignments, usually as long as the conversation stays on topic.
There might be a limited amount of time for socializing among peers at school; however, the common denominator seems to be SILENCE. Almost as if socialization was strictly prohibited or at least strongly discouraged. Talking to peers in class is generally frowned upon, and students might get punished if they try to socialize during this time.
The artificially created school environment (perceived as superior social experience) doesn’t seem to be very conductive to socialization even under its most ideal conditions. Quite frankly, interacting ONLY with children of the same age seems to be a rather NARROW outlet in terms of socialization. (Doesn’t it?)
Attending school gives no guarantees for living a socially rich life. Some children just have a harder time making friends regardless of which way they’re being educated. A school institution itself doesn’t magically turn a child into a confident, well-adjusted individual, just like it doesn’t transform a shy child into a social butterfly.
What about HOMESCHOOLING and socialization?
RESEARCH indicates that homeschooled children aren’t being deprived socially and that, contrary to popular belief, traditional schools are actually more about de-socialization than true socialization. The results of various studies also point out that homeschooling helps children develop the ability to withstand peer pressure and improves child’s self-concept.
Homeschooled kids aren’t doomed to be socially awkward individuals just because they’re not being socialized primarily within their peer groups. They aren’t automatically destined to have no friends either. Perhaps they may not be totally up on what’s considered cool. Or they may not dress in what the popular crowd’s expectations are. They might have odd interests that fall outside of the mainstream. But you know what? That’s all good news!
Homeschooled children aren’t stuck in a classroom with the same group of children every single day. Instead, they have ample opportunities for MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS with people of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities. And isn’t that what functioning in the society is all about?
I’m not trying to say that homeschooling creates better students. Or better children. I’m just pointing to the fact that raising children in the REAL WORLD might prepare them for living in the real world better than isolating them in an artificially created bubble.
How exactly is homeschool socialization different?
Homeschooled children typically finish their work in a short amount of time which leaves them with more opportunities to pursue their hobbies and interests. That could also mean more room for socialization.
The schedule of a homeschooler is likely to be flexible enough to accommodate a number of fun activities. You may meet other people along the way which may lead to – you guessed it – socialization.
There is talking… The day starts with talking, and talking goes on for the rest of the day. (Sometimes it seems like it never really ends.) Whether it’s a conversation with a parent or between siblings, or with someone else, there rarely is a quiet time at our house.
Play! Run! Kids are encouraged to be active, creative, and to have fun.
How do homeschoolers socialize?
In general, families can participate in homeschool group activities, take advantage of classes offered in their communities, or create socialization opportunities themselves.
- Homeschoolers can meet with their homeschooling friends.
- Homeschooling families may join homeschool groups which provide support, organize activities, and plan meet-ups for their members. Some of these groups may also offer clubs, classes, and co-ops for children to participate in.
- There are field trips, whether organized by a group of people or by a single family, where children can encounter many different social interactions.
- Volunteering is a great way to stay in touch with the real world and teach kids valuable lessons. The possibilities for volunteering opportunities are endless!
- Children can attend classes and activities designed for homeschoolers that take place during regular school hours.
- Personal hobbies can be pursued in individual ways, offering many different outlets to socialize.
- Church involvement, if you’re religious, can be another way to be more social.
- Homeschoolers can meet children from public and private schools around their neighborhood, or at after-school classes and community events.
Homeschooling allows children more time and broader opportunities for socialization in the REAL WORLD, with people of all ages – including children.
It’s true that homeschooled kids may have to actively SEEK OUT friendships outside of their own circles – kind of like in the real world. I believe it might get more difficult the older they get (and I admit I could be completely wrong), but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!
Homeschooling doesn’t shelter children from the outside world. Homeschooling families have the option to participate in very many or very little activities. It is their choice, but the possibilities are definitely there.
With that said, I believe you actually don’t need to CONSTANTLY seek OPPORTUNITIES for your homeschooled kids to SOCIALIZE. They’re socializing every time they participate in any activity. There are people and life lessons everywhere!