Part 2: Socialization Isn’t an Issue for Homeschooled Children
In our last post, we discussed what socialization actually means and how it applies to homeschooling. If you have experience with homeschooling, you probably cringe at the mere mention of the word “socialization.”
If you’re not familiar with the world of homeschooling, here’s why the “S” word causes such a reaction: because it’s probably the argument that non-homeschoolers turn to most when debating the topic. “Kids don’t get enough socialization.” “They’re too isolated.” “ People who homeschool are weird.” “These children won’t have any people skills when they need to enter the real world.”
The thing is…none of those statements are true. In fact, one could argue that the opposite is, in fact, true. That homeschooled children are actually quite socialized, not isolated at all, and are more equipped to handle the “real world” once they’re finished school. Let’s look at why these statements are accurate.
Myth: Homeschooled kids don’t get enough socialization.
This is an easy argument for a non-homeschooler to make. Why? Because socialization, as it pertains to traditional school, can be defined in any of the following ways:
- Number of friends
- Chats on the bus, at the lunch table, on the playground, or in the school hallways
- After-school activities and clubs
- School sports
- Outside-of-school get-togethers/parties with friends
- Familiarity with pop culture and trends
Understandable…but that’s only because this is the only form of socialization that non-homeschoolers know. In reality, homeschoolers are actually participating in many of the same types of socialization, just in a different setting.
For example, local homeschool groups and co-ops offer kids the opportunity to make quite a few friends. Only, instead of talking on the bus or in the halls, homeschooled kids can do so during their frequent get-togethers–without all the surrounding noise. This provides children with the chance to form friendships, relationships, and bonds. And while traditional students tend to socialize with their specific age group, homeschool groups and co-ops consist of students of all ages, which gives every child the chance to learn more about different age groups and how to socialize with older or younger people. In fact, one study concluded that homeschool students often maintain higher-quality friendships as well as better relationships with their parents and other adults.
Homeschoolers also have an abundance of extracurricular activities in which they can partake. Local libraries generally offer all sorts of clubs and activities that any student is welcome to join. Plus, many homeschool groups and co-ops participate in frequent field trips–exponentially more than public schools can offer. Not to mention, many school districts now offer homeschooled students the opportunity to participate in public school athletics (in some states) and extracurricular activities. And there are established homeschool or independent sports leagues and activities just about everywhere.
Myth: Homeschoolers are isolated.
Fact: A home is not a jail cell. In fact, you can make a strong argument that the opposite is true…that homeschoolers have more freedom than traditional school students. While it’s true that lessons and classes may be solitary or in small groups, one of the beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers. So, while there may be two hours of individual work or lessons in a given day, the next three hours might be spent with a co-op group or at a local theatre production or at a farm. That sure doesn’t sound like isolation.
Sure, public and private school students are surrounded by larger groups of peers. But ask yourself…how many of those kids are actually friends? Are kids really talking much anyway during class? More to think about: traditional school kids must be in a certain class for a prescribed number of minutes each day, they must learn certain specific topics and subjects, they must take standardized tests, they may get a brief period of recess and/or physical activity. Compare these last two paragraphs and decide for yourself who’s more isolated.
Myth: Homeschoolers are “odd” or have emotional problems.
Not according to studies of homeschooled children. In fact, according to these findings, homeschool students tend to have higher self-esteem and engage in fewer antisocial and self-destructive behaviors than a matched group of traditionally schooled students. One study of adults who were homeschooled as children showed that they were more likely to be involved in civic affairs and less likely to be convicted of a crime than the rest of the population. Other studies have shown that homeschooled children develop more leadership skills. One oft-referenced study found that “homeschooled children’s social skills scores were consistently higher than those of public school students” in the areas of cooperation, assertiveness, empathy, and self-control.
A study by Richard G. Medlin determined that homeschool students are generally happy, optimistic, and satisfied with their lives; possess moral reasoning that’s at least as advanced as other children; exhibit less emotional turmoil and problem behaviors; and are more likely to act unselfishly than their peers.
Of course, social skills and personality traits are not black and white and are difficult to measure through tests and surveys. Experts agree that more (and different) types of research are needed, but based on the evidence that exists today, both scientific and real-life, homeschooled students are normal, well-behaved, stable kids.
Myth: Homeschooled kids aren’t prepared for the real world, post-graduation.
Public school kids can take a 45-minute home economics class a few times a week. Homeschool kids can learn how to cook, bake, balance a budget, pay bills, clean, shop wisely, and do laundry as much as they want–even as part of their lessons. Homeschool kids can volunteer at nursing homes or food banks or other charitable organizations as part of their school day. And during these experiences, children learn how to communicate with adults (who aren’t their parents or relatives), see how these operations are organized and run, and gain a greater understanding and respect for what the real world actually looks like.
Homeschoolers learn how to work independently, as some of their workload is self-driven rather than instructed. But they also learn how to work with others thanks to co-ops and homeschool groups. All of these experiences, which occur on a far more frequent basis than a traditional student might participate, give homeschooled students a strong sense of social responsibility as well as the valuable life skills they need when they’re ready to take the next step into college (where they are shown to be socially involved and open to new experiences), employment, or elsewhere.
It’s easy for those outside the homeschooling community to look at these students as “different” or “unprepared” or “socially awkward.” But much of that sentiment results from simply not having any real knowledge of what homeschoolers actually do on a daily basis. Kids are not shackled to a desk by themselves in a basement. They’re learning in their living rooms, at museums, at libraries, and at hospitals with fellow students. They’re experiencing real-life situations and conversing with professionals, older students, and other adults. They play Little League and Fortnite, they text friends, and they join clubs.
Homeschoolers simply learn a different way. But at the end of the day, they’re regular kids like most others, and they socialize as much as, if not more than, kids in traditional schools. Those who argue that fact just don’t know it