Part 1: What is socialization in general and pertaining to homeschooling?

The “S” word. It’s the one word that utterly exhausts and exasperates every homeschooling parent. Socialization has become the focal point of nearly every argument involving homeschooling, whether for or against. It’s the hot-button issue that virtually every opponent of homeschooling brings to the table as their primary point of contention: “Homeschooled kids just don’t get enough socialization.” But what exactly is socialization, and why is the term used against homeschoolers so frequently?

To understand the arguments for and against homeschooling as it relates to socialization, we need to look at and understand the definitions of the word. Because there are two definitions that can mean very different things in people’s eyes.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definitions of socialization are as follows:

  1. The process beginning during childhood by which individuals acquire the values, habits, and attitudes of a society.
  2. Social interaction with others.

Let’s look at each definition individually.

The process beginning during childhood by which individuals acquire the values, habits, and attitudes of a society.
This definition can easily be adopted and translated individually based on that person’s belief system. The key word in this definition is “society.” Depending on which side of the homeschooling fence you’re on, this can have drastically different meanings.

For example, if you’re of the belief that homeschooling is not good for children, your view of society likely includes a level of conformity. You were probably raised with the more “traditional” belief that children are grouped by age, grade level, and possibly even intelligence level in a school system that teaches all of these students the same general lessons from an instructor who’s using a state-mandated curriculum. This is your “normal,” and it’s a value and attitude of the majority of the population (your society), which makes it more acceptable in the eyes of the general public. If this is your view, you’re conforming to societal norms based on your definition of society. And that’s completely acceptable to you and all who feel the same way. Which adds up to quite a few people.

On the other side of that fence are the proponents of homeschooling who feel that this form of education is entirely acceptable and beneficial to their children. Their definition of society is simply not the same as others’. That “accepted society” is one that homeschooling parents have no desire to be a part of or associated with. This isn’t to say that homeschooling parents are irresponsible rebels and renegades with no regard to rules or laws–that’s entirely inaccurate. However…the simple fact that these parents decided to disregard the societal “norm” of funneling their children into the state’s public education system and take their kids’ education into their own hands by nature illustrates that these parents are non-conformists. Many inherently disagree with the system as it is constructed, and the act of defying or rejecting “standard” schooling in favor of homeschooling is considered to be “not socializing” based on what most others hold as societal norms; rather, the homeschoolers’ non-conformity in the broader view actually conforms to their own definition of what constitutes society, and in their eyes are conforming to it just fine.

Now, let’s examine the second definition.

Social interaction with others.
If this is the definition that “traditional” school parents are referring to when stating that homeschools lack adequate socialization, well, they simply are not correct. Sure, homeschooling doesn’t conform to the general population’s view on proper schooling, but in no way, shape, or form does this mean that homeschooled children are not partaking in enough social interaction with others.

For “traditional” education parents, their idea of socialization within this definition probably looks something like this: kids hanging out in the hallways, playing together at recess, separating into groups at lunch, participating in after-school sports and clubs with their classmates, going to parties, and so on. This is what they grew up with, what they’re used to, what they consider normal. And that is normal for millions and millions of people across the world. These kids are definitely socializing within the context of this definition.

But to say that homeschooled kids, because they aren’t socializing in this same environment, aren’t socializing enough or are isolated from others is simply false. Among the nearly 3,000,000 children homeschooling in the United States, the majority of them participate in clubs, volunteering, activities, co-ops, homeschooling groups, and other forms of socializing. They actually interact more with children outside their age range (as well as adults) as many of these activities include kids of all ages. So, making a general statement that homeschooled children do not adequately socialize is both inaccurate and unfair.

The argument on homeschooling and socialization really boils down to which definition you’re referring to as well as your overall beliefs when it comes to socializing. Based on the first definition, opponents of homeschooling could make the argument that homeschoolers (both parents and children) are not socializing because the homeschoolers’ definition of socialization is not the same as non-homeschoolers’. Because non-homeschoolers see the homeschooling families as rule-breakers or “different” for not following their own societal norms, their view is that homeschoolers do not “properly” socialize. On the flip side, homeschoolers could make the same argument, because their view of society is one of non-conformity, and their desire to homeschool is entirely normal and acceptable because of that view.

However, based on the second definition, there is overwhelming evidence that homeschoolers are socializing as much, if not more, than their non-homeschooling counterparts. There are obviously a lot of semantics involved in the argument either way. But to make a blanket statement that homeschoolers are not given the opportunity to socialize, especially as it pertains to the second definition, is irresponsible and incorrect.

In our next post, we will look at examples of homeschooling socialization to illustrate whether these children are sufficiently socialized.