Thursday, August 26, 2010

Socialization and Homeschooling

(Another beautiful photo by our Michelle - I really like her work)
At a recent gathering, a person asked me the infamous homeschooling question, "What about socialization?" The person asking it was truly curious and not at all belligerent, so I answered his question in a friendly manner. A lot of people have read in the newspaper or other journalism formats that homeschoolers are not properly socialized. How could they be if they are not in a school classroom setting? Let me attempt to set your fears at ease.
Here is Thomas with our next door neighbor.
Homeschoolers live in neighborhoods, go to church, play on playgrounds, and even play on sports teams and join scout troops. They do not generally live in a cave. They are around people all the time. However, I will admit that homeschoolers are differently socialized. They are not around their age mates the majority of the time. Are you? Really, once you leave school has there been a time when most of your friends are the same age as you? I know that I have friends of a wide variety of ages and life situations. A homeschooler's peer group is vertical rather than horizontal. By that, I mean that they are exposed to people of many different ages and they compose their peer group. Schooled children have a horizontal peer group composed almost entirely of children their own age. In my office I can tell whether a child that comes in is schooled at home or not in about 90 seconds. The schooled children come in and ask my children how old they are or what grade they are in and if it matches they want to play with them, if it doesn't, they sit on the couch and look bored or read a book. Homeschooled children may ask my children how old they are, but then irregardless of the answer they start to play together. I have seen high school boys who are homeschooled come in and happily play with a baby or toddler. Homeschoolers are also very comfortable talking with adults. They enjoy talking with adults and learning from them.

Homeschoolers enjoy playing with other children irregardless of their age. One of the highest compliments my children can give to another family is that 'they know how to play as a family'. I also chuckle as I remember one of the boys, when they were about five, commenting on some older children who had visited. He said, "They are just not properly socialized. Do they go to public school, Mommy?" Yes, they did. Homeschooled children are generally the ones organizing games on the public playgrounds. They tend to be more socially outgoing, because they haven't felt the intimidation, teasing and rejection that occurs frequently in a school setting.
The homeschooled child's strongest peer group is their family. This is the group that they spend the most time with. They are forced to learn to get along with their siblings or experience a miserable existence. The children forge strong bonds with each other. Yes, they have disagreements, but they learn to help each other. The older ones learn to help the younger children and be compassionate. The younger ones are taught many skills by the older children and to keep foolishness to a minimum. These are all good things.

The bottom line is that I feel the 'socialization argument' is not something that homeschoolers worry about. I have met far more children that have been 'wounded' by the socialization of a classroom setting than received scars from inadequate social interaction at home.
I can't believe how much T-Bob looks like my Dad as a boy.


  1. Did you know that an average public school student spends 7 hours per day, 180 days per year at school? This works out to be only 14% of all the possible hours in a year (8760)? My theory is that differences in "socialization" can be better explained by a combination of other factors such as family size/structure, birth order, genetic predisposition, leisure activities pursued, extracurriculars, etc. People who try to pin a child's socialization on where he or she goes to school may not be paying enough attention to the other, more weighty influences in the child's life.

  2. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to comment. I would assess the percentages a little differently. I think it would be more accurate to subtract a child's sleeping time from the number of hours in a year. Based on our own children I would say that 10 hours/night is average. This makes the tme in school percentage 25%. I would also say that the average student would have an additional half hour of peer influence both before and after school. This boosts the percentage to over 28%. The factors that you mentioned are true whether one goes to school or homeschools. THere are definite characteristics that are common to most homeschoolers no matter what these other factors are. Homeschooling is becoming more common in the community at large and there is now a broad spectrum of family cultures homeschooling and for a plethora of reasons. The time when students are not in school is spent similarly with families and normal life activities and socialization. THe major difference in these children's lives are how and where they are educated and socialized.