One of the biggest questions or comments I get when someone finds out I homeschool is their concern about “socialization.”
When attending public school growing up, I would often hear “We are not here to socialize!” I tried to pass notes during class or talk to my friends in the hallways of school, often causing me to be late for class. I am extroverted, and this is why my favorite time was lunch and recess, a typical response of most children when asked what their favorite time during school is. Children go to school and learn “together”, but they learn in groups of kids with similar ages at school, while homeschoolers learn to socialize with adults and children of all ages.
There is also a significant amount of research finding that homeschool children thrive more socially then children in conventional school settings.
Bias and stigma exist, even amongst some of the most educated. During a course discussion for my master’s degree in social work, two students challenged the idea of homeschooling with the opinion that children suffer socially, with little to no research behind their argument. I provided a significant amount of research to the contrary and provided further knowledge on the culture. My professor commented on the discussion how she thought my post was much needed as she herself was homeschooled for half her schooling growing up and felt it was a need for social workers to understand this culture. Social workers are trained to be culturally competent and have integrity and humility by seeking knowledge and support in areas we may not be familiar with. In this way, social workers, providers, and educators can work together appropriately to meet the needs of the children they are helping.
I am not ignoring the fact that there are children out there who are homeschooled and not receiving the appropriate social experiences. There may be children under the radar who are at home and are being abused and neglected. Schools do offer the opportunity for these children to be seen, heard, and helped. These are not the small cases I am discussing here.
Except for the COVID lockdown and months following, socialization has never been an issue. My children have more opportunities to socialize than I ever have. At times, I am a bit envious of the social life they have and catch myself reevaluating mine. Socialization is also perception as well.
Homeschoolers are around people. Just not in the traditional way. It is an entirely different culture.
When people show concern for socialization, the first thing I wonder is if they think all homeschoolers are locked in their room with a pencil and paper with no one there for them. I am not invincible, and neither is my son, my husband, or the grocery store attendant who I encourage my children to engage with when shopping. I know parents who go shopping when their kids are at school, or their partner is home because they cannot handle their children in the store. Hey, I get it, mine can be a handful too. However, I see this as a learning experience. Children will need to know how to shop and be confident in shopping and speaking up for themselves one day. The real World is our classroom. This is one way we socialize.
When we are home, we play games, I get them involved in chores, and household responsibilities. I provide structure and discipline. I hold them when they cry, and I provide them with conversation, discussions, and teachable moments. Siblings have conflict and I help them resolve it. These actions surely promote social emotional development. In addition, homeschool parents are provided many opportunities to socialize their children. I often have to turn down opportunities to ensure we have time at home to work on academics. What many people do not understand is that academics only take a couple of hours a day on average because the children get one on one teaching and support. Children are not hitting the books from 9 to 3 daily. Parents choose certain social activities in between academics, such as homeschool groups, classes, sports, co -ops, camps, meetups, homeschool events, etc. I will delve into these social opportunities in a future blog as well as provide resources. For now, if you are a home schooler, just remember, people often judge about things they know nothing about. Remember why you are homeschooling, educate those who do not understand the culture, and surround yourself with those who understand and support your choice to homeschool. If you are someone who has not had knowledge on typical homeschool culture, I hope after reading this, you have more of an understanding. It is stand offish to homeschoolers when they feel interrogated by family or others who think they need to check on the children to ensure they are developing well because they are homeschooled. It is also not supportive to avoid these conversations altogether either. Rather, genuinely ask the parents and their children what they are up to these days and what they are teaching or learning. This is how you show support.