Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What IS "socialization", anyway?

"Wow, you can't even tell that your kids are homeschooled!" commented an acquaintance, with admiration in her voice.

She meant it to be a compliment, but I was slightly disappointed. If we're honest with ourselves, those of us who have chosen to home educate are usually hoping our kids will be "different" than they might have otherwise been: A little smarter, a little more spiritual, or a little happier, depending on our reasons for choosing to homeschool.

What she meant, of course, was that my kids aren't "weird"! She believed the myth of the unsocialized homeschooler.

While I, personally, believe people with unconventional personalities add a lot of color and interest to our world, I do understand a parent's fear of turning their child into someone whose presence immediately causes raised eyebrows. We want our kids to be accepted. Some people value acceptance more than they value education. How often have you heard a parent say, "He's having trouble at school and his grades are terrible. I would homeschool him, except I'm worried about socialization!"

The truth is, how well we fit in with our peers has to do with far more than where we are educated. I've seen a lot of lonely kids in public schools.

Many children (including some accidental homeschoolers) are brought home for school specifically because they were unable to cope with the social aspects of a traditional classroom. It's wrong to consider these kids examples of unsocialized homeschoolers. The public school failed to prevent their difficulties.

I like the fact that my kids can relate to individuals of all ages. That's the kind of socialization I've aimed for. I'm puzzled at the mindset of those who believe students who aren't comfortable with anyone but their peers are "socialized".

"Home" school is a misnomer, anyway. You'll find most homeschooled kids at Scouts and VBS, participating in team sports, taking community classes, and volunteering at the hospital or library. If our family is an example, they usually arrive home from these activities with an extra kid or two . . . friends, invited for dinner or just to hang out for a while.

Nontraditional choices are often blamed for any failure. If a homeschooled child tests poorly, has social difficulties, or encounters other typical human challenges, it MUST be a result of homeschooling! This would only be a reasonable argument if public schooled students weren't subject to the same kinds of problems.

Human beings aren't the product of one parental decision. Our choice of home education won't make or break our child. The sum of our experiences contributes to our personality. There are parents who hope homeschooling, alone, will turn their child into a super achiever and there are those who fear homeschooling would be the cause of social ineptitude. Both sides are assigning too much responsibility to a simple educational choice.

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