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Paula Bolyard

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July 8, 2013 - 7:00 am
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Every homeschooling parent knows about the “S” word — socialization. We’ve all had conversations with concerned relatives who wonder if our kids are being properly socialized. Read any article about homeschooling in a mainstream media source and inevitably the comments section will fill up with concerns about it. Never mind that we also talk about socializing puppies and that children who are caught socializing too much in school are reprimanded. People who don’t know anything about the homeschooling family down the street have “grave concerns” about whether those children are being properly socialized.

By “socialization,” many of these folks are really wondering if the kids will grow up to be weird or odd somehow. There are two basic assumptions—false assumptions—that people make when considering homeschoolers and the threat of “weird” personalities that arise because of a lack of socialization.

The first assumption is that anyone can adequately define “weird.”

If you were the homecoming queen who was named Miss Congeniality in your high school yearbook and went on to have a daughter who followed in your footsteps, you will have a very specific image in your mind of how a “normal” high school kid should look and act. Likewise, if you were the gym rat who majored in football.

On the other hand, if you were the shy, shaggy-haired boy who eschewed grooming and spent your high school lunch hour playing Dungeons and Dragons, your categories for “weird” and “normal” will skew a little differently than Joe Football’s categories. Beauty and normal are in the eye of the beholder. And contrary to the persistent Duggar-style stereotype, homeschoolers come in all shapes, sizes, and personality types. There are the jocks, the hipsters, the computer geeks, and the goth kids (although you will find plenty who actually are just like the Duggars).

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Top Rated Comments   
Some woman asked a home-schooled girl if she missed the lack of "opportunities" to "socialize" with kids her own age. The girl replied that she had plenty of opportunities to socialize with other kids her age through sports, field trips, and other activities with other homeschooled kids. "And," continued the girl breezily, "When my mom believes I'm not getting enough public school-style socialization, she hires some local girls to beat me up in a washroom and take my lunch money." The woman responded with a shocked look because the girl's flippant comment called to mind an actual incident that happened to her own daughter at a public school.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've never been convinced that being forced to spend time with feral young humans while they sort out their pack hierarchy is somehow a "good thing" - unless, perhaps, you are one of the few that come out on top, or one of the ones in charge of the zoo.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We home school our 5 kids and when people ask me the 'S' question I reply;
"Which seems more natural and like the real world;
My kids spending time with their parents and other adults as we run errands, playing with their siblings and neighbors, being in church groups and classes like dance and art ? or;
Forcing them into a room with a bunch of strangers solely because these strangers are from roughly the same area and are within a few months of their age, keeping them there all day with only one adult, a stranger, to supervise them while isolating them from other adults AND other kids that are a even just a few months "too old" or "two young" and preventing them from interacting with each other except and specific times and place and in specific ways?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (21)
All Comments   (21)
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The home schoolers I know have grown up to be fine men and women because, instead of socializing with their immature, still developing peers as teens, they socialized with adults. They also had neighborhood friends, as usual.

"Socialization" is bunkum, a guilt trip manufactured by public school authoritarians. High Schools student culture is one step above a zoo, primitive and driven by ego and popularity. A lot of kids would do well not marinating in it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
What if your child is not normal to begin with? My Aspie math-genius son began home schooling for 5th grade, after a horrifying year in 4th grade with a teacher who refused to give him something, anything to feed his brain and who could not maintain an orderly classroom. In that first home school year, kid did 2 1/2 years of math curriculum. He was on a high. A few years later, our family experienced a devastating medical crisis and I could not do it all, so I sent kid to public school for 10th grade. He dusted all the "regular" kids academically, but it left him drained and exhausted socially. Why? Not because home school made him weird; because he's Aspie. Had he been forced to endure that artificial social construct for more than a year, I do not doubt he would have plunged into deep depression ... or perhaps worse. As it was, he now knows what institutional school is about, and it ain't about academics, Einstein. Home school saved this kid.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Homeschooling is a wonderful alternative for Aspie kids, many of whom don't receive the support they need in public schools and worse, endure terrible bullying. My son has a good friend who was in our homeschooling co-op whose parents pulled him out of public school in middle school. He is now a very successful college student.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Although I can't recall where, I remember reading how the school environment is the one providing "weird" socialization.

The point was that in an adult environment, where the most significant people are adults, children quickly learn adult values, modes of thinking, and responsibilities. In a school, the children are immersed in a social sea of other children. They retain the values and thinking of children. In a sense, it keeps them in an extended childhood.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Several months ago I had a conversation with my Amish neighbor and I told him that I thought that he and his community have done the greatest thing parents could do for their children; that is keeping them out of the American public schools and keeping them away from TV. I happen to be a retired public school teacher and can give witness to the corrosive effect public education has on the human psyche and it all starts with the constant lying that is the basis for the education industry in the American State.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah, Yes... The best thing about having retired from homeschooling, is not having to deal with the argument about the "S" word again ~ until our grand kids come along sometime in the distant future, because both of our kids swear they will be homeschooling.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I disagree with the premise that "socialization" is code for weird. It is a question I ask homeschooling parents and it's a legitimate one. I have known plenty of people over the past three decades who have been homeschooled and it's a concern. Historically many have NOT been properly socialized and they had a lot of problems when they came of age, either sticking very close to home as they hadn't had to deal with anyone on their own without their parents as backup, or taking off like Icarus without understanding of consequences. I have known a number of families who homeschool to create a bubble around themselves that is unhealthy and have resulted in serious problems once their kids hit 18 and can't be kept in the bubble well any more.

The question isn't necessarily an implication that public school is better. I speak to other parents with kids in public school about the problems with educational standards and bad habits picked up from other kids. I speak with parochial school parents about limited resources of smaller schools and how they handle private schools that aren't on the hook for accommodations.

The biggest challenge of home school is the inherent isolation from peers and the question is about how it is overcome. The second question regards how parents, especially of older kids, approach the problem of teaching that which they don't know. Both result in some interesting and innovative answers.

But ultimately some homeschooled kids ARE weird. For their parents the ability to control the child's world so completely is the driving feature of the system. Questioning the motivations of the parents and how they handle the challenges of the system is completely appropriate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually,. Socialization doesn't exist. Its just a word that the public schooling establishment made up when home schooling first started gaining traction. The only time psychologists ever tried to test "Socialization" in home schooled kids, they had to test other personal attributes, combine them together, and call it "Socialization". The specific characteristics they chose were empathy, curiosity, and general happiness. To the researcher's surprise, the homeschooled kids scored higher than the public school kids on average. That's really no surprise to me, as its pretty obvious that the public schools spend a great deal of effort beating those qualities out of the kids in their schools - mostly through the social scene they create.



And that is really the issue with the concept of "Socialization". Its more or less an amoral concept. At best "Socialization" only means "gets along with others". But what of the others? What if one of Paula's sons ends up in a fraternity with a bunch of guys (I know, it wouldn't happen - but stick with it) who are passionate about the hook-up culture. Her son finds that immoral. I bet he "wouldn't get a long" with those guys. I guess that's bad because he's in the minority?

My own kid, who was educated in an alternative school - but not home schooled, is considered weird at his current school. Though his current (private) school is broad scoped enough so that he can have a few friends. What makes him weird? He's curious about history and the rest of the adult world, he's friendly, he loves to talk to adults about their lives and interests. Kid's from traditional schooling find that almost alien. So what would you do in my situation? Beat those attributes out of your kid so he could "fit in"?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Some woman asked a home-schooled girl if she missed the lack of "opportunities" to "socialize" with kids her own age. The girl replied that she had plenty of opportunities to socialize with other kids her age through sports, field trips, and other activities with other homeschooled kids. "And," continued the girl breezily, "When my mom believes I'm not getting enough public school-style socialization, she hires some local girls to beat me up in a washroom and take my lunch money." The woman responded with a shocked look because the girl's flippant comment called to mind an actual incident that happened to her own daughter at a public school.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another reason to homeschool - creative use of sarcasm.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
MC88 said, " Questioning the motivations of the parents and how they handle the challenges of the system is completely appropriate."

Actually, it's not appropriate. The courts have ruled that parents have the right to direct the education of their children. Absent any probable cause that there is child abuse in the home, it's not anyone's business what the parents' motivation is. Unless you believe that the "state" can better determine what's best for the children.

And perhaps you could define "properly socialized" for us and tell us who should decide what that looks like.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
See "Common Core" and its adherents.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a difference between a representative of the government asking you about how you handle the challenges of the system and other citizens inquiring how you handle the drawbacks to your choices. I understood the original premise of your point (that "socialization" is code for "weird") was what random people mean by the question.

Homeschooling is a legitimate option but, as I said, it has its challenges just like any other option. I'm sorry that your first reaction is that I'm judging you if I ask your perspective on socialization for your kids (and what your motivations are so I can understand your priorities). But rather than assume I think you're raising a freak, think about what I'm actually asking. Spending time with other people is a necessary part of development that often has to be deliberately taken into account when your children are at home all day. I'm simply saying it's a legitimate topic of conversation and similar to ones I've had on other options as well. I've had the reverse conversation with public school parents: opinions and methods for dealing with kids that don't have as much structure and supervision as you would like as a parent. The premise that the question is about raising weirdos implies that it isn't a legitimate question in itself.

And "properly socialized" would be the opposite of "improperly socialized". I have known home schooled children who interact with people outside their immediate family for literally a handful of hours per week, and even then usually under the watchful eyes of their parents, until they turned 18. I don't consider that proper socialization and in each of the cases I have knowledge of there were major problems when the children came of age and had to interact with the real world. Most people I know who are injecting judgement into the question knows one or more family like that.

Social skills and independent decision making are learned like any other skills and as such need practice. THAT is what the question means: How do you make sure your child has the opportunity to develop skills of dealing with a variety of people and situations so they are a well rounded individual? Some people might load that question with judgement but some of us are just collecting information as we make our own decisions. We might *GASP!* actually be interested in the answers.

My oldest has gone through one year of school and I have asked this question of many homeschool families. As I said: every educational method has its challenges. There is a similar question or two that always gets asked of all methods: public, private, perochial, charter (and all subsets thereof), self-directed homeschool, and homeschool co-ops.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Spending time with other people is a necessary part of development that often has to be deliberately taken into account when your children are at home all day. "

Where in real life, outside of school, are people rigorously segregated by age?

And why would anyone think that's a GOOD thing?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've never been convinced that being forced to spend time with feral young humans while they sort out their pack hierarchy is somehow a "good thing" - unless, perhaps, you are one of the few that come out on top, or one of the ones in charge of the zoo.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yep. In my 'advanced reading group' in junior high, we read "Lord of the Flies." That's all you need to know.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Free range kids > packs and herds
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We home school our 5 kids and when people ask me the 'S' question I reply;
"Which seems more natural and like the real world;
My kids spending time with their parents and other adults as we run errands, playing with their siblings and neighbors, being in church groups and classes like dance and art ? or;
Forcing them into a room with a bunch of strangers solely because these strangers are from roughly the same area and are within a few months of their age, keeping them there all day with only one adult, a stranger, to supervise them while isolating them from other adults AND other kids that are a even just a few months "too old" or "two young" and preventing them from interacting with each other except and specific times and place and in specific ways?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ah, socialization.

I found this quote by Robin Williams on life:
"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it's not. The worst thing in life is to end up people that make you feel all alone."


We could alter it to speak of a good majority of kids school experiences. Those kids who aren't popular or conform.

"I used to think the worst thing in life was to go to school all alone, it's not. The worst thing in life is to end up going to school with people that make you feel all alone."

Remember, childhood, especially high school, is what we spend the rest of our lives trying to get over. Where do homeschool kids come off avoiding that trauma?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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