Today let’s talk about the infamous question, “What about socialization?”
It’s funny to me that when people find out we homeschool, they never inquire about substantive academics. Like, “What about math? Are you sure that you possess adequate skills to teach STEM subjects in this advanced technological age?”
But people are concerned that our homeschooled kids are getting enough socialization.
According to Oliver DeMille, author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century, this is because the public schools are no longer primarily about imparting academics to our kids. They are primarily about socialization.
“The actual curriculum of the public-school system is about 75% social and 25% skills,” writes DeMille. “The real goals of school are more social than academic. If you doubt it, pull your kids out of school to start homeschooling, and see what your friends and family say. I’ll bet you won’t be asked, ‘Hey, what about academics?’ But I guarantee you someone will ask, ‘What about their social life?’”
Socialization is actually important and should not be discounted. We all live in communities and we will come into contact with other people. Children aren’t going to grow up and never spend time with other people.
The question we should ask ourselves, according to DeMille, is “What are you socializing for?”
When people ask homeschoolers about socialization, what they usually mean is, “Will they seem normal and well-adjusted, or backward and strange?” states DeMille. “In most cases, this depends on the parents. If parents are so-called ‘backward and strange,’ chances are their kids will be also—even if they are in public school.”
(So, basically, children are going to be generally like their parents, regardless of the type of schooling they receive. No pressure, parents!)
“In fact,” continues DeMille, “Such [so-called socially backward children in public school] will likely be less ‘normal’ when they reach early adulthood, given the teasing and rejection they are almost sure to feel in school. At least in homeschool, their confidence is supported and they have a strong chance of getting a good education without their love of learning being destroyed by an artificial social and class structure which dominates the hallways, locker rooms, and classrooms. Many of those who tend to struggle socially anyway may be better off in a homeschool than [in a public school].”
DeMille also points out that all parents—including public school parents—need to give thought to the issue of socialization.
You need to ask: “Are they perhaps being socialized in bad ways? Are there opportunities or lessons you can give them that will improve their socialization? All parents should consider socialization as an important part of growing up.”
And, finally, this is something I have thought about a lot. But, DeMille articulates it so well:
“Consider the question [of socialization] at a deeper level. The highest level of socialization, the ideal, means the ability to effectively work with people of all backgrounds, stations, and positions, of really caring about them and being able to build and maintain long term, nurturing relationships. [Public school], by its very nature, discourages this. Spending your time with older sixth graders or the cheerleaders or whatever group is seen as most popular often earns you the title of snob, unless you are ‘one of them.’ And if you are a member of the ‘in’ group, socializing with those ‘below’ your station is frowned upon and discouraged—except by parents and teachers, who are very impressed with you, earning you a reputation as a ‘teacher’s pet.’ Much of this is carried into college and career and even into politics and pettiness in the work place.”
So, what type of socialization is actually healthy? What type of socialization is best to actually prepare our children for the real world?
Whenever people ask me about homeschooling and socialization, I smile and say, “I wish you could meet my sister.” My sister Betsy was homeschooled from 1st grade through 12th grade and she is the most socially adept person that I know. She is now a successful pilot for a major airline and has more friends than anyone can count.
Because I know Betsy, I have never worried about my homeschooled children being adequately socialized. DeMille’s insightful comments just prove what I already knew.
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis. Second image courtesy of author.