What About Socialization?
Pretty much every time I mention that we homeschool, this question comes up: “What about socialization?”
Wether spoken in a tone of concern, or arrogance, the question always comes up. I have avoided this post for a while, but I need to write it, since this is the big burning question in everyone’s mind and mouth.
So let’s jump right into the topic. From what I’ve observed the question is rooted in an assumption that if a child is not in a traditional school setting, they will not learn how to interact with their peers or make friends.
The irony is that children in traditional school settings get very few opportunities to socialize and build relationships during the day. While in school they are expected to be quiet, listen and obey directions from teachers. They have opportunities to work in groups on occasion; but with the exception of lunch, gym and recess; they spend most of the day trying not to talk and not to interact with one another. Teachers have so much information to share and kids chatting through class are usually viewed as disruptive, not social.
Conversely, in a homeschool setting, children are allowed to learn in a relaxed environment where talking, asking questions, and engaging are accepted (even encouraged). Often families have multiple children learning side by side, and also participate in co-ops and tutoring programs. Learning in mixed groups of ages and abilities helps children develop strong interpersonal skills - especially young ones who get to learn social skills and academics organically by interacting with older children. Having the freedom and space to be themselves, and actually connect is powerful. I’ve personally observed great creativity, imagination, maturity and emotional intelligence in the homeschooled children who are in our tutoring program.
Being a child of the 80’s, I don’t recall there being so much social engineering around my life and relationships as a kid. I just played with the kids in my apartment complex. I’d walk outside and play with whoever was there. We all went to the local school and making friends was easy, even as an only child.
Our lives now, don’t resemble that simpler time. Kids don’t play outside in the streets; you have to go to a park on a nice day (which we’ve done, and have often found it empty). Kids don’t chat with one another spontaneously, instead the parents talk, exchange numbers, and schedule time. So as a new mom, to an only child, in a world that has changed around me; architecting a child’s friendships is a challenge I didn’t prepare for.
But that is not something I can blame on homeschool. I agree that homeschooling can make it harder for a child to make friends - because they don’t have an immediate social circle available. But modern day parenting and socializing are difficult no matter where your kid goes to school.
We have not perfected the fine art of social engineering for a 7 year-old. We are still figuring it all out. Recently we had the chance to connect with a neighbor who also has one child (a little girl), and so that has been a great joy for both families. Ironically we met them while playing outside on a snowy, cold day! Proof that playing outside is still a thing in 2018.