Saturday, March 9, 2013

Part 5 of 5: Prospective Homeschool Parents: SOCIALIZATION

Welcome to this last 
in a five part series of blogs 
specifically for
the prospective homeschool parent.

Are you online this evening surfing and surfing and surfing for information on homeschooling and fretting about it? Is there a possibility that you are considering homeschooling your children and would love to read some advice from seasoned homeschooling parents? 

If so, STOP the presses. Put down the surf board and RELAX.  You have found what you are looking for.

This is going to simplify things for you a bit. I have a large group of friends who homeschool. Between us we have over 100 years of experience homeschooling! In order to gather information for you, I asked each of them all to fill out a survey of sorts, looking for wisdom to share with prospective homeschooling parents. In this series I have shared much of the wisdom of these moms.

This post is about SOCIALIZATION.

For some reason this myth of homeschooling still pervades the internet and the fears of families considering homeschooling in spite of the many research studies and supportive propaganda.  Although I have done many posts on this subject, I will let the homeschool moms share their wisdom with you:

Darlene suggests that socialization in public schools is what should really be questioned:
Socialization is the process of learning to be a functioning member of society.
It is specifically not taught in schools.
It is easy to model when a child is exposed to the larger world.

Cathy, long time homeschooler, is uniquely qualified to calm your socialization fears:

Socialization was great, as the kids found themselves with many different ages and sorts of people, all the time, and learned to be strong and yet to get along. Socializing was also fantastic, ranging from Girl Scouts and dance classes with neighborhood kids to hanging out a ton with somewhat far-flung homeschoolers in our wonderful support group!

Rebecca has this lovely story to tell about socialization with her daughter:
My children are very good socially, talk to people of any age very confidently, and they are not ageist at all. My 8 year old invited an elderly neighbor he talks to over the wall, who I hadn't really met, to his birthday party - and he and his wife came, and are really nice! They get on with other children, teenagers and adults with no problems at all. They talk to people in shops, on the beach, wherever we go. The last thing that concerns me is "socialization".

Korin, confident homeschooling mom, states:
The socialization thing is not a real issue, that is a made up problem to frighten people who want to go outside the norm. One of the postives I do see from HSing is that my kids are NOT exposed to the type of dysfunctional socialization that goes on in any brick and mortar school.

And Angie says:
Socialization?  It's a myth. If you want your kids to become 'socialized,' then you don't keep them secluded at every opportunity. I've known traditional schooled kids that never took a trip to the grocery store or the post office with their parents. Believe me, they were Un-socialized! Interact with your children and find meet ups in the area. You'd be surprised how many like-minded people you'll find just by reaching out even slightly.

I have about a dozen other replies to this question, but most of them sound like this:
Socialization?  Sure, I let them out of their shackles every now and then.

ADDENDUM after Sophelia's comment below:

My 15-year old daughter, a homeschooler for 10 years has this to say about socialization:
It is possible to have good socialization, but it's hard. You have to figure out what you like and follow through with it. To meet people, I have had to be very deliberate, and do the hard things. 

It's not easy because I'm kind of shy. But kids are interested in hearing about homeschooling and that starts up some good conversations.

It's difficult here in Australia because there are few people my age. The friends that I do have here are always busy with school, work, and boyfriends.

Back home I don't have that problem because most of my friends homeschool and it's easier to get together with them and go places.  We are a close group back home. In a good week, I hang out with friends several times a week  Our parents encourage our time together.

What I find the hardest is getting the courage to talk to people. My parents often help me get started with friendships, but it can be difficult meeting new people who are open to friendships because they already have lots of friends and aren't open to adding new friends.

I have figured out that what you can't say to new people is "I don't have many friends here in Australia" and the people I say this to treat me oddly when I say that. But I've been here for several months and maybe I have scared them away by saying that.
I can honestly say that here, in Australia, I don't see friends often enough. I appreciate it when Mom works hard to schedule get-togethers with me, I'm a bit shy in setting days up by myself... 

Having close friendships is vital to most human beings, and doubly so for kids. Schooling children come with a ready-made pool of children to choose from, it's true. But that doesn't mean that all will be ducky; for example I had a very lonely childhood in my school.  But that advantage of a pool of children doesn't come ready-made for homeschooling families. I have put a great deal of effort into our entire homeschool experience, including friendships. I guess the caring parent will do everything they can to create friendships for their children.

I have to say that time with friends is a thing that we work hard on, create deliberately, and give lots of focus to. Our circumstances are quite different from most families, but it can be said that each family is unique unto themselves. Friendships will be easy for some to create and difficult for others. No one can tell you today what things will look like for you tomorrow. John has been trying to build a friendship with S, a school kid down here who lives just a house or two away. Although S is often home, he is not open to a friendship with my son. In fact, just this afternoon John told me that he is going to stop trying. I am mentioning this because being a homeschooler or not does not have as much to do with friendships as personality does in many cases. In this case, S is being pressured by people around him to NOT be friends with John...

Once a family begins homeschooling and finding the homeschooling community in their area, they are often pleasantly surprised with the many resources out there for homeschool families. Homeschool groups and co ops, frequent play dates, hobby groups, scouts, sports, neighbor kids, etc. can be good places to start. Your imagination is your only limitation!

As for a specific response to Sophelia, it is always possible to find people who are not educating their children in the healthiest way, who are not raising their children in the best possible way, who are living so outside-of-the-box that their children do not experience child-centered childhoods. That goes for homeschoolers and schoolers of all kinds. I am sincerely sorry when I meet people who were not given the best resources possible. It's not fair. Do we blame Sophelia's parents for Sophelia feeling so ill-prepared for life? We could, surely. But, rather, let's learn from her.

Let's recognize that raising children is a full-time job whether they are in school or not. Good things happen and bad things happen to children regardless of their learning options. Sophelia sincerely wishes for children to be raised in loving and protecting homes that offer dynamic opportunities for moving through the world. And don't we all.

Thank you, Sophelia, for asking me to make this post be more meaningful. You are absolutely right that I didn't put much thought into the post at all. And for something so important?! My sincere apologies. I'm glad you called me on it

Homeschoolers DO get tired of the socialization questions. But that doesn't mean they don't take it seriously. We do!  Even more specifically, Sophelia's comment about having been poorly-socialized, "I felt this way, and many of my homeschooled peers also went through periods of great depression when they began attending university and couldn’t cope socially" is very important for us to hear and to hear again. A couple of readers of this blog, themselves homeschool alum, often write on their about their on-going difficulties in life that seem to be a result of not having had enough time with similarly-aged friends growing up.

We, as parents, are trying our best. We do what we do in order to make good lives for our children. So, feedback from others in our shoes is absolutely essential for our improvement. Is it awful for me to use your cautionary tales as a lesson for myself? I hope not because I am doing that.  

I have spent many hours discussing friendships with my daughter and son. (Many of the above homeschooling moms do not have children who are teens as mine are.) It is my hope, my desire, that all parents work hard at having good, close relationships with their children so that they can frequently assess the needs of their children and teens...and so they can respond to those needs.

And, as for socialization, with sincere effort, it really can be wonderful being a homeschooler!


I will be hostessing the upcoming Carnival of Homeschooling on April 2nd.
PLEASE, to my readers and blogger friends, submit some great reading material for this homeschool carnival!
You can send it to me directly at:  karen.loethen Ampersand


  1. Hi there, I am an adult who was homeschooled (unschooled). I have some things I really want to say about this post, but I want to make it clear that I am not being critical of anyone who contributed this post. I know from personal experience how much homeschoolers have to deal with in terms of strangers criticising and questioning things that have nothing to do with them, and the last thing I want to do is make anyone feel uncomfortable. This is your “house” and I am a guest.
    That having been said ;)
    You don’t have to go far to find blogs by homeschool alumni detailing their struggles and regrets regarding socialisation. Many were homeschooled in a religious context, but that doesn’t mean that all of their experiences are a direct result of religion and that secular homeschoolers are immune. Homeschooling parents often comment on these blogs saying things like “your parents just didn’t do it properly” or similar. The thing is, I guarantee you that all of the parents of these homeschool alumni genuinely believed that their children were being well socialised. Of course, some homeschooled children have a great experience and some schooled children have a bad one. However, it is frustrating for me when homeschoolers assume that all homeschooled children have a good experience and all schooled children have a negative one.
    This is where I want to raise some things that worry me about your advice to parents. Socialisation is incredibly important and needs to be addressed thoughtfully by all parents, homeschooling and schooling. As someone who struggles with the aftermath of poor socialisation it is upsetting to hear advice that is dismissive or seems to be saying “just don’t worry about it, it isn’t a big deal”. It is a really big deal. Again, let me say that my parents were convinced that we were well socialised.

    Darlene: I currently work in public schools in Japan and we do explicitly teach kids how to be functioning and responsible members of society. I don’t know where you are from, but blanket statements that create straw-men are not helpful. I am not trying to be confrontational; just asking you to extend the same courtesy to parents who choose schools that you deserve as a homeschooler. Not all schools are terrible. Not all homeschooled kids are socially inept jean-skirt wearing bible bashers. Let’s get away from stereotypes!

    Cathy: Your kids sound like they are having the idea homeschool socialisation experience. Good on you! Something like Girl Scouts would have made all the difference in my childhood. I spent a lot of time with other homeschooled kids, which really doesn’t help, and attended ballet and violin lessons and sang in a choir. Although these activities involved being in a room with other children my age, none of them involved working together in groups, unsupervised interactions or long-term relationships with a consistent group of the same kids. So while my parents would point to all my activities as evidence of my socialisation, in fact I was just lonely and awkward in a crowded room instead of an empty one. It’s about quality not quantity.

    1. Rebecca’s story bothers me because it sounds exactly like something my parents would have said. Rebecca, I am talking about my experiences here not trying to make assumptions about yours, it’s just that your comment brought it to mind. A child who confidently and comfortably interacts with adults is not necessarily a sign of good socialisation. My own experience suggests the opposite. I was intellectually and academically advanced years ahead of my emotional and social development. At eight years old I was more comfortable discussing the minutiae of the reformation with a professor I bumped into at the university library than I was playing with a girl my own age. I was an adult mind in a child’s body, and I saw the same thing in many of the other homeschooled kids I spent time with. We could discuss philosophy with each other all day long, but we didn’t know how to talk to ‘normal’ children.
      An articulate, self-confident child who converses easily with adults is not necessarily well socialised! And the belief that they are will make it all the harder for that child to cope with the problems they face when they do eventually try to participate in a group their own age. When parents constantly dismiss concerns about socialisation, children internalise it as true. Then if they have trouble relating to peers or interacting socially, they may blame themselves: “I was well socialised, so it must be something inherently wrong with me~ I’m unlikeable, I say the wrong things, I’m so clumsy”. I felt this way, and many of my homeschooled peers also went through periods of great depression when they began attending university and couldn’t cope socially.

      Korin: I understand your angry response. I know homeschoolers get this question all the time and it becomes infuriating. But please, please, don’t treat socialisation as a non-issue and all schooled children as dysfunctional.

      Angie: Absolutely, socialisation is not only a concern for homeschoolers! All parents need to be conscious of their child’s socialisation and proactive in making sure they are getting what they need.

    2. Sophelia, I'm absolutely thrilled that you posted. I have read your reply several times so that I haven't missed anything.
      My daughter and I have been talking about homeschool and socialization today. So these words are from her and not from me:

      Socialization can take some effort, but it is also good when homeschooling. I like it that people are so genuine. I have good, close friends. Because we are in Australia, they are very busy alot so I don't see them much. Teens in Australia are far more "adult" and independent than they are in the US. But back home, I have a group of super good friends. We see each other often and get to do lots of fun things together. So, for me, my experience has been very positive.

      Back to Karen, you are right that homeschoolers feel very defensive about the socialization question. And, perhaps, I didn't put enough thought into my post. I feel the need to reply to your good and thoughtful points...

      I will go up to the post and edit it a bit to include more information.

      THANK YOU for your point of view!

    3. I was very nervous about offending you, so it's a very nice relief to read that! I should say in fairness to my parents though that for the elder of my brothers, who was a dreamy, gone-with-the-fairies type of kid, not being forced into social interactions he didn't cope with well was a real benefit of home education. It's just as you say, personalities are really important to what does and doesn't work for each individual.
      As an Australian ex-pat I am really enjoying reading your thoughts on living in Australia, and I hope everyone in your family finds a warm welcome in the community there.

    4. Well then, thank you for the courage to put your thoughts out there. They are important.

      Sophelia, we LOVE Australia. This part of Queensland, and the other parts we have been to, are so so beautiful.
      Guess what! Tonight I'm planning our trip to New Zealand.
      We will be going in the next few weeks...
      SO excited.
      Which part of Australia are you from?

      The big problem with the homeschool community here, though we are very involved with the homeschoolers, is that people primarily do "distance ed" and so they follow a fairly rigorous schedule with very little free time to hang out with friends. Our kids are feeling very lonely in spite of the great kids we have befriended.

    5. I'm from Tasmania, which is about as different from QLD as you can get really! I'm surprised that you have a lot of distance ed families around you though, when I was a kid and we spent time with home edders in QLD they were predominantly of the hippy, unschooling, circus skills variety. I'm sorry if this is a silly question, but are you familiar with HEN ( Although they are based in Vic they have connections all over Australia and a lot of the members un-school.

    6. Yes, nearly every single hser we have met does distance ed.
      It makes it very difficult to see friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      I haven't heard of HEN. I'm looking at it right now...THANKS for the recommendation.
      We're really wanting a group friends who want to get out and go!

  2. I appreciate the balance you and your daughter put to this. I don't have many friends where I'm at right now in the states; it is what it is, and I don't worry about it. Its part of the seasons of life. I also don' think public school cures the problems. But the biggest problem in socialization, imo, wasn't the small amount of friends I had over the course of 12 years. Its the part of not being able to relate to, or socialize with, those of different beliefs and backgrounds.

  3. Side note, I moved my blog to a self-hosted site. So if you click the links to my blog post, its going to say 'unknown." They are still there. Just click the main block page. To resolve this issue, unfollow my blog, and then refollow.


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