The Million Dollar Question: What About Socialization?

If you have homeschooled for any amount of time (or even if you've just kicked around the idea of homeschooling in lighthearted conversation), you have had this thought or have been asked this question: "What about socialization?" This is a topic that seems to automatically arise in any discussion about homeschooling, especially if one of the people involved in the discourse does not homeschool. First, I think it's important to tease out what the inquisitor means by "socialization". When answering this question, it's important to know if the question is about socialization or socializing, as the two have vastly different meanings. I generally find that most people actually mean "socializing" when this topic comes up but there are some who genuinely mean "socialization." In this article I will give you my understanding of these two concepts and tell you what I think about each of them as they relate to homeschooling.

SOCIALIZING - In my experience, most people who ask "What about socialization" are actually asking, "Hey - will your kid ever get to see anyone but their own family? Will they get to play ball? Have a same-age peer group? Share secrets with best friends? Send spit balls flying across a cafeteria?" There seems to be a concern that homeschoolers will "miss out" on all of the "fun" things that we associate with our own school experiences. I will say emphatically that for us, socializing is NOT an issue. (Well, actually, I may have to take that back. It in fact CAN be an issue, but not in the way that you might think. I have had several conversations with fellow homeschooling mothers who laugh and say "we've got to cut out some of our social activities - we need to get some school work done!") Homeschoolers have a multitude of opportunities to socialize with peers and sometimes, we have to avoid the pitfall of having too many things on the social schedule.

When I was growing up (way back in the '70's and '80's) we actually had some very good friends who were homeschooled. I will say that for that family, socializing may have been an issue and here's the reason: They were the ONLY ones who were doing it. Today, however, homeschool activities abound. YMCA's, community centers, state parks and zoos have all opened their doors to the homeschool community. Spanish tutors, art teachers, gymnastics and dance studio owners have all realized that there is huge segment of students out there who are available during times other than "school hours" and they have accordingly started programs with classes and group activities for these folks. (Incidentally, I have had more than one business owner tell me that they LOVE it when they get a group of homeschoolers on the schedule because they tend to be very well behaved, punctual and engaged.) Homeschooled children participate in team sports and some (like my daughter) participate in P.E. classes at a local school. As you can see, opportunities to socialize are not only available but are abundant.

One parting thought on this idea of the importance of socializing: Are we concerned about opportunities to socialize because we want them to be viable members of their community? If so, ponder this. Homeschooled children are exposed to a variety of experiences with a variety of people of differing ages. They are often spending time in "the real world" (a trip to the grocery store, accompanying a family member to work, getting to spend time with aging and or ill family members) and they are not confined to a classroom with one teacher and 20 children their own age. Which of the above scenarios do you think is more valuable in preparing them to engage socially as they get older and more independent*?

SOCIALIZATION - Merriam - Webster defines socialization as, "the process by which a human being acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status." Socialization is a different animal all together. We're not talking about having time to hang out after class and talk about your latest crush. This is about training the next generation as a whole to function in a prescribed way and instilling "habits and beliefs." There are many homeschoolers, myself included, who have chosen to educate their own BECAUSE of the idea of socialization. I am not worried about the fact that my child is not getting "socialized" by an educational system that I see as broken and one who would train my children to have habits and beliefs that I do not ascribe to. I choose to educate my own for many reasons, one of which is because I believe that their "accumulated knowledge of society" should come from me and be rooted in my beliefs about how they should be "trained for adult status." Allowing my children to be trained by a group of people that I do not know (and ones who may hold vastly differing viewpoints on such things as my child's purpose in society) is precisely what I am trying to avoid.

Now let me back up a second (because I can hear you shouting at your computer screen) and address the concerns of, "You can't keep your children in a bubble! They should be able to hear differing views! They should be taught how to function as part of a whole!" First, I agree. I can not keep my children in a bubble nor do I want to. I do, however, believe that it is my duty to be the primary "translator" for my child. They will experience things and have questions about those experiences. We all filter our experiences through our belief systems and values. We interpret the world based on our "filter". My job as a mother and as a teacher is to help them develop a healthy filter. One that will rely on truth and honesty and integrity to make decisions and judgments. While I do not have any problems with them hearing views and beliefs that are different from mine, I do have a problem with them being told the views that our family holds (for example our beliefs about absolute truth, a Creator, or personal freedoms) are not "politically correct." As to the query of "raising a good citizen who will function as part of a whole", my answer to that is, "What better way to train a child to function as part of a whole than to give him a meaningful place of honor and responsibility in his own family among siblings, mother father and extended family?" The family unit is the perfect proving ground for learning how to thoughtfully and efficiently function as part of a greater body.

So there you have it. Whether you are ruminating over this question of social interaction for yourself or you are answering others who have questions about the well being of your child, know that there are differences in the meanings of socializing and socialization. Be encouraged in the fact that there are plenty of opportunities for socializing and be empowered with the knowledge that as a homeschooler, you can determine just how your child gets "socialized."

* For an enlightening look at the issue of children who were homeschooled and their capability to get a job, get into college, and participate in their communities, please take a look at this article (http://www.hslda.org/research/ray2003/Socialization.asp) on the HSLDA website.


Julie Clark is a writer and content contributor for LessonPathways.com, an innovative new product that maps online educational resources into ready to teach units. She is a homeschooling mother of three children, executive assistant to her husband, a blogger (TheClarkChronicles.com), and Foster Care Coordinator for a nationally acclaimed mental health agency.

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One Response to “The Million Dollar Question: What About Socialization?”

  1. avatar Rhonda says:

    Interesting perspective on socialization. I have featured this blog on FB on Homeschool Fun for Teens and Tweens.
    Rhonda´s last [type] ..Gross Science – Lets Make Poo