The first, and often only, feedback I receive from adults who find out I am homeschooling my son is:
“But how will your child get socialized?”
My mind instantly conjures up pictures of times like this one pictured:
My actual response is along the lines of:
“Well, you just talked to him, and it is pretty obvious that he has excellent social skills. He learned them by accompanying me nearly wherever I go and by interacting with family and friends.”
As if I’ve missed some vital detail, the baffled and concerned adult I am conversing with points out,
“But children need to learn to interact with their PEER group.”
Although already annoyed, I attempt to proceed civilly and rationally.
“If the goal of child-rearing is to teach your child how to be a successful adult, a child needs to learn how to communicate with all ages. There is no real-life situation in which only 37 year-olds will be allowed to work, eat, and otherwise interact with each other.”
Their pretty much universal response to this?
“But, but, but…. PEER GROUPS!!!”
I really do want to discuss this concept. After my initial defensive and fearful response, I can admit that I honestly do not know the right answer. First, my fears.
As my sister once pointed out, social skills learned in a public school setting may be relevant to their immediate peer group, but are they skills that will actually serve a child in the future? Perhaps. Perhaps learning to bully, and how to deal with being bullied, will prepare my child for a rigorous and competitive corporate career. Perhaps learning to sit quietly disengaged for entire days at a time will prepare my child to be an effective cubicle drone. Perhaps learning to pass tests and coast through curriculum will prepare my child to be content will the status quo.
However, these are not really skill I want my son to have. Now, here is a list of social goals I have when planning my homeschooling adventures:
5 Goals for Homeschooling and Socialization
- Independence. I want my son to feel capable of finding an answer or solution on his own.
- Kindness. After all that independence, I want my son to know how important it is to give and receive help. Nobody can truly do it on his own.
- Cooperation. It is absolutely hilarious, as an adult, to watch young children “sorting it out.” being able to create win-win situations is a skill vital to success.
- Strength. Strength of character, a healthy body and mind, the ability to bounce back after failure.
- Improvement. I want my son to know that he can make a difference, and that it is his duty to try.
So far, my son has interacted the most with his family. This includes a bevy of cousins of a similar age, aunts and uncles, grandpas and grandmas. To a lesser degree, my son interacts with my close friends. Publicly, he interacts with adults met while running errands or attending classes and events. I instruct him often about proper conduct, and we discuss his feelings on various encounters, both positive and negative. The Golden Rule plays a big role in our conversations, but so does Turn the Other Cheek.
It seems to me that most parents do not think this is sufficient. I’m wondering what socialization skeptic parents value the most in their children’s social experiences in the traditional school setting. What specifically benefits children’s socialization in general?