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Rest in Peace, Fears About Socialization

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No other aspect of homeschooling has garnered more attention, commentary, and criticism over the years than the socialization of its children. I can’t believe anyone really thinks we make the decision to homeschool so we can lock our children in closets, chain them to the kitchen table, or otherwise see to it that they don’t interact or communicate with other human beings. Think about it for a minute: Wouldn’t that make it that much more difficult to educate them? Wouldn’t that make it that much more difficult to be around them for large portions of each day? Wouldn’t that be downright counterproductive to a parent’s natural inclination to raise well-rounded children into adulthood?

Book of Answers RevisedSo why the big fuss over socialization? Rather than being related to any real problem homeschooled children have meeting and mingling with fellow humans, it seems to be a problem with the thinking of some adults. These folks think it’s “weird” that families would have the audacity to decide for themselves with whom, where, when, and how much or how little “socialization” occurs. The converse of this, of course, is that someone outside the family decides these things for our children. Thus, in recent history, it has been decided that children’s socialization occurs in the institution of school, away from the rest of the world, much as the prison institution keeps inmates away from the rest of the world. And the constancy and intensity with which this decision is defended, mostly by htose with a vested interest (read paycheck!) in making sure the institution stays full, is cause for pause. This focus on school as children’s socialization device is an even more recent invention than public school itself.

What can we learn from this? That (a) the educational decision makers believe the public school system’s job extends beyond teaching academics; (b) these same decision makers need a strong criticism of a growing educational alternative that bypasses their control; or (c) both of the above.

The proliferation of topics addressed in schools, from drugs to sex to health to peer counseling to values training, coupled with the giant “strings attached to federal aid” programs such as Goals 2000 and School-to-Work (and now, Race to the Top), shows that choice “a” above is definitely true. And it is all accomplished under the seemingly benign term of socialization.

Research and personal evidence show that homeschooled children get along with others as well as, and in some cases better than, their publicly schooled counterparts. If what the educational decision makers mean by socialization is the ability to get along with others, familiarity with even a small amount of research would reveal the criticism as absurd.

But if their definition of socialization reaches beyond the ability to get along with others, and encompasses a standardized list of behaviors, attitudes, values, and thinking they wish to implant in all children, then, indeed, homeschooling has bypassed their control and choice “b” is also correct, making “c” the right answer.

If you didn’t choose answer “cd,” don’t worry. I’m a home educator; I’m not in the habit of grading people like slabs of beef. It just means it’s most important for you to reac this chapter carefully. Get the other side of the story from those who don’t hire public relations firms to put their own spin on this issue. Listen to the voices of experience, those who dared to bypass control and decided to define, value, and actually practice “socialization” on their own terms.

From this vantage point, it’s easier to put the modern definition of school socialization into perspective. From this vantage point, you and your family can see how homeschooling offers you real choice now that the importance of parental choice in education grows increasingly important to our children.

From The Homeschooling Book of Answers (Revised): The 101 Most Important Questions Answered by Homeschooling's
Most Respected Voices by Linda Dobson (Prima Publishing, copyright 1998, 2002)
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3 Responses to “Rest in Peace, Fears About Socialization”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Parent at the Helm. Parent at the Helm said: New blog posting, Rest in Peace, Fears About Socialization – http://parentatthehelm.com/gg […]

  2. Mother Mary says:

    My personal favorite:

    “ The Lakewood Public Schools strongly urges each parent to allow children to attend the public school setting. Parents are not recommended to provide home schooling as children may not experience the appropriate social, emotional or academic development when isolated from peers”

    Alan F. Ferraro, Director Pupil Personnel Services. December 15, 1994. (bold face, underline in original).

    I loved the loaded words in this one – parents ALLOW, parents NOT RECOMMENDED, APPROPRIATE SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL OR ACADEMIC, ISOLATED. If Mr. Ferraro was trying to stick me to the ceiling, he could not have done a better job. I “calmly” replied:

    “I find your final, bold faced, underlined comments regarding a child’s social isolation because of homeschooling narrow minded and bigoted. To assume we have no neighbors or church fellowship, that our son has no teammates or fellow Scouts in arrogant and self-serving. To assume public education is the only source of socialization in our society is dictatorial. Further, there is no basis for educational socialization in law. It is the purpose of public education to provide an academic education, not a social life, for society’s children. “ M-M

    Someone needs to tell these smarty-pants people to mind their own business and stay out of homeschooling.

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