Socialization, and what you may not know about it.

When we became a homeschooling family, we found ourselves out and about in the community almost on a daily basis. People saw that I had school aged children with me and many reacted as if my kids were abused, lonely, shut-ins. “But what about socialization?” became the question of the day, everyday. Everyone became so concerned with my kid’s social life. The person at the check out line in the grocery store who was just talking about the latest Twilight movie with me all of a sudden becomes a doctorial candidate in child developement. “But what about socialization?” she’ll ask, and I’ll answer the way most homeschool parents do. Homeschooled kids are just as socialized as other children, maybe more so. And leave the store.

On the way home I think of all the statistics, arguments, and thoughtful replies to the question about socializing that I’ll probably never have the nerve or the time or energy to say to a stranger. But I’ve got the nerve to express it here… so here it goes.

What do people mean when they say ‘socialization’? Do they mean the Merriam-Webster definition: A continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behaviors, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position? If so, it’s a great definition, but it has nothing to do with school.

Homeschooling will certainly produce some shy and awkward adults, but the odds are good they would have turned out that way anyway. Actually, quite a few kids are being homeschooled precisely because an offbeat personality tends to attract hostility. There are no bullies in homeschooling. At home you can be eccentric and survive lunch. I have a weird child and I am very glad for the option to homeschool. We do get together with other families and they do experience bullying every so often. Most children who are homeschooled do get to negotiate with socially toxic people when they go to groups, clubs, sports, church, and play dates. What they don’t get to do is grimly endure an entire year sitting two feet away from a person who makes their lives miserable on a regular and predictable basis.

Peer groups are important. But so are older people. And babies. And cousins, and kids across the street, and grandparents who teach them how to use computers and librarians who show them how to find what they need, and their best friends at the gym mom goes to. No one looks at the kids sitting and interacting with kids their own age year after year and asks, “but what about more time with grandparents?” Schools seem to work on the assumption that we should learn how to be humans horizontally, from kids our own age because, after all, no one is better equipped to teach a fourteen-year-old boy how to be a man quite like other fourteen-year-old boys.

“So you’re saying school is bad, then?”

Not at all faithful Interrogator. Some people thrive in school; they become the best versions of themselves. Other people wither in school; we’ve all seen that tragedy unfold. I fell into that category, sadly. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Clearly, however, school isn’t the best place for every kid.

In fact, I suspect the question isn’t so much about the kid and his/her socialization, but instead directed towards the parent. “But what about socialization?” is really about whether we can educate our kids in an age when it’s generally assumed to be a task for professionals. The question behind that question is a little something more like this, “Are you up for the task of doing what your ancestors have been doing since before the discovery of fire?” I believe that with a little help, that yes, I am.

Thank you for reading.

Love,

Jackie

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