When parents mention they are thinking about homeschooling, the most common question they hear is “But what about socialization?”
I think this question means, “How will your children know how to act around others, if they only interact with your family all day?”
The quick response is: Between church, sports, clubs, co-ops, and friends, homeschooling offers children many opportunities to be around others. This is true of all the homeschoolers I have known.
Another Meaning of Socialize
However, there’s a second meaning to socialize, that you, as a homeschooling parent, might appreciate knowing. That definition of socialize is to teach people to act like their social group wants.
That may not be the clearest definition, but basically, socialization in this context means to teach someone to act like their peers. It means a second grader teaching another second grader to act like a second grader.
Most parents don't really want their children getting behavioral cues from other children. They prefer that adults model behavior for their children—free of bullying, silly talk, and put-downs.
Three Stories of Homeschool Socialization
To make my point more practical and understandable, let me give you three quick stories about homeschool socialization.
1. With the Librarian
At one point, my Dad was talking to a librarian. "I can always tell when homeschooled children come in," she said. "Most kids shuffle up to my desk and simply declare, 'I need some help' or some such. They don't care if I'm preoccupied at the moment. They simply demand. Homeschooled kids walk up to my desk and wait quietly until I look up. 'Excuse me,' they will say. 'Can you help me with _____?' They are so polite!"
2. With the Coach
Another illustration: my Mom walked into the pool area where my younger sister was completing swim practice. Jonelle was talking with the coach. After their conversation ended, the coach turned to Mom and could hardly contain his smile. As Jonelle walked off to gather her things, he burst out to Mom: "I can't believe it! Your daughter . . . she talks to me as if she were an adult! So much poise! So polite! So . . . self-confident!"At that time, Jonelle was maybe eight years old. She barely came up to his waist. And yet she knew, innately, how to interact with a man probably 30 years her senior.
3. With the Curator
At a family reunion, a dolphin enthusiast watched my extended family interact. "You homeschool, don't you?" she said. "I can always tell."Her comment mystified me at the time, but when I met her husband, a marine expert, a few days later, he gave me a little insight. My extended family was examining the displays at the small museum he ran, asking him questions, giving exuberant attention to artifacts and animals. He said, "My wife must have loved you."And I realized: we were all engaged with the experience—grandparents, parents, children. We were all interested.
So when the question arises, “But what about socialization?” you can say, “I get to socialize my children! I get to integrate them into my life. They get to observe how I behave and learn what mature, adult interactions look like. It’s such an exciting opportunity for our whole family.”