I love hearing from other homeschooling moms who live in the trenches, and today I’m excited to share a guest post from my friend Kristen who blogs at Smithspirations. I’ve gotten to know Kristen first through Lilla Rose, then through a group of Christian bloggers (PRM), and just recently as a contributor to Healing Candida with Food. She is an absolute joy – and as a fellow homeschooling mom, she puts a need-to-hear twist on the socialization question most of us have thought about ourselves or undoubtedly have been asked about.
Maybe you’re not a homeschooling parent yet, but considering it, or maybe you’re concerned about a family member or friend who’s considering it. That pesky socialization question keeps popping up, doesn’t it.
Kristen addresses this so well, I’ll just turn it over to her. . .
Guest Post by Kristen of Smithspirations
Over at my blog, Smithspirations, I’ve been spending Fridays sharing tips on homeschooling in a series called Homeschool How-To: Real Tips for Real Families. After covering some of the basics on approaches to homeschooling and how our family goes about home education, I’m ready to dive into one of the more common questions that homeschoolers face: What about socialization? If you’re a homeschooling parent, you’ve no doubt heard this question many times, and if you’re not one, you may have wondered about it many times!
May it be known that I’m not an expert on homeschooling, parenting, or really anything at all. I’m a young homeschool mom that has a lot to learn, but I have become convinced that socialization is not something that homeschoolers need to be concerned about.
Socialization or Socializing?
I think that one of the first things we need to consider when it comes to the socialization question is what’s really being asked. When someone is concerned about homeschooled children not being socialized, are they concerned that those children aren’t interacting with enough people, or are they worried that they aren’t being shaped into the cultural norm? I think most people wonder more about socializing, and less about socialization, when it comes to homeschooled children.
For example, my homeschooled children are ages 8, 6, 4, and 20 months (though only the older two are involved with formal school lessons). They spend the majority of their time socializing with their immediate family, which is what my husband and I want for them at this stage of their life. They also have the opportunity to socialize with neighbors (both adults and children), children whom they meet in other public places through outside group activities, the variety of individuals that attend our church, and so on.
What they don’t experience is the peer pressure to conform to a certain cultural norm that is rather unavoidable in the typical classroom settings. We are completely okay with that, and I think that most people who wonder about socialization and homeschoolers would find this explanation completely acceptable as well.
Is the Classroom Setting Ideal for Social Interaction?
Often when the socialization question comes up, what is not considered is whether or not typical classrooms offer the ideal setting for social interaction. Certainly they offer unique opportunities to interact with children from different races, religions, and backgrounds, but are they really the best we have to offer our children? When else, in real life, are we lumped into large groups of people the exact same age as us for eight hours a day?
This is not to say that it is inherently harmful to have children in a classroom setting. But I think it is completely fair to consider if classrooms should be considered the standard for social interaction when homeschoolers are asked to answer the socialization question. Homeschoolers have many opportunities to learn how to interact with others different from themselves; their opportunities just look different from those of their classroom-educated peers.
Don’t Homeschooled Children Tend to be Awkward?
I could let myself get annoyed with this assumption, but then I have to remember that I wondered about it at one time myself. Before I looked into the many benefits of homeschooling for myself, I seriously thought that my children would be at risk for turning out weird and awkward if they weren’t in school. The odd thing is that I had never met an awkward homeschooled child in my life or an awkward adult who had been homeschooled. In fact, every socially awkward person I’d ever met was educated in a classroom setting.
Here are my personal thoughts: some people are just a little bit different and tend to not fit in as well in social settings. Being in a classroom with their peers doesn’t exactly remedy their unique way of interacting, and it makes sense to think that it could actually be harmful. How many times did you see someone bullied in school for being different, especially once the middle school years started? Being homeschooled doesn’t necessarily cause some children to be a little bit awkward, either, and may even offer better opportunities to those who have a bit more trouble with social interactions.
The Benefits of Homeschool Socializing
Since classrooms are often assumed to be the norm and best way for children to socialize, I think that it helps to consider the unique benefits that homeschooling offers to children when it comes to their social development. For example:
- Homeschooled children are less likely to see those a few years older as superior and those a bit younger as inferior. I’m 30 years old and still catch myself thinking of those who were one year ahead of me in school as somehow “cooler”!
- Homeschooled children have the opportunity to interact with people much older and much younger than them on a more regular basis. Because they spend less time with peers of their exact age, they are able to experience interactions with a larger variety of ages, making them comfortable around adults and the very young. Isn’t that much more like real life? In fact, it is real life!
- Homeschooled children learn to deal with intense conflict through their family interactions. Siblings can fight and fight hard, but because I am right there with them, I can help guide them to find appropriate solutions while they are young. The goal is that they will be able to work out differences with others in a healthy way when they are older because of this practice.
So what do you think? Have you ever wondered about the socialization of homeschoolers? If you homeschool, how do you answer the socialization question?
Kristen is a Christian, wife to her high school sweetheart, and mother to a growing brood of sweet little people. She spends her days naturally keeping the home, homeschooling, making real food, gardening, and blogging at Smithspirations. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.