There is a common concern whenever homeschooling is mentioned. A look, a cringe and the question: what about socialization?
I’ll admit. I have a couple of reactions to this concern. My back goes up right along with my defenses or I start to wonder “oh no, are we making the right decision?” I get so flustered and then say the only thing that comes to my mind, “Oh, we’ll have playdates”, or worse, “Oh, we’re still just considering homeschooling.” Yeesh.
Later, I’m kicking myself for letting my emotions get the best of me and rolling my eyes at the response I gave. People aren’t usually asking as a criticism, they are genuinely wondering how my kids will ever be socialized if they don’t attend school.
I realized something after attending the APACHE conference this past weekend: I don’t know what people really mean when they ask this question and, I don’t think most of the people who ask it know what they mean either.
I think we have been conditioned as a society to view homeschooling as something weird. I don’t really know where it comes from. I knew plenty of weird, socially awkward kids in the public school I went to. I was one of them.
I often felt uncomfortable, frustrated and unable to understand others or communicate my thoughts and ideas with a group…I was almost painfully shy. It really wasn’t until I got out into the workforce that I truly learned these skills.
Isn’t that what being a teenager is? Isn’t it about learning how to interact with people of different backgrounds? Learning how to function in society…in the ‘real world’?
Then I asked myself: What is the best way to teach these skills to my kids?
Is it sending them to school to sit in rows with 30 other students in their age group and only have 5 minutes between classes, 20 minutes at lunch and a few minutes at the bus stop to ‘socialize’?
Or, is it taking them to the store, the park, the zoo, church…any place where people of all ages are and having them ask questions, make observations and talk without having to raise their hand?
Children learn by doing, seeing and experiencing. I’m just not convinced that the school does the best job of ‘socializing’ them and preparing them for the ‘real world’.
Homeschooling is gaining ground. More and more families are deciding to pull their kids out of public, even private schools for a variety of reasons…individual care and attention to specific needs of the child, concerns about academic standards, concerns about bullying…the list goes on.
Parks, museums, zoos and even colleges are gearing programs specifically to homeschooling families. Community theater, the local park district and community colleges make everything from sports to performing arts programs available to home schooled kids.
Perhaps the socialization argument once held water…perhaps. But, with the evolution of technology, social media and the internet, the argument has just become a knee-jerk response and it no longer applies.