Socialization for Homeschoolers . . . Again
Although homeschooling has become far more mainstream than it was when we first began in the 1980’s, the question of socialization occasionally still pops up.
A recent article, “Get Out Much?” by Rachel Barlow, on the Nashoba Publishing website details one home-school parent’s response to a fellow airplane passenger who commented, “Socialization is so important. I would never homeschool.” Barlow thoughtfully compared actual social time in public schools with the social time she and her family share with others, and noted that once people hear that they participate in “town sports and school band,” they seem to feel that these things solve the socialization issue.
I have to admit that I have always approached the question of socialization from another direction. I firmly believe that being institutionalized in age-segregated groups is the antithesis of normal socialization. I believe that institutionalization and socialization limited to others of the same age inhibits mental, moral, and spiritual growth.
Learning from wise sources
Learning happens all the time. Students learn from their environment; from the things they hear, see, do, and read; from the people with whom they associate. They have even been known to learn a bit from their school experiences;-)!
Not all learning is academic — well-educated children learn how to treat others, how to react in difficult or painful circumstances, how to entertain themselves, how to manage the intricacies of day-to-day living, to mention just a few things. Most of these things are learned by observation and example.
Frankly, I want my children to learn how to live from people who are wise. I want each of my sons to know how to enjoy solitude; how to learn anything they need to know; how to be kind to others; how to enjoy the best of art, music, and literature, how to enjoy a balance of physical, mental, and spiritual activities, and so much more. In short, I want them to know how to “live quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.”
I scarcely think that they would learn these things from their agemates, who are in equally desperate need of wise guidance for life. There is almost no chance that they could learn to use time wisely, independently, and enjoyably if they are institutionalized and hurried from one meaningless activity to another at the sound of a bell. There is little likelihood that they would learn to love the good, the true, and the beautiful, when they are surrounded, inundated, and overwhelmed with mediocrity, relativism, and ugliness.
Living a normal life
From my perspective, home education allows children to live a normal life. I remember my own deep frustration in institutional schools as I grew up. I knew that my life and time were being wasted. I skipped as much school as I could, but when forced to go, took several books to school each day, finished the simplistic classwork early, and read as much as possible (oddly enough, I will still voted “most likely to succeed!”). Once home, I was free to be outside, and to play, read, write, do needlework, and work in the various small business ventures I started. As soon as I left the school, I had a life as a real person, rather than existence as one small part of a mob.
I’m deeply grateful that we were able to give our boys a relaxed, normal life. They have been able to develop independent interests, they have friends, and they are nice people whose company I greatly enjoy. They enjoy music, books, sports, and other interests, but are not consumed by any of them; they have traveled widely; and they have experienced far more than would be possible if they’d had to endure endless hours of institutionalization.
What is socialization, anyway?
The definition of “socialize” found in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is to “Make social; make fit to live in society; spec. in sociology, transmit to (an individual) the cultural values and behavior standards of the social group of which he or she is a member.”
The world is large and diverse, and social groups are many. Whether by purpose, or by default, parents choose whether their child is socialized to the values and behaviors of those who love the good, the true, and the beautiful, or to the current manifestation of pop culture. It’s a choice worth careful consideration.
Rachel Barlow’s fellow passenger had it half right when he said — “Socialization is so important.” But I differ with him on the last bit — I wouldn’t leave it to an institution.
One who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20
For further reading:
For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley (One of my favorite introductions to a family-based, Charlotte Mason style of education from the daughter of Francis Schaeffer.)
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto (A short, shocking overview of what students really learn in institutional schooling. A must-read.)
The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewelyn (An interesting, secular look at unschooling– very thought-provoking.)
The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden (I just got this book– it’s a compendium of useful information on all sorts of subjects of interest to boys –knots, soccer rules, dog tricks, making a periscope, tanning a skin, famous battles, timers and tripwires, and a lot more. This could lead to true, independent learning! It’s very nicely done, with plentiful illustrations to tempt the reluctant reader. Expect to see it dogeared!)
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