What About Socialization?

This is probably the question that most parents ask and gets in the way of choosing to homeschool.The most frequent question asked of homeschoolers is, "What about socialization?"

To pull your child out of school means to pull them out of a learning environment surrounded by many other children of the same age and to bring them home to learn in an isolated environment. If you have several children at home, it will not be isolated, but still it will be apart from the school and other children outside of the family, and therefore considered "isolated". The environment at school may be good in your school, but it may not be. What is your child learning socially from the children around him or her and from the curriculum? That is the key question that needs to be answered.

What "Socialization" means in the school environment

I have never been concerned about my son's socialization since we have been homeschooling.  But I definitely was concerned with socialization when my son was in public school!  One year (at age 9 when he was still in public school), my son made the decision to imitate the kids around him so he would “fit in”.  And if anyone has experienced the kids at our school, you’d be horrified!  So, yes, I was very concerned about his socialization in public school.  After the first year of not being in public school, I’m happy to report that my son’s behavior has changed back RADICALLY for the better!

For me, my son was learning rude and disrespectful behavior while in school. It was okay to talk back to adults and be disrespectful to others. I have found that today talking back is defined differently, so what I find disrespectful is accepted today. I feel there are very few boundaries about how to treat others and their things with respect. There are no consequences for this behavior, so the modeling is that it's okay to behave this way because you won't get into trouble. You only get into trouble for "big" things, like bringing a weapon to school, and sometimes for fighting.

My son also had to learn to fight to defend himself. He had to put up with ridicule, whether it was for how he dressed or because he brought a book to school to read when he finished an assignment ahead of others in his class. He learned a new "vocabulary" and learned about drugs (through peers and the curriculum). He also learned about racism through the curriculum (multiculturalism: "why are people with dark skin bad?" -- he was in third grade), which transferred over to later grades with all the children.

He learned to be afraid of ALL people he didn't know ("stranger danger"), and to be afraid to do anything for fear of being hurt (safety). He used to climb trees, but by the end of kindergarten wouldn't be caught near
them for fear of being hurt.

He also was trained that only people his age were worth being his friends, and to stick together with only his age group. He also learned about time limits, that if he wanted to pursue something further, he couldn't. This also goes along with it's not "cool" to want to learn further about something. Learning about how to dress "cool" was another thing he learned, and our trips to go clothes shopping became more complicated when looking for clothes to buy for him.

Along with learning how to dress, he also learned about all the latest gadgets that kids had, so therefore he had to have too. PSP? He had to have one. iPod? He had to have one. Star Wars or Disney in? Everything had to be that. The social commercialism in schools today is overwhelming. The school also advertised milk in the cafeteria (although no advertising was permitted!), so he would say he had to drink milk to be healthy and everyone drank it. My son was allergic to milk. It was hard to get the concept across to him that he couldn't drink it when everyone else did, and of course, the school would not accommodate his allergy. He also learned about junk food and soda pop from the other kids who would bring it to school (although our school would confiscate the soda pop but not the other junk food). He would see this and demand these items of food.

So is the school environment good for your child? If the above is okay with you, then maybe you don't mind the social environment your child is in.

Teaching the real value of being a friend and having friends

For me, I want to be in control of what values and behavior my child will learn. I do not want the values taught in school to be transferred to my son. Will he have friends? Absolutely! The friends he has are neighbors and kids on his hockey team and in his chess club. And they are not all his own age, either. He has friends of many different ages. I think friends of only one age are not healthy; the world is not segregated by age, so to learn to be friends of different ages I feel is very important.

He is very selective about who to call "friend", too. Not just "anyone" will he accept as a friend. He has set criteria for someone to be his friend, unlike what the school was trying to teach him. In school, teachers were worried that he wasn't making friends with any of his classmates. When I looked around at the children in the class, not only could I understand why he wasn't "friends" with any of them, but was grateful he did NOT consider any of them friends! The actual friends he had at school were the ones that he already was friends with from the different activities he participated in. They had something in common and they all shared the same values.

So my question was, does a child HAVE to be friends with someone in class even though they don't share any common interests or values? According to the school, yes; children have to be friends with everyone. To be a friend, though, the friends have to share common interests and values. To be a friend, my son would have to give up his values and interests to be a friend and to "fit in" with the general population.

I did not want him to be like the rest of the kids. I did not like what values they had.

If this is okay, then "socializing" your kids in school should be fine. For me, it wasn't. I wanted my son to be polite and respectful. I wanted him to have his own values, to make up his own mind about what he liked and didn't like, not to be strongly persuaded by the children around him or to face the consequence of being rejected socially. I wanted him to be his own person.

"Yes, but..."

"Yes, but," you may ask. "Doesn't socializing in school teach my child to deal with people he doesn't like?" My answer to this is "yes and no". Yes, a child needs to learn to deal with all kinds of people. When they are an adult they will have to deal with all kinds of people they may not like or who give them a hard time. BUT -- and it's a big "but" -- while they are learning about life while a child, this is the time to give them a strong foundation in all areas of life to be able to deal with anything that may come their way. To be bombarded with people and situations that are against his/her values and beliefs and that do not agree with them is unfair in my opinion, and interferes with learning about other things they should or want to know. Now and then to run across someone who gives them a hard time is one thing and can be a learning experience on a situational basis, but to be under pressure day in and day out is quite another. Peer pressure, even at very early ages, is extremely strong. To me, that is the biggest obstacle children have in school.

To me, childhood should be a fun and explorative age. Children do not get this in a school setting. Instead, they are forced to conform, whether by school rules or by social pressure. They are supposed to fit the mold, blend in, not rock the boat. A child who does not conform will be ostracized by other children, and sometimes even by the adults in the school.

So “socialization” really depends upon HOW you want your child to be socialized!

Also, the schools will tell the kids that they’re not there to “socialize”.  Hmmm?

Questions to ponder

What’s the difference between “socialization” and “peer pressure”?

If age-segregated social organization is so great, why don’t we exercise it in the adult world?  For example, if you are not turning 40 before August of ’08, I don’t want to be your friend anymore.

How can we teach children that race segregation is wrong in a setting where they are segregated by age?

What is “normal” about an institutional environment where socialization is done in 10-minute increments and regulated by the ringing of a bell?

Why would we want our children to be “socialized”?  We are not socialists.