Homeschooling- But What About Socialization & Friends

Oh this post..it's been mulling around in my mind for months, actually, longer than that. It's been mulling around ever since we first said that we would homeschool our very social 5 year old. I've been told by homeschool skeptics time and time again that I need to put Mekonen in school because he just LOOOOVES people. That is very true. My five year old son THRIVES on being with people. He wakes up every day and wants to know what's on the agenda and who he is going to see.  He just LOVES people. The worst punishment for that child is being put in his room alone with no one. Even when he has to play quietly in his room alone, he puts on an audio CD. He just can't stand being "alone." Even when his sisters are napping he asks every 5 minutes, "Mom, when is Evie going to wake up?" And as soon as Daddy walks in the door, he is glued to his side, like his little shadow, just following him around everywhere, talking, asking questions, just wanting to be with someone. It's a wonderful quality, but sometimes it can be quite frustrating b/c it is insatiable! :) He never reaches the point of enough!
 I can't  even begin to tell you of the horrified hilarious looks we receive when people hear we are homeschooling. They are worried about why we are homeschooling, if our kids will turn out weird, and then another big one, "WHAT ABOUT FRIENDS?!?!?!" You would assume by people's opinions on this that we hole up our children and allow them no friends and no interactions with anyone outside our family of five. This is simply not true. In actuality, our kids have quite the busy life. There are only two out of the 5 school days where our kids are not around other kids outside our home, and that is not including soccer, baseball, and dance class. School is one part of life. We want our kids to be life-long learners and not see learning as simply the 8 hours of a school day. We hope to finish work in a timely fashion and spend the rest of our day enjoying hobbies, sports, work, and other activities.

Some people respond as if our kids are being denied the most wonderful, rewarding, and enriching relationships by not making them privy to daily interactions with their peers...and by peers, I mean, thirty other kids their exact same ages.

No, this does not mean we don't value "same age friends." Clearly we do. The majority of our children's friends are their ages. But we don't feel like daily, 8 hour long interactions with 30 other kids their same age is necessary, and in many cases, wise. We don't believe this is where "socialization" occurs (or at least the kind of socialization we are looking for). The dictionary defines socialization as "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." No offense, but I prefer my son not learn the norms, values, behaviors, and social skills appropriate for his age from 30 other five year olds as equally immature as my five year old. He has more than enough immaturity all on his own! Sure there is a teacher. But realistically, the influence is more heavily the other kids than the teacher. Cramming thirty 5 year olds in a room together for 8 hours a day, does not magically impart a specific desired level of social etiquette to one another. Not very many real life social boundaries are established due to the examples set by children who have not yet mastered social boundaries themselves. (And another disclaimer: we are not homeschooling to shield our children from the influence of others. I'm simply trying to point out why the socialization/friends argument people use isn't very valid).
SO, rather than worrying about satisfying my son's love of people with 30 other kids his same exact age, we prefer to give our kids several good friends their age as well as continued contact and relationships with people of all ages. and growing deep friendships with their siblings. They see this modeled from us as Jon and I have and highly value friendships across varying age groups. Isn't that what socialization is all about? Being able to interact and function in numerous social settings? It seems like the only social awareness you get from traditional classroom schools is the ability of one five year old to interact with another five year old.

One of our goals in educating our children is to prepare for them for life. Using the "what about friends" argument as a reason for sending our kids to school makes no sense for this goal. There are a lot of reasons we may consider sending our kids to school, but just friends isn't one of them. When in life do you ever experience a room full of people the exact same age? Adult circles are not set up this way...not socially, not in church, not in the workforce, not in your neighborhood, and not in your community. If age segregated socialization is so important than why don't we see that in the "real world."

Historically, in world history and church history, life has never been "age-segregated." People respond to the homeschooling friend issue as if we are haphazardly sheltering or denying our children of the ideal childhood. In our opinion a truly healthy social setting, and good social aptitude involves people from all ages, stages, and walks of life, where older teach the younger, the younger inspire the older, and we all learn together the strengths and weaknesses of generations that came before us, and we all learn new things from the generations coming up under us.
In our opinion, providing our children with good, solid friends their age, as well as a wide variety of relationships will lead to a well-rounded and enriching childhood. Thirty five year olds, 8 hours a day, is not what accomplishes this.

(Obviously, I am not arguing for the one room schoolhouse, etc. I have a teaching degree and taught in school. Clearly, age segregated classrooms are born out of necessity in educating so many kids in one place, and it's the way it works best in a traditional school setting. I get that. I'm not arguing that. I'm arguing against those who claim that my kids need to be in an age segregated classroom, i.e. traditional school, in order to be socialized and have a socially satisfying life. For the above reasons, I completely disagree).

(And again, we are not saying we will never put our kids in school or that parents who do are unwise. I'm just trying to shed light on the ridiculous arguments for why people say we shouldn't homeschool. There are reasons not to homeschool, but FRIENDS, is not one of them).


Kristy said...

Very insightful. I could not agree more!

Sheri Salatin said...

"Isn't that what socialization is all about? Being able to interact and function in numerous social settings?"

Absolutely!! I agree 100%. Great article. Thank you for sharing :)