Any homeschooling parent can tell you that the number one question they hear from people who find out they homeschool is, “How will you socialize your children?”. In spite of the fact that homeschooled kids have been shown over and over again to be at least as socially adept as their peers who attend public and private schools, the most common question asked of homeschoolers is, “But, how will your children be properly socialized?”
(The voices in this video are computer generated, so that’s why it sounds a little odd.)
No matter how many clubs or other extra-curricular activities your children involve themselves in, no matter how many spelling or geography bees or academic fairs they participate in, no matter how many homeschool group field trips they go on, no matter how many homeschool co-ops they participate in, no matter how many friends they have or kids in the neighborhood they play with… somehow, the idea remains that a child not in public or private school is sheltered and will be unable to cope in the “real world” (whatever that is), and will turn out “weird”.
Yeah, I never knew anybody who was educated in public or private school who was weird. Never. Is my nose growing?
I started out in a private school, but only through first grade. After that, it was public school. I had some good times, and I had a few friends. But I was also bullied. And I was bored. I learned new material very quickly, and often already knew it when we got to it, especially in math. I was bored enough that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do, and got bad grades as a result. I finally applied to the gifted and talented program and was accepted. The work was challenging, and I got good grades, but I had to be bused across town to go to school. So I didn’t live anywhere near any of my friends. At least I wasn’t bullied there. But some of the stuff that happened at that school was pretty bad. Kids from other schools were surprised to learn you went to this school, and would ask, “Have you ever been stabbed?” I had a friend who had been burned as a kid, and had scars on his face and down his arm. Other kids would ask him how he got them, and (just to mess around with them) he would reply, “Oh, I go to ______ High School.” The other kids would say “Oooohhh,” and nod knowingly. It was bad.
I remember the socialization I got in public school. I remember being surrounded by some 30 kids who were mercilessly teasing me. I remember the girls teasing me in gymnastics. I remember the daily verbal pelting I got in middle school. I remember the everybody’s-doing-it pressure about makeup, sexy clothes, drugs, alcohol, and sex. Yeah, socialization was wonderful.
I would have loved to be homeschooled. But when I was going through school, the homeschool movement in this country was just getting started.
Until very recently, nearly everybody in history was homeschooled. Yet, somehow, we still managed to survive as a vibrant, well-socialized people. We still produced great thinkers and mathematicians and scientists and writers. If public school socialization is really so vital, then why is this the case?
Socialization itself is a very recent concern. It was not among the reasons the public schools were founded. The focus was on learning.
The idea seems to be that placing your children in a situation in which they will never again find themselves somehow prepares them for the “real world”. I know that at no point in my life after school have I ever been expected to work in a group comprised of people who are exclusively almost exactly my age. When I worked in retail, the employees and customers there were not all 22. So if the socialization environment in a public or private school is an artificial one that does not resemble the “real world”, then how does that help the kids involved learn to handle the “real world” later, and deal with people of all ages? How does it prepare them better than the environment of a homeschooled child, who has regular interaction with kids and adults of all ages?
This post is not a my-way-is-better-than-your-way post, but an is-there-really-something-wrong-with-my-way post. The studies have been done. Homeschoolers have been studied as they have grown up and become adults, and it has been shown time and again that they have no socialization deficiencies. How many more studies need to be done before this is accepted, and homeschoolers stop having to deal with this maddening question for which no answer seems to be good enough?