Musings of a Retired Homeschool Mom
I currently work at a retail store as a cashier, where I try to be friendly and chit-chat with my customers. One day a woman came through my line buying items for her church, which I noticed was the same church a homeschooling friend of mine attended. I asked the customer if she knew my friend. She cheerfully affirmed that she did indeed know “Melinda,” and asked how I knew her. I told her we were in the same homeschool group together for several years.
Immediately the customer’s attitude changed. She proceeded to tell me how she came from a family of teachers, and how she thought that children who are homeschooled are being shortchanged by it. I told her I homeschooled all three of my children from the beginning all the way through high school. They all excelled academically, and I went into detail about how two had finished college and the third was going to chiropractic school. When that didn’t fit her image of homeschoolers, she told me that they may do well academically, but they are missing out on the socialization opportunities that they would get by attending school. Silently I thought, “Seriously? This is 2016. Are we really still throwing around the S word?”
The socialization question is one that I have heard over and over again over the years, and it doesn’t seem to go away. What is socialization anyway? Dictionary.com gives two definitions: “1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position; and 2. the act or process of making socialistic: the socialization of industry.” The first is really the one that applies to everyone’s concerns about homeschoolers.
Going by the first definition, socialization can be achieved in the traditional school setting, but what kind of socialization is being accomplished? From firsthand experience as a public schooled student for 12 years, I experienced, and in some cases due to peer pressure, participated in much of the following: bullying; cliquishness; foul language; and exposure to smoking, drugs, sex, and alcohol. There was also sexual harassment of students by teachers, coaches, and administrators. The socialization that I received at this small rural school district is one of the main reasons I decided to homeschool my own children.
Living your everyday lives as a homeschooling family is the best possible form of socialization. You interact with others at church, at homeschool group meetings, at the grocery store, the post office, and any other normal day-to-day activity that you do.
Compare that to the traditional school situation. Children now start preschool at three to four years old, and are in school for 14 to15 years before even thinking about going to college. School days are starting earlier and dismissing later, and school years are getting longer as well. The vast majority of a child’s time is spent inside a brick building, sitting at a desk, interacting mostly with peers, rather than truly living in the real world and experiencing a wide variety of interactions through daily life.
Add to that the measures schools are taking to provide an environment safe from active shooter situations, terrorist attacks, and other real or imagined threats. The small school that I once attended cannot even be entered these days without pushing a button by the door so someone inside the office can approve your entry into the building. Another nearby school has installed iron fencing around the entrance — sort of like a prison, but without the razor wire.
So, don’t let anyone intimidate you with questions about the “S” word. The type of socialization they are worried that your child will miss out on is not socialization at all. It is institutionalization, which is something else altogether. (See definition 2 above.)
As the conversation ended with my customer, I told her I had homeschooled for 25 years and was spending my “retirement” working as a cashier. The eavesdropping customer next in line condescendingly said to me, “Well, some of us got an education so we wouldn’t have to do that.” Hmm, I wonder where she was socialized?