I don’t know about you, but many, many times, when I say I homeschool I get asked “but what about socialization?” All these years later, when homeschooling is so well grounded and even more popular, the first question out of many people’s mouths is about socialization and aren’t you worried about your child not being socialized? Hmmmm. Where. To. Start.
WHY SOCIALIZATION IS IMPORTANT?
Socializing allows kids to build skills that will help them later in life. Strong social skills help students gain confidence, improve speaking skills, foster empathy, hone negotiation skills, build trust, refine interpersonal skills, and more.
Would we agree that children need social interactions and to be “socialized”? Yes, yes we do. Whether we are homeschooling or in school.
“Play and socialization are the ‘work’ of early childhood. During this period, children are learning how to navigate social scenarios, such as when and how to join in with others, taking turns, conversation skills, emotion regulation, frustration tolerance, emotional expression and more. These lessons seem simple, but they are foundational to healthy social development.”Dr. Wojciechowski
NUMBER ONE FACTOR IN SOCIALIZATION
Do you know what the number one factor is? If you don’t it might surprise you. It is FAMILY. Mothers and fathers, siblings and grandparents, plus members of an extended family, all teach a child about relationships, about themselves and how they might view themself.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A CHILD DOES NOT GET APPROPRIATE SOCIALIZATION?
There are different thoughts as to what happens if a child does not get appropriate socialization. It does affect their mental health and it can lead to other health issues. There is also the lack of social skills, lack of confidence, being behind in speaking skills, etc. We would all agree, I think that not having age appropriate interactions, and interactions with other children and adults can lead to awkwardness, inappropriate social behaviors and what some call “being weird”.
HOW MUCH HAPPENS IN SCHOOL?
This has been a valid question I have seen raised of late. When we are expecting children to quiet in class, limiting recess and lunch, then we are limiting social interactions for them. Group work is good, but it is still interaction with a purpose, and not allowing free social interaction.
There are some concerns by parents as to socialization in school, such as:
- School should be more about academics
- Might involve culture trends parents don’t like
- Limited age group mingling
- It is too distracting
- Bullying has been a problem
- Racial prejudice
- Not including children with disabilities
There are some good reasons:
- Learn about other cultures and others different to themself
- Children learn negotiation skills, problem solving and self-control
- Learn opportunities for inclusion
WHY IS SOCIALIZATION CONTROVERSIAL?
There are definitely voices on both sides as to whether homeschoolers are appropriately socialized. It can get quite loud. Are there children who are not given appropriate opportunities and are therefore more awkward? Yes. But the same can be said of homeschooled or brick and mortar schooled children.
One side says that homeschooled children are not exposed to competing ideas and beliefs and are only informed of the ideas and beliefs of their parents. As a result they do not have the opportunity to learn and accept the ideas and beliefs of others.
They also argue that homeschooled children live relatively sheltered lives without exposure to peer pressure and group dynamics in school, which offer coping skills for children. Therefore they are not effectively prepared for entering the real world.
The other side would disagree.
Is there evidence that homeschooled children grow up to be any more socially awkward than school educated peers? If you are providing opportunities or other avenues to socialize, homeschooling has no negative impact on your child’s social skills.
Some feel that it is a myth that homeschooled kids lack social skills. In fact, the actual statistics paint quite a different picture. There are studies that show homeschooled kids consistently outperform their schooled peers, both socially and academically.
But this also depends on where you are drawing your information. If you are only looking for information that supports your ideals, then you will find that bias. This is where the controversy sets in.
HOW CAN HOMESCHOOLERS SOCIALIZE?
There are many ways in which homeschoolers can get opportunities for socialization:
- Homeschool co-ops
- Community groups such as Scouts
- Clubs or classes such as 4H, YMCA, local recreation department
- Recreation and competition sport, dance classes, etc
- Field trips with other families
- Play dates
- (for older children) part time jobs
- Church or cultural groups
Do I think that some families are perhaps too sheltered? Yes. It happens. Do I think that it is the case that homeschooled equals unsocialized? No. Not at all. I honestly think my girls get a lot of socialization they wouldn’t get at school because we have the freedom for all the above and don’t have the burden of being in class all day and then often coming home to do homework.