Short Answers: What About Socialization?

We asked this question on the Christian Unschooling Facebook group and compiled the answers for you!

“But what about socialization!?!” … What is YOUR favorite way to answer the “S” question?

RACHEL: People learn to socialize no matter where they are. If most of their interaction is only with other children exactly the same age ~ they lose valuable opportunities to interact with others of varying ages in a variety of social situations. They also loose the mentoring that goes along with wiser individuals (not always parents) guiding them. I’ve also noticed that outside the classroom setting there is more grace for mistakes or missteps that usually translates to gentle guidance over chastisement for error.

JOAN: As adults, we “socialize” with people we have something in common with beyond our birthdate. I find the same for homeschooling and in particular unschooling. Our 12-year-old daughter LOVES a Lego program locally that’s intended for kids a bit younger than her, an alpaca 4-H club with kids who are mostly older than her, and thrives when she can converse with adults who share her passion for animals, and she’s able to let her interests lead her into deeper and more meaningful relationships than simply picking “the most tolerable of people my age.” In a purely practical sense, she actually has more time now to DO things with friends of all types, because we’re not spending hours at night doing this or that middle-school project, and because we can work things like visits to the alpaca farm into our daytime hours!

CARMA: Depends who I am talking to and my assessment of their reason for asking. A brief, flippant answer is “The real question is, when do we STOP socializing long enough to learn anything!” or “hmm, every teacher I ever had told our class that we were NOT there to socialize!”

The more serious answer is that my children are learning to interact with people of all ages and all walks of life in the natural flow of things rather than with a narrow and regimented population segment at prescribed times of the day. The more lengthy answer delves into the fact that I’m an introvert and school made me shy; whereas now I am a mother of three introverts, NONE of whom are shy because they haven’t been forced into the unrelenting social onslaught that is school; while my fourth child is an extreme extrovert, born that way and an unstoppable force of nature!

AADEL: What better way is there for my children to learn healthy social interactions than within a family unit and in the community? My kids know the librarian, the owner of the bread store, our dairy farmer, and they are already active members of society. If you ask me, school stunts social growth by placing kids away from a variety of experiences.

TRACI: The kids are social.. only instead of just with peers their own age they interact with people of all sorts and ages. If you teach a child to love others then they will develop relationships organically rather than becoming friends with whoever is next in the assembly line of school classrooms. They make friends who are their own age and also those who are old enough to be role models which is incredibly valuable. Most people carry only a few good friendships past school.. because the majority of relationships tend to be situational. Once we’re removed from the situation of school we realize we didn’t really share much in common with the others. Organically developed relationships survive when the situation changes because they are based on people, love, and common interests.

MARI: “My kids socialize more and in more healthy ways now that they’re free of the dysfunctional social environment of school than they ever did in public school. My youngest even TALKS again now that we homeschool. She had stopped, you know, when she was in public school.” Accompanied by a huge smile of gratitude.

HEATHER H: I usually tell people that we have enough commitments outside the house that we get enough socialization and that is it better than school because they are with differing age groups. This teaches them how to speak to people of all ages. And my kids will know how to function in the real world where this happens daily.

EM: If my children socialized anymore than this, I’d be looking to buy a cave.

STEF: People don’t question the socialization issue with me anymore. All they have to do is talk with my very social children. Their social skills speak for themselves.

TAMMY JO: It is just part of life anyone we come into contact with we are socializing.

HEATHER Y: I have only ever actually had the question 1 time (in person–online it comes up constantly). In person, people just need a few minutes with my kids and decide not to ask. The one time was a clueless person who interrupted a conversation between myself, my oldest, and the cashier to ask. The lady was obviously lacking in social skills herself and ignoring the fact that my vivacious child was actively conversing with an adult. I remember the kids pointing out how rude she was when we got to the car.

LYDIA: Often I respond with my own query: what is the role of the public school as you understand it? Is it to socialize children or to provide an academic environment? While I do not believe the two are mutually exclusive, I do think that the PS environment makes it difficult to accomplish both at the same time.

CATHI: Socialization is the insulation of children from one set of influences and the exposure of them to another set of influences. Of course I worry about my children’s socialization. I worry thusly:

Placing children in the grade-by-grade public school system insulates them from parents, siblings, older people, younger people, mutually willing mentorship, the scheduling flexibility to be of aid to community members in need and receive aid and support from them in turn, the ability to travel and experience different viewpoints, the experience of independent, self-directed learning….how long should I continue the list…?

And exposes them to a baseline of social intelligence determined by the social skills of same-age peers and the strictures of a highly monitored and controlled institutional environment.

And that’s why we homeschool. Because we’re worried about our children’s socialization. Our society is full of remedial programs to get kids in front of “good role models,” deal with peer pressure, prevent youth crime, etc. Or, we can be the change we want to see in our children. I can’t choose that for others, but I can choose it for myself.

ELIZABETH: “Yea, it’s getting out of hand. We’re considering sending her to <insert name of school> so she can slow it down to a more reasonable pace.” Depending on the questioner, I might throw in something about her being too ‘worldly’ being out in the real world so much and that the fake world might do her a lot of good.

And THAT is why it’s such a struggle for me worrying that my dd is going to end up back in school. *sigh*

SARA: I ask “Can you explain what you mean by socialization?” because most people who have asked me can’t define the word. It’s a crutch question when one knows little about home education. If the person truly wants to know more I will engage with them but I don’t worry about people who just want to tear me down anymore.

To “prove” how socialized we are (whatever that means!) I let people talk with my kids. I find they refute all home school myths the minute they start speaking.

SERENITY: I usually explain that “socialization” is the ability to function within society. Society is comprised of people from every walk of life – rich, poor, fat, skinny, black, white, old, young, and everything in between. Thus, the very construct of school is a false perception of socialization as children are grouped by date of manufacture. Spending eight hours a day surrounded by peers with no ability to make choices over one’s own fate is not socialization, it’s institutionalization. Besides, if I had a nickel for every time I was scolded by teachers saying, “Young lady, this is not a place to socialize!”, I’d be able to take a really nice cruise. :)

AZA: I tell people we socialize all the time, all over town, we know our neighbors, librarian, we have friends we see all the time. If someone was to press me I would tell them this: ” it was published in the local paper during the elections, that our school district gives children, K-12, 12 minutes a day to socialize.” and then I change the subject.

AMANDA: I’ve only gotten the question once (from my brother, who doesn’t have kids), when my kids were in dance, soccer, going to church every week, playing with the neighbor kids and we had a friend living with us whose kids are close to my own kids’ ages. I listed all that and asked, “How much more socialization do they need?” My brother didn’t have much of a reply.

I also had a conversation one time with a homeschool graduate who was telling me how homeschooling gave her the ability to socialize with people of all ages, instead of just her peers. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

HEATHER G: Amanda: And this is the same brother who always encouraged us to spend time alone in solitary, imaginative play. I don’t understand what happened to him!

JONI: Heather, he was socialized – LOL.

MELISSA: No one in person really has ever asked me about socialization per say. Sometimes they ask, how do they meet other people? I usually joke and tell them, well I don’t keep them in a box under the stairs, so it’s pretty impossible not to encounter people along the way.

I also think many adults only think in regard to kids being social with other kids, because that’s how it was for them in school, all about other kids. They discount the wonderful friendships kids have with adults, animals, and of course siblings.

I also love this article by Lew Rockwell on socialization: Homeschooling and the Myth of Socialization

MARGIE:  I just point to my kids and laugh. (They’re always talking someone’s ear off at the time.)

SHANNON: Well, I have ten kids, so I don’t get asked that question very often. LOL!! But, if I did, I think I’d say something about how I don’t necessarily want them to get the kind of socialization they would get in public schools. I’d rather they learn to deal with people in the real world situations they experience every day – the neighbors, the cashier at Walmart, people at church, etc.

SHAWNA: I also have talkative kids so I have never been asked this question … however, if I ever am I will respond by asking them to observe my children and then ask “Do you think they have a problem socializing?” I will also point out all the stories I have been told from public school friends who tell of students not hardly having any time to talk. Honestly … I think homeschooled children socialize a LOT more than any PS kid, and they can talk to people of all ages, not just peers, which to me is a plus:)

SUZANNE: some people have mentioned to me that they’re worried about my son and he needs more socialization and should be in public school. I just laugh and point out that at school students arrive at the prescribed time, play in the approved manner, line up to go in with no talking, quickly and quietly get their stuff put away, then sit down and be quiet so we can start. Students may only talk in class when given permission to do so. In what way is that helping anyone’s socialization skills? It was school that brought fear into my child’s life. Fear of learning, fear of authority and fear of other children. Now he’s free to relax and learn in a way that suits him best and as for socializing … he sings in a choir one night a week with other boys. They are all doing something that they enjoy together and they do have a break to run around. He dances four nights a week with different teachers and every class has different students. Again, they work hard but everyone is there because they want to be. They have time in between classes to hang out together. He’s able to socialize more now then when he was in school, and able to interact with people of various ages. Many kids his age talk with people their own age and that’s it. They don’t know how to talk with anyone else. It’s sad.

LEANNE: I laugh and say, “My children are *too* social. Sometimes I ask them to stop talking so I can think.”

What is YOUR favorite way to answer the “S” question?


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