This is a commonly asked question of homeschoolers, and one I never have understood really. Are they wondering if I can teach my kids how to behave without a school's help? Are they wondering if my kids aren't going to learn how to stand in a line? (Have they ever been to Wal-mart?) Are they worried that they won't learn how to sit still and raise their hands (as if that's a major life skill)? Are they concerned that my kids will be so painfully shy and awkward that they can't function as adults? Or is it really all about friends?
Now, granted we have a large family and children with ages close together. But even when we only had 3 girls, I knew that the socialization "issue" was really a "non-issue". It's just a bogus concern. I'm not sure if the people who ask the question even know what they're asking. I don't want my kids to ONLY know how to interact with their peers. When in life will you be asked to interact only with your peers? I realize I haven't been out in the work-force lately, but it seems most jobs are full of adults of different ages and backgrounds.
I've never worried much about socialization. I haven't rushed out to enroll my kids in lots of stuff so they can get socialized. We are active in our church and always have been, attending age-segregated Sunday School, church, and age-segregated Wednesday night services, as well. My kids interact with their peers at church, and develop friendships ... hopefully with well-behaved peers since they are also Christian kids. They also learn how to sit still in class, wait in line, raise their hands, and interact with other teachers.
When we lived in town, the kids played with the neighborhood kids. They learned a lot about the stupid "social games" that go on in public school this way. The name-calling, the peer pressure, and the manipulative nature of other kids. They learned about friendships that change alliances and grudges and many other things. Is that what everyone is worried about them missing by being homeschooled?
We tried a homeschool group in our old town but actually found there wasn't any time to fellowship in their busy format and most of the kids had established friendships and didn't reach out to my kids anyway. So it wasn't worth my time, especially when each Spring semester the format changed so it wasn't friendly to younger kids anymore. They learned about cliques in that homeschool group.
Having moved to the country, where there aren't any friends next door, and having several very social kids ... we have made decisions to be more involved in this community and to seek out fellowship more. We are still actively involved in our church, but we also joined the small homeschool group, and we've joined 4-H . We try to invite church friends over sometimes, especially in the warmer months, so the kids can have more fellowship time.
When we go to Wal-mart, I teach my kids about proper behavior in public places. When we go to concerts together, they learn about being respectful of others as they enjoy the concert by being quiet and not getting up too much. When we go to the library, I have the kids interact with the librarians instead of always speaking up for them. When we are at the doctor's office (or anywhere), they learn how to interact with others as older adults start up conversations with our family. When we are invited over to others' homes, they learn how to be a polite guest.
They go to the vet's office with me, the post office, the library ... always interacting with new groups of people. We aren't just sitting home alone, hiding away from society. So, why do people think my kids need to be in a classroom with 30 other similarly-aged students in order to be well-socialized? And why do they think peers are the best source of socialization for my kids? Aren't peers just pushing each other to conform, rather than to develop their independent thoughts, likes, and personalities?
When I was in school, I got in trouble for trying to socialize. Most of my early report cards stated that I talked in class too much. What does that leave -- lunch and recess? In later years, the fun social games of peers left me feeling shy, lonely, and awkward in new social settings. So, if my kids who are homeschooled do end up shy and awkward ... they'll be in the same boat I was as a public school student. How can homeschooling be blamed for that?
Some of my kids are bashful, and others are very outgoing. As a homeschooling mom, I can work with my kids to overcome their bashfulness, without pushing them too hard, too fast. I can also work with the outgoing ones and the hyper-active ones on tempering their behavior. I can talk with my children about their social or friendship problems and offer them guidance.
I know it doesn't help you answer your parents if they're suspicious of homeschooling, and I realize it doesn't help you respond to the retired school teacher at your church ... but don't worry about socialization. Unless you're a hermit, your kids will be socialized. Just pray for wisdom as you make decisions for your family, and offer them lots of opportunities to interact with a variety of groups. And that doesn't have to cost you a thing.
This was posted in conjunction with the TOS Homeschool Crew's Blog Cruise from its facebook fan page. Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew fan page at facebook to read what other Crew members had to say on the topic.
Trusting In Him,