Socialization: The “S” Word

The following is a guest post written by Helena of Loving to Learn.

One of the things I panicked about when we started homeschooling was this loaded word:

Socialization.

I’d heard that homeschooled kids didn’t get enough of it, didn’t know how to do it, were deprived of it, couldn’t assimilate back into school because of a lack of it, and suffered in general because of not doing it properly. It sounded drastic, dreadful, dire.

Our first week of homeschool (with just my daughter at the time) saw me enrolling my girl in Scouts and searching frantically for a homeschooling playgroup. I knew I wanted and needed to homeschool my daughter, but I couldn’t figure out how we wouldn’t be lonely. It was quite terrifying, this concept of isolation I had―my girl stuck in a friendless world with just me for company.

Well, we got lucky. We found a homeschooling group in the second week. The kids (and parents too!) were lovely people―intelligent, thoughtful, considerate, amusing, independent, engaging, articulate, lively, unique people. How fantastic. (And kind of unexpected―weren’t they all supposed to stare at the ground and mumble?)

Photo by Peter & Joyce Grace

At first I would ask these experienced homeschoolers how they dealt with the S-word―and they’d say, “Truly, it’s nothing. It’s a non-issue. You’ll see.”

We began to meet homeschooling families often–we were invited over for tea, to get to know each other better. They introduced us to other people who introduced us to more people. We were welcomed with kindness and generosity.

When my son joined our homeschool, a term later, the embrace was just as warm. The first family of homeschoolers we ever met are now our great friends. The second family, great friends. Family after family, awesome kid after awesome kid―friends. How lucky we are! (And blessed, which I’ve said before and won’t stop saying until someone comes and hits me on the head with a thesaurus).

The kids are busy outside Homeschool Land as well. They see their old school friends often. They have discovered the activities they love, and let go of those they don’t.

My daughter does art class, because she adores art. My son plays in a band and jazz combo, because he loves music. The kids take tennis lessons, because the teacher is fun and friends come too. Once upon a time I would have said, “Here, look! Good, solid examples of socialization!”

Photo by Jinx!

Now I think, “Wow. I love how my kids are having fun.”

And you can be sure the kids aren’t gazing around with satisfaction and saying, “Oh look! We’re socializing!”

To them, they are just playing, and being, and being true to themselves.

I’ve noticed something else as well, something important.

Sometimes we have become too busy.

Sometimes we feel full of seeing people, and actually want to stay home―hang out, just family, together.

We have rainchecked invitations, and not gone on some excursions. We have sometimes chosen each other’s company first, and not seen other people for days.

We love those days at home. We love having hours to finish a project. The kids are best friends and truly almost never argue. We have fun together. We delight in each other. We talk. Just us. It gives us serenity. Those days feel like a gift.

I have seen my children become social, empowered, independent people, outside of the schoolyard. I have seen them like themselves more and more, every day that passes. That is wonderful.

We socialize without caring we’re socializing. In fact, socialization is a complete non-issue, just as my friends told me it was over a year ago.

I actually think socialization (or lack thereof―and all the stigmas and judgements attached) is the greatest fallacy about homeschooling there is. When people use that word to argue against homeschooling now, I think, “Ah, but you don’t know what I know. You haven’t seen what I’ve seen. How I wish you had.”

How satisfying it is, to figure this out. And how lovely, to find we aren’t lonely at all.

How have you navigated the socialization issue in your homeschool?

Comments

  1. Natalia says:

    Thanks for such a good article. This is something I was explaining to someone the other day – it really is a non-issue. I get a bit of scrutiny as a ‘newbie’ home educator as my son is an only child, so of course he is now not-only going to grow up spoiled, but also a social misfit who can’t interact with others! Of course those who say that didn’t see him last week where he was interacting with people (note, people, not just kids his own age) he had never met before, including his great-great-aunt. He was polite, he was funny, he was engaging – he was socialising!

  2. se7en says:

    You are so right about socialization, it really is a non-issue!!! When I gather with homeschool moms we never chat about socialization, just about how busy we are!!! However I have found that parents who don’t homeschool spend heaps of time asking me about socialization… and I eventually blogged a response in an effort to explain why homeschooling is not the end of every social skill your child may ever attain!!! http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/08/06/se7en-socialization-questions-homeschoolers-ask-and-get-asked
    se7en’s latest post: Saturday Spot- Se7en Visit Bihari Indian Restaurant in Fish Hoek…

  3. Yup! Non-issue. It is amazing to me how that is the first thing non-homeschoolers have been conditioned to ask us.
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: Psalm 148

  4. Becky says:

    This is a great piece. We are in our first year of homeschooling and I was dreading how we would function as all of Z’s friends started full day kindergarten. Luckily, we have built a wonderful tribe in just a few short months – great mamas (4 of us), awesome kids (6 of them spanning about 3 years in age difference) who enjoy each others’ company and feel comfortable just hanging out together at least once a week. Add in weekly circus school, adult and kid friends, and our lives are plenty full of community and connection.

  5. Nadene says:

    Most homeschool families have the most wonderfully socialized children. What I admire most are the older h/schooled teenagers who gently and patiently play with their younger siblings, whereas their school-going counterparts lack these qualities.
    I agree that new homeschool families join a group for support and encouragement. Sport, ballet and art clubs are also a great place to meet and mix with friends.
    Nadene’s latest post: Sliding Sound Blends for reading practice

  6. mama90 says:

    As homeschoolers sometimes we have more flexibility to meet with friends or for our children to take extra curriculum classes. We need to be careful with our precious time and family time. Even at home our children socialize with each other better than sitting quietly in school with tons of children.

  7. AprilS says:

    Gotta speak for the “Non-issue” bandwagon. Here in Austin there is a great homeschool group. Several years ago I worked for a company that was doing research on teen girls and we had a great group of homeschoolers who would come in and participate in focus groups. We had them keep a video camera to document their day and hanging out. Not only were they constantly interacting with others in a variety of activities, but they seemed like the most level and positive teen girls I have ever met. They didn’t have self-esteem issues and felt they could do anything. Their homeschool group even held an annual Prom, so these kids didn’t miss out on anything! The other girls we studied that were in public school were the complete opposite. It was very enlightening to see the difference and realize what a great thing homeschooling could be!
    AprilS’s latest post: Algebra 1 – Simplifying Rational Expressions

  8. Debbie says:

    Great article. When we started out we also went in search of support groups and opportunities for meeting with other home schoolers! It was a big part of our early homeschooling days! The friendships and activities were priceless. Still are, only now the kids have gravitated towards their own interests and many of them don’t involve homeschooling groups but just living life in the ” real world” … Scouts, Rainbow Girls, Basketball, Art classes, Music, etc…They are quite busy, still growing, living, learning and yes, SOCIALIZING TOO!
    It’s been an amazing thing to watch them… I do find that our daughter has very little tolerance for the ” teen drama” so prevalent in public school teen-aged girls. When she runs into it with her PS friends, she is quick to stand up and say, what’s this all about and lets get past it without the worry of losing a friend or suddenly not being the popular girl at the moment.
    Anyone else notice this confidence in their teens?
    Thanks for a great article Helena!
    Deb
    Debbie’s latest post: Day to Day

  9. I think when people say the word ‘socialization’ they really are concerned that your kids will be different- and they will be! My kids just got out of Shakespeare class where they will be preparing the play Macbeth. There are 20 kids in the class and 3 other homeschool classes today putting on different plays. so the kids make plenty of friends and learn to work as a team BUT they will be quoting Shakespeare- not ‘normal’- but just the way I like it!

  10. I totally agree with your words! I love the response “It’s a non-issue.” So true and evident when you are around the majority of kids who are homeschooled. As one who taught public school for seven years before having my own kids, I can attest to the fact that there are just as many kids in “regular school” who struggle with socializing as there are kids in homeschool (maybe more). My kids know how to interact with the teller at the bank, the bagger at the grocery store, and many others as well as with kids their own age.
    Paula@Motherhood Outloud’s latest post: An Uncomplicated Life- Baby Stuff

  11. Hannah says:

    Sometimes I think these efforts are as much for us moms as for our kids — we need to talk to others and know they share our struggles, values, laughter, triumphs and tears.
    Hannah’s latest post: A Tale of Butterflies

  12. Deb says:

    Beautiful, Helena!
    Deb’s latest post: A Little MeMe

  13. The whole concern over socialization for homeschoolers is an “urban legend”. It’s based on a myth. We heard plenty about this myth when we started homeschooling and still do from time to time. However it’s never been an issue.

    It makes me wonder what other areas we worry about or are concerned about are similar in nature; really not worth worrying about.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Trevor @ Tootlee’s latest post: Are You Investing In Your Child’s Emotional Bank Account

  14. Sue says:

    If only our group of moms were more friendly. There are a few nice ones, but the distant one really bother me. Need to pray about it. :)

  15. denise says:

    Wow – you live in a great community. We haven’t cracked ours yet, but we keep hoping to find a tribe/group of people.

    Until then, socialization is still a non-issue here, because we interact with our diverse community. We may not know many homeschoolers, but with classes, library, living day to day, being active in our neighborhood and community and more, we socialize with so many people of ALL ages and backgrounds…
    denise’s latest post: masters of disguise

  16. mark says:

    Nice article!For me, I think there’s no need to navigate the socialization in homeschooling.It is definitely a non-issue.In everyday we live we always interact with different kinds of people we met.To be honest to people you interacted with and have a good values is a good example of navigating a good socialization not just in homeschooling but in everywhere.
    mark’s latest post: Start Your GMAT Test Prep Early and Study Consistently

  17. Arnold says:

    Great thing, great fun doing socialization for other. Even if some people may acts like they are one that can’t be.
    Arnold’s latest post: The GRE – Graduate Record Exam…should I retake it

  18. Kei says:

    I wish my family could understand this, and hopefully as they watch us homeschool over the next few years, they will see that it doesn’t have to be an issue. They are all concerned that, like you said, our kids will be shy, mumbling unsociable kids. I want them to know it doesn’t have to be that way and it won’t be that way. :)

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