Homeschooling: But What About Socialization?
You head in to work to check in promptly at 7:30. You squeak in just in time, but didn’t sit down at your desk until 7:35. Your supervisor immediately sends you to the boss for a reprimand. In the daily team meeting, you missed what your boss said and immediately get another public reprimand for leaning over and whispering a question to your co-worker about what you missed.
You rush to your next meeting, flying past your friends in order to not be late again. You get a 15 minute break once a day to catch up with friends, and then you rush off to the next meeting, focused on listening to lecture after lecture and digesting, memorizing, and testing your knowledge again and again. Although your workday is only around 7 hours on average, you typically have about an hour and a half worth of work you have to do when you get home, oftentimes not only due first thing in the morning, but you will be tested and graded to ensure you know all of it – not just in your area of expertise, but covering the bases of every role in the company.
You have about a twenty minute lunch break, but due to the size of the company, they need to control the noise – if it gets too loud, the whistle blows and you have to eat in silence. Your peers (and lunchtime) are divided by age, and everyone in the company is zoned for this specific area – no one from the county over coming to this business!
Your supervisors are maxed and struggling to meet quotas – the last thing on their minds is encouraging creative play. Not only that, the guy next to you shoots spitballs at your head, and “accidentally” trips you on a regular basis. He makes a mockery of you in the break room, and although you’ve thought about pressing charges, it wouldn’t matter because the main thing he’s hurt is just your self-esteem and overall self-worth (no big deal, right). What’s more, it’s not just him – he’s got a whole crew that now enjoys the snide comments at your expense, and you dread going to work each day. But, you’re stuck here for twelve years, so you just need to keep your head down and bide your time. At least you get a few breaks a year, and the summer off if you have good behavior!
Sadly, this is the life of many kids. Yes, it’s not the story for every traditional school setting, and we are thankfully seeing new variations and we’re challenging the old methods of school. But I want to paint a drastic picture because of this –
If you are a homeschooling/unschooling family, you have most likely heard at least once (if not every single time you say anything):
But…how do they get their socialization?
“Aren’t you afraid they’ll fall behind? That they’ll be socially inept? They won’t know how to get along in society?”
Hello, soapbox. Really, people? I had a great blog post I used to refer to when people asked this question, and unfortunately, it’s been lost in the internet abyss of dated sites – so I knew it was time I addressed this on here.
This week I’ve been out at a campsite at one of our beautiful state parks. With the beautiful fall weather, the site was packed, and kids of all ages were out (it just so happened to be fall break in the area as well). As I sat outside yesterday, my little ones ran all over, from the park to the playground to the creek nearby, catching crawdads, making friends, and occasionally making a mad dash back to the camper for some food before darting off again.
My 9-year-old was busy creating art with her 11-year old friend after spending all morning riding her bike around, the tagalong on back holding her 4-year-old sister and their 3-year old friend. My 6-year-old spent some time visiting with the retired couple next door, and had also befriended a young couple with an infant, helping them keep her occupied while they set up camp. Our friends with six daughters ranging in age from 7-19 popped in for a visit and we all sat around and caught up with each other – both adults and children contributing to a wonderful conversation.
That evening, a wild game of flashlight tag erupted with all ages getting involved, and oohs and ahhs erupted as someone turned on a fantastic light show into the treetops…which prompted a magical discussion that ranged from fairies to space exploration.
So – my quick answer to the hesitant ones who are concerned about my children’s social welfare:
And to go a bit more in depth:
- My daughters have a variety of friends based on their areas of interest, not on the age or proximity. They have pen pals across the states, and have made friends both in Costa Rica AND next door.
- When they have a question, we dive in and figure out an answer. Yes, they have quiet times where we don’t need to be disturbed – but they also have the freedom to ask “why” and we will spend the time to figure it out. And yes, giggle fits and other types of noise are allowed – I know how hard it is to stay quiet when you just have to get out some wiggles and giggles!
- Yes, we are selective on friends. When they encounter kids who are cruel, snarky, or otherwise making a negative impact on them, they start by standing up and sharing how it impacts them. And if that “friend” doesn’t care or finds joy in that, the answer is simple – they don’t play with them anymore. They have as much power to shut down toxic relationships as I do.
- We can love and respect others, and still set some clear boundaries on who we spend our time with.
- We believe in delight-led learning – so when they show an interest in something, we pursue it. We meet people who are experts in that area. They interview them, shadow them, and ask questions – it’s amazing how open people are when they see someone with genuine interest in what they know/do.
- We spend a lot of time experiencing real-life skills. We go to the grocery store, they come to work events with us, they have a part in both home chores and the errands, house repairs, and meal planning. They are learning how the banking and real estate works, and they may not know exactly what children their age have learned, but then again, I wonder if YOU would have all the answers for what you had to learn and memorize in 4th grade.
- They don’t have to know a little bit of everything – but they will know how to find it. It’s not just about socialization – there is this fear that our kids are going to miss out on something important that traditional schools are teaching – but there are more and more things becoming obsolete that we devoted a lot of time and testing on.
Many (notice I do not say all) kids in traditional school spend a lot of time on homework, little to no time in recess, and a rushed lunch. Add in extracurricular sports, music, etc., and there is a whole lot of time for studying and learning without pure social fun. Unfortunately, I’m not exactly looking at our American traditional school system as a model for healthy relationships, or even education.
Another homeschooling family had a great rebuttal to yet another jab about us “backward homeschoolers”: Open Letter To US Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off In Public Schools
Yes, I’m confident my girls are socialized. They may not have had as much exposure to bullies and performance angst, but they have had plenty of opportunities to meet and interact with others. Another reason why we say we unschool is because the majority of it happens outside of the home (“home”school just doesn’t make sense!)
So there you go. Now, we have a campfire to make, some s’mores to share, and some new friends to talk to.
No matter how you were schooled as a kid, I’d love to hear your comments on how you “socialized” as a child!