Socialization in Homeschooling
Years ago I attended a homeschooling co-op to observe. The 4th grade room I observed seemed to be chaos. Once the Mentor was explaining something on a map and one kid just walked right up to the front of the room and began to join in. Another kid needed to use the restroom and just walked right out the door. Some kids sat at their desks while others stood around the room. They constantly chatted with each other about the topic at hand or whatever else was on their mind. The day began with a Mom playing her guitar leading all the kids in singing. It was just so different.
When I left, I first thought these kids need structure! They need school! But then again, is that what they need? Isn't it normal to get up and use the bathroom when you need to- without asking permission every time? Since when did sitting at desks for hours a day seem normal? And what was really wrong with an interested student walking up to the front with the teacher to learn the maps?
Since I went to public school for my elementary school years, I began to suspect that my perspective was clouding my judgment. The behaviors I observed weren't normal to me, but who defines normal? Who defines what behavior classify a socialized and an unsocialized child? Don't we, as a society, admire and seek individuality?
Socialization is defined on dictionary.com as "a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior and social skills appropriate to his or her social position." The homeschool kids I observed that day had more "personal identity" than the public school kids I grew up with. They were allowed the freedom to have it. The question is, "Will those homeschool kids have the norms and values to behave in their social position?" I would like to answer a question with a question, "Do public school children have the norms and values to behave in their social position?"
What social position are we grooming our children for? If family is truly the most important relationship, then we are grooming children foremost to be husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, caretakers of elderly parents and good neighbors. With divorce rates high, elderly parents dying alone and a myriad of crimes on the rise in America, are we grooming our children for the right kind of social positions?
Of course children must also be good students in college in order to hold a professional job in society. However, research by Brian Ray shows that homeschool students preform better than schooled children in college. Unfortunately there are no long term studies to show the lifelong outcomes of how homeschoolers compare as employees.
In the definition on socialization, we can not leave out the word "values" in society. Homeschoolers are often homeschooled to instill a set of values in them. Public schools also instill a set of values in children. The values of the public school system can be in opposition to any homeschooler with faith-based beliefs. This can make homeschoolers seem unsocialized because they are CHOOSING not to participate in some of society's values. But the people in history we revere the most were revolutionaries. They stood up for what they believed in and changed the course of history.
Homeschooling can make children different, but making them unsocialized might even be the point. It is certainly worth considering as a homeschool parent what your goal for your child is in terms of socializing will be. I strongly encourage homeschool parents to enroll their children in many activities over their school years, taking advantage of the extra time available. But research shows that the average homeschool child is enrolled is 5 activities already!* There are few public school children who have time to explore their interests like that.
Homeschool parents don't need to be afraid of their children being unsocialized. They just need to be aware of the stigma and make a plan for addressing this issue.
*Contact us for references or google it!