I have been homeschooling my kids for 13 years. As each child has come along and reached school age, I have added them to my classroom. I have four children that I educate, and I am about to graduate my first (sigh…).
Having sited those statistics, I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked about socialization. The conversation typically goes something like this:
“Where do your kids go to school?”
“I homeschool them.”
– insert various responses, such as:
* I wish I had the education/time/patience to do that.
* Are you with a religious organization?
* Do you have a degree in education?
* What resources do you use?
Regardless of what direction the conversation takes, it inevitably leads to the next question –
* “OK. But what about socialization?”
At this point, I want to express that I certainly don’t believe that I have all the answers, or that I believe that my choice to homeschool is going to make my children moral or more socially superior than someone else’s kids. Simply being homeschooled doesn’t scrape all of the sin off of my family – only our trust in Jesus can do that. But I do feel very comfortable both with my philosophy about homeschooling and socialization and I felt it would be worthwhile to share some of my thoughts on this topic.
First of all, I do want my kids socialized; however, my definition of what socialization is might be different from others. To me, socialization of a child is not merely having a social life. Socialization is developing social skills that will enable the child to interact appropriately in different real life situations.
I believe that life is much more like the grocery store than school. What I mean is that the situation set up by a typical public school is that kids are only with others of their same age. And yet in society, school is the only place that this scenario plays out. Life is much more like the grocery store, where people from all ages mingle and interact. Regardless of what they chose to do in life, kids will have to interact with a wide variety of ages.
I want my kids to be able to relate to someone of their peer group, someone 50 years older than themselves, and someone 10 years younger than themselves with equal grace, dignity, articulation, and respect.
Second of all, I want my kids to learn how to socialize from someone other than their peers. Why would I want a 5 year old to learn how to be 5 from other 5 year olds? Why would I want a 15 year old to learn how to be his/her age from other 15 year olds? I want my kids to learn how to be human, social, and good citizens from others with more experience and perspective. I want my kids to have deeper character than the stereotypical teenager, and I want them to have more varied interests than simply what pop culture suggests.
While there is plenty of pop culture in our home (we all sing with gusto the top 10 music songs and can converse fluently in Survivor, American Idol, and The Mentalist), I also hope that my kids are getting a heavier amount of influence from their father and me than from the latest The Apprentice cast-off. I hope that they learn more about how to handle themselves in diverse situations from me than from the Disney Channel TV stars, from Lady Gaga, or from the kids in the innercity neighborhood in which we live.
Thirdly, there are numerous activities in which my kids participate that provide them interaction with their non-homeschooled counterparts. They participate in them for reasons other than socialization, but spending time observing and interacting with their peers is a side benefit. Both of my daughters are heavily involved in dance, and my sons are avid Boy Scouters. They all also go to youth groups at a local church, and some volunteer with various non-profits in town (WyldLife and Love 146).
I believe that school is a socially artificial environment, and that I am able, as a homeschool parent, to provide real life experiences for my kids.
I believe that, if we want our children to learn how to interact with others, we have to train them.
They must be taught that they should sometimes take the lead and sometimes give others the opportunity. They have to be exposed to all different kinds of personalities and learn how to gracefully work with each.
And I believe that I have the greatest opportunity to educate my kids in these issues – right alongside History, English, Math, etc.