Stop Worrying About My Child’s Socialization; Worry About Your Own

So what brought you here? Is it the title, did it offend you? Did you read it, throw your hands up and exclaim “finally, someone said it!” Well, whatever side you are on, I hope you continue reading to better understand my blunt expression.

“Oh, you homeschool? Well, don’t forget to socialized your child.” As the unwanted advice giver walks away, I do a face palm. Inside I am screaming, angry and just plain frustrated! Then I wonder, what do people think socialization is really?

What Is Socialization

For some reason there is this great consensus that the only way a child learns socialization is in the classroom of a public school. Well, course Matt and I feel differently about this for our children. Since this has become the most unsolicited advice we get in regards to homeschooling, I felt the need to address the unknown. The first step is to define socialization; it sounds simple enough but it is still a good starting point. Here is how Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines socialization (this is the medical definition) the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.

So based on the definition provided it appears to me that socialization begins at infancy, long before entering a public school. This leads me to wonder why so many people have the false notion that school is the basis of social skills? Think about the skills your children have learned; sharing, turn taking, please, thank you, putting away toys, waiting, greetings/farewells and empathy to name a few. These skills are learned before a child enters school, they are learned from parents, siblings, relatives, and other people they come into contact with.

Public School and Socialization

Let’s put 20 people in a room, have them sit quietly, focus on one person, model that one person and make sure that there is one of everything so no one has to wait or share. It sounds pretty unbelievable, right? But it is exactly what a typical classroom in a public school looks like. Since when did school become the foundation for socialization? How many times have you heard “you can socialize after class/school”. Personally, I remember hearing this from my teachers. So when exactly does socialization at school happen? At lunch and recess? However, I worked in a public school and I remember children being told not to talk but to eat during lunch. Recess, well that time is a mere 20-30 minutes and by the time children reach middle school its pretty much non-existant.

Socialization and The Homeschooler

Does a homeschooler have an advantage with socialization? In my opinion, absolutely! You may think I am bias in my view, so let me enlighten you to my perspective. Here are a list of our socialization opportunities that we encounter, some daily.

At Home 

  • Picking up toys and materials
  • Daily chores
  • Use of manners
  • Conflict resolution
  • Turn taking
  • Recognize emotions and the way behavior effects others
  • Sharing toys and materials with sibling
  • Follow directions and rules

In The Community (Library, Stores, Playground, Visiting Others, Church, Sports, Special Activities)

  • Greetings/Farewells
  • Picking up any toys or materials used
  • Use of manners
  • Conflict resolution
  • Turn taking
  • Recognizing emotions and the way behavior effects others
  • Sharing toys and materials with others
  • Respect for other adults
  • Respect for other peoples’ property
  • Follow directions and rules
Anna and Eli at a community Halloween event

 

We make it part of homeschool routine to incorporate community activities in our curriculum. Many people have this notion that homeschool children are stuck inside a house without interaction or participation with the outside world. This is far from the truth, and where I think this socialization myth emerged. Personally, I think it is better for children to learn skills by interacting with members of the community. Yet, for some reason we think interaction with 20 individuals with the same amount of skills to be a superior method. I worked in a life skills program for children with severe and multiple disabilities, do you know what we did to work on social skills? We took them out into the community! We brought them to stores and other special activities in the community. Hmmm…I think we were on to something.

No Reason To Worry

On multiple occasions in public, people are often questioning why my daughter is not in school. On the contrary, she is usually in “school mode” when we are in the community. Yes, I have been told by people “be sure you socialize her” or “aren’t some homeschool kids awkward”. The answer to the first statement–“Don’t worry about my child, she is socialized. To the second statement — “There are plenty of public school children who have awkward behavior”. Let’s be real, there are plenty of public school children who are introverts, extroverts, or bullies. I have seen these traits all first hand; not only as a student but as an educator.

I meet many parents at the park with my daughter, I wonder if they are surprised to pay us compliments for her behavior. I am not gloating and asking for praise but for understanding, homeschooling does not put children at risk or disadvantage. At the park, my daughter is usually the first child to approach others and ask them to play. She greets them with a hello, says her name and asks them “what is your name”. She approached children of all ages, she plays well with children younger than her and will ask children older than her to play. Does this sound like a child with a socialization problem? Sometimes, we even go to a local coffee/donut shop during the morning for a treat, here we practice manners. One day, a man was sitting reading his paper across from us (I have a one year old and a six year old) and when we got up to leave he complimented on how well behaved the children were.

No it is not always a pretty picture, there have been times my daughter has gotten bullied or left out. As a parent, this is hard to watch and I would like for it not to happen, but I know that it is not because my daughter is not socialized. Sometimes, I look at the other child(ren) and question their social skills–why do they say mean and hurtful things to another child or intentionally avoid them? I do not believe these are traits that result from homeschool versus public school but that of parenting and to some extent personality.

Anna checking out books at the library

Still Got Questions

While this post reflects on socialization; I did write a post on the myths and questions of homeschooling and you can read that post here. This is not a bash against parents who send their children to public school but insight into those who chose to homeschool. If you still have questions, I would gladly answer them to the best of my ability in the comments. Also, many states do allow for homeschool children to take part in special activities and sports within their school district. Maybe you were unsure about homeschooling because you hear negative comments about socialization. My hope is that this post helps you to see that it is not a negative but a positive.