As most of us know, one of the main concerns about homeschooling is allowing ample opportunity for (proper?) socializing between children. Arguments aside about whether socializing between equal age children is necessary for a healthy childhood, homeschooling proponents claim that in today’s modern age of easy communication and travel, that socializing while home educating is a non-issue. I’ve said it a number of times as well, that living in Los Angeles, in a particular city that has great schools and a family-oriented community, provides so much opportunity for socializing that we never have to think about it – it happens on its own merely by being involved and active participants in our city.
But I’ve been thinking about this topic recently and I’ve asked myself if socializing is really a non-issue. This week begins our fall schedule of community classes, play dates with friends who are back from vacation, ramped-up homeschooling support group activities and the end of block-out dates at Disneyland. As I was driving around from place to place, I thought of the many people we’ve interacted with this week, and how my kids, despite having done very little socializing beyond our familly and neighbors during summer, still managed to get along with everyone. In fact, my middle daughter seemed to have thrived from a summer of relatively low-key activities and easily started conversations with people she did not previously know – something that she would not have done without reservation the year before.
I’ve never worried about our kids’ social skills. But it’s not as if our kids are socially mature or even socially aware. They defnitely exhibit social interactions that would never fly if they were a few years older. They are not social prodigies as a result of our process of learning “how to get along with others”. I would say that they aren’t even socially advanced. They are, however, not worried about their own social status, abilities and certainly being popular is not even in their understanding.
But yet, is socializing a non-issue for us? I’m going to have to say no. It’s an issue because it’s important in our lives. It’s on the list of things that we talk about, it’s in our world to be social. It’s part of who we are. In fact, socializing is a big issue for us, because we enjoy being around other people. In order to be secure and fulfilled in our lives, we need to be able to have interaction with others that are enriching, or at the very least, don’t leave us worse off than we started. Not to mention that if we want to order a hamburger at a fast food joint, or buy clothes at the emall, we need to be able to communicate our desires to others without flipping out – especially if the cooks forget to leave off the pickles, or, God forbid, the Gap doesn’t have our size in stock.
Most of the time, when people ask if homeschooling kids get enough socialization, they are asking if the kids get interaction with other people (in particular, a large group of people their age and a teacher). My answer is that this is not the right question. Just being around other people is not what’s important. Whether or not a child has opportunity to be in the presense of other children is not even in the ballpark of what should be implied in the socializing question. But it is, so that part, yes, is a non-issue. That implied part of the question – do kids need to grow up surrounded by kids most of their waking hours in order to be socially adept – is a non-issue, totally and completely. That is an issue that I never, ever consider to be important to worry about.
“Socializing”, however, in the real-life sense of the word, is most definately an issue for us. And I would argue that it’s a big issue for the vast majority of homeschooling families of all faiths (or not) and educational philosophies. The reason that homeschoolers say that “socialization is a non-issue” is to show that, yes, we are not blind enough to think that our kids do not need to learn how to get along with others and live in the world we live in. In other words – we aren’t dumb, we’ve thought about socialization (how can we not with the media and critics bringing it up every other breath?). Just because we don’t agree that the only way to learn how to make friends and how to greet people we don’t know has to come from segrated group influence doesn’t mean that socializing isn’t important to us.
When you ask me about my kids socialization, and I say, “that’s a non-issue”, don’t think for a minute that I mean that having opportunities to socialize is unimportant. What I mean is this: “Thanks for worrying about my kids, but you don’t have to.” If you want to delve further into my home educating psychosis, er, I mean, psychology, you’ll find that it is actually an issue, but one that I do not stress over. We do what we gotta do when we gotta do it, and that’s that.