The Social Issue

The Social Issue

“You home school?  But what about socialization?” Wow. It only took about 1/500 of a second. It usually takes at least a full second or two for this misplaced attack on my choices to rear its ugly head. As a matter of fact, I could be lounging on the beach of my very own island paradise if had a nickel for each time this was the first worry to spill out of someone’s mouth upon finding out I teach at home. Don’t you want to interrogate me about my qualifications? Or grill me about state “standards?” Or at the very least, don’t you want to appear just a little less judgmental and wait for your third or fourth question before insinuating that I am single-handedly increasing the world’s anti-social population? In the early days, I would brush the question off, confident in the knowledge that I did not need to justify my choices.  I still don’t need to justify my choices, but now I confidently answer the question because I find that it is  just plain rude. I would never ask the parent of a public school child, “Don’t you worry they are not getting the same opportunities the private schools can offer?” The question presumes that I, as a parent, cannot manage to teach social skills while also teaching math.

So, yes– now I reply. My inquisitor may be sorry they asked the question, but now I reply. I respond with all the reasons I feel my children are more socially capable than most. Rather than spend six hours a day in a room full of kids their own age, my children spend their days with kids and adults across a very broad age spectrum, requiring them to find common ground and share something with someone other than the year of their birth. Learning to communicate with both younger and older people and relate to what is important in their worlds is a critical life skill that should not be ignored for 18 years.  College presents a whole new realm of challenges– both social and academic. For the life of me I can’t figure out why so many people put off learning how to get along in the “real world” until college, when a lifetime spent learning how to relate not only to your peers, but to EVERYONE can make that college transition so much easier. Not socializing my kids? Really? Why aren’t you socializing yours’?

Being surrounded by people all day does not necessarily increase social skills. I have one child who now attends public school after homeschooling for many years. She was surprised to find out that she was unable to talk in class, had little time between classes to get her books, and ran the risk of being put on “silent lunch” as a punishment for misbehaving. Her ability to develop friends was restricted to whenever they played team sports in PE. Her after-school activities are what have led her to friendships with her peers– not spending her days in a building with hundreds of other students.

So the answer to “do my children get socialization,” is a resounding “YES!” Hold on for a moment while I go outside and shout it a little louder.  They have after school activities, sports, music lessons, youth groups, neighborhood friends, cousins, and family nearby. They go to parties, movies and parks, just like every other kid in the neighborhood. Interestingly enough, it is usually the same people who question my decision to homeschool who compliment me on how well behaved my children are. Bizarre! I expect my children to be able to cope in a world that was not predesigned to meet just their age range. I expect them to find common ground with all types of people, not judging anyone based on age, race, religion, etc. I spend many hours reminding my children in real life situations how to open the door for an elderly person or to thank the waitress that served them. I feel very lucky to be able to send my children off into the world with real-life examples of how to behave with a sense of decorum. So yes, we have socialization covered, but if you really want to give me grief about something, ask me how we’re doing with diagramming sentences.


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