The biggest push-back I receive when discussing the choice to homeschool is the issue of socialization. Socialization can take on two different meanings; one addresses an individual’s interactions with others and the second addresses how an individual is conditioned to behave in society. As I have written in previous posts, it is a common notion in our society that socialization only occurs within a “regular” classroom setting. Because of this notion, the general public seems to think that parents who homeschool are doing their children a disservice. It is believed that parents who homeschool desire to limit their children’s social interactions with others, and are not properly conditioning them to behave appropriately in society.
What I’ve realized is that those who uphold this negative outlook are making the assumption that the desire to shelter one’s children is only found within the homeschooling community; as if homeschooling and sheltering are interconnected–impossible for one to exist without the other. In reality, the desire to sequester one’s child can be found in all parents, not just those who homeschool.
The assumption is also made that socialization–in the sense of conditioning a child to behave appropriately in society–is a uniform standard for education. Socialization in that sense of the word, is not a standard, but a philosophy that even some within the public school system do not uphold. Not everyone views education as a means to integrate children into what society calls for and/or needs.
I met with a friend and former boss this past week to discuss the issue of socialization. Her name is Christina Allen, and she has been homeschooling her children for years. This is what she had to say:
“In today’s schools, recess is no longer a part of a student’s schedule, and many schools have turned lunches silent. So, then that leads us to the classroom where students‘ desks are set up in a row facing the teacher. This set up is not very conducive to socializing. If the classroom is the only environment in which a student is expected to socialize, their socialization is going to be limited.”
Christina went on to explain that socializing, in the sense of interacting with one’s peers, is not inhibited by the educational path a parent chooses, it is inhibited by the type of environment the parent provides for their child. If a child is removed from society and lacks community, then they are lacking socialization. This can occur in any educational path.
Christina also feels that parents put too much emphasis on the word “socializing,” forgetting what socializing leads to: relationships. If children are to only socialize in the classroom, then their relationships are typically going to be with children of the same age and same socioeconomic background.
“What our children actually need are relationships; relationships that extend beyond their generation and their socioeconomic background.”
We continued our discussion by addressing socialization as a means of preparing children for the workforce. The common held belief is that if children are removed from the “regular” classroom setting, they will not be as well-prepared as other students upon entering the workforce. Though Christina’s schooling may look different than the public school system, her children are still learning valuable lessons such as time management and individual responsibility. But she does not see her role as teacher to be one of conditioning her children to do good work.
“I don’t want my children to be good at their jobs because they have been conditioned to do so. I want my children to be good at their jobs because they have a passion for what they are doing.”
What I learned through my conversation with Christina is that to truly provide socialization in our children’s lives, we must stop solely looking to the schools. Socialization cannot simply just take place within the classroom. We as parents, regardless of what educational path we chose for our kids, have a role play.
For Christina, it’s all about living in community.
Christina and her family are intentional residents in a low-income neighborhood. This simply means they are making the choice to be present and engaged in their neighborhood: making an effort to know their neighbors, to know their neighbor’s kids, and even to know their pets. It also means they are working to be the neighbor someone can go to if they need a cup of sugar, an errand companion, or just an ear to listen. The way in which Christina addresses the issue of socialization is through the environment she provides for her children, and that is an environment of community.
Christina’s children aware that when their school day ends that does not mean their socializing ends with it. When their lessons are finished for the day, they go out into the community intentionally engaging with those around them
The problem with the notion that socialization solely occurs in the classroom is that parents are failing to see they too have a role to play. Parents who expect the school to take on the responsibility of socialization are doing their children a disservice as well. Our society needs to stop solely confronting the homeschool family on how they socialize their children, and start confronting all parents about this particular issues. It’s time that all parents face these questions.