Today on Facebook, I read about a woman in my province who informed her child’s school that she would be removing her son from public school mid-year and homeschool instead. The teacher replied, “Well, as a teacher I am concerned about socialization.”
The idea that a homeschooler will not be adequately socialized often makes me laugh. I have been to Canadian homeschooling conferences. I have been in Canadian homeschooling Facebook groups. I have worked in a school whose purpose is to help parents homeschool. Homeschooling is a very popular alternative to public school! And, for the most part, children who are homeschooled have very active social lives! The fact that socialization is still an argument against homeschooling surprises me.
What the question of socialization really comes down to is its definition and who can actually provide the most beneficial socialization for children. That is the topic of Rachel Gathercole’s book The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling.
The book covers the following topics (and more!) and include many anecdotes and insights from homeschooling families. This topic list is taken straight from the introductory chapter to the book:
- Chapter 2: What homeschoolers do
- Chapter 3: What good socialization actually is
- Chapter 4: How homeschooling encourages strong friendships and healthy, abundant peer contact
- Chapter 5: How proximity and strong family relationships benefit children socially
- Chapter 6: Homeschooled children benefit from physical, emotional, and social safety
- Chapter 7: How each homeschooled child has abundant time and freedom to “be a kid”
- Chapter 12: How homeschoolers develop positive senses of citizenship and pluralism
It would be impossible for me to summarize this book for you in a few short paragraphs, so I will leave you with an extended quotation from chapter three to help you get an idea of Gathercole’s train of thought in this book as well as my customary list of things I loved and things I didn’t love.
Fortunately, kids are naturally social. They don’t need a singular institution to help them find friends and fun things to do. Friends are everywhere. In the neighborhood, at church, synagogue, or other religious groups, at Scouts, and so on. In fact, once I had glimpsed the lives of people who lived their days unfettered by school schedules and restrictions, I discovered a jarring truth: School actually interferes with social life. I realize this will sound ridiculous, as it would have to me at one time, but I assure you, you’ll see what I mean. In Chapter 4 we will hear numerous quotes from homeschoolers describing the surprising ways that homeschooling has actually helped them to have more time with friends and a fuller, more fun social life. In Chapter 5 they will explain how family unity encourages and allows kids to experience [a better social life]. (Gathercole, 41).
What I loved:
- Gathercole is experienced. At the time of writing, she had been homeschooling for ten years. She also is well-read on the topic and has taken time to interview a wide variety of homeschooling families.
- Even with the rise in popularity of homeschooling, apparently this is still a very relevant topic and common objection to homeschooling.
- I loved her emphasis on the family’s role in being the strongest determiner of a child’s success. As parents, we are ultimately responsible for what our children learn in their childhood. If our children need more parent time to learn those social and life skills and our situations allow us to do so, we should absolutely bring our kids home to give them that time. (As always, I want to note that there are also very valid reason for parents keeping their kids in the school system. Each parent knows their children and their needs better than anyone else)
- Gathercole does NOT suggest that children will be socialized through staying at home with their family. The family lays the foundation of security and social skills and together they go out into the community and practice those skills together with those outside the home.
What I didn’t love:
- I personally didn’t find the writing style to be very compelling.
- There seemed to be a bit too much repetition for my preference.
Despite my stylistic preferences, I do recommend you borrow this book from your library or purchase it if you have a number of people who keep expressing their socialization concerns to you. This book offers story after story to help allay those concerns.
Some Extra Personal Thoughts:
Maybe you are still concerned about “socializing” your child. There are times that I also find myself being concerned that I won’t be able to provide adequate social interaction for my child. At this point in time, aside from one boy, I currently do not know of any other homeschool children within a forty minute radius. Likely there are some, but they are few and far between. For the time being, I will likely have to drive the hour to nearby cities to become involved in homeschool groups there and make sure I provide lots of time outside of public school hours for my children to interact with young people within the community. The fear can still be real but, it should be motivation to channel our energies towards providing authentic socialization opportunities for our children, rather than a reason to avoid homeschooling all together.
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