One of the biggest questions, doubts, fears, or misunderstanding about homeschooling is about socialization. It’s always a common topic, whether in the homeschool groups, among new homeschoolers, family, or just random people you meet throughout your journey. So what does that even mean?
Merriam Webster defines socialization as: the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.
Let’s think about that for a minute. A few key words stand out to me in that definition. First, beginning at infancy.
Socialization is a process that starts the moment we are born. As parents, homeschool or not, it is our job to take this unresponsive, but cute, little baby and help it grow into an adult capable of joining our society. The first few years of a child’s life are spent with family, or in a daycare if parents have to work. There is no emphasis on education and no one ever talks about socializing their 2 year old. As a parent with a newly walking toddler and a precocious preschooler, no one asks what I am doing for socialization. The goals for infants revolve around keeping them safe and if they are hitting milestones on time.
Preschoolers, in my opinion, need more socializing then at any other time in our lives. 3 to 5 year olds are learning how to share, take turns, control their tempers, to say please and thank you and many other fine points of what makes our society tick. They are learning about different jobs in our communities, the roles people play in day to day life, and being introduced to so many new concepts about how our society works. If there’s ever a time someone should be worried about a child being socialized, it is the preschool years. Yet no one is ever concerned at this point. There’s no push to make sure your three year old is in a room with five to ten other three year old children to learn these things. All of these skills come naturally through play, running errands with their parents, helping with household chores and just everyday life. (Side note, there is a push to put kids into preschool, but it’s not for socialization.)
So what happens when a child hits 6 and is entering school? The next key words stand out, education and training. Do kids in kindergarten, 1st grade, 5th grade, actually learn about society because they are in a classroom with kids their own age? Does 10 minutes of group participation time help educate them about our habits and beliefs? Does the short time they get at recess train them to be adults? Really think about those questions and remember what school was like for you as a child.
The best person to educate and train a child to become an adult is an adult. Children can’t teach each other how to do adult things. Have you ever read Lord of the Flies? In any society, there is an older, wiser, stronger entity that guides the youth, whatever that society might be. In ancient Sparta, the older soldiers trained the young boys. In medieval Europe, experienced craftsman trained and educated the youth. Yet somehow, socialization now should only be taught by your child’s peers. People who worry about socialization don’t think things through. I don’t want my child socialized through peer pressure, fads, and kids who just grow up entirely to fast.
Having friends, playing games, sharing secrets are not the same as socialization. My children have friends. We have classes, activities, play dates, park days, and so much more. But that is not what socialization is about. So when you are asking about socialization, are you asking about how to teach your child to become a functioning, adult member of society, or are you asking if your child knows how to play with other 6 year olds?