What About Socialization?

Ask any random homeschooler what question or concern they hear most often about homeschooling, and I guarantee they’ll give some variation of the “What about socialization?” question. I understand it. I really do. I remember being in high school and thinking that homeschooled kids were weird (not that I actually knew any, but the perception was there). You may have met a dorky homeschooler once or twice. I’m sure there are some out there. 🙂

I was thinking about the socialization question yesterday when we were at the park. Both of our girls make “friends” almost immediately every time we go to a park. Yesterday Dolittle met and played with a girl about her age named Isabella (which we didn’t actually find out until right before we were leaving, when Dolittle finally thought to ask the girl’s name – kids are so funny). The Muse has always done the same thing. Clearly, they know how to socialize with other kids they don’t know.

They also have good friends that they do know very well, and with whom they’ve built strong relationships. Some are friends from the homeschooling community, some are friends from our faith community. Clearly, they know how to build relationships and form lasting friendships with other kids.

The other evening, we went to a fundraiser event for the National Baha’i Fund. The Muse played violin street-musician-style (with people tossing money in her case for the fund) while everyone perused the silent auction items. One of the attendees was an accomplished violinist, and I saw him chatting with The Muse a bit in between two of her songs. She seemed at ease, looked him in the eye when she talked to him, smiled, and answered his questions. Clearly, she can carry on a conversation with an adult without too much awkwardness.

Today we had a class at our house, and when the teacher asked questions, the kids would raise their hands (most of the time) and answer. Dolittle, who is shyer than her older sister, seemed perfectly confident in raising her hand and sharing her ideas. Clearly, she can interact with kids and adults in a formal learning environment.

My kids are not unique. (They aren’t perfect socializers, of course, either. They are kids, after all. Dolittle can be painfully shy around new adults, especially if she feels like the spotlight is on her. The Muse was sometimes like that when she was much younger, but not at all now.) But they’ve had a lot of opportunity to interact with lots of different people – kids, adults, teachers, etc. And they’ve seen me and Havarti (and their grandparents, other family members, and family friends) model social behavior. That’s the stuff of which real socialization consists.

I read once something to the effect of, “Who decided that the ideal people to socialize a 13-year-old are 400 other 13-year-olds?” It’s a legitimate question. And I often think of all the people over the centuries who were homeschooled (simply because that’s what was done) or privately tutored or attended teeny tiny one-room schoolhouses. Were they all socially inept?

I do think that my kids miss out on some social stuff in school, but to be honest, I’m happy for them to miss out on most of it. The bullying, the growing up too fast, the lack of compassion, the herd mentality, the social pecking order, the media obsession, etc. etc. Not that they don’t encounter some of those things anyway – that’s sort of the way of the world, isn’t it? But they can encounter that stuff in smaller doses, at least, which I think helps them digest it a little better.

The thing is, most homeschoolers don’t educate their kids in a bubble or a vacuum. I’m sure that some do, but most that I know are out and about and active in their communities and in groups and classes and whatnot on a regular basis. So socialization isn’t really a problem.

Also, don’t we all know at least a handful of people who went through the full course of public school years and are still socially awkward? Maybe the dorky homeschoolers you’ve met would have been dorky anyway. And maybe they were only dorky in the construct of the school social setting (which bears no resemblance to the real world, but that’s a whole other post).

So, what about socialization? I feel pretty confident that we’ve got it covered.

I wish I felt that sure about math . . . 🙂

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 9

  1. I beleive many of my social problems stem from experiences at school. I can’t say I would have been different if I’d been homeschooled but I was often the leader in my small group of friends at home and quite daring – I was a tomboy, but very shy and mousey at school. I always found it easier to relate to adults or younger children.

  2. This is so well thought out, which makes me know that you think so deeply about your choices as a mother. I don’t consider homeschooling because of who I am (too ADD to do a good job and my kids would know a lot about history and literature but jack about math and science) but the whole idea intrigues me, and I think there are a lot of good reasons to do it. I love the quote about 400 other 13 year olds..I deal with 150 13 year olds on a daily basis and I can tell you, it scares the hell out of me!!!

  3. I thought of this post today, Annie, because we went to the park and before we parents had even arrived inside the gates, my middle child had joined an existing basketball game and my other 2 were chatting with some girls they’d never met.

  4. I so agree that, in most cases, the awkward child is probably going to be awkward in most situations; likewise, the outgoing child. As the mother of an awkward child (let’s just say it — a nerd), I have been thrilled to see her thrive socially while homeschooling. I do not think she would have had the freedom to be herself while also being appreciated were she in school. It was very difficult for her father (from whence she gets most of her nerdiness) in school.

    Now, she is a very social child because her peers have been so accepting.

  5. I have a friend at college I’d known for months before she found out I was homeschooled, and her first reaction was: “No way, you seem so normal!” Followed by “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded….”

    People don’t think about the fact that they know plenty of people who DID go to school and are far more socially awkward than the homeschoolers they know. But then, 99% of the people I now know have no idea that I used to be homeschooled, so perhaps I’m perpetuating the stereotype by not being more immediately forthcoming. Anyway, I WAS awkward around my peers for a period of time but by this point I’m a junior in college and it’s all leveled out and no one cares.

  6. There are so many labels that don’t actually fit that each of us has to fight against. People assume that since I’m a librarian, I’m OBSESSED with the Dewey Decimal System. They also assume that since I’m a devout Christian, I believe everyone else is wrong and going to hell. Both assumptions are wrong, and SUPER FUN for me to fight against. But I also know that anyone who takes the time to get to know me might have their perceptions of other librarians/Christians/etc. changed for the better. Your kids will help change the perception…slowly but surely.

  7. My favorite moment as a (formerly) homeschooling parent came from a homeschooling parent whom I had just met and who didn’t know my kids yet. When I pointed them out in the group she asked if they were home schooled. She had noticed how comfortable they were mingling equally with their peers, the adults in the group and the younger children.

  8. Great post. One of the most common comments I get about my boys from people we come across in everyday life is “wow, your boys are so well spoken and social”. Ironically I think they are like that because they are homeschooled, they interact with a lot of people of different ages all the time, not just same aged peers.

  9. You might be surprised about math, too. Due to circumstances, Miriam started attending school in the middle of 4th grade. We had done little to no formal math training. Yet it took her only a few weeks to catch up to and surpass her peers. The only difficulty she had was with penmanship, but her teacher was patient and understanding, and that was also rapidly improved.

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