The Socialization Trap

July 28th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

During this pandemic, many parents have been surprised to discover just how valuable family time is. Some discovered that their children made more academic progress by not going to traditional school. No matter what the benefits, however, many had to cope with kids who desperately missed their friends.

This last problem might lead some parents who are thinking, “Wow, could homeschooling be for us?” to dismiss it out of hand. After all, no matter what the benefits of being home, friendship and social interactions are important.

Three of my daughters—all homeschooling moms—and I were each asked to film a short video about socialization and homeschooling. We’re actually not sure where the final product will be seen, but we know the person collecting the videos so we were willing to participate. As things developed, our eldest was helping facilitate the COVID-19 wedding of a friend so she didn’t manage to contribute. My other daughters and I ended up approaching the topic from different directions and I thought you might enjoy getting a composite view.

DD3 and her husband took advantage of the changes wrought by the virus to load their three children onto an RV and set off to discover America. She made the point that her children are meeting all sorts of people at each RV park they frequent. They are becoming less diffident and shy as they meet both kids and adults from different backgrounds and areas. Since everyone might move out at any moment, there is no time for slowly warming up to each other. This has made her realize that, in schools, kids are often with basically the same group of friends for many years. Certainly, some social skills are practiced, but breaking out of the school bubble is valuable as well.

DD2 spoke about the many social opportunities her children usually have ranging from homeschool coop scenarios to homeschool activities run by the local science center or other organizations. The picture of children sitting at home and seeing no one may be applicable to a pandemic situation, but it certainly does not represent most families and their normal homeschooling experiences. After initially being excited at how very many social activities are available, many homeschooling moms end up realizing that they need to choose carefully so that they do not find their entire week taken up with running between amazing options. The challenge is often too much socialization rather than too little.

The point I made was to question what the word socialization means in the first place. During my 16-year homeschooling journey, my children made friends based more on interest than on age. Isn’t that how life works? As adults, we don’t restrict our friendships to those born within the same year as us nor to those who live in the same neighborhood. As the only Jewish family within a once-a-week Christian coop, my children learned to clearly define and be proud of their unique family and religious heritage at the same time as they learned that we can be friends with those who are different from us. They took classes at the coop based on their interests rather than their age and learned to function in a group with those both older and younger than they were.

It isn’t uncommon for those parents whose children face social difficulties in school to decide to homeschool. In many cases, parents find it easier to work on these difficulties, with or without professional help, while their children aren’t having daily negative experiences in school. Outsiders may see a struggling child and attribute their awkwardness to homeschooling while the reality is that the cause and effect are reversed. The child is homeschooling because he had challenges; the challenges aren’t the result of the homeschooling.

Most kids who would socially do well in school are perfectly fine making friends through the homeschooling community as well as at their neighborhoods and synagogues or churches. Those of my children who transitioned to school during their high school or college years had no difficulty whatsoever in making friends and I hear the same from others.

If you have found that having your children home has brought blessing into your family, I hope you won’t take homeschooling off the table because of the false narrative that the need for  “socialization”  can only take place in traditional school settings. You may not have a choice next year—when and how schools will open is up for debate. However, if your school opens in a way that isolates each child and “socialization” is no longer even a goal of schooling, I hope you know that having friends and getting along with others is extremely important, but something that parents are perfectly capable of facilitating.

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