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The “S” Word

The “S” Word


It’s sometimes the only thing people care about when you say you’re homeschooling. How are you going to ensure your child is “properly socialized?” “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be isolating your child from other kids and society?” “Aren’t you afraid your child will grow up to be an axe murder or a puppy kicker?” And my favorite, “Your kid will be weird.” (people probably won’t actually say that to your face, but I certainly thought that about homeschooled kids before I got into it.) The “S” word will come from friends and family members who mean well. Even complete strangers are sometimes worried more about your child’s ability to integrate into society than they are about academics.

When it comes to socialization, the assumption is this: the proper way to socialize a child is to put her or him in a classroom with other, same-aged children where they interact and learn to negotiate, compromise, and generally get along. Of course it’s not the only way, but to some it’s the most IMPORTANT way to socialize kids.

On the surface this seems sensible. But here’s my opinion: if your homeschooled child is around other people (grown-ups and kids) in any setting – participating in sports or taking extra-curricular classes; playing with neighborhood kids or siblings; play dates with other homeschoolers; interacting with extended family members; attending church or other social functions – that child will be socialized.

One of the joys of homeschooling, no shoes required.

Just like it does not take a classroom for your child to learn; it does not take a classroom for your child to be socialized. Think about it this way: many a child has learned to talk without going to daycare when they’re 6 weeks old. They’ve learned through being around other people and – to a high degree – their parents teaching them. The same is true for socialization. And, I don’t know about you, but my kids are fully capable of interacting with others as well as compromising and negotiating like high-priced attorneys.

Still, some will argue that by homeschooling, you’re depriving your child of Very Important school-environment-style socialization. I respectfully disagree. Universal Public Education is a very recent development in our civilization. There’s little to suggest that socialization of children started with its advent. Before that time, many children were homeschooled or — if their family was wealthy—tutored by a mentor. As for what goes on in today’s schools: I’ve heard rumor that some schools forbid talking at lunch and in the halls and there isn’t a lot of recess time. So when does all this “socialization” happen? (Not to mention there may be some undesirable socialization going on.)

See Also
Ready, Set, Kindergarten!

Homeschool does not equate to parents creating a bubble for their children, shielding them from the world. It’s all quite the opposite. No, socialization shouldn’t be the main issue with homeschooling (unless, or course, there’s another problem with the family that needs outside intervention). Generally, home-schooled kids have just as many opportunities to interact with other humans as outside-of-the-home-schooled kids – maybe even more due to the freedom that home school allows.

There are many opinions about socialization on the internet and there’s even evidence that supports positive outcomes concerning homeschooling and socialization. I encourage you to explore other people’s opinions and research and decide what you’ll tell your family members when the “S” word rears its ugly head. Rehearse your response well, because the day will come when someone says, “How will they be socialized!?”

[themify_box style=”lavender rounded” ]Looking for more topics about homeschooling, specifically in Huntsville & Madison County? See all the posts in this series HERE. [/themify_box]


View Comments (7)
  • You are right about complete strangers bringing the issue up as their immediate response! In my daughter’s case, a lot of the “socialization” she got in public school was negative, undermining her self-confidence and making her feel that being different from the other kids was not OK. Her homeschool friends are supportive, real peers of varying ages, and she has more friends now than she ever did in public school. Thanks for drawing attention to this aspect of homeschooling!

    • I completely agree. I mean if you wanted you child to learn algebra would you take them to a student who was taking algebra 1. No, you would take them to someone who is an expert in algebra. Kids in public schools are not good teachers of socialization and actually can teach the wrong way to socialize than the right way. Also, the teachers in the classroom may or may not be experts at socialization. Even if the teacher was an expert, she/he has so many students in the classroom, she cannot monitor all of the students to ensure they are practicing socializing correctly. Homeschoolers have a very low teacher to student ratio which is one of the biggest predictors of a student’s success in anything including socialization.

  • This is a GREAT article! And BRAVO to you. I USED to be one of those people (before I had children of my own) who scoffed at homeschooling. Then I had my own children. I did like the majority of folks and enrolled them in public school. Oh how I wish I could have been able to home school them instead, now. I am definitely an advocate for home schooling now even though I didn’t do it myself. But I do know quite a few parents, now, who do and their children are LOVELY and doing just fine. So yeah, if I had to do it all over again I’d seriously try it.. my kids are now 17 and 15… so… yeah. I also don’t have anything against public school or private schools… it’s just different for different people. I think the reasons I didn’t do it when I could have might be financial reasons and lack of self-discipline. I just din’t know enough about the home schooling community back then. I was too afraid to try it I suppose. I didn’t have confidence in myself.

  • Good article. Allow me to make a few comments:

    You stated “I’ve heard rumor that some schools forbid talking at lunch and in the halls and there isn’t a lot of recess time. So when does all this “socialization” happen?” This is fact. I’m very disappointed in HCS for being so militant about child-to-child communication during what has traditionally been the only appropriate time to do so: Lunch, PE, and “recess”. During lunch, children are commanded to remain quiet and have very little ability to move around from peer group to peer group. Time allocated for lunch (which includes the time to walk to/from the lunch room) is so short, there is barely enough time to even eat. PE is even worse! In PE, children must participate in the proscribed activity with no talking. In many activities, each child takes their turn and otherwise has to sit quietly on the sides of the gym. “Recess” for younger kids is more forgiving, except that it doesn’t last very long.
    As a result, the social settings I grew up in are no longer useful opportunities for today’s children in the city schools. I silently laugh when teachers (all women) are amazed that their 8-9year old boys are so….hyper. It never seems to occur to them that boys at this age need opportunities to run, jump, be loud, hit themselves, etc. and without these opportunities, it’s obvious they will do so in the classroom.
    Although I generally agree with the main point of the article, that socialization can be obtained through other means than corporate classrooms in a public school setting, I do believe there are some aspects of public school settings that are difficult to find elsewhere. First, you mentioned that some social interactions in these settings are “negative”. Understanding that any situation where the child is in danger is never acceptable, some “negative” interactions are actually good for our children. Our children will eventually have to grow up to be adults equipped to deal with similar “negative” interactions, and many times those encountered in the public schools provide good learning opportunities for them. In other environments, where social interaction is controlled because the peer group is controlled, these opportunities do not present themselves.
    Secondly, a very important aspect of public school socialization is the interaction between special needs children and their “normal” peers. Many people view this interaction as a benefit only to the special needs children, but I do not agree. Regular children need to be taught empathy, compassion, and how to relate to someone as different from them as a special needs child. Sure, this attitude can be developed outside public schools, but rarely will you get the opportunity to expose your children to as many special needs individuals as in the public school. The reason for this is because special needs children many times are not present in other settings besides the public school. The opportunity for this interaction is simply greater in the public school setting.
    Overall, I wouldn’t say that these advantages couldn’t be obtained outside the public schools, and I’m certainly not advocating public education. In fact, I tend to think that homeschooling is the better answer if for no other reason than the curriculum can be better controlled, and the focus can be put on appropriate subject matter like reading, writing, and arithmetic, a focus which hasn’t been recently kept by our public educators. I just thought I’d point out a few advantages that I could see in the public education of my children.


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