For so many of us who grew up attending public schools and being educated among same-age peers, there are real questions about the socialization of homeschooled kids. We remember sitting in classrooms packed with other children and truly wonder how homeschoolers will fill in that “void” of being with other children so many hours of the day. As a homeschooling family, though, I was quick to realize that socialization is not an issue. Let me explain why…
Are homeschoolers isolated?
You would be surprised how many homeschoolers there are. The number is estimated as somewhere between 1.9 and 2.5 million according to Dr. Brian D. Ray, head of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute. To put that in perspective, that is the same number of kids as attend charter schools in the U.S. Because of this, there are lots of homeschool opportunities:
We may be “home” schoolers but some of the best learning opportunities take place outside of the home!
Be sure to check out Homeschool Days at your local museum, historic sites, aquariums, zoos and elsewhere. For example, there are homeschool days at Mt. Vernon, Valley Forge, Gettysburg,. Biltmore. Williamsburg has two weeks of homeschool activities in September. There are outdoor homeschool programs at nature centers and environmental centers. And though not necessarily educational, places like Disney World, Legoland, Silver Dollar City and Sea World have special homeschool days.
To be honest, we have to try to keep our schedule clear enough that we can get our academic work done!
How do homeschoolers learn to listen to a teacher or authority figure if they aren’t in (public) school?
Another underlying concern that comes from the “socialization” question is, if kids are not listening to a teacher all day, will they still have the same skills (listening to adults/authority, following directions and things like that). If you think about a large classroom of kids, teachers definitely have their hands full keeping everyone on task. In a homeschool setting, it is glaringly apparent when the kids are off-task, distracting a sibling or being disrespectful. In the homeschooling families I know, the parents are very involved and emphasize the social skills of good listening, being polite, using their manners, respecting and listening to others (adults or kids). We are able to address behaviors that are inappropriate simply because we are around them and monitoring them more. Does that mean my kids are perfect angels? Absolutely not! But Hubby and I have helped them learn to be polite and respectful. Homeschooled kids are around adults during the course of a normal day and usually have coaches, teachers, adult friends and other adult mentors they interact with regularly.
I like this quote I found from Fine Homeschooling:
Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development has done extensive research on homeschooling and socialization. “The idea that children need to be around other youngsters in order to be socialized is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today.” Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and over excited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral problems develop.
After analyzing more than 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by parents — not other children.
How do homeschoolers learn the skills of working together so that the skills necessary for collaborative work?
This is definitely something to think about. There is no doubt that teamwork is important in the workplace and elsewhere. So how do you find opportunities for homeschooled kids to build these skills (especially if you have an only child?) Basically, you have to seek out opportunities for your children. Certainly there are team sports, scouts and other groups, but there are other collaborative opportunities for homeschoolers such as homeschool robotics clubs, homeschool science odyssey comptetition teams and even odyssey of the mind teams for homeschoolers. If there isn’t a team around, you could always form one! As always, it takes time and energy as the parent/educator/fascilitator to make sure kids build the skills you feel are important.
Do homeschooled kids learn to deal with bullies and other “realities” of school?
I actually get this question from time to time… In fact, sometimes the tone is more like “how will your children cope if they haven’t experienced this?” It’s important for every parent to address the issue of bullying… and to emphasize being respectful and kind to other kids. In a study measuring communication, daily living skills, socialization and maturity homeschooled kids outscored public school students. Studies show that homeschooled kids are often more self-confident and self-assured than their public school peers. This inner strength is what I believe will help the kids deal with difficult situations and any of the different kinds of people they will meet in life.
Some final thoughts on homeschooling and socialization:
At the end of the day, Hubby and I are trying to raise polite, respectful, articulate, friendly people who treat others (regardless of their age) with respect. Some of the true skills of socialization are
This seems to be the perfect time to share a graphic with you. I was contacted by Peter a couple of years ago and he said I was welcome to share the graphic he and his team developed with all of you. It celebrates many of the positives of homeschooling. Anyway, I have WAY too many friends whose (brilliant, wonderful, motivated, amazing) kids attend public school to agree that mine will “dominate” or “take them down” but I do like how this graphic presents many of the statistics about the successes of homeschooling:
Created by: CollegeAtHome.com
If you are interested in seeing some of the educational statistics about homeschoolers for yourself you might want to visit this National Center for Educational Statistics: Digest of Educational Statistics about homeschooled students which is where I suspect he and his team got a lot of the statistics they use in the graphic above. Another source of homeschool statistical information is the National Home Education Research Institute and you can read some Research Facts on Homeschooling by Brian Ray, PhD.
I get questions about socialization fairly regularly… and have tackled it in other ways from time to time. You may be interested in a previous post I wrote: Homeschool Questions Answered: What About Socialization?
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