What about socialization?
If you’ve talked to others about the possibility of home educating, you have likely been asked, “What about socialization?” This is usually a loaded question and doesn’t necessarily mean what it appears to mean. Let’s briefly discuss socialization from multiple angles.
First, we should clarify that socialization refers to the process of learning values, behaviour, norms, and social skills. When people ask, “Would your child be better socialized at school?”, these words mean “Wouldn’t your child learn values and behaviours better from their peers than from you, their parent?” The answer is obvious: parents can teach behaviour and social skills to their developing children much more successfully than another child can. But we all know that the person questioning you likely isn’t asking who your child will learn these skills from if you homeschool. They assume that, as a parent, you’re already teaching values and norms and trust you will continue doing so when you start home educating.
What people are likely asking is this: “How will your child make friends if they aren’t at school.” The answer to this is simple: your child will make friends the same way they always have–by talking, playing, listening, sharing, and doing activities with others. Making and keeping friends is a skill set that parents can teach their children regardless of how they choose to educate. In every type of education system, there are children who have an easy time making friends and others for whom it is more challenging. If your child needs a little extra help learning friendship skills, you will find it much easier to teach them when you’re with them at the co-op or playground than you will as you debrief with them hours after their public school recess social time.
Another common socialization question is this: “Who will your child make friends with?” The reason why people ask this is because they don’t have experience with homeschooling. They wrongfully assume that homeschooling means isolating your children in your home away from the real world. This may be what our society requires of us during a pandemic, but this is not homeschooling. A child who is homeschooled has the same community extracurricular opportunities as public educated children. Homeschooled kids have friends from hockey, choir, or church just like public school kids do. In addition to this, home educated children also have friendship opportunities in co-ops, in homeschool groups, with mentors, at lessons etc. It is important to remember that just because someone goes to school doesn’t mean they have lots of friends. As a home educating parent, you will have more opportunity to foster relationships for your child with other children and you’ll likely know more of their friends too. Also, you can build a variety of creative social activities into your routine with more substantial connections than recess or lunch period allows.
Learning to interact with people of all ages is an important part of socialization, one that is hard to achieve at school if their school structure includes only people of a certain age range and then further age segregating them for classes.
In closing, when someone asks you, “What about socialization?“, it is okay to pause and ask what they mean by that question. Most people are well-meaning. They just haven’t thought through the possible answers.
For a refreshing perspective, this article tells one family’s story of how too much socializing in their homeschool required them to rethink their schedule. This experience is not uncommon.