A Different Way to Look At Socialization in Homeschooling
“What about socialization?”
She looks at me, wonderment in her eye, unsure of what I’m going to say. Unsure of what she’s asking.
She really wants to know, is curious, yet concerned for my kids. I stop for a second and gather my thoughts, although I’ve answered this question more times than I care to admit.
I study her, trying to discern if it’s judgement or support that I see, I wonder when this question started being relevant. I’ve heard it so many times in the past 20 years, but did the homeschoolers before that hear it?
In the 1980’s, as they were going to jail to fight for my freedom to homeschool, were their neighbors and friends asking this question?
Has society always cared about children’s socialization, as deeply as they care about socialization in homeschooling?
I am not angry at my friend for caring, like so many others, this homeschooling lifestyle is foreign and they just want to understand, usually. So I take a deep breath and dive in, hoping she will truly understand.
What is socialization?
Why is this so important and why do we care so much about it as a society?
This is the number one question that homeschoolers get. But why?
According to Boundless Sociology, socialization is defined as
the process of transferring norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to future group members,
People are concerned that we are raising kids who won’t have the proper skills to become part of the “group” or culture, thus setting them up to be difficult adults in our society.
I understand the concerns.
In fact, my special needs daughter severely lacks in social skills due to her special needs, and life is very difficult for her. So I really do understand on a deep and personal level.
There are two kinds of socialization recognized by childhood experts, primary and secondary socialization
Primary socialization occurs in the first few years of life and is defined as follows:
Primary socialization in sociology is the acceptance and learning of a set of norms and values established through the process of socialization.
Secondary socialization occurs throughout life and is defined as follows:
Secondary socialization refers to the process of learning what is the appropriate behavior as a member of a smaller group within the larger society.
I’m not going to get too technical for the purposes of this post (and I’m not a sociologist), but it is important to note that socialization for children is important and I am not minimizing that. However, there is so much that goes into this when parenting, that just plopping them around a bunch of other kids, isn’t going to do it.
It is imperative that children learn proper social skills. They need to be able to take turns, but more than that, they need to have values, morals, and behaviors that help them function in our society. Our civilization relies on people having these proper social skills.
It is the primary duty of the adults in a society to teach these to their children. They must assimilate as they grow into the culture for the entire society’s safety, for their own happiness and for the future of our community.
If we do unleash a bunch of mass murderers, we wouldn’t survive.
It really is the foundation of our world.
This, is the innate driving factor that leads people to ask homeschoolers the dreaded socialization question.
So let’s learn about this topic in relation to homeschooling. It is important to figure this out.
Socialization is not about being around other kids
When a person asks about socialization in homeschooling, they aren’t asking about these deep concepts, they are mostly wondering if their child is going to be able to function in the societal norms of the culture and life in general.
There is a strange fear out there that homeschooled kids are not going to be able to talk to others or will otherwise be awkward, fearful or maybe even criminals.
But I think that they way we expect socialization to be taught is misguided. Children do not teach other children social skills.
That comes from adults only.
Teaching a child manners, respect for authority, how to negotiate, obedience, all of these take time and effort. They don’t happen just because they are with other children.
Any parent knows that children do not magically come out of the box knowing how to have good social skills.
They have to be taught, nurtured, through thousands of interactions over the course of a childhood. Children need to be taught and taught and taught these important concepts.
Parenting is hard work, never ending, and teaching a child these valuable social skills does not happen just because they are with other kids.
You could argue that a child may get more practice using them throughout the day at school. However, they may just get more practice at ignoring what they’ve been taught, too, creating a habit of not using their social skills, since mom isn’t around reminding them.
Please understand that parents, through due diligence in parenting, are where children learn these valuable socialization concepts.
School is not the place for deep socialization.
This is a misconception regarding socialization in homeschooling.
I’m pretty sure that I’ve never heard a child say to another child, “Hey, you really should say please,” or “Don’t forget to do what the teacher says because it’s the right thing to do.”
I have heard them yell at each other for not taking turns and maybe even reminding them to cover their mouths when they sneeze, but that would be about it. Children are much more tolerant of theses things than adults, and rightly so.
They are busy with the wonderment of childhood, they don’t have space to worry about social constructs. That really is up to the adults in their lives to teach them.
What about the teachers teaching socialization?
Yes, teachers do work hard and they do remind their students to use good social skills, however it’s near impossible to teach every single child, every single time with so much on their plates and so many students.
And as much as teachers care about their students, they don’t love them the way parents do, and that’s OK. Typically, if a teacher is struggling with a student who has no social skills or doesn’t use them, she will call the parents, rightly so, and put that responsibility onto them to fix.
We all innately know that this happens in the home, not school.
So why is this expectation different with homeschoolers?
Parents should be teaching their children social skills. It is our duty.
Children don’t usually learn social skills from other children or enough from teachers in this area of life.
In fact, primary socialization (as defined above), which lay the foundation for the ability to learn other social skills later, is completely up to the parents, as that occurs in infancy, before school is even on the radar.
And now that I’m raising developmentally traumatized children, I can say without a doubt, that not having that foundation does, in fact, impede their ability to learn other social skills later on. But that’s a different topic for a different day.
My point is that parents are the primary agents of socialization, not other children.
Children do not know as much as adults
There is no child who knows as much as an adult about socialization.
Having said that, most children are at similar levels developmentally, especially in school, where they are segregated by age.
They are all learning these skills, how to get along, how to be nice, how to share.
So why would I rather have my child learn from other children who know as much as they do, instead of from loving parents who know exceedingly more?
Parents are invested in their children and throughout a homeschooling day, children are reminded and taught social skills maybe more than any other topic.
From fighting with siblings, to taking turns, to table manners, this is the constant mantra of the homeschooling mom. It’s never ending and you teach it to your child daily.
There is research to back this up, as this article states,
“Studies show that homeschooled students often outperform traditional students in achievement and social skills…”
“But…the most concrete answer to the question of whether or not homeschooled students will suffer academically or socially is, “The research says ‘No.’””
As long as we keep children separated from adults, they will only learn as much as they are being taught at home how to socialize.
In a homeschooling family, children are with adults all day, watching, learning.
There is also a hidden expectation among most homeschooling families that children take some responsibility for things they want, including their education.
A homeschooling mom has so much more to do than just educate their children. There is also laundry to do and dinner to cook. So homeschooled children must be able to think for themselves, fix problems and get along with their siblings.
At school, children are working inside of a very structured system. They are told where to walk, how to walk, how to talk, what to learn, what books they can read, what math they have to do. There isn’t a lot of room for children to think outside the box or be responsible for their own selves. I know this to be true, because my special needs daughter is in public school and has been most of her childhood. I am aware of current public school practices and how they are managing their students.
And I’m not bashing schools.
I am not.
I deeply respect teachers and the hard work they do.
But a teacher is no substitute for a loving home.
I think we can all agree on that.
Unique opportunities for Socialization in homeschooling
Being homeschooled offers unique opportunities for socialization that public schooled children may not get.
Being around adults all the time is actually quite good for children.
They learn how a person is supposed to act, instead of watching their peers, who don’t know. Like I stated earlier, children do not know more than other children how to behave. So your child is not going to learn from other children their social skills.
But being around other adults all day, modeling it, outright teaching it, will go a long way towards accomplishing this.
Also, being around siblings all the time naturally lends itself to learning opportunities to share, negotiate and the like.
I heard a long time ago, a little saying that goes, “If a child can learn to get along with their siblings, they can get along with anyone.” A truer statement has not been said!
The sibling relationship is one of the most difficult for our children to manage and if they can do that successfully, which most homeschoolers get a lot of practice at, then they will succeed in other relationships, too.
Going to the store, seeing elderly relatives, going to homeschool coops, also teaches the child what is expected and gives them opportunities to practice their socialization with others.
In a typical homeschooling household, there are a lot of errands, activities and getting out of the house that help children practice what they are learning. Most homeschoolers I know do not spend much time at home. They usually get school done in the morning and then spend their afternoons at coops, parks, museums, the library and other such places and experiences.
It may not seem like it at first glance, but there are a lot of opportunities for socialization in homeschooling.
Tips for teaching socialization to your child
1. Teach your child basic manners such as please and thank you, taking turns and sharing.
2. Have your child do chores. Create a chore system and require obedience and quality work. This will also help them work through frustrations and negative behaviors that will arise form being pushed in this manner. It’s good for them to have the safe space of home to manage these big feelings.
3. Require your children to respect their siblings. It’s easy to be mean to siblings. Have the expectation that siblings will be respected, talked to nicely, not yelled at, toys shared, etc. It will be natural for your child to be the worst to their siblings, so require them to fight through that temptation and be the best.
4. Teach your child to negotiate for what they want. At about 6 or 7 yrs of age, once I have seen a pattern of obedience develop in my child, I start teaching them the art of negotiation.
This teaches them that they have a voice, that their opinions matter, as well as leadership qualities and getting what you want through respect, not force.
I role play with them when normal situations arise, such as they want more TV time at bedtime. I will tell them what I want them to say and how to say it. I require them to show obedience first, by saying “Yes mommy,” and then they can go into the negotiating. Here’s how it will sound:
“Child’s name, it’s time to turn off the TV and go to bed.”
“Yes, mommy. Can I have 5 more minutes, please?”
I will always always say yes to this if at all possible. I want to reinforce their respect, their desire to obey and to show them that they have a higher chance of getting what they want this way, than through temper tantrums and arguing.
Is this always perfect? No.
Do my kids whine, yell and fuss? Yes, all the time.
But as they grow older, and have this tool in their back pocket, they do use it more often and become very lovely tweens and teenagers who are nice to be around.
A 7 year old who throws fits all the time, will be a 17 year old throwing fits all the time, and you do not want to deal with that! So teach this this skill and it will go a long way towards their overall socialization.
For new homeschoolers...
If you are a new homeschooler, you may not have had this questions asked of you yet.
But you will.
Like I mentioned above, it’s the number one question asked of homeschoolers by friends and family.
So how do you deal with this question?
If I had it to do over again, I would find data and research that backs up the idea that homeschoolers are doing just fine.
I mentioned a couple of them here. HSLDA is always a great resource, as well. I would also provide a few anecdotal examples, too.
But research and data usually is enough to satisfy this question. Also, with the pandemic and homeschooling becoming more mainstream in general, this may not be as much of a concern anymore.
Hopefully, now that homeschooling has been around for 40 years, we are able to see that homeschoolers are doing great, socializing with other just fine and being productive members of society.
Thank you for being here!
I hope you found this helpful and informational. While this question is very common, it’s not always easy to answer.
I hope this post gave you some ideas and tools to use.
If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know!
4 thoughts on “A Different Way to Look At Socialization in Homeschooling”
Great read!! Thanks for sharing such a great blog, blog like these will surely help each and every homeschoolers in homeschooling their children in best way.
You’re welcome! Thank you for being here!
This is simply awesome! Definitely going to share this post with the other 7 moms in our homeschool co-op. Thank you so much
I’m so glad this was helpful! Thank you for sharing! Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help you!