One of the biggest concerns expressed by both parents and teachers concerning home education can be summed up in the question that’s often asked about homeschooled children: What about socialization?
You can find several definitions for socialization in the dictionary, including “to make fit for the companionship with others” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition). For some, if a child isn’t in a traditional classroom relating to other children his age on a daily basis, he won’t be able to function well in social settings as an adult. Yet if you ask a homeschooling parent, they will most likely tell you that learning to deal with others is as much a part of a child’s home education as studying the academic subjects.
While a classroom teacher has to work hard to ensure her 20 to 30 students understand the lessons, the one-on-one instruction in a homeschool setting allows the teaching parent to spend time on other things as well, including the student’s character development. Homeschooling parents have more time to notice and correct unacceptable behavior, whether at home or out in public. For many homeschoolers, character training is just as important, if not more, as completing math or spelling assignments. Through real life experiences, they have the opportunity to teach honesty, loyalty, personal responsibility, self-discipline, and dedication — qualities that make one fitting for “the companionship of others.”
A homeschooling family with multiple children or extended family living close by has another advantage: the children must learn to get along with people not only with different personalities than their own, but also with people of various ages. By relating to people both older and younger than themselves, they learn important life skills as well. Only in a traditional classroom do people of the same age learn or work together; in life, we all have to deal with people of all ages.
Another definition of socialization involves “learning the customs, attitudes, and values of a social group, community, or culture” (The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition). By this definition, parents can consider what kind of society their child will become a part of if they attend school. Does the school in their area present a positive learning environment, or have discipline problems become the norm? Do the students generally respect the administration, the teachers, and each other, or is there general disregard for rules and authority among the students? Do the students engage in safe social activities, or do many of them smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs? If a child is “socialized” into a less-than-favorable environment, chances are he will become part of that culture.
A better goal for all students than socialization would be teaching them how to interact with others – and homeschooling allows plenty of time for that. When the schoolwork is completed, students can participate in group activities that interest them, giving them opportunities to learn how to relate well with people from various economic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
- For the musically-inclined student, have him join a local chorus, band, or orchestra. These organizations are often multi-grade level, allowing students to work with those both younger and older than themselves.
- For children interested in sports, sign them up to play team sports such as soccer, football, baseball, or basketball. They don’t have to be in a formal league; if your family doesn’t have the time to attend all the practices and games, week-long sports camps might serve as a good alternative.
- Organizations such as 4-H clubs offer students opportunities to meet new people and form new friendships while pursuing their interests. You can find clubs that focus on sewing, photography, science, art, drama, forestry, raising livestock, and so much more. If there’s not already a club in your area, consider starting one by contacting your local 4-H county agent.
- Boy and girl scouts are groups that encourage the development of strong character while experiencing new things. Scouts learn how to relate respectfully to their leaders and each other as they learn to take on leadership roles themselves.
- Community service activities, such as passing out meals to shut-ins or visiting residents in a nursing home on a regular basis, encourage understanding and compassion for the elderly.
- Recreational activities, such as roller skating, ice skating, bowling, or even hanging out with friends gives the student time to be with others in a less formal setting. Because of the nature of homeschooling, students often have friends both a little older and a little younger than themselves. They usually know the friends’ siblings as well and of necessity learn how to relate with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and others.
Are homeschooled students failing to become socialized? As a homeschooling parent, I hope so. Instead of being “socialized,” children need to become well-functioning individuals who know how to interact with a person of any age or background. As their parents and teachers, we want them to become contributing members of society who don’t follow their peers, but rather lead them instead.
Guest Blogger: Samantha Bell
Photo by prayingmother