Monday, September 10, 2012

Public School, Homeschool, and Socialization

My 98-year old great-aunt eyed my children a few weeks ago and asked what school they attend. When I told her we homeschool, she said adamantly, “You shouldn’t do that. Kids need to be around other kids.”

So as children pack up their backpacks and lunchboxes and head off to school for the next 170 days, no one ever asks, “Your kids are in public school. Aren’t you concerned about socialization?”

Yet, I believe, there is reason to be concerned.

In response to a study about the college class of 2016, community college freshmen talked to our local NBC station about their social skills. Startingly, one student admitted she’d rather text than talk to someone in person, and another girl said that in a group of new people, they all just pull out their phones and start texting  friends they know because they don’t know how to handle the social awkwardness of the situation.

That is what I call not being socialized.

And yet, they’ve been in the public school system for 12 years.
So they’re supposed to be “socialized,” right?

When it comes to socialization--the very argument that people use as a catch-phrase against homeschooling—it seems as though graduates of the public school system are not all that properly socialized.

How do we define socialization? As a homeschool parent, I think of it as being able to relate to not only their peers, but people of all age groups (and not through texting, but face-to-face communication). Merriam Webster defines socialization as :
1 to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment
2 a : to constitute on a socialistic basis <socialize industry> b : to adapt to social needs or uses
3: to organize group participation in <socialize a recitation>
: to participate actively in a social group

Let’s look again at what that college freshman said. In a social situation with new people, they all just pull out their phones, because it’s less awkward that way. That is not participating actively in a social group. By definition, they are not properly socialized.

Contrast homeschoolers.

The socialization argument always makes me laugh, because—while it may be well-meaning— it is so ignorant.  One would have to lock a child in a dark room all day, every day to keep him from having social interactions with others. Kids are around other kids (and other adults), at church activities, at playgrounds, through sports, homeschool groups, and more (not to mention in our home, they each have three siblings to socialize with).

Not only are they learning how to relate to kids of all ages (without a cell phone, I might add), because they accompany me on errands and to various civic functions, they also learn how to socialize with people of all ages.  

Meanwhile, public school students are learning how to fit into a group, or how to not fit in. Some parents cite this as a necessary skill for life. But is it really?

When has a co-worker or a friend cattily made fun of your clothing choices, hairstyle, makeup, teeth? Picked on you mercilessly? Or when have you done these things to someone else? It just doesn’t happen as we grow up and learn how to properly socialize in the real world. Yet it happens daily in schools, to the point that children have commited suicide over it. Is this really the kind of socialization we want for our kids?

I remember when I was in fifth grade (in public school). A girl sat outside, against the brick wall of the school, crying during every recess, because the other kids were so mean to her. They picked on her because her teeth were crooked; they picked on her because she was a bit overweight compared to some classmates (but probably of normal weight for an 11 year old girl); they picked on her for her hair and for her name. 

Feeling badly for her, I used to sit by her and try to make her feel better. She started to hate the other kids, because “they were so mean,” she cried. I still remember this, years later.

Was this a necessary part of “socialization?” Does this experience mirror the real-world of adult life? Did it do any good for her? Absolutely not. I bet she may still have self-esteem issues to this day, due to the damage caused by these peers. I’m sure it also distracted her from learning.

Yet, if she would have been home, no one would have been making fun of her. She would be learning in a safe environment and growing up with a healthy sense of self-esteem. She would have been practicing normal communication skills with people of all ages, which would not have included belittling and heavy texting.

So when it comes to socialization, do my children really need to be in classrooms filled with their peers, as my great aunt and so many others think? Or is home where it's really at?

 More links on homeschoolers and socialization:
Sharing With:
Women Living Well
We are That Family
Raising Homemakers


    1. you are right on the money! The homeschool socially awkward stigma always makes me laugh, I sure dont think I'm(too) awkward. :) My mom would throw in that we also are better trained in interacting with adults because of accompanying mom on those errands.

      1. Hi Jillian! Congratulations on your new little blessing :) Someone told me today that junior highs are now offering a class on talking to adults. That is too funny!

    2. Thank you so much for that post. I didn't think the things people would say would bother me so bad (really only family) but it does. Their words keep digging into my heart and I want to say something to them but I just smile and try to ignore it. I am happy with our decision to homeschool (of course it is only our first year and really only 2 weeks into it). Both of my boys actually go to work with me (which is a small family restaurant) so they get LOTS of socialization.

      1. Thanks, Gloria. I had a thought awhile back to post on when your parents don't support your decisions. It has been hard for me, too. (Maybe I need to work on that post after all.) :) I'm just short on time these days! Posts rumble around in my head...I just have to get on the computer to write the thoughts down!
        My husband and I watched the Indoctrination DVD recently. I'm not sure if that's part of why you're homeschooling or not (worldview and character vs. public school teaching), but maybe your family would be willing to watch that? It makes a good case for why Christians should homeschool. (Plus, I think it's so different now than it was in school when our parents went, and I don't think they understand all the cultural shifts and such). God bless you in your journey!

      2. For some reason I can't reply under my Daughters (Gloria)post, But I want to say that I am proud of her and my Son-In-Law in their decision to home school. It is hard for them with having to work also, but they do a great job. Love them all, Nanny Gail :-)

    3. Thanks, Cheryl. You are so right. In the book, Better Late than Early, the author specifies socialization also to be the ability to execute the golden rule, show kindness and serve others. Most kids in schools don't learn that. They learn how to be around other children, yet still selfishly. It is ignorance, yet it is frustrating when people, particularly family members, see it the other way around. Thank you for putting this into words!

    4. Thank you so much for writing this post. I was homeschooled in Canada right through to graduation, and am now homeschooling my kids as MK's in Madagascar. I still laugh inside when people ask about how my kids get "socialized". Other than a few exceptions (and there are exceptions in every environment) most homeschoolers I've ever met are able to socialize in circles of people just fine without social awkwardness people assume onto them as homeschoolers. I have come to believe that the whole "socialization" argument is just an excuse not to homeschool, and not a real justified reason.

      By the way, I married a homeschooler, and NO we didn't grow up together! :) We met when we were in our 20's. :)

      Grace For That

    5. Whoever's idea it was to throw 30 6 year olds into the same room to 'socialize' (ie: learn each other's bad habits) was horribly wrong. I don't home school, but we did heavily consider it when it came to the decision for our now 5 year old to do Kindergarten. She's ahead of what the public school system teaches by at least half a year, but she wanted to go to "big school" soo badly. We live in a very good school district that is very open to home schooling, so I don't have a problem with trying public school out for a year or two. I did tell my daughter that if she came home with bad habit from others in her class, she would no longer be going to "big school".

    6. I agree 100%! I think it is a Socialization Trap (a great book too) and I think that Public school kids are the ones that are socially awkward. I know when I went to school there was a lot of violence and drugs that I never see in my ADULT life. Why would I want to expose my CHILDREN to that in the name of "socialization". If the kid with his pants sagging and his shirt 10 times too big, or the little girl with her butt and boobs hanging out is "Socialized", I don't want my kids to be so. Obviously I am embellishing the situation, but I know tons of people who have gone through school and are messed up because of it. Now I will step down off of my box and say that I really liked your post and I am a new follower. Hope to see you at True Aim!

    7. Cheryl, a friend of mine who homeschools her children has a post that was written by her daughter who is a homeschool graduate about this very topic. Thought you might be interested :) Cheryl C.

    8. I totally agree with you! I am a product of homeschooling (K-9th, then went to a private high school to finish my schooling), and people always commented with how "normal" I seemed. I think that people believe the stereotypes without getting to really know who they're talking about. This doesn't just apply to homeschooling, but most groups who are stereotyped in general.