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What About Socialization? The Perpetual (and Inane) Homeschooling Question

What About Homeschool Socialization?I have a friend I have known since elementary school. Great guy. Smart, successful, interesting. Also one of the oddest ducks you’ll ever meet. Back then and now.

He is married with children. His wife and kids are also odd, in just about the same ways and same ratio as my friend. He and his wife and all their children (who are now adults) attended public school.

No one ever, ever says,

Wow. Why did you send them to public school? Weren’t you worried about socialization?

Because — and here’s the kicker — no one ever blames public school for turning out weird kids. They blame the parents.

Turn now to homeschooled kids. Anything that isn’t profoundly “normal” (as if this is the single most important “character trait” we are going for) is immediately linked to the fact that the child isn’t institutionalized for 180 days per year for 13 years straight. (As if that’s the most compelling case for turning out healthy, functioning adults.) They don’t notice that a single homeschool family might have a mix of socially adept kids and shy kids (like “normal” families). They don’t notice notice that homeschooled kids are odd in the same ways their parents are odd (like “normal” families). They don’t notice that there is a reason I have repeatedly held parties with up to 70 homeschooled teens in my home (something I’d never do with “normal” teens), and the reason is that they are generally remarkably civil and loads of fun.

As I’ve said before, socialization is an excruciatingly dumb reason to send kids to public school. There might be some good reasons — although I see less evidence of this every year — but this one is downright stupid and shows strong symptoms of denying the obvious.

In my own family of six homeschooled kids, they lie all across the “socialization” spectrum between overtly extroverted to extremely shy (and in between). Any oddities you might see can generally be traced either to me, to Sam, or to — wait for it — lousy experiences they’ve had with public schooled kids. (You can just read that as bullying.) Same applies to pretty much every homeschooling family I’ve ever met. (And I’ve met hundreds and hundreds.)

Now that we’ve cleared up all that mythical nonsense, I’ll try to answer those of you still left with a sincere question about socialization with my own question:

What do you mean by socialization? And how does public school optimally provide it?

P.S. In case you’re wondering. No, that is not one of my kids in the photo. And he’s not a homeschooler.

{ 34 comments… add one }
  • BarNone August 12, 2013, 2:43 am

    I’ve always thought home schoolers are weird but I don’t know any.

  • Paula August 12, 2013, 3:44 am

    Kids who go to public school ride get to ride the bus to socialize which provides an opportunity to get to know other kids who live in their area. It also lets younger and older kids mix. I talked to kids and got to know kids from the bus that I otherwise would have had no contact opportunity. Kids socialize before and after class. They socialize in class when they do group projects. They socialize and gym and inthe cafeteria. School isn’t just about learning, it’s about learning to get along with those that are different from you and learning that not everyone lives like you or even thinks like you.

    The three kids down the street from me are perfect examples of home school kids who don’t get out enough. When I’m home and in the yard, these kids can’t wait to visit because they are lonely. I wish their mom would make more of an effort to get them into the many home school groups that are in our area. We even have home school sports teams.

    I’m a 23 year veteran teacher and think public schools are a good place for kids but I understand why some parents don’t want to send their kids there and I support that. The way I see it, it makes my classes smaller, and thus I can give the kids that I do get to teach even more attention.
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  • Jennifer August 12, 2013, 5:26 am

    I was bullied on the bus. Those are some of my worse memories of school. Having your shoes removed and tossed around the bus as an 8 year old is horrible. Being ridiculed and teased about my virginity as I got older was equally humiliating.

    My children are blessed to attend a homeschool family camp once a year. I used to worry about socializing them but after a week at camp I worried no more. The reason. My kids spent the week hanging out with kids of all ages and different backgrounds and talking and meeting more people than I did. It was amazing to see. During the year we do activities locally with other people but at camp it was all strangers and they did just fine.

  • Amber August 12, 2013, 9:12 am

    Props to the mommas who are patient enough to do home school! I am not one of those, but I definitely am not just putting my kid in school for socialization. I am just not good at teaching. And I definitely don’t condone anyone who chooses to home school. I think those moms are amazing! I can totally see these kids being more well behaved as well. Great post!
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  • Pandora August 12, 2013, 9:23 am

    I don’t homeschool, but I have close friends who do. I will tell you what you will see in these comments. Parents (or teachers!) who will tell you they know someone who is homeschooled who has social problems or has no friends. I hear this over and over.

    More important is that I hear this over and over about my friends’ kids. “Oh, those kids never get out. They are so lonely. They need friends. bleh bleh bleh.”

    But I actually ***know*** the kids they are talking about. They are bright and very articulate. They can talk to ***anyone*** of any age. They are confident. And guess why they ***sometimes*** get teased? Because they sound more like adults, they aren’t snotty, and they don’t succumb to peer pressure. They can’t be as easily influenced and it drives the public schooled ***leaders*** (the kids everyone else follows around like a dog) crazy. So they try to bully them into compliance and call them names.

    Almost every time I hear this stuff, it’s from people who are vaguely familiar with a situation but don’t really know what they are talking about.

  • Tamsyn August 12, 2013, 9:37 am

    I think when people say “What about socialization?” what they really mean is “What about the public school culture?” They just don’t realize it. Public schoolers have a different culture than homeschoolers. Indeed, if they don’t go to public school, they won’t be a part of that culture. We can easily recognize cultural differences of say, Asian families, and we identify the differences not as weird, but as cultural. Sending your kids to public school will give your family the PS culture, from the school bus, to the schedule, to the parent teacher conferences. It’s a culture. Homeshooling has it’s own culture, with the homeschool conventions, the methodology vocabulary, the homeschool co-ops, and the school-on-the-couch-in-your-PJ’s approach.
    It’s not about socialization. It’s about culture. The more we clarify this, the better the two camps will learn to understand each other.

  • ToriAnn August 12, 2013, 11:44 am

    I think you’re spot on!

    When I was first considering homeschooling, I was surprised to learn that one of the most delightful, brightest, most socially adept families at church (6 girls), homeschooled. They shook my perceptions of what a homeschooling family could look like. I asked the mom about it, and she said:

    “If a kid is weird, look at their parents. If the parents are weird, the kids will be weird. If the parents are normal, the kids will be normal. School has nothing to do with it. Weird kids are at school too–but they the ones getting teased and bullied. At home, at least, they can grow up safe–even if they are socially awkward.”

    It made me realize it wasn’t about public versus homeschool. It was about family culture and genetics.

    Now that I homeschool, I consider “healthy socialization” as part of the curriculum–just like English, Math, or Science. Something I need to be aware of and help them develop by giving them rich, healthy, positive socialization experiences. It’s no different than planning rich, positive, enriching core subject experiences.

  • Kathleen August 12, 2013, 12:39 pm

    I homeschooled my kids for quite a few years, until the oldest went into high school. I did it out of necessity, to keep their education fluid as we moved around a lot. They didn’t miss anything good by not being socialized in the public schools because they had friends from neighborhoods where we lived and churches we attended. I’m still not sure if sending them to public school was a good plan, but they did alright there too. They are all intelligent, well spoken adults. They are good people.
    If socialization is the only reason you send your kids to public school, I’m not sure that is a good enough reason. There are things in the public schools that are just not good for the kids. Also, with cuts to education being what they are, the kids who go to school are missing key things that kids in other countries get daily. This is putting our kids further and further behind in America.

  • Sarah August 12, 2013, 7:18 pm

    I have two (full time, live in) step children, and two biological children with my husband. The things my “socialized” public schooled stepchildren have been coming home with from kindergarten on is the reason I choose to HS my youngest two. Don’t get me wrong, they are GREAT kids, but it continues to be shocking what they overhear, parrot unwittingly, or pull me aside to ask about; and seventh grade last year was the worst yet. I’m dreading high school for my kids.
    I would pull my oldest kids out in a heartbeat but my husband isn’t convinced, even after the bullying my son has been through. You hear all the time how middle school is about fitting in, even at significant risk to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

    We tell our kids we are proud of them and to be true to themselves then send them off to learn to better conform to their peers, because that’s what SOCIALIZATION is when you are a teen. And how many public school parents have to correct bad behaviors learned in school? No, that skirt is too short, no, you can’t use those words, no you can’t go to that party; even if everyone else IS doing/being/saying/trying/using that! If socialization is so great, why do these social behaviors have parents scramble to get their kids to unlearn them??
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  • Alison Moore Smith August 12, 2013, 6:58 pm

    BarNone, interesting, eh?

    Paula, thanks for your thoughts.

    I think it’s instructive that you point to riding the bus as a socialization mechanism of school. My very first incident of serious school bullying was when a boy threw a rock the size of my forehead at my forehead while waiting at the bus stop. (He hit his intended target.)

    The bus ride — even at five years old, in 1969, with dear Mr. Woody Jensen as the driver — was anything but a positive socialization experience. I did what I could to hide in the bushes until seconds before the bus pulled up and then to sit close to the driver and away from the boy I now call Bob. But it didn’t do much good. It was a daily miserable ritual until a new school was built and, thank heavens, I could walk to school and avoid school bus socialization.

    In a completely different state, over two decades later, the bus ride was where my oldest daughter endured the never-ending seat-saved-for-no-one and was routinely mocked for being smart and doing well in school.

    We knew kids who were beaten up, threatened, mercilessly tormented, had lunches and money and backpacks stolen and stomped on, food thrown on them, personal belongings tossed out windows, condoms thrown at them, and on and on.

    Of course, that’s nothing compared to what happens all over thecountry.

    Suffice it to say that I don’t think a bus loaded with kids is the optimal place for civility or appropriate socialization.

    That said, I’d really like to know how you address the questions in the OP. It seems that you mean talking or associating. If so, then, sure, they do “associate” in those venues. But it is optimal or even generally positive?

    Again, in general, I don’t think kids learn civility effectively by being in large unsupervised groups. Before and after school, is when cliques and gangs take charge. Gym, holy cow. The locker room is the worst. It’s where developed girls get ridiculed, followed, and taunted (I was one). It’s where the pre-growth-spurt boys have their “packages” exposed, slapped, and mocked. Not to mention the regular hazing that goes on in those very special rooms. (Really? A mix of 40+ junior high/high school kids being forced to get naked and shower together with, maybe, another student TA taking roll?) Seriously the worst moments of junior high were in the locker room.

    And here’s the rub. I have never, ever, EVER had the need to use my painfully acquired public-showering-with-a-hand-towel skills in adult life. Ever.

    All in all, I do not think school socialization teaches kids to “get along with those that [sic] are different from you.” Honestly, I don’t. Often it teaches just the opposite. How to gang up on those who are different and torment them, how to isolate those who are different and target them, how to find those like you and stay away from others. It’s so common it’s iconic.

    Perhaps more to the point, I think there are far better ways to teach children to appropriately get along with others, to enjoy a variety of people, and learn social skills.
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  • Alison Moore Smith August 12, 2013, 11:21 pm

    One Facebook comment on a link to this post was too good not to pass on. Christie Kelson Bigham said:

    Bluntly, learning social skills is not the same as socializing. If I want my kids to learn social skills, I will put then with people who have some. (Not junior high kids…..)

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  • Rachel August 13, 2013, 6:20 am

    We homeschool, and every well-child Dr. visit goes like this:
    Dr. “how do you like your school?”
    1 of my 3 children “Well my school is at home. I’m homeschooled, so good.”
    Dr. “Ahh…does Johnny have a chance to get out and play with other children regularly and be with friends?”
    Not, “how are their reading skills or math skills?” but a question of socialization.
    I just don’t get it. I doubt if that question would even come up if we didn’t homeschool. Honestly, I always thought school was for learning, and play dates etc. for socializing.

  • Joli August 13, 2013, 11:11 am

    I don’t understand why you would want to send your child to public school to be socialized, they don’t teach it there. It’s more like a sink-or-swim, dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest kind of approach. (If that is supposed to prepare you for the “real world” then no wonder the world is like that.)

  • Tracy August 13, 2013, 3:04 pm

    I went was born in 1979 so I went to school through the 80’s and 90’s. In kindergarten, I learned to stay away from the 6th graders because one pushed me against the stairs and choked me until an adult pulled him off of me (I’m female). My neck was bruised and black for weeks. Then the girls taught me how I am supposed to be kissing boys (same grade). My mother volunteered as room mother all the time and the other kids would surround her and call her mom. Even in kindergarten, I realized these kids were starved for a mother’s attention (not judging their mothers, they just latched on to the only mom available they could see). As I got older, I was teased for not having the right brand name clothing (we could afford it, I just thought it was ugly and uncomfortable). I sat at the back of the class and read whatever books I was interested in because I hated whatever they assigned. No one paid any attention to me except to mock me – teachers and students alike. When I *did* stick my head out and try to get involved, I was humiliated each and every time for not “being in my place”. I tried running for school offices and was laughed at (same kids won their same officer roles every year from 6th-12th grade). When I asked out the cute boy, he told me he would rather die and go to hell first. My son is 16 now and his experiences haven’t been any better. He just switched from the local high school to the next city over because this one here was hell for him. He was being punched, outcast (he wasn’t the same religion as the predominant culture around here – though when he chose to convert he suddenly made a bunch of supposed “friends”). His elementary lunch lady threatened to smack one of the quiet kids. He told the principal and the principal told him WITH ME STANDING THERE that “It’s inappropriate for him to come home and tell me what happens at school”. I tried to homeschool him then, but he wasn’t interested. So he has stayed in public school (against my desires) and I watch him flounder and suffer. His education has suffered. His self-esteem has suffered. His relationships with others has suffered. So, with our three year old, we will homeschool from the beginning. I can’t imagine putting her into public school where I have watched so many people I know and love be attacked and failed to learn anything important (other than manipulation and survival tactics).

  • Stacie August 15, 2013, 12:01 pm

    As a Speech Pathologist i’m a strong believer in the importance of building social skills and the ability to work with others. One of our most important therapies focuses on the ability to get along and work with others. Although we roll play in the therapy setting and talk about appropriate behaviors this is never suffice. The child needs to take it and apply it to a real life environment. This is most successfully achieved in the school environment.
    I understand that children are bullied at school, on the bus, and in the school environment at times. As a mother myself these moments are heartbreaking. However, I strongly feel that it is my job to help the child to deal with the problem appropriately and if needed, step in. Once the child becomes an adult I will tell you that bullying does not automatically end. They need to learn to deal with these experiences and build upon them so they can be successful adults.
    I also believe that there are too many mothers who have good intentions of homeschooling but lack the a)education to teach the content, b)the discipline to carry out a structured home school environment, c)lack the ability or time to provide the child with meaningful social opportunities.
    Although, i’m not 100% opposed to homeschooling I think that it should be heavily weighed out by the homeschooler. If a mother feels like they need to have home school for their student. An alternative could be a 50/50 option. i.e. they are at school for 50% of the day, and in the home learning for the other 50 %. I had one student who did it this way (he would leave at 11:30) and it gave the mother the opportunity to teach as she preferred but provided him an opportunity to socialize and learn in a group environment.
    For the record, my children go to a full day of school and any additional information I feel like they need to know, I teach them through hands on learning opportunities.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 15, 2013, 2:38 pm

    The child needs to take it and apply it to a real life environment.

    Stacie, I couldn’t agree more. It’s the idea that applying social skills (which you haven’t defined) at a full-time school is remotely a “real life environment” that I find indefensible.

    This is most successfully achieved in the school environment.

    What evidence do you have to support this conclusion? I realize this is the default conclusion for those who attended schools (as did I) and are accustomed to sending their children to schools for 13 years. But default conclusions are often dead wrong. It should at least be analyzed.

    Once the child becomes an adult I will tell you that bullying does not automatically end.

    Bullying does not end in adulthood. But school bullying does. There is a very distinct set of behaviors that occurs in schools — intensely, for years on end — that are rarely every encountered again in a compulsory atmosphere in “real life.” And, not coincidentally, the “skills” to overcome those circumstances are the only “skills” that are best learned in schools, in my experience.

    Where else are you required by law to spend 7 hours per day, 180 days per year, with age-segregated people who are — by definition — immature and not yet fully civilized, with very little supervision by those who (in theory at least) have the wherewithal to moderate the environment, and with very little freedom to change your situation?

    I’ve hated jobs. I’ve had lousy bosses and tyrannical professors. But I could decide if I wanted to quit the job or drop the course — or head to another country. I didn’t have to endure it day after day for years on end.

    Since I got out of elementary school, I have never, ever needed the “skills” of figuring out how to avoid being depantsed, had my bra flipped, had anyone question me about pubescent body changes, or tried to schedule my restroom visits when no one else was there to avoid having someone watch me over the stall. I’ve also never gotten a note in my desk saying, “Me and Susie don’t want to play with you anymore.”

    Since leaving junior high, I’ve never used my hard-earned coping mechanisms from being forced to stand against a wall at a dance while boys walked back and forth ogling the merchandise until the last few decided they’d rather get a demerit than be forced to stand three feet from me on the gym floor for 2.5 minutes. Even the special talent of finding somewhere to sit in a room where, mystically, every seat is already saved, has never come into play in my post-K-12 life. And my aptitude for showing in public with a hand towel-sized covering? It’s just never come in handy! (Weird, I know!)

    In fact, after years of being bullied at school (with all that awesome skill creation!), the very few incidents of bullying I’ve encountered as an adult were positively simple to resolve using real, “real life” techniques that don’t generally work in a school environment (and, thus, weren’t learned there anyway).

    They need to learn to deal with these experiences and build upon them so they can be successful adults.

    So, yea, I just utterly disagree. Kids who don’t go to school don’t need to learn to deal with school crap, because the bulk of school crap only happens in schools. (Did you get a swirly top from any co-workers this week? 😉 )

    What kids really need is to learn to be a civilized, productive, decent, independent, happy, intelligent adults. They need to learn to deal with problems and resolve them or make the best of a situation they can’t resolve. I haven’t yet seen any evidence to show any of those are best learn in a school environment and culture.
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  • Alison Moore Smith August 15, 2013, 3:05 pm

    I also believe that there are too many mothers who have good intentions of homeschooling but lack the a)education to teach the content, b)the discipline to carry out a structured home school environment, c)lack the ability or time to provide the child with meaningful social opportunities.

    In my experience these concerns reflect more a lack of understanding of both homeschooling and public schools than of actual problems (or benefits) with a particular educational model.

    (a) Education to teach content

    First, education is one of the easiest majors in any college. It’s not remotely content-oriented, but rather tends to be strongly administratively-oriented. Does a homeschooling parent really need classroom management techniques or bulletin board “tear sheets”? Did you know that most (as in the majority of) el ed majors choose it to avoid upper level math? (See research be Sells, et al.) If that’s not horrifying enough, I don’t know what is! :0

    In truth, most functional adults are easily educated enough to teach most courses through junior high and many into high school. It’s not (literally, it’s not) rocket science. It’s basic almost everything.

    Second, the assumption that the parent has to know something for a child to learn it is obviously a misapplication. You’d never say something like that about anything not generally confined to typical school studies. It’s just not an issue. At all. If your child needs/wants to learn something you can’t teach to them, you find someone who can. (As I write this, my son 13-year-old son is surfing. Trust me, he did not learn that from me. Dude. 🙂 )

    (b) The discipline to carry out a structured home school environment

    You’re assuming that an effective education requires “a structured home school environment.” But it doesn’t. In fact, there are few cases where it’s even desirable.

    You’re also assuming that parents lack the discipline of a typical public school teacher. I see no evidence that teachers have extraordinary discipline as a general rule. (Except that they are willing to put up with schools, school administrators, government bureaucracy, waste or resources, school “socialized” kids, endless paperwork…OK, never mind.)

    (c) lack the ability or time to provide the child with meaningful social opportunities.
    It’s much easier to provide meaningful socialization for a child who doesn’t spend an inordinate number of hours per week in school (followed by hours of homework) amidst all the crappy socialization. 🙂

    That said, how hard is it really to find this? Seriously, I spend a great deal of time turning down “meaningful socialization” (and by that I mean positive and instructive socialization) because there is way too much to get involved in.

    Although, i’m not 100% opposed to homeschooling I think that it should be heavily weighed out by the homeschooler.

    This implies that homeschoolers don’t think deeply about the decision to homeschool. In a culture where parents are accustomed to passing the educational buck to the government for the bulk of childhood (and some are pressing for even more years of this dependence), it’s almost a given that no one takes on that responsibility without addressing the consequences very carefully. After homeschooling for 19 years, publishing extensively, giving conference addresses, and speaking to thousands of homeschoolers, I have yet to meet a single one who didn’t. Your milage may vary, but I’d guess I have more anecdotal evidence on the side of careful thought. 🙂

    My thinking (as you probably guessed) is different. Although I’m not 100% opposed to government schools (I think of them as a resource, not the only source), I think that using one should be heavily weighed by the parent.

    In my experience, this actually is not the case. Most parents follow the easiest path and do what most people do, what their parents did, what they are used to. They let someone else take the responsibility and pay the bill. Most don’t even think there are viable options and among those that do, few want to take on that responsibility when they don’t have to. That’s (sadly) human nature.

    An alternative could be a 50/50 option…an opportunity to socialize and learn in a group environment.

    Just to clarify, there are hundreds of ways for a child to “learn in a group environment” without going to school. In fact, most of them offer better learning, better groups, and better environments. 🙂
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  • WandaWoo August 15, 2013, 6:14 pm

    I don’t home school, don’t have the patience for it. OK, I just really don’t want to. I LIKE having someone else deal with all that so I can do projects and things I want to do. But reading this back and forth has really opened my eyes.

    I admit that they did when I first read what Stacie said it made sense to me, but when I read the rebuttal from someone who actually does homeschooling, it’s obvious that those of us using public schools have no idea.

    I still like our schools. Well mostly. But I think I need to stop my knee jerk reactions and think about what I think more. At least before I comment about it!

    Thanks for opening my eyes just a little.

    (I don’t know why it matters if you’re a Speech Pathologist (or why that is capitalized), but I think we both could learn a bit about this topic.)

  • Denise August 15, 2013, 10:14 pm

    In the book _Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense_, author David Guterson identifies *seven* different questions people might actually be asking when they ask, “But what about socialization?” I wish I could remember all of them, but one was, “do they have any friends?” That’s not really about *socialization,* according to the strict definition of the word, but that is the question that was in the heads of some people.

    To answer that one, are public schools the optimal places to provide friends? Maybe. They’ll certainly provide geographic proximity, ease of access and some common activities. But they won’t bring together people of similar interests, good mentoring relationships (which, by definition, involve large age ranges), or other factors which provide ground for good friendships. And they do require forced association with people who are bullies and enemies, the sort of people who in real life you’d have the freedom to escape.

    By the way, David Guterson is a public high school teacher and his kids are homeschooled. Somewhere long ago I read that between public school teachers and the rest of the population, a significantly higher percentage of public school teachers’ kids are OUT of the public schools, either in private schools or being homeschooled. What do those public school teachers know that we don’t know?

  • Dessy August 16, 2013, 1:42 pm

    I really don’t think Schools, public or home matters, only to some certain extent though!
    Some kids and introvert will others are not.
    Even when the extrovert kids get to attend home or public schools they will always exhibit same character.

  • Lillian Angelovic August 17, 2013, 6:18 am

    A few more personal experiences to add to the milieu:

    I chose to homeschool my oldest son (now 19) because I knew he had some learning disabilities (turned out to be severe dyslexia and dysgraphia) and I knew he was just “different” anyway. I was bullied as a kid – through high school – and it destroyed me. I did not want that for my child. Turns out his “differentness” (and mine) is actually high-functioning autism spectrum disorder – a neurological condition that makes it really difficult to naturally figure out social cues. I am so grateful that I followed the prompting to homeschool him because I know he would have been eaten alive by public-schooled kids.

    I chose to homeschool my daughter because she was a competitive gymnast. She has no disabilities but didn’t have time to go to school all day, gym all evening, and get anything else done (including sleep). Even after she retired from gymnastics and took up ballet, her busy schedule didn’t change much. She homeschooled until 9th grade when she enrolled in an online charter school, but always had so many friends from different areas of her life that for a few years we had to split up her birthday party into multiple parties.

    She is now a high school senior and has been involved in choir at the local high school for the past three years. She made some good friends there but is disgusted at the lack of individuality, the awful way that students behave toward teachers, and the unfathomable immaturity of her peers. She thoroughly enjoys having her own style that doesn’t bow to high school fashions (she dresses like a modest but funky model or Harajuku girl and gets loads of compliments for it, even from random kids she doesn’t know). Still, she is sometimes a little lonely because most of her peers are too immature to know how to interact with someone who isn’t. All of her good school friends have been upperclassmen who are now graduated, and she is actively making plans to identify a few classmates who aren’t overly immature and invite them to eat lunch with her on the days she has classes there.

    Ironically, this daughter also went through a very difficult bullying incident *at the online charter school*. She certainly learned from it and – because parents and school administrators were able to get involved right away and put a stop to the overt bullying – it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Still, her grades suffered, she felt the need to seek counseling, and it never really really ended because the girl just took to badmouthing behind the scenes. I think that anyone who suggests such experiences are *good* has possibly been the bully themselves, but definitely needs an education on what bullying really does to kids.

    I have another teenage son who is also a ballet dancer, and has chosen to homeschool through high school (though he, too, is now involved in choir). Of my three kids, he is the most easily influenced by his peers but still has no problem telling them that he wears tights and dances with gorgeous ballerinas for hours every day. I am not pleased with the language and attitude he has picked up from his public-schooled peers *at ballet class*, but recognize that it would likely have been much worse if he had been forced into a classroom with an even wider selection of same-age peers for the past ten years. Sadly, one of his male dance friends (not homeschooled) clearly shows signs of having been bullied, and we have all noted the dramatic effects of it on his sense of self.

    Finally, I can say that any strangeness in my kids can be directly linked to my own oddness, and much of the maturity and the skills to be able to interact with people of different ages (younger, older, and adults) can be traced to their experiences homeschooling and learning social interaction skills outside of classrooms filled with same-aged-peers. They have managed to discover who they are as individuals without nearly as much of that definition coming from other kids telling them who they think they are. I’m very glad for that.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 17, 2013, 1:40 pm

    I want to apologize for not responding to more of you. I had so much to say (as you can see above!) on just a few notes, that I already spent an inordinate amount of time. But I do want to than you for your input so far and invite you to continue. The many points of view and varied experiences are so valuable.

    I think that anyone who suggests such experiences are *good* has possibly been the bully themselves, but definitely needs an education on what bullying really does to kids.

    Lillian, this was so spot on I was cheering and crying at the same time. Yes, yes, yes. Your post makes me realize we homeschoolers actually need to be much more clear and firm on this point.

    Subjecting children to bullying is NOT good. Period. It’s a parental copout and excuse to say they NEED it to be taught some kind of crucial life lesson. Total 100% BS. I won’t ever be so wimpy on that point again. Thank you for the nudge. 🙂
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  • R. Kirda August 18, 2013, 7:22 pm

    “As a Speech Pathologist i’m a strong believer in the importance of building social skills and the ability to work with others. … Although we roll play in the therapy setting and talk about appropriate behaviors this is never suffice. The child needs to take it and apply it to a real life environment.”

    As a parent of a young man with physical challenges that require the ongoing services of a speech pathologist, I wholeheartedly agree up to this point. I was a little disappointed to then be presented with the following non sequitur:

    “This is most successfully achieved in the school environment.”

    I have to confess I do not see exactly how school qualifies as a “real life environment”. School is an artificial environment that children are habituated to for many years, but there’s little that is “real life” about it. Indeed children look forward to graduating so that they might be able to test their fledgling feathers in the “real” world at the tender young age of 18 or so.

    Contrast this with our children, whom I consider ordinary children being raised by ordinary parents by ordinary home education means. I mention them precisely because they are *not* extraordinary in this regard.

    Our children have grown up comfortable with “real life”, for that has been their natural environment since birth. They’ve had daily opportunities to interact with people of all ages in real life, real time environments. They free converse with the elderly, small children, adults, and adolescents. I do believe that this constitutes the very definition of being “socialized” in the sense of “to fit or train children for the environment of society”.

    Since they could point to indicate their preferences, they’ve been encouraged to approach people and politely interact with them to obtain what they want. If they wanted something, even trivial like a sweet, we did not rob them of opportunity by fetching it for them.

    And we most emphatically did not rescue the (publicly schooled) adults from having to interact with another human who is not in their age range. Whenever adults have looked to us with confused expressions, we’ve politely referred them back to our children who are ready and willing to have a civil interaction with them. (It may be cruel to inflict this on such tender *adults* recently arrived to the “real” world from school, but I’m confident they suffered no permanent damage.)

    As a home education veteran of 14 years, I mentor, and our family interacts socially with other home educated families. I can confidently report that this experience has been universal for us. Children, when raised uninsulated from the real world, blossom socially. I’ve met a good number of naturally shy home educated children of course, but I’ve noticed they quickly warm up to others rather than obscure themselves behind a mother’s legs.

    (I do not deny the possibility that there may exist these mysterious homeschooled recluses, but I cannot positively say I have ever encountered them. Of course the definition of “reclusive” diminishes the probability of encountering them, not unlike cougars in their natural environment.)

    Our children are confident and civil around strangers in the real world, for that real world is their natural habitat since birth. They do not lack for opportunities to befriend other children. They have friends in the neighbourhood, across the county, and indeed internationally.

    Finally, to address the topic of bullying and like antisocial behaviour.

    I think it’s a trivial exercise to demonstrate false the myth that home educated children do not learn to deal with bullies. We have encountered the (public school) bullies accustomed to having their way through intimidation and violence. My boy has had stitches, bruises, and a black eye from bullies who have ganged up on the “retarded kid” in the neighbourhood. (The fact that the bullies have universally been “socialized” in government schools suggests that there may be a fault in the quality of the socialization received in said institutions.)

    I’m pleased to report that when the bullies come singly and in small numbers, our children are generally quick to defend the victims with reason, reprimands, and once — when a older teen boy got physical with my daughter — with a well-timed hip throw. (And yes, I was very proud of her.)

    Over time the difficulties diminish because bullies, like all predators, tend to seek easier prey.

  • Michele Smith August 19, 2013, 7:33 am

    Homeschooling is not just a different form of education; it is a superior model of human development. I have proven this with my own 7 homeschooled children and look forward to pursuing this “thesis” on a larger scale of research when I am finished devoting my prime energies to being a homeschool mom (currently homeschooling 7 year old boy, 10 year old daughter, 13 year old son, 16 year old son) . This response is lengthy and organized by 1) general positive social traits and abilities of individuals who are homeschooled 2) general traits/experiences/mentality by age of public schooled youth 3) general traits/experiences/mentality by age of home schooled youth.

    In the area of “social/self” development alone since that is the question at hand (there are countless other developmental advantages including intellectual, physical etc.), responsible mindful homeschooling on the part of parents results in individuals who are: 1) more self-actualized and confident with integrity and core values not changeable based on setting or dependent on peers 2) able to appreciate and honor others whole selves and humanity and feelings including unique gifts and challenges common to all as human beings 3) healthily attached to parents and siblings and other positive mentors and true friends outside of home and family 4) possessing skills to create positive relationships, network and seek out and find mentors in areas of life (such as professionally or academically) as needed 5) able to function with the world from a much more “real” perspective than school is, having grown up interacting in society at large with varied age peers and experiences (rather than ages 5-18 being “compulsed” into a contrived social structure of a large institutional setting, controlled by government whim/mandate/value systems, run by paid employees on the lowest end of societal/economic reward, divided into 24-30 children of the same age cohort that creates predictable and inevitable social problems in society at large) 6) able to create positive change in society and impact others from all walks of life, ages, cultures (this one is dependent upon family culture).

    Here’s the biggest advantage I personally have appreciated in my 7 homeschooled children (3 of whom are now adults living successful independent lives): 7) not manifesting “symptoms” or “stages” thought to be “normal” and inevitable which are actually resultant from the flawed structure and model of compulsory schooling (ages 5-9 (elementary ages): anxiety and unhealthy separation from parents,family and siblings; learning and attention difficulties resulting from expectations that are not child developmentally appropriate; mockery and de-valuing of uniqueness and learning pace and style and “person-hood”; confusion in psyche and development as strange adults are set up as all powerful gods who must be pleased as well as peers/bullies/mean girls according to a pecking order etc.; age 10-13 (middle school) sexualization of gender, total insecurity as bodies mature differently; inadequacy and feelings of shame and disassociation with parents; girls lowered academic goals and achievement; boys lowered communication skills and achievement; age 14-18 (high school) loneliness, hyper/non-real/unrealistic measures of self-adequacy such as “having someone to sit with at lunch” “flawless physically” “ability to work the system (connive, cheat, minimal effort, use power to get people to do what you want);” “successful” navigation requires submitting to very narrow spheres of association with peers within “acceptable” talent development and includes even more narrow and near impossible criteria within the groups themselves: cheerleader/football player (hazing/locker room/torture/bullying/deviance 99% of time); “choir” “band” “jock” “weird/nerdy” “emo” “druggie” etc. etc. etc. including all exposure to all kinds of social dregs and manners of coping: “cutting” “suicide” “weight and physical health issues” etc. The question really, when it gets right down to it is “What Social Life/Person-hood do you want to condition your children to?” It took me about 15 years to “re-coup” my true whole self following the 13 years of social conditioning in public school I was subjected to. Kids come whole, curious, primed for ideal social development. Traditional school really messes with this and is an overall negative experience for most.

    Here is the more normal development I have observed in my own children and other homeschoolers: ages 5-9 (elementary) insatiable curiosity about the world and exploration and interaction with every setting in a dynamic, engaged way. Kindness and respect mentored by parents especially to those who have unique challenges or who are very young or very old. Ages 10-13 super excited to explore their talents, make genuine good friends and take on the world and physical development into an adult. Development of strong parental attachment, leadership and service mentality. Ages 14-18 study and talent development honed and immersed, developing individuality and discovering own ability to impact and think and reason, disagree and formulate and share their unique “take” on the world. Ages 16-18 increased capacity and preparation for or adulthood with personalized education in academics, supporting themselves, life skills, relationship navigation etc. based upon life mission and goals and values. Look to parents and other admirable adults as mentors to learn from as they navigate their own responsible life path.

    I started homeschooling 25 years ago based upon watching homeschooling families interact–especially high school and young adult aged youth. I wanted to make my decision based on the outcome of the method of child-rearing/educating. I know a lot of publicly schooled kids who ended up very different and in many cases tragically so than they would have had their parents homeschooled them. This is HUGE STAKES and parents need to own their right and responsibility to choose how their child will be raised and educated. It is a human nature tendency to “justify” whatever choice one makes and fit whatever occurs into the “paradigm” one has chosen. I admit this happens with homeschoolers too. Thus, the need for independent verification and “proof in the pudding” examination. But that is another point I don’t have time to examine today. I LOVE homeschooling and even more I LOVE the confident, talented, humane, pro-active, responsible, socially adept individuals it produces and the parent child relationship that is healthy and vibrant and respectful. I am grateful and treasure the supportive great relationships I have with my own children at every age and stage and the social relationships they have with others of all walks of life and economics who are amazing and wondrous individuals impacting society positively. There is a MUCH better way and homeschooling is a wonderful pathway to it!

  • Amberoni13 August 19, 2013, 4:20 pm

    My friend asks a better question in her blog (I used her link below) – “What about solitude?” This is never asked, and government schooled children tend to be unable to handle themselves without other people or electronics – they are literally unable to be alone.When people ask me about socialization, it’s never in my home – because I feel like we are rarely home! We are always going somewhere, meeting people, doing things, and my kids are able to deal with not only a group of 25-30 kids their exact same age, but groups and ages of all kinds.

    Another side to consider is that all the youth who have had trouble with bullies, have gone on shooting rampages, or have other “social” problems have been…. in public schools. You have NEVER heard about the crazy homeschool kid that comes to a public place bent on ending his fellow beings. Doesn’t happen, and believe me, we would never hear the end of it if it had happened. We homeschoolers may catch a bad rap for being “odd” but if odd is the opposite of bullying, early sexualization, over medication, and other social problems, I stand proud as an ODD parent of ODD children.

  • Cheri Palfreyman August 21, 2013, 6:47 am

    The biggest problem with kids and teens is peer dependency. Peers and other authority figures (school teachers) have replaced parents. Read the book, “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers,” by Gordon Neufeld.

    In a society that values its economy over culture, the book states, the building of strong adult/child attachments gets lost in the shuffle. Multiple play dates, day care, preschool and after school activities groom children to transfer their attachment needs from adults to their peers. They become what the authors call “peer oriented.” The result is that they squelch their individuality, curiosity and intelligence to become part of a group whose members attend school less to learn than to socialize. And these same children are bullying, shunning and murdering each other, as well as committing suicide, at increasing rates. The authors’ meticulous exploration of the problem can be profoundly troubling. However, their candidness and exposition lead to numerous solutions for reestablishing a caring adult hierarchy.

    I believe that the public school system is a major contributor to this problem because of the amount of time it keeps children away from the family.

  • Nikki August 21, 2013, 8:23 am

    I loved school. I was neither popular nor bullied, I just had my groups of friends, my favorite teachers, my favorite subjects, etc. My husband and I held the prevailing view that public school was best for our kids as well.

    Our oldest was also neither popular nor bullied. He had great teachers and friends in kindergarten and first grade. He did well at school. He was reading ahead of his level, etc. But he was STRESSED. In first grade! And after seven hours of being told what to do and when to do it and hurry up and finish this and fill in the blank on worksheet after worksheet, he cried over the very mention of homework!

    Over the course of that year, I observed a lot. I observed my poor sweet smart son struggling with stress. I observed the two families of homeschooling families I knew and how bright and happy and well-spoken and easy-going those kids seemed. I listened to my first grader beg for months, “Can’t we just do school at home?” And I began reading about an idea I had never truly considered before.

    We are now in our second year of homeschooling. We almost never do worksheets, but certainly not one after another, the way his first-grade education seemed to insist on. We have online lessons but also lots of reading and art and games and field trips and activities. And all of it takes only half of those seven hours, giving them more time to be kids. They rush out the door eager to play (socialize!) with friends.

    My husband and I are converts! We love the very thing we thought we’d never agree to do. 😉

  • Hal August 23, 2013, 9:05 am

    Here’s how I see it. When a group of society branches out from the norm it is always lonely in the beginning. But this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t branch out. Pioneers are necessary. After the government enacted compulsory education, the public schools had an automatic monopoly on social interaction. Sure, there are some good things that come from public school attendance, but there are a whole slew of bad things that have come from it too.

    Many children just don’t “fit” in the box. They don’t learn in the manner the public school wants them to learn, and so they are labeled as “special”. Or they are not satisfied sitting in a desk in a building for 7 hours everyday for 13 years having to ask to use the restroom, so they get labeled as trouble makers or ADHD and are either punished or medicated. Some kids feel a deep desire to get out and move and experience their world. They are not satisfied with having information shoveled at them all the time, and then being expected to regurgitate all the information (most of which is and will be impertinent to their lives.) They want and need to discover things for themselves and to interact with all ages of society, not just their peers.

    When the first home schooling family decided to think “outside the box” and began educating their children at home, I have no doubt that their children may have been lonely at times. Nevertheless, the deed needed to be done. As time goes on, more and more families are paving the way for a new and broader, more accepting, definition of education.

    For me, and many other people, the public school was a very lonely place. Sure I had interaction from kids my age, but it wasn’t positive interaction. I was a fairly popular kid too. I felt terrible for the kids that were socially awkward at school. The school system rips them to pieces. Putting that many kids together with little good adult guidance is a bad idea. It’s like the blind leading the blind. It’s no wonder there is so much bullying and teasing that goes on at the schools, not to mention the culture of partying, underage drinking, teen sex, and drug use that the public schools are breeding grounds for.

    Yes, home schooling does require parents to be more involved and proactive but, a larger variety of social experience is available to them. Since pulling out of the public school, my children have the opportunity to assist younger children in our community and learn from older ones (who are teaching them good things rather than bad) and even interact regularly with adults and the elderly. I never had that chance in public school, which explains why many public schooled kids don’t know how to interact with adults.

    The public school system loves to draw attention to our weaknesses while failing to pay mention to our strengths. They scold our children with a bad grade for being a bad speller, but fail to commend them for being a great pianist. Which really begs the question, why are people willing to settle for the public schools system with the mediocre education and social experience it provides?

    The more people pull out of the system and home school, the better experience all home schoolers will have. I was watching a speech give by Ashton Kutcher the other day, and though he usually isn’t my favorite person, this speech was right on the mark. He told kids to “build your own life.” don’t just live it. He pointed out that the system around them was built by people who aren’t any smarter than them. We don’t have to accept an outdated education system. The new age of home education may be in its infancy, but it is a necessary transformation for so many reasons.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 23, 2013, 9:20 am

    So many great comments. Thank you!

    R. Kirda:

    Children, when raised uninsulated from the real world, blossom socially.

    For a number of years I headed up the Teen Scene, a homeschool group for teens to meet monthly. In that capacity I regularly hosted large groups (up to 70 kids at a time) at my home.

    The kids had a blast, played games, interacted, etc. Were they “normal”? No. They weren’t exclusive and cliquish. Quite honestly, I’d never have 70 typical public schooled kids in my home at once!
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  • Tiffany December 29, 2014, 7:14 pm

    The point should never be “socialization” but rather “civilization”. I work in a private school where homeschooled students attend a class or two. I find that homeschooled children are intelligent, well-spoken, respectful, and diligent students. They have no problem getting along with their peers in our school. I greatly admire parents who homeschool their children and have met them from every walk of life.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 29, 2014, 7:27 pm

    Well said, Tiffany.
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