As a veteran homeschooler, I can’t tell you how many times I have been interrogated about homeschooling and socialization. This is doubly frustrating because they are using the word wrong.
They mean “How will your kids learn to get along with other people if they never get to be around other kids their age?” That’s not socialization.
Socialization and socializing are two completely different things. We homeschoolers that have actually taken a sociology class are ready to clear up this pervasive misunderstanding.
Socialization and Homeschool
Socialization is the constant, repetitive process by which we learn and execute our role in the group. Imagine a child at Christmas time. Our expectations and experiences for that child are different than the time when they are a parent, and later a grandparent.
Homeschooling does not impede socialization as a process at all. Homeschoolers actively socialize their children in many ways, not limited to how to stand in line, wait their turn, or pick up after themselves.
Our kids are just socialized to different things, like seeing learning as an integral part of life, not something separate that needs its own building to happen. They are socialized to see chores as a fact of life, capable of working, and eager to share in the responsibility.
Socializing and Homeschool
Socializing is quite a different thing. Being around, interacting with (known as interpersonal skills), and enjoying other people’s company is the main question on everyone’s lips.
Let me blow your mind: homeschooling is all about socializing. Guys, seriously.
Without revisiting the old question of whether school is for socializing, let’s take a real look at a day in the life of a homeschooler.
We wake up, groom, get breakfast, do chores, and lessons. Part of those chores is taking my dog on a walk. Connor, 11, takes the dog around the block several times a day.
Every time, he comes back with a conversation he had with someone walking their own dog, getting in their car, or coming out of the several schools and colleges we live near. This is without me hovering to control his interactions. These are real experiences, and he owns them.
We run errands in the afternoon where we get to talk to people of ages, races, and abilities. Then, we may go to the park or splash pad and play. We often meet other homeschool families for play dates.
Connor has never had a problem finding kids to play with either. All of my kids, even my preschooler, and 2 toddlers have no trouble jumping right into the fray of play.
We are usually home when the mail carrier drops off our mail at the end of the day. Many of the homes in our neighborhood have mailboxes mounted on the side of their home so our mail carrier parks in front of our house, walks our neighborhood, and Connor speaks with him several times a week.
He and Connor have become friends, often discussing Connor’s school work, how the post office functions, and even how to avoid junk mail.
If we don’t go to the park, we often pick up his best friend, a public schooled child, after he gets off the bus, and bring him to our house so they can ride bikes, play xBox, or help me cook.
Some days, Connor stays at his best friend’s home so he can play with the neighborhood kids or go to church with his best friend.
We literally have unlimited time for socializing.
This is just the interaction he gets with other people on a daily basis, outside of things like doctor’s appointments, field trips, sleepovers, birthday parties, playing with his siblings, I could go on.
Socializing with Family
Let’s not forget that humans are social animals that have for thousands of years lived in small family or extended family groups without things like compulsory schooling outside the home. This past cannot be overlooked when it comes to learning how to socialize and interpersonal skills.
We also socialize with each other. I feel the value of socializing within the family is often overlooked. Siblings can be friends; they can learn how to share, compromise, and discuss their feelings with each other just as easily as they can with at school.
In fact, I would argue that learning to interact with other people at home is the best way to do it.
First, you do not have time constraints as you do in other places.
Second, you can take a child aside into a private room and ask their side of the story. Ask them how they felt, what their motivations are, and whether they have any ideas on how to solve the problem.
Third, you can encourage the children to speak honestly with each other and solve the problem between each other. This often doesn’t happen at school.
Socializing at Home Trumps School
In fact, I would even argue that socializing at home is better than socializing in school. I have already mentioned the benefits of socializing at home. Now, let’s talk about the detriments of school when it comes to learning interpersonal skills.
First, remember that social interaction in school is limited to short spans of time when kids work in groups or at recess. There is little adult oversight in these interactions. Teachers do not have the time or ability to help kids bridge their own conflicts. Often times they step in end just ending the conflict.
I mourn all these lost opportunities for kids to learn to recognize their own emotions. For them to see how emotions affect themselves and others. They don’t get to practice dealing with emotions, or work together to produce a creative solution to the problem themselves.
By denying our kids this, we are allowing them to develop a deficit in emotional intelligence. This prevents them from working through their own emotions.
On top of that, a class is in the room with one adult, meaning that for the 8 or so hours they are in school, they do observe that adult interacting with other adults.
For 180 days out of the year for the majority of the day, they do not get the opportunity to see adults in conflict, how they speak about conflict, or how they resolve that conflict. If they have no example, how can we expect them to learn how to overcome conflict?
Interpersonal Skills as Curriculum?
My last point is that homeschoolers get the privilege of giving interpersonal skills the time, attention, and personalization they deserve. If one of my kids is having a particularly hard time with a skill, I can take the time to search out other information on it.
We may read several books where the characters deal with the same problem. We will then talk about it, and practice the right way to handle that situation.
We can use time to play games that help them learn that skills like the Right Response Game (like 20 questions and allows kids to explore potential responses to different scenarios), Red Light Green Light (attention and obedience), Simon Says (attention and obedience), and Race to Obey (listening, following directions, and obedience). If you would like to learn more about these games, please Tweet me or send me an Instagram message.
People who have not experienced homeschool have a lot of misconceptions about how our days are structured. The idea that our kids are isolated is not the reality. Our kids are submerged in the real world.
Traditionally school kids are the isolated group (really, when are you ever sequestered in a room for the majority of the day with people your age and developmental level? Never).
Homeschooling is organized around socializing, socialization, and friends. It’s just not the way our culture has come to accept as normal.
Ali Southerland is a mom of 4 (3 are 4 or under), a homeschool veteran of 7 years, a blogger, freelance writer, and exhausted. She blogs at This Addictive Mess where she shares her space with her husband who writes poetry on fatherhood. TAM is dedicated to celebrating all that is messy about life and parenthood. Often, she snaps pictures of her kids’ messes and tags them #thisaddictivemess, hoping to remind herself that the days are long, but the years are short, and one day she will miss this addictive mess.