Why Homeschool? How Home Learning Provides Better Socialization

Why Homeschool? How Home Learning Provides Better Socialization
This week, I continue my series on reasons to homeschool, with a look at socialization, and why it is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling.

If you’ve spent any time at all homeschooling your kids, the very word “socialization” probably makes you groan.  You might want to shake your head in disgust, or you might just want to inwardly sigh.  It simply always comes up.  As homeschooling parents, we hear phrases like, “I could never do it.  I want my kids to have friends,” or “going to school will be good for them,” or the best one, “I made it through, so I know they will.”

No one spells it out better than Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, in their book, Hold on to Your Kids.  Essentially, Neufeld debunks the myth that learning from our peers is a preferable thing.  In fact, he downright says it’s a bad thing.  He gives a lot of reasons, and they all make sense.  Here’s a few of the basics:

  • Peers are not mature.  Therefore, they don’t know how to support a child / friend’s emotional development.  They are still developing themselves.  Makes sense.
  • Kids have primary attachments.  If their primary attachment is to their peers, it can’t be to their parents (or teachers, or mentors, or other mature, caring adult).
  • Kids who are peer attached don’t mature.  They don’t grow into properly functional human beings, because they never get beyond adolescence.  We probably all know people like this.

To me, Hold on to Your Kids makes so much sense.  Of course, peers are not mature.  A child’s ten-year-old best friend does not have that child’s best interests at heart.  Love them they might, but they can’t have their best interests at heart.  They don’t even know what they are.

When we, as a society, expect our children to become “socialized” by other children, we expect them to learn how to think, reason and behave by being with others kids. How will other kids teach them manners?  Or critical thinking skills?  Or empathy?  These are all adult concepts.  Adult skills.  Frankly, it amazes me that people would consider socialization to be an expected outcome of peer groups, like preschools, and classrooms.

An article that I read last week, really resonated with me.  It presents the idea that preschool is actually a very stressful setting for young children. It argues that they aren’t equipped to handle long spells of interaction with peer groups.  It made such perfect sense.  I see it again and again with my child.  He’s incredibly social, and loves being around other children.  But, we have to be so careful to give him the down time he needs.  The time to process.  And the time to reorient to our family unit.  Sure, he might be practicing interacting with other children when he is with them, but he learns those things from us.  When I see how he absorbs the way I speak to his younger sister, how he negotiates with her, and treats her with kindness (in his good moments), I know he learns these things from me: as an adult, modelling.  Not as a child struggling through a new set of skills (a child just struggling to keep their own emotions together).

As for socialization, I think it is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling.  Children are able to learn social skills from adults.  People who already know how to handle themselves.  People who have already developed empathy.  People who know how to interact with people of all ages: young and old, not just peers.  People who have coping skills.  People who are not intentionally hurtful.  People who are not posturing for social status.

Homeschoolers are in the unique position to learn from a variety of adults: parents, grandparents, community workers, mentors and, teachers.  And they also get to practice those skills.  Not in an age-predicated, quarantine situation, but in an everyday, every age world.  That is, the real world.  You know, the one where the rest of the people live.
A loving home environment, coupled with a varied peer group (of multiple ages), and a variety of caring adults seems pretty ideal to me.  And it seems that home learning offers a beautiful, and effective way of providing that experience.
So, yes, I think my children will be different.  Even differently socialized.  They will probably stand out in a group of their peers.  It may even be awkward.  But, I hope they’ll stand out in their confidence.  Their adaptability, and ability to discourse with people of all ages.  And, most of all, their empathy towards fellow human beings. This is a gift I hope that homeschooling can give to them.  A gift that will serve them well throughout their lives.
How about you?  Do you ever worry about socialization?  Do you notice differences in your homeschooled kids?  Positive or negative?  Both?
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  1. This is a beautifully written article about socialisation. After years of loving the idea of home schooling, we put our son in the local schools kindergarten program this year. I don’t regret it, because it was what he needed at the time. With much conversation and thought about next year, we have decided to go back to our original educational goal and home school him. Here are some thoughts about his social experience…

    Most of the day was sitting and learning. The only opportunity to actually talk and play with the other kids was during the short recess, and lunch which was highly monitored by adults. Harvest was coming home telling us new swear words that he had learned at recess and he had no positive stories to share about creative games he had played with the other children. It felt like the socialisation was all negative. The kids were very judgemental of each other, and tried to be naughty by talking about inappropriate things when the grown-ups were not listening. I can’t imagine it being better next year when it is full day school.

    When Harvest is home, he has ample time to play quietly by himself which he needs. He has the option to play (socialise) with his sister and myself when he is in the mood. We respect each other and we talk about our feelings and our interests. When we need more, we leave the house an play with our friends or just get a cup of hot cocoa in the community. In my opinion, saying hi to the grown ups at the coffee shop is a more positive social experience than what he ends up getting at school. We travel around and see cousins and other home schooling friends when he is not at school and I have observed a very positive feeling from him.

    Thanks for this article. It inspires me even more to go forward with our plan to home school Harvest for first grade.

    • Thanks Hannah, and welcome! Sounds like his Kindergarten is rather traditional. I know some are moving towards more active play these days. Still… I’m excited for you in your new challenge for next year. I’m sure you’ll all love it!

  2. Totally agree…Our daughter too needs a lot of downtime and time to play by herself, especially after playdates and preschool. However, we LOVE our parent participation preschool. She gets to have fun experimenting with an incredible variety of activities and materials but there is always at least one adult for every four kids, so they’re never on their own to deal with stressful situations. It’s been great.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Danika. Yes, I’ve heard parent-participation preschools can be much better in a lot of ways, not the least of which is the adult-child ratio. Which is a huge factor. Parent-participation preschools seem more like playgroups, and less like school, to me.

      P.S. We’ve signed Dylan up for Fresh Air Learning next year for one day a week. I’m just deciding whether it’s actually a good idea, or not. It seems like the same sort of thing, except outside. I’m pretty sure he’ll love it.

  3. Beautiful post! My husband and I homeschooled our kids through high school (although I was the main teacher), and it was definitely the best thing we could have ever done for them. I know that homeschooling isn’t for everyone and respect every parent’s right to find the best educational path for their own family. But for us, it gave us the freedom to follow our kids’ interests and our family’s rhythm and schedule – and it helped my husband and me be the best possible influence in our kids’ lives.

    By following our kids’ interests, our kids had plenty of opportunities for positive socialization experiences. They’re now 21 and 26. They kept their love of learning and had wonderful college experiences. Both have bachelor’s degrees and are happy, successful, nice adults that I’m very proud to call my children.

    • You have such a great perspective. I agree, it’s so wonderful that everyone has the right (at least where we are from) to pursue the education and life that works for their family. It’s always wonderful to hear about adult children that enjoyed and thrived with homeschooling. Thanks so much for visiting!

  4. Wonderful post. Socialization is one of the things that comes up most often, when I’m asked about homeschooling. Your points are all spot on. I have five kids who do stand out in a crowd–for all the right reasons (in my mind). And I attribute that to their chance to just be kids and to interact in many different situations with many people. Thanks for sharing your reasons. I enjoyed nodding my head as I read along!

  5. This was a wonderful post. I was home schooled, and have now been homeschooling my kids for three years. I do believe that children need to be around other children, and that they can learn valuable things from peers, but I also believe that peers cannot be the primary attachment, because they will not learn necessary life skills from peers alone. One benefit to homeschooling is that the parent can monitor social situation while the children are young, and help to guide the child to make correct decisions. That thought process is always frowned upon in today’s society, because they think we are being over protective, or that we are brainwashing them. I was told by a lady the other day that I was brainwashing my child. I was making my child clean up after herself, even though no one else was, and the art teacher said she would clean it up. I was teaching my child that we should ALWAYS clean up our messes,and NEVER expect someone else to do it. I told the lady that I was ok with “brainwashing” her, if it meant that she learned to be a responsible adult. We have so many irresponsible adults in today’s society. Anyways, sorry for the rant.

    • Nice way of putting it. I think you’re right about monitoring social situations. You also know how your kids function, and how to help them succeed socially, as well as educationally. Wow, “brainwashing.” Such a strong choice of words, especially for respectful behaviour. Interesting how people see things isn’t it? Thanks for your comments (and your rant). =)


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