My 98-year old great-aunt eyed my children a few weeks ago and asked what school they attend. When I told her we homeschool, she said adamantly, “You shouldn’t do that. Kids need to be around other kids.”
So as children pack up their backpacks and lunchboxes and head off to school for the next 170 days, no one ever asks, “Your kids are in public school. Aren’t you concerned about socialization?”
Yet, I believe, there is reason to be concerned.
In response to a study about the college class of 2016, community college freshmen talked to our local NBC station about their social skills. Startingly, one student admitted she’d rather text than talk to someone in person, and another girl said that in a group of new people, they all just pull out their phones and start texting friends they know because they don’t know how to handle the social awkwardness of the situation.
That is what I call not being socialized.
And yet, they’ve been in the public school system for 12 years.
So they’re supposed to be “socialized,” right?
When it comes to socialization--the very argument that people use as a catch-phrase against homeschooling—it seems as though graduates of the public school system are not all that properly socialized.
How do we define socialization? As a homeschool parent, I think of it as being able to relate to not only their peers, but people of all age groups (and not through texting, but face-to-face communication). Merriam Webster defines socialization as :
1 to make social; especially : to fit or train for a social environment2 a : to constitute on a socialistic basis <socialize industry> b : to adapt to social needs or uses3: to organize group participation in <socialize a recitation>: to participate actively in a social group
Let’s look again at what that college freshman said. In a social situation with new people, they all just pull out their phones, because it’s less awkward that way. That is not participating actively in a social group. By definition, they are not properly socialized.
The socialization argument always makes me laugh, because—while it may be well-meaning— it is so ignorant. One would have to lock a child in a dark room all day, every day to keep him from having social interactions with others. Kids are around other kids (and other adults), at church activities, at playgrounds, through sports, homeschool groups, and more (not to mention in our home, they each have three siblings to socialize with).
Not only are they learning how to relate to kids of all ages (without a cell phone, I might add), because they accompany me on errands and to various civic functions, they also learn how to socialize with people of all ages.
Meanwhile, public school students are learning how to fit into a group, or how to not fit in. Some parents cite this as a necessary skill for life. But is it really?
When has a co-worker or a friend cattily made fun of your clothing choices, hairstyle, makeup, teeth? Picked on you mercilessly? Or when have you done these things to someone else? It just doesn’t happen as we grow up and learn how to properly socialize in the real world. Yet it happens daily in schools, to the point that children have commited suicide over it. Is this really the kind of socialization we want for our kids?
I remember when I was in fifth grade (in public school). A girl sat outside, against the brick wall of the school, crying during every recess, because the other kids were so mean to her. They picked on her because her teeth were crooked; they picked on her because she was a bit overweight compared to some classmates (but probably of normal weight for an 11 year old girl); they picked on her for her hair and for her name.
Feeling badly for her, I used to sit by her and try to make her feel better. She started to hate the other kids, because “they were so mean,” she cried. I still remember this, years later.
Was this a necessary part of “socialization?” Does this experience mirror the real-world of adult life? Did it do any good for her? Absolutely not. I bet she may still have self-esteem issues to this day, due to the damage caused by these peers. I’m sure it also distracted her from learning.
Yet, if she would have been home, no one would have been making fun of her. She would be learning in a safe environment and growing up with a healthy sense of self-esteem. She would have been practicing normal communication skills with people of all ages, which would not have included belittling and heavy texting.
So when it comes to socialization, do my children really need to be in classrooms filled with their peers, as my great aunt and so many others think? Or is home where it's really at?
More links on homeschoolers and socialization:
Women Living Well
We are That Family