“What about socialization?”
That seems to be the number one question that those of us who choose to educate our children at home hear, time and time again—whether it be a honest question by someone who really wants to understand homeschooling in any format or as a criticism of someone who usually knows very little about what homeschooling really is!
The truth is that children educated at home are not all that different than those who go to a “brick and mortar” school! They are all different, have different interests, have different ways of learning, have their own unique ideas and so on. The parents generally want all the same things that parents of children in “brick and mortar” schools want, too. We want our children to have the best education possible and for them to grow up to be well adjusted, productive members of society.
So why is it that people immediately jump on the “kids who are home schooled do not get proper socialization!” or “kids who are home schooled are not taught proper socialization skills or manners?” Those “skills” start at HOME! They are not magically taught once they are in school (whether it be daycare, preschool, public school or a private school.)
Teaching our children how to interact with people of all ages and in all sorts of situations starts when they are infants. Whenever you start taking your baby out and about with you, whether it be to church, visiting friends and family, or running some errands, your children start to learn how to act in those new environments and with those new people. They watch you and see how you interact with people around you. They see your behavior and hear your tone of voice. They can sense when you are upset and stressed out. As they get older, they mimic what they have seen and heard. They start to push the limits you may have set for them while you are out in public places to see how you will react.
Most of us know this. I am not sharing some sort of parenting secret. Why do they think that it is the teachers' responsibility to teach their children social skills or that it can only be done in that sort of setting? Are these people not seeing what is in the news lately? Report after report about schools not being able to control the bullying that is happening while kids are in school. Victims of bullies bringing guns and knives to school. Kids hurting themselves or committing suicide in a desperate plea for help or release from the terror they live at school every day. Is that the sort of socialization you want for your kids? Yes, I know that it is not happening in your child’s school, right?
It is what happened to our son. Thankfully, we did not have to deal with self-mutilation or suicide, but what we did deal with was an emotional upset boy whose behavior began to change late in 3rd grade and throughout 4th grade. We got phone calls about incidents that made no sense at all, until we had sit down with him and found out his side of the story. We spoke to the principal and guidance counselor, only to find out that they never bothered to ask him why he was doing what they said he did. Turned out he was defending himself (admittedly, not in the best way possible). Does that make his choice the right one? No. We dealt with HIS actions at home. I don’t know about you, but if I was getting spit on or pushed into brick walls at 7-9 yrs old, then I would have probably spit or shoved back too! Doesn’t make it right, but these are young children we are talking about here.
My children have no problem socializing and get to learn in real world environments under my direct supervision nearly every single day! We went to a play date with some friends last week, and since it was mostly younger children, our son brought some of his school work to do. He was working on some literature when another family sat down and asked him if it was okay to use the open seat at the other end of the table. Our son said, “Sure!” A few minutes later, he and the gentlemen who sat down had a great discussion about what the smartest animal is, what is the smartest mammal is, and what the definition of a mammal was. It was awesome to watch my 10 yearr old have a intelligent conversation with an adult and hold his own just fine! He gave his opinion based on the articles he had been reading for his assignments and his reasons for his opinions. The man told me as he was leaving that it was of the best conversations he had with a child that age in a long time. He told me how great our son’s manners were and how well informed and intelligent he was. Now that is how I want our kids to learn to socialize!
Our daughter loves to chat up the retirees at the Tinker Commissary. She tells them about the stuff we bought, the weather, her princess dolls, and all sorts of topics that are interesting to a 4 year old. The retirees love it. They all tell me how sweet and polite she is and she makes them miss their own grandchildren.
The point is your children do not have to go a public school, daycare, or anything like it in order to be socialized and learn how to act around the peers or other adults. You can go almost any where and get a much more real life experience all the while under your direct supervision. This way, you can address events as they happen. You can give them a pat on the back when someone compliments their conversation skills and behavior. You can teach them about sharing too much personal information with strangers. You can address how not leave with with strangers or to tell you when someone says or does anything that makes them uncomfortable or wrong. You do not have to wait for a phone call from the school to tell you about an incident after the fact. You do not have to wait hours to have a discussion with your child about the incident.
It is a win-win situation in my book. I get to help set up the opportunities, monitor those opportunities as they happen, and teach as we go. Plus we always have a lot of fun at our play dates, sporting events, library trips, grocery store runs and so on. Learning can be fun and can happen EVERY WHERE!