Inquiring minds want to know, and that's okay when it comes to homeschooling. People often ask me questions about all aspects of home education. I don't always have adequate time to answer well, especially when the questions are asked via messages or e-mail. Thus, I've decided to write a "series" on homeschooling, answering a question at a time. Some of the areas I plan to cover are the reasons, curriculum choices, scheduling, record-keeping and "socialization" (I'm not capable of placing that word outside of quotation marks, just so you know ahead of time). :) I'll wrap it up with answering some common concerns. These posts probably won't answer every wondering of every person, but it's a place to start!
Part 4: "Socialization"
Picture this: A child, or maybe a few siblings, with mismatched clothes, never-combed hair, a sullen expression, and eyes that avoid you. When approached by a person outside the family, this child (or children) shrinks back and won't speak. All he ever does is read or maybe play video games. Perhaps he even has some sort of weird hobby. This is your typical home educated child!
Or so mainstream media would like us to think. Actually, I could probably write another entire series on what the mainstream media would like us to think (or, even more accurately, how they would like to do our thinking for us), but that's for another time. Let's suffice it to say for now that the makers of television shows choose (often, not always) the weirdest people they can find to represent home education. It's good for ratings, after all!
Now, if you've been reading my series on homeschooling thus far, you already know it's pretty much impossible for me to write the word "socialization" without surrounding it with quotation marks. Seriously, even when I say the word aloud, it is soooo surrounded by quotation marks! :) This is because a child's ability to "socialize" has nothing to do with where he or she is educated! Check out any school playground across America, and you'll see some kids just like the one(s) described above.
Now, granted, there certainly are parents who "homeschool," but aren't really homeschooling. I don't know any of those personally, but I'm sure they must exist--just like some "parents" don't really parent or some "teachers" don't really teach (or some "workers" don't really work or some "presidents" don't really lead, etc.). In any case, parents who "homeschool" in name only are probably not much different from the parents of those neglected kids in traditional schools. There are mostly great parents of public/private schooled kids and a few that are not good parents, just like there are mostly great parents of homeschooled kids and a few that are not good parents. It's not because of where the kids learn. It's what they are/are not learning that makes a difference in how well or poorly adjusted children are.
Then there's the matter of personality. Some kids, no matter where they are educated, are naturally more outgoing, while others are introverted and shy. Loving parents and teachers will help either type of child learn boundaries and skills in communication and interaction with other people.
"Socialization" is one of the terms our society has created and overemphasized in one more attempt to make home education seem as weird as possible. This "lack" of "socialization" of homeschoolers, however, isn't based on reality. Nor is the idea that parents must send their kids for hours a day to a public/private school in order for the children to be properly "socialized." (Please don't twist that statement to mean that I'm against public/private school--read my "Reasons" post to see my thoughts on traditional schools. I mean only what I said--that it isn't *necessary* for kids to be in a traditional school setting to be "properly socialized.")
So, since "socialization" isn't a particular concern, does this mean we homeschoolers just keep to ourselves and teach our kids to do the same? Yes, that's probably true for some! Again, I don't know anyone like that, but I don't know everybody! For us, that way of thinking couldn't be farther from reality. In fact, we've recently been realizing our need to slow down!
How can Little Mister and other home learners interact and learn to get along with other people?
Family. What better way to interact with people of all ages than to be part of a family? And, of course, if a kid can learn to get along with his/her siblings, he/she can tackle just about anything! :) Only child? Well, my Little Mister is an only child (for now anyway) and, granted, he has his lonely moments. But so do all only children! I know many only children who went to traditional school and were still lonely! Little Mister isn't lonely during school. He's too busy focusing on school stuff. It's the times any other only child would be lonely that he's lonely. For him it's rare, though. He's so busy, even in his alone time, creating and playing, that he rarely takes time to wallow in loneliness.
Church: Not all homeschoolers are active in a local church, but it's a great place to meet all kinds of people of all ages.
Sports: Self-explanatory :)
Clubs: Another fun way to meet people with similar interests
Homeschool groups/co-ops: Fantastic way for kids to spend time with other kids, maybe take extra classes or field trips. Also a strong support system for parents!
Community activities/events: There are so many things going on, whether through the library, park district, other churches, city, etc.
Just being a kid: Getting together with friends at each other's houses, playing with kids at the park or playlands, striking up conversations with the cashier at the store (this tends to make them smile!), riding bikes, playing with grandkids/nephews/nieces/friends who are visiting neighbors, to name a few. :)
I'm sure there are many other options as well, depending on where a family lives and the opportunities available. We like to emphasize Little Mister getting to know people of all ages.
"Socialization" is just not the problem it's cracked up to be! :)