My neighbor once asked me about the stereotypical “s” word. My older son had already been homeschooling for a couple of years and both of my kids were playing with the neighbor’s girls, as they do all the time. The father asked if we were going to send our younger child to preschool to socialize her. I looked over into his yard and told him she seems to be socializing just fine.
What is socialization?
There are 2 definitions that apply to children:
- the activity of mixing socially with others.
- the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
What does socialization look like?
If you imagine that socialization requires your child to spend all day in a classroom with upwards of 20 children the same age plus or minus 6 months, then homeschooling can’t measure up. However, if you are willing to consider that quality social interactions may not require being forced to sit in the same room together for 40 per week, then there are many opportunities for homeschoolers to “be socialized”.
So, where can homeschoolers find social opportunities? Depending on your community, there may be options for homeschool groups like co-ops and tutorials that offer classes and field trips. Various organizations, like community colleges, libraries, museums and gyms, might offer classes specifically for homeschoolers or for all kids on evenings and weekends. Remember that just because kids are being educated at home that does not mean all of their activities have to be homeschool-specific. They can still be involved in rec sports, scouts, hobbies, etc. with kids who go to traditional school. Homeschooling families may find after-school activities more enjoyable than schooling families do because homeschoolers don’t also have to squeeze in homework time between the last school bell, after-school activities, and dinner. Maybe joining such activities will even socialize the traditionally-schooled children and their parents to realize that homeschoolers are not hermits.
Participating in groups outside of traditional single grade-level classes is that children can learn from multiple people of various ages. Usually, the adult-to-child ratio is much smaller than it is in school. Also, older kids can help younger kids and by explaining a skill to another person, they firm up their own understanding. Younger kids, by instinct, look at what the older kids are doing and mimic their behavior.
How will my kid learn to stand in line?
This gets into the second definition of socialization regarding how to behave in public. First of all, you don’t need to line up to go to the cafeteria at school 180 days out of the year to learn how lines work. Lines are everywhere: getting onto the bus, checking out at the store, riding the zipline at the playground, etc. The great part about all of those lines, compared to the ones at school, is that you can talk to others while you stand there, making the waiting less boring. The real world does not have a lot of the single-file, fingers-on-lips-no-talking lines of school.
We used to go to preschool storytime at the library and the reader started every session with the following advice: “If your child is having a ‘moment’, feel free to step outside and come back in when they have calmed down. If you need to leave, I won’t be offended. We learn how to act in storytime by going to storytime. This week your child may only last 10 minutes, but if you keep coming back every week, eventually they will be able to stay for the whole half hour.” Similarly, kids will learn how to behave in the real world by being in the real world.
Let’s just look at the American school bus compared to public transit buses all over the world. To get to school on the yellow school bus, there is only one bus that stops at your bus stop at one particular time in the morning and you can only get off at your school. You don’t have to consult a timetable, check that the bus you are getting on is going in the direction you want or pay for riding the bus. You do not have the option of going in a little early or getting off a stop before the school to buy a bagel and walk the rest of the way while you eat. On the way home, you do have to remember which bus is yours and where to get off but you can’t decided to go to a friend’s house at a different stop or on different bus unless you bring a note to the school office in the morning and it is approved for you to deviate from your usual bus ride. This is just one of the real-world simulation that schools are attempting to run are not preparing children for real life outside of the school building.
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