Homeschooling and Socialization: How to Answer the Socialization Question

We’ve all been there.

A well-meaning friend, relative or neighbor nods, smiles–then here it comes: “Homeschooling sounds great, but what about socialization?”

In my article, The Socialization Question, I dive deeply into the subject, but for now, I want to give you some  practical advice on how I’ve learned to answer the inevitable questions.

1. Find the common ground.

“I’m concerned about it too because socialization is teaching kids how to function well in society.”

2. List the characteristics of a well-socialized person.


“I want my kids to be kind and respectful, hard working, confident, self-motivated, and competent to meet any challenge that comes their way.”

3. Suggest there is more than one way to socialize a child.

“I don’t think spending all day with 30 other kids and one adult is necessarily the best way to accomplish those goals.”

4. Offer examples of how your child is being positively socialized.

“My child enjoys talking to people of all ages.” Classrooms are age-segregated.

“They are learning how to deal with conflict because I am always right there, helping them work through things. A teacher is over-extended and can’t see everything that goes on.”

“My kids are independent thinkers and problem-solvers. They don’t need an adult to tell them how to do everything.”

Classrooms are set up to keep kids quiet, in place, and dependant on the teacher. This one hit home when one of my children was helping life-long public schoolers paint a room. The other kids (ages 15-17) couldn’t spread plastic sheeting without getting detailed instructions from the teacher.

“They are learning to stand up for themselves and not be afraid to express their opinions.” Have an example of something that happened recently.

“They have friends from various backgrounds and are learning how to value those differences.” Mention relationships in the neighborhood, at church, clubs, park district classes, sports teams, etc.

5. The most important thing to say:

“I think the foundation of a well socialized person is a positive self-image. Without that, it is nearly impossible to value others or learn from them. Keeping my kids out of the classroom and all the cruelty dished out by other kids can only help them develop a solid self-esteem.” Few people can argue with this.

I also like to say, “Instead of learning life from other eight-year-olds, my child has an attentive adult (me) available to answer questions and offer feedback 24/7–sort of like a live-in Life Coach.”

What will your friend say to all this?

Let’s hope she has a new appreciation for you and your homeschooling journey.  If not, that’s OK. You’ve stated your case calmly and intelligently, and here’s your chance to model good socialization yourself.

How do you handle the socialization question?

About Jena Borah

Jena Borah homeschooled her three children all the way to college. She blogs about her homeschooling years and her interest-led philosophy at Yarns of the Heart.

Comments

  1. Excellent!! :)
    Misha@ beautyandjoy’s latest post: Art Shark And Compositions

  2. Oh Brilliant!!! I especially like #5 and the “positive self-image”… I am going to keep that response in my mental pocket!!! I have a socialization post full of se7en questions home schoolers get asked about socialization…
    http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/08/06/se7en-socialization-questions-homeschoolers-ask-and-get-asked
    se7en’s latest post: Sunday Snippet- Se7en Visit The Roman World of the New Testament and A GiveAway…

  3. sound bites work the best. (…unless the question comes from your best friend of old.)

    I’ve heard the humorous approach: “I know! Socialization can be such a problem! I try to reel them; we have to get things done in the day too!”

    I usually say, “Kids are just as social as their parents are, regardless if they go to school or not. If their parents are decent at communicating and listening, then they will be fine.” Nearly everyone I know thinks that this sounds reasonable.

  4. I don’t have to answer this anymore but I like what you’ve said here Jena. Nearly everyone I meet also gets the chance to meet my children and within a couple minutes they can see they are well “socialized”. At 11, 9 & 7 they can make conversation with adults and children alike, they have good manners, voice their ideas and opinions, they play well with other children, are kind in confrontations (like when playing with kids who aren’t playing nice) and the like.

    The proof is in the pudding though it was trickier to answer this question when they were 5,3 & 1 and faced a lifetime of being socially inept because of my plans to homeschool them. (ha, ha!) Then I used some of the same responses you propose here.

  5. We had this come up last year at a party for my husband’s work. There were several children there and a group of parents talking to the side. It came up that we homeschool and so, of course, one of the next comments was along the line of “I could never do that, I worry too much about my child not being properly socialized” and then the speaker next gestured toward the group of children playing and asked, “which ones are yours?”

    I pretended not to hear her, but I thought to myself if you can’t figure out which of those children are my “poor, socialized homeschoolers” in the group, then I think that proves the point :-)

    Admittedly, ignoring the question probably wasn’t the kindest or most polite way to go. I’m glad to have this list of suggested responses for the next time :-)
    Kara @Simple Kids’s latest post: Helping Your Child Manage Risk

  6. Great post Jena,
    We haven’t had much issue with this, but all people have to do is have a conversation with my kiddos and they realize it’s a non issue in our family. I love some of these suggestions.
    Rana’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday – Precious!

  7. I like how you start, with the common ground !

    I usually stop at your number 3 (Suggest there is more than one way to socialize a child.) Sometimes, I even thank the other person for being concerned with my kids future. And I don’t argue further, except for saying that human beings are hardwired to socialize and are quick to catch the clues on how one is supposed to behave on certain settings.

    I don’t attack school, because it makes people defensive, except if I feel that the other person has a real, genuine interest in homeschooling. (Here in Switzerland, there are really few homeschoolers, maybe 150 in the whole country).

    I like Shelah’s answer very much also :
    I usually say, “Kids are just as social as their parents are, regardless if they go to school or not. If their parents are decent at communicating and listening, then they will be fine.”

  8. Absolutely love it. I’m going to post your link to my homeschool group(s). EVERYBODY needs to read this. Thank you!

    LindaT
    http://homeschooliswheretheheartis.blogspot.com/
    LindaT’s latest post: So What Exactly is Becca Missing Out On by Not Going to High School “You’re Missing all the Fights And the Dating!!!”

  9. If it’s appropriate and the other person would get it, I use humor and/or sarcasm. “I’m preparing my children for life in a monastery.” This usually gives people pause and they realize that my kids actually see lots of different people on a weekly basis. It just took them thinking about it for a minute.

    If the humorous approach isn’t called for, I usually try to pre-empt the question. If the conversation is heading in that direction (and it’s obvious when it is) I’ll bring it up first. “Of course, I’m concerned about N’s high social needs and I work hard to get her enough interaction with other people.” Then I generally get something along the lines of: “It’s good you’re aware of that and actively pursuing it for her.” Uhhh, yeah. Thanks. :)

    I love your responses, too, Jena, because they educate people that there is more than one way to approach fulfilling that need and the widely accepted institutional method is not necessarily the best one. Thanks for bringing up this great topic!
    Erin J.’s latest post: The Count

  10. Anne-Marie says:

    I have a short answer and a long answer to “But aren’t you worried about socialization?”
    The short answer is “No.” That’s the answer for people who seem like busybodies, or for those not actually interested in hearing about what homeschooled socialization is like, or for when there isn’t time for a real answer.
    The long answer is for people who seem genuinely concerned about my children’s well-being, and it consists of another question: “What do you mean by socialization?” and that, depending on the other person’s concerns, usually leads to some version of one of Jena’s point.

    • I like your response of asking them what they think socialization is. Then we can counter each point they make to show that homeschool provides excellent socialization.

  11. In my humble opinion, this is one of the craziest arguments against homeschooling. Our culture’s ideas of socialization are so strange…as if it is normal for us to be secluded in a same-age room for hours on end. I usually just laugh and say my kids have no problems socializing with others of all ages. That’s usually pretty obvious when you meet them : ) I totally agree with all your answers, I just wish people would realize the absurdity of the question in the first place!
    Paula@Motherhood Outloud’s latest post: Making Tough Decisions Easy or at least a trifle less hard

  12. I sent my son to public school for the first couple years and had to pull him out last year in 2nd grade due to the “socialization” he was getting. Seriously, if what he was exposed to is what people fear their kids will miss out on by being homeschooled, well then out country is in serious trouble. Being surrounded by his 7- and 8-year old peers was doing him more harm than good, I tell ya. And his self-confidence has suffered for it. So now we are homeschooling and trying to undo the “socialization” that he got in a public school setting.

  13. My mother and I touched on this subject in the book we were working on. Here is an excerpt: http://bit.ly/a4zSBt
    Jennifer Jo’s latest post: Why I dont teach my kids science

  14. I have been seriously thinking about homeschooling my four year old daughter. Honestly, the idea of sending her into the public school system scares the heck out of me. Homeschooling is completely unheard of and “radical” in my very large family and I’ve been starting to doubt myself, especially when they “attack” me with the whole socialization issue. Thanks for the great post and for all of the encouraging comments. I feel much more secure in my opinions now.
    Lisa@MomsGreenList’s latest post: How Ugly Are Your Feet Try These Remedies for Cracked- Dry Feet

  15. I am currently homeschooling my toddler and plan to continue. I am a former school teacher so I see both sides of the spectrum, as a former educator and a now homeschooling parent….

    I agree that socialization is not an issue for homeschooled children. There’s not need to be in a traditional classroom setting in order to build social or life skills.

    Though on the other side of the fence I disagree with two of your statements.
    1. “They are learning how to deal with conflict because I am always right there, helping them work through things. A teacher is over-extended and can’t see everything that goes on.”
    I believe that yes we teachers do get overextended at times, but some teachers take the time to be constantly watching and monitoring. For me, my number one priority was the well being of the children socially and emotionally, then academics was a close second, but I made their well being a priority as well. I don’t think a child could sneeze in my classroom without my knowing about it. Though I will say, and I admit this is boasting, I was always above and beyond for my students.

    2. “My kids are independent thinkers and problem-solvers. They don’t need an adult to tell them how to do everything.”
    I disagree with this because because in a large classroom setting an adult isn’t telling them how to do everything necessarily, more a facilitator in their learning.

    In saying that I realize not all teachers have these ideals, and you have no clue what you’ll get. I myself choose to homsechool for those reasons, and for many more. Though when commenting to someone those two statements aren’t necessarily correct in my opinion. At least not for all classrooms.

    Great article! I agree with every other statement!

  16. katie leonard says:

    I love these responses. I generally believe that people who ask this question are really just saying that your kids are going to be weird, and so my usual response to the socialization question is that you find weird kids in public school too. If they are going to be weird, they’re going to be weird no matter where they are. Generally people just laugh and agree. I think though that my real answer to this question should be #3. I really believe that socialization can happen other ways. I also want my kids to understand the importance of each-other. So often I feel that friendships with schoolmates become more important than those with siblings, and for right now I really want to help foster and build strong family/sibling relationships. Something I feel for us will best be done at home for now.
    Thank you so much for this great post. I always feel defensive when asked this question. Now maybe I will be able to receive it with a little more grace.

  17. I’m glad this issue was brought up again because I have a question for anyone willing to give me some good ideas. I have a question about the other side of this particular point. My son went to kindergarten at a private school last year and we cannot afford to send him to the same school and are unwilling to send him to public school. When he finally realized what it meant to be homeschooled (just the other evening before bed) he broke down. He had been looking forward to seeing other children and being around his friends from the year before. It may be helpful to know that he spent the first five years of his life nearly completely apart from other children due to the fact that my husband was in the military and we moved a great deal. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to keep my son socialized? What does one do for a first grader? It was heart-breaking to see him cry because he thought he would never see his friends again.

    • You could try setting up play dates with his former classmates. Also, there are usually co-ops and homeschooling groups on Yahoogroups or Google groups. You can search them by the area you live in. It’s a great way to email other moms who are homeschooling around where you live, get ideas, ask questions, etc… and also, many times moms will set up activities at parks/museums, etc. for a group of homeschooled kids and will ask if anyone’s interested in joining. You can sign your son up for all sorts of activities where he can socialize with other homeschooled kids. When he sees that being homeschooled doesn’t mean that he’ll just be home all the time, and he gets to take cool field trips, he’ll probably feel better.

    • What YAS said! Also, I wanted to ask, how it is going so far?

      Have you had a chance to search for Yahoogroups or Google Groups? There are also local groups easy to find on Meetup and even facebook. Just doing a Google search for “homeschooling” + your area will probably yield a bunch of options.

      New homeschoolers (or Home Educators, as I call ourselves) are very very welcoming of newcomers and your son’s age group is bound to be well represented!

      I wish you all the luck in the world, and hope you enjoy (almost) every moment of this beautiful journey!!

      ~Whatsreal in AZ

  18. What an excellent post! You feel you have to give an answer to everyone on the street! As we begin our journey it is empowering to think that not everyone deserves an explanation, especially when people would like to argue! Save your explaining for people who have a genuine interest for you and your kids. Great wisdom, thanks!
    Ruthie’s latest post: Quick Microwave Chicken Risotto

  19. My children attended public school up until June of 2010. I have wanted to homeschool for two years, but they were nervous about not having friends. This past spring, I decided that this summer we were going to meet some homeschoolers. My girls have never had as much {quality} social interaction as they did this summer! Sure, they were in school 6.5 hours a day for 5 and 3 years respectively, but they spent a good portion of that at a desk learning and not socially interacting; another portion was spent trying to fit in; another portion was spent being ridiculed (because face it- all kids are ridiculed at some point! whether it is not having the right clothes or boys teasing girls or doing really well or really poorly or being teacher’s pet or …); another portion was spent learning inappropriate behavior from kids who said bad words, learned things from older siblings, acted out in class, etc. and then what are you left with maybe an hour a day of {quality} social interaction, sharing a joke, finding some common ground with someone. So public school kids get 5 hours a week of {quality} social interaction…and my girls get 2 3 hour play groups each week that are created purely for socialization …that is 6 hours right there…not to mention co-op (which, to be fair, a large portion is spent learning, but there is a full hour for lunch and recess)…so that is 7 hours a week. And then they take art classes, dance classes and attend Girl Scouts with their public school friends. I think my girls are better socialized now than when they were in school.

  20. It seriously drives me crazy that this seems to be the biggest issue when people are against homeschooling. I plan on homeschooling my daughter, and I get asked all the time “what about socializing her?” Is “socialization” the only benefit of sending her to public school? Am I a hermit? Do I just sit in my house with my denim jumper and bible and ignore the rest of the world?? NO! And neither will my daughter. The “socialization” argument is absurd!

  21. My sons were homeschooled from K-12th grade, and they didn’t want to go to college. Now they are out in the workforce — we’re calling this they’re applied college training.

    We were concerned with their transition from home to school, but we were pleasantly surprised that they were able to blend in with everyone else. No one would ever know that they were homeschooled, unless they were to tell them.

    The whole socialization topic is ridiculous, because I believe that homeschooling allows your children to interact with all types of people. There are plenty of opportunities for them to have social interactions every day, if you allow for them, that is.

    Plus if there are negative situations that occur — you can always turn them into a positive learning opportunity.

    Homeschooling is challenging, but in a very, very, good way!

  22. Wonderful! Thank you for this! I almost feel the need to practice a response to this and other questions, that is delicate and to the point! So many just seem to not “get it”.

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