The Homeschool Socialization Myth

image courtesy of (edited by me)

I've only been homeschooling for a year, and I am already sick and tired of hearing the socialization argument.  In fact, I am sick and tired of the word socialization at this point.  It's like the go-to word for those against homeschooling.  I often wonder if this argument has even been thought through.  I would really like to finally dispel this myth that homeschooled kids are anti-social and put the whole issue to bed.

First of all, do you remember your kids before they were school aged?  Remember when they would happily talk to just about anyone and made friends with other toddlers in an instant regardless of their age, size, race, or religion?  I remember this in my children.  They were born naturally sociable, so much so that I was sometimes afraid they might run off with a stranger! They did not need school to make them socialize.  School, in fact, caused my formerly outgoing daughter to become more shy and self-conscious.  After being laughed at, insulted, picked apart, and turned on by friends and teachers at school, kids can become more withdrawn and less trusting.  I am not saying that everyone who goes to school will have these negative experiences or interpret them the same way, but it can happen that school makes one less social.  I have certainly never seen any evidence that it makes people more social.  I am a naturally shy person and going to school did not make me more outgoing!  The bottom line here is that human beings are social animals.  We live in families, commuinities, tribes.  It's in our biology and has been long before the public school system was invented.

Another point I would like to make is that kids do not get to spend much time socializing in school anyway.  As early as preschool, my daughter was not allowed to sit near her friend, not even on the bus when they had a field trip.  The teachers avoid letting friends sit together to keep the classroom quiet.  Recess is a mere twenty minutes.  Lunch is also twenty minutes and less if you have to stand on a lunch line and wait for your food.  I don't know how other schools run but in my daughter's former elementary school she was not allowed to sit with friends from other classes at lunch (so when she wound up in a class with none of her friends she was out of luck) and she would often tell me the lunch aids made them be quiet.  So sure, you meet people in school and you are in the same room with them and it gives you the opportunity to reach out to the people to socialize with outside of school.  However, actually socializing within school happens for 40 minutes at best.  Rarely do you find a teacher and classroom that focuses much on "getting to know you" activities or social skills.  The common attitude is that socializing is for after school and school is for learning.

Here is another enligtening fact: Most homeschoolers are rarely home!  Homeschool moms do just as much running and shuffeling around as public school moms, or more!  Most of the homeschool families I have met do co-ops (places where you have classes with other homeschool kids), music lessons, sports, foreign language classes, museum days, field trips, art and sewing classes, AND MORE!!!  These kids are out and about.  More than that, they are gaining experiences in many different environments and with many different people.

Finally, let's think about where our social skills actually come from.  Where do we find the social experiences that shape us for the rest of our lives?  Do we tend to marry someone who reminds us of our first grade teacher or someone who reminds us of our dad?  Do we wind up re-enacting experiences we witnessed on the playground or experiences we witnessed at home?  Home and family are where socialization comes from.  When you have a secure view of the world based on your home life you will be more social unless some outside trauma interrupts this.  You will learn how to have relationships from your family.  When you have good family relations it sets the tone for the rest of your life.  Working on this at home is the best thing you can do.  I am not saying everyone should homeschool.  In fact, I have a child in public school.  I am just saying that if your child is never home and spending time with you that will be the thing affects him socially.  Shipping him off to school and camp will not replace what he needs to get from his family.  The bottom line here is that the home life shapes future relationships more than school does.

At school, kids learn to blend in.  As they get older they see that there are a few categories (jocks, skaters, nerds, etc) and they have to choose one.  Then they try to make sure they fit into that mold.  They learn quickly that being different gets you negative feedback.  In some ways, this helps one to assimilate to the culture.  In other ways, it is terribly oppressive.  It prevents kids from truly realizing all that they are.  Then, they wind up spending their 20's (and sometimes their whole lives) trying to rediscover themselves.  What kind of social relationships are you having when you have to change in order to be accepted?  In my experience so far, I have found that homeschooled kids seem to have more freedom to be themselves.  They don't have to grow up faster than they want to or pretend to like things they don't really care for.  When they enter into the world of college and work, I think they will have a good sense of themselves and a firm foundation that won't be easily shaken.

In the end, I will say that my homeschooled daughter leads a very active social life.  She has sleepovers just about every weekend with kids from the neighborhood or her extra curricular activities.  She has people over and goes places with her friends.  She is also a member of many organizations and teams like scouts, swimming, band, a library group, and more.  She calls and texts her friends daily and her calendar often has overlap where she needs to miss things because she is so busy being an "unsocialized homeschooler."

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