Rachel Winder from Scottsdale, Arizona writes:
I liked your article and I have been thinking about home-schooling, but I keep wondering how your kids can ever learn to get along with people if they are always so sheltered. (My mother-in-law keeps asking me that, too.)
Hope you can answer this for me.
The socialization question is one of the most oft-asked questions about homeschooling. We asked it and worried about it ourselves before we began teaching our kids at home. We certainly wouldn ?t want to have our children turn into weird freaks who couldn ?t relate to anyone. Once we started homeschooling, we found that learning socialization skills was basically a non-issue it hasn ?t been a problem at all.
For simplification in this answer, I am going to refer to learning to get along with people ? as socialization skills, since that ?s generally what people mean when they talk about this issue. This means that we want our kids to learn to act in a socially acceptable ? way around others.
As a Mormon momma, there are many things I want my children to know as far as socialization skills go. And truthfully, many of them may not even be socially accepted in a given situation, but they will always be gospel accepted.
Here ?s a short list of some of the things I want my children to learn:
- How to make new friends
- How to keep friends
- The ability to relate to others different from themselves
- How to deal with bullies
- To feel sympathetic towards others
- How to solve conflicts
- How to deal with disappointments if things don ?t go their way
- To obey an appropriate authority figure
- How to act in a group setting
- How to act in a one-on-one setting
- Polite manners
- How to take responsibility for themselves
- To respect their elders
- How to make their own decisions without being influenced by what others want them to do
- To serve others
- How to work cooperatively with others
If my children learned how to do all of these, wouldn ?t they be considered socially acceptable?
One prevailing myth is the idea that the schools are responsible for teaching children how to get along with people. Certainly schools may teach children some of the above skills such as how to obey an authority figure and how to sit quietly and wait for your turn.
Parents, not schools, should be in charge of teaching their children proper socialization skills. I say this whether you send your kids to private or public school or if you homeschool them. It is our responsibility as parents to make sure our children learn our family values in how they relate to others, not the responsibility of the government, neighbors, friends and so on.
Now I want to talk a minute about homeschoolers being sheltered. Exactly what are homeschoolers sheltered ? from? Since I don ?t presume to know exactly what people mean when they say that homeschoolers are sheltered, I ?m going to assume that it means that homeschoolers don ?t usually encounter these things every day unless they go out of their way to find them: large groups of kids their same age, kids of different races, bullies (unless, of course, they have siblings that pick on them!), swearing, authority figures, pop music and culture, immorality, etc. Do our children need all of these things to learn socialization skills in the real ? world? I would think that most parents are trying to raise their children so they can succeed in the real world, or the world of adults. In the real ? world, adults can usually choose their environments and thus avoid bad or immoral behaviors or situations if they so choose to.
Might our children be shocked when they first encounter some of the bad behaviors in this world? Maybe, but what ?s wrong with being naive? If you teach good values they will know what is right and wrong and how to stand up for themselves. If you teach your children to love one another, they will be able to get along with other people.
Most homeschoolers do not sit at home all day and avoid encounters with other people. Our lives are filled with church, scouts, activity days, neighborhood kids, co-op groups, park days, swim lessons, karate, and so on. Truthfully I don ?t even know why we call it homeschooling. There are times when it feels like we are never home!
The person with the best socialization skills I ever had the opportunity to know was a 15-year-old boy who was homeschooled. I knew him only slightly because I knew his mother. Whenever I called their house and he answered, I was always floored that I was talking to a 15-year-old boy. He was so amiable talking on the phone to me (a young mom) that I was seriously impressed. I am sure he learned these skills from his parents, who were also very sociable. Of course I have also known some very friendly kids who were schooled in the public school system. On the flip side, the most introverted person I have ever met was a girl I knew in college who was not homeschooled. She was very uncomfortable talking to anyone and every sentence started with ummm ? ? Granted, I have also met some very socially awkward homeschoolers as well.
The truth is that even though most people believe that your children must be in a school with other children to learn how to be socialized, most children are generally only as socialized ? as their parents are regardless of their method of schooling.
Which brings me back to my original point which is that children can learn to get along with others whether or not they are homeschooled or privately/publicly schooled. It is the parent ?s responsibility to teach their children proper socialization skills.