What About Socialization?!?
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
I’ve had this question asked so many times. From friends and family to doctors and people I’ve just met. Everyone's worried that if your child is learning at home that they won't be socialized or surely they will be socio-compromised (is this even a word? No idea so don’t go google it :). People convey their concern as if your homeschooled kids will grow up not knowing how to use a fork and knife in a restaurant, or that they’ll still be hiding behind their mother at the family Christmas party when they’re 15, or that when the cashier at the convenience store says ‘That’ll be $4.65’, your kid will run away screaming because they won’t know how to respond.
Kids absorb their surroundings, they become like those they spend the most time with. If you eat hot sauce with every meal, your kids will mostly likely grow up eating hot sauce with every meal. If you have a dance party every time there is something to celebrate, your kids will likely groove out when they’re feeling happy. If you give your spouse the silent treatment when you disagree about something, there’s a good chance that’s how your kids will deal their friends/siblings when they can’t work something out. Yes, there are always exceptions and as our kids move into adulthood they will make their own choices but so much of who they become is affected by the home they were raised in.
My husband and I love people. And we’ve always desired to help our kids discover their interests. All of these interests come with our kids learning how to be sociable. Over the years, we’ve had one of more of our kids in ballet, soccer, field and ice hockey, theatre, swimming lessons, music classes, day and overnight camps. They’ve worked as babysitters, lawn mowers, cat sitters and entrepreneurs when they were younger and in a variety of employment as soon as they were old enough to get a ‘real’ job. They’ve volunteered at kids camps, with autistic children and horses at a local horse farm, at food banks, homeless shelters, cancer walks, spending time with the elderly and more. The opportunities to involve kids in community are endless. And they all involve being able to interact with people. If it didn’t matter to us it wouldn’t matter to them. And don’t all parents want their kids to be able to hold their own in a social setting? So whether kids do school at home or in a school building parents are teaching socialization by living out what is important to them.
When our kids were little we had a good family doctor. He was in his thirties, great with the kids and easy to talk to. Thank goodness my kids have always been pretty healthy and our visits to the doctor were never frequent. At the appointment our doctor asked about school and if my daughter had possibly picked a virus up there. I mentioned that we were homeschooling. I remember he looked up at me from the file, looked at my daughter and then wrote something down. He asked right away about how we were going to socialize her. At this point I was a newbie at homeschooling and based on the judgment I’d felt from some family and friends by doing something so out of the norm in keeping the kids at home, I always felt that I had to defend our decision. I don’t remember what I said to the doctor that day but interactions like those always made me feel vulnerable. It never made me waver in our decision, I just never understood that people thought a child would be more socialized by being in a ‘regular’ school setting.
But I suppose that depends on your definition of ‘socialized’ or 'regular'…
In your job, your church, your gym or your book club are you interacting with people who were born in the same year as you were? Exclusively? Imagine you spent about 75% of your day, 5 days a week with only people your exact age. Imagine you did that every day for 12 or 13 years. Is that the way you would imagine we’d best learn how to get along with people? Certainly, being with kids their own age can foster wonderful friendships and it can help greatly to have peers around while going through life’s milestones. I’m not suggesting that homeschooled kids are always better socialized because they tend to spend more time with a variety of age groups. But the school system that we’ve set up for our kids cannot be considered the most optimal way to teach our kids to be social either.
Socially, your kids will not be any worse off if you decide to teach them at home. Unless you’re a hermit. But then you wouldn’t have kids to teach...Just trust me, if you’ve been able to get along in the world around you up until now, your kids will too. And the idea is that they'll do an even better job at it than you have.