There are several questions that non-homeschoolers often ask homeschooling families, including, “What do you do about socialization?” They might not always use the word socialization, but non-homeschoolers are eager to learn how we, as homeschoolers, ensure that our children will be able to function in society.
Opinions about homeschooling are formed based on popular culture that sometimes depicts homeschooling families and children as “different.” Because they are different, some believe homeschooled children will not be able to socialize with their peers or others.
What Is the Socialization Myth?
According to Merriam-Webster, socialization can be defined in several ways:
a. “the process beginning during childhood by which individuals acquire the values, habits, and attitudes of a society,”
b. “social interaction with others,” or
c. “exposure of a young domestic animal (such as a kitten or puppy) to a variety of people, animals, and situations to minimize fear and aggression and promote friendliness.”
Nowhere in that definition does it state that socialization only occurs in the public school setting, but that is really at the heart of the socialization myth. Those on the outside of homeschooling have an image in their head as to what education looks like.
Some believe that education means that children will be sitting in assigned seats for a specific period of time each day, lining up to move between classrooms, and only interacting with peers their age. For many, public school is seen as the only avenue for proper socialization. Public school is the only place where children learn to interact with other children, form friendships, and learn about the world. The attitudes and beliefs taught in public schools are the only ones that children should learn. But that is not how many homeschooling families look at socialization.
How Do Homeschooling Families Respond to the Socialization Myth?
Your three children have accompanied you on your weekly Wednesday morning shopping errands. After learning that you homeschool, the person in the checkout line behind you asks, “What do you do about socialization?”
Some homeschoolers choose to answer with all the activities their children are involved in, such as karate, ballet, soccer, Sunday School, and more. Others might be more humorous in their responses implying that they don’t socialize their children. You socialize animals, not humans. Still, others might not know how to answer because they are new homeschoolers.
When we first started homeschooling, we were asked about our oldest leaving public school in tenth grade and starting his homeschooling journey. What about prom? What about field trips? Our extended family voiced concerns that our oldest would be missing out on things that happen in high school that they remember. They were worried about the myth of socialization. They might have thought the only place our oldest would be able to socialize would be the public high school.
It turns out our oldest has done more socializing after leaving public school than he ever did while attending public school. He joined the youth group at our church, started volunteering with the children’s ministry on Sunday mornings, and—now that he has graduated high school—he volunteers with the youth group that he was part of a few years ago. If he had remained in public school, he might not have had time for those activities. He wasn’t involved in any sports after he stopped playing ice hockey due to an injury, and no clubs at school interested him. So, public school was not the place he was going to find “socialization.”
How Do Homeschooling Parents View Socialization?
Many non-homeschoolers do not see socialization happening in the same places that homeschooling families do. Because a large portion of society sees public school as so important in the socialization process, people don’t see the many opportunities we have to learn about the world outside of public schools.
As homeschoolers go about their daily lives, they are learning about the values, habits, and attitudes of society. When we visit grocery stores, libraries, or museums, we interact with other shoppers and patrons. We learn about the world around us by trying new cuisines, reading books, and touring new places. We want our children to be polite and respectful and be able to converse with both their peers and those younger and older than they are.
Finally, homeschoolers also realize that the process of socialization is not relegated to just childhood. As we move between physical locations or even between different groups of people, we continue to learn and adapt to new values and habits. As homeschoolers, we may not internalize all the values and adopt them as our own, but we continue to learn about them as life-long learners.
How will you respond the next time when someone asks you about the socialization myth?
This article has been written by Kristen Heider. She is the Business Building Team Manager of The Old Schoolhouse® and the Social Media Manager of HomeschoolingFinds.com. She shares more about her family’s homeschooling journey at A Mom’s Quest Teach.