What about Socialization

Today’s Musing is actually a triple-header. It was inspired by an Ask the Rabbi question. In order not to make that answer too long, I intended to follow up with a Practical Parenting column. Finally, I decided to bundle all my (our) reflections  into one Susan’s Musing.

Here is Dave’s Ask the Rabbi question and our answer:

Greetings Rabbi and Susan,

I’m a long-time listener and grateful beneficiary of Ancient Jewish Wisdom, the Podcast, Thought Tools, Susan’s Musings and your books.

My question is in regards to the most recent podcast on “Dealing with Death.” In it, Rabbi, you mention that most mass-shooters are basically lonely men; unmarried, childless, disconnected, involuntarily celibate, etc. I completely agree. However, you mention that if these men were more connected to family, friends, sexual relationships, etc., the problem would be virtually resolved.

When I heard this, I couldn’t help but think about homeschooling. As a homeschooler (which as I understand your family did also), I often find myself defending our decision to homeschool against naysayers who argue that my children will not receive the necessary social skills they’ll need to function in society. Usually, it goes something like this: “You’re sheltering your children; they’ll never make any friends being cooped-up in your house all day.” Surely they’d receive all their “necessary social skills” in public school. I was the product of a GIC [Government Indoctrination Camp] (one of my favorite acronyms or yours, I must tell you) and will never be an apologist for them. In retrospect, it seems that being forced to go to a place with thousands of my peers every weekday provided harmful “over-socialization” if there is such a thing.

I remember from my school experience is that there wasn’t much learning going on. Instead it was an utter fashion show. I spent every day being hopelessly obsessed with girls, the latest loud music and my own popularity. Now twenty-five years removed from high school, I can’t think of even one life-affirming or life-enhancing connection that remains.

Still, it seems that homeschooling is antithetical to your point about mass-shooters needing more connections. Is this a legitimate disparity, or one of life’s many paradoxes? Furthermore, I’m sure you and Susan heard the same objection to homeschooling. How did you defend your decision?

Thank you again for all you and Susan do. It is more valuable to Christians like me than you might ever realize.


Dear Dave,

You are presenting us with quite a dilemma. The problem is not that we have trouble answering your excellent  question, but  that we struggle to answer it sufficiently briefly.   When we launch into the topic  of homeschooling, it is hard to get us (especially Susan) to keep it short.  [Let it be noted as I (RDL) often do, that one of the many, many great kindnesses that Mrs. Lapin has extended to me has been homeschooling our family.  I cannot overstate how much of my current familial satisfaction is due to those many years our family was all together in our own homemade school environment. Though I immodestly claim “we homeschooled” it is in the same spirit that I claim “Between us we changed about 30,000 diapers.”   True but hardly the whole truth.] For today, however, our solution is to partially answer your question here and then Susan will continue answering.

If your children are actually “cooped-up in your house all day,” we might  be concerned. Somehow, we doubt this is the case. We feel confident that like most of the millions of children being homeschooled, your children do field trips, outings, and perhaps co-op classes with dozens of other homeschooling families.  Additionally they probably attend family gatherings and enjoy playing with neighborhood and church friends, some of whom probably are sentenced to GICS .

A troubling book, Educated, by Tara Westover, describes her upbringing as the daughter of a severely dysfunctional and abusive father who hid many of his activities under the guise of homeschooling. While that book would seem to be an argument for forcing all children into school, to be fair one would also have to read, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. This harrowing book describes his experiences with a severely dysfunctional and abusive mother. He did go to school and for years teachers never followed up on the many overt clues suggesting that he needed help. 

Of course, one can also read stories that are sadly available about bullied students and abusive teachers. In other words, it may be a tragic reality, but it is a reality that sick and evil adults can cause great pain to children. Children can also cause a great deal of pain to other children. We do not order society on the basis of assuming that most adults are sick and evil or that any gathering of children will be a replay of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Following that train of thought is futile.

Back to your family. Most homeschoolers we know have a wide variety of activities outside the home and are also part of  the larger homeschooling and general community. They also have extremely strong relationships with their parents and siblings. As your memories from school remind us, being around others of exactly the same age as us does not necessarily help our social skills.

If a teenage boy, in particular, whether he is homeschooled or in a conventional school, has no friends, a poor relationship with his family, is broody and disconnected from all other people spending most of his time alone, we would worry. However, suggesting that homeschooling leads to that conclusion has nothing to do with how the world REALLY works.

In love with lifetime learning,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Did I (Susan) have more to say on the topic? Of course! Here are a few more of my thoughts:

Tell people around you that you are even thinking of homeschooling and before long someone—or many—will exclaim, “But what about socialization?” Most veteran homeschoolers will burst out laughing at that question. Often, their children are busy with so many social activities that they struggle to find time for basics like math. Nevertheless, let’s take a deeper look at the question.

Why don’t we start by looking at the Bing online dictionary definition of the word. My search yielded the following:


[ˌsōSHələˈzāSH(ə)n, ˌsōSHəˌlīˈzāSH(ə)n]


  1. the activity of mixing socially with others.
    “socialization with students has helped her communication skills”

       2. the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
      “preschool starts the process of socialization”

      3. organization of an industry or company according to the principles of socialism.
      “planned economic growth was accompanied by the socialization of agriculture”

One could argue that many professors at university schools of education hew most closely to  promoting definition #3. Many parents, seeing polls showing that after  years of indoctrination in school a shocking number of young adults think socialism is preferable to capitalism, could understandably decide  to homeschool precisely to counteract the effects of socialization.

Yet, most people (perhaps naively) are referring to definitions #1 and #2 when they question homeschooling. Let’s deal with those in reverse order.

I disagree entirely with the example for the definition that reads, “ the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.” First of all, in my homeschool we would capitalize the beginning of a sentence. More importantly, the sentiment is far more troubling than the grammar. Society has many  very unacceptable ideas today. The less exposure to them that children get, the better off they are.

Even if positive values are being imparted, preschool, which today generally starts between the ages of three and four, should not be the beginning of learning how to interact with others. That process must begin three to four years earlier. A newborn is completely self-centered. A three-year-old should not be. During that interval of time, little ones should learn many lessons as they recognize that they and their mothers are two separate people and that screaming and crying are not the only responses to discomfort. By three and four they should have been introduced to ideas ranging from standing to the side when waiting to enter an elevator out of consideration for those exiting, to sharing toys with and offering a drink to visitors. If none of these and myriad other ideas are not already familiar by the time a child enters preschool, that poor preschool teacher is facing an overwhelming task.

However, definition #1 is probably what most people have in mind when they question homeschooling. Their imaginations travel to a lone child sitting in isolation, looking longingly out as apple-cheeked and cheerful children prance happily down the block looking forward to a day of education and fun. Seriously, other than pictures of Dick and Jane in the appalling primary readers that helped pave the way to wide-spread illiteracy do either of those images seem realistic?

Most homeschoolers are involved in all sorts of activities ranging from karate to volunteering in old-age homes, from orchestra to geo-caching. There is a major difference however between these social interactions and those in school. The partners in these activities tend to span a greater age range than is found in the classroom. More like real life, you could say where your co-workers and friends are not all born within the same year as you. Rather than taking your social cues from other ten-year-olds, homeschoolers have the opportunity to model themselves after older peers and to be a model to younger ones.

Not every school is a den of bullying and not every homeschooling family reflects the finest character traits. But if socialization means learning to mix socially with others and to cooperate and function in group settings, then parents should feel confident that those skills can be learned both within the school setting and outside of it.

31 thoughts on “What about Socialization”

  1. For many years I worked as a campus minister at a church in a college town. I’ve met hundreds and thousands of college aged kiddos. Home school socialization is a valid concern. I met dozens of home schooled kids and some were terribly under-socialized. They struggled to make any decision without a parent approval. They didn’t know how to be with peers or the opposite gender. They were good kids and smart, but awkward and clearly sheltered, and not in positive ways but naïve ways. Then I also met home schooled kids that were part of groups that met regularly and were very gifted, responsible, and well adjusted kids. I also had kids from public and private schools that were both healthy and unhealthy. Home schooling alone is not some miracle. It can be detrimental as well. It can be good or bad just like public or private education and some teachers can be.

    1. I was certainly not suggesting that homeschooling is automatically wonderful. What I was saying was that school also isn’t and any concerns about homeschooling can be matched with concerns about schools. Neither is inherently the best for all children.

  2. Regarding the question posed in your musing, “What about socialization?” The short answer we always gave was, “We don’t want our children ‘socialized’ by socially dysfunctional children.” They were socialized by the adults they came into contact with and by other, more socialized, homeschoolers. When they were 7-8 years old they were having adult conversations with other adults and were not intimidated. That’s what they thought ‘normal’ kids should do. We were always getting compliments from other adults about how refreshing it was to be able to actually communicate with them. As for math, we used online tutoring (one-on-one) for one who had a learning disability and the other took it upon himself to teach himself so that he wouldn’t be left behind when he went to U. of Washington (where he graduated at age 20). When each reached high school age we allowed them to matriculate and both found the experience of being treated as a child, by both teachers and other children, to be demeaning. They were also impatient to actually get an education and dropped out of their respective indoctrination camps before the first semester ended.
    My wife thinks the parents of children in public schools should remove their kids from that environment until the system feels the pain (economic) and becomes more accountable and responsive. I’m unconvinced that they can be fixed given the lack of will to do so.

  3. I think it’s amazing how many people recognize that some parents, like myself, are unqualified to teach higher level math skills even though we were taught by, so-called, qualified math teaches in public schools!! Are they admitting that if you want your children to learn math you should keep them out of the public school system?? As for me and my homeschool program, I spent the first year erasing public school mentality from my sons’ heads (they were 12 and 14 yrs old when I began homeschooling) and began to teach them HOW to learn and not WHAT to learn. They both quickly blossomed and followed their own interests and excelled in every area they had an interest in. Believe it or not, after 2 years of no math at all they both wanted to understand math better and so taught themselves using famous math geniuses’ writings and actually understood math levels way higher than anything I was ever even exposed to in public school! They are now both in their 40s and one is the lead web developer for a multi million dollar company and the other is a nuclear power plant inspector. They both have excelled in so many areas that they live fun, creative and full lives and will never want for financial security. (They both have read your books on finances!) My opinion is that if you know how to learn the world becomes your oyster and your need for a “teacher” disappears because the world is full of those who know. Once you learn who to ask and how to ask, (social skills) they will answer and your knowledge will grow.
    Side note – Both of my sons opted to skip college and simply became apprentices in their fields of choice and to this day are asked over and over what college they attended that caused them to become so “smart”. When I pulled them out of public school they were both D students. It makes me wonder what our country would look like if we shut down public schools everywhere.

  4. I totally agree with you both Rabbi and Susan. I have a pretty strong opinion on sending children to large campuses of schools virtually left to themselves and at the mercy of other unknown children and teachers, besides no real security. I was sent to a small Catholic school grades 1-7 and yes it was strict but I was educated. In eighth grade I started at a public school. I was in shock. I felt thrown to the wolves. Kids smoking outside, cutting classes, drugs, cursing, and pretty much doing whatever they felt like doing with no discipline. I, as a child, was not in any way prepared for gangs, criminals, clicks, and other peer pressure shenanigans. I am thankful for my early Catholic education and I believe large GICS, besides being socially harmful, are a big waste of money and resources.

    1. Mary, the amount of money spent on education is horrifying when you compare it to the results. I can only imagine what the transition from Catholic school to public school was like in eighth grade.

  5. Having been homeschooled all my life, recently entering this year into the college scene online, I have noticed the behavior of other children and my own. I do believe that, had I been part of a GIC, I would have easily picked up certain behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that certainly would not have been good for me, nor those around me.

    My amazing Mother will get compliments about the conduct of her children in contrast to those from a GIC and she is fond of telling us about these compliments after she has received them. Hearing of them used to confuse me. “Aren’t I just the same as any other kid?” I would ask myself. But eventually as I grew older I began to understand myself, how I conducted myself and the conduct of the other kids my age and younger. I am truly thankful to both of my parents for having decided to homeschool me and my siblings. I look forward to the day when I have children of my own to school them at home.

    I believe anyone worried about the ‘socialization’ of homeschoolers should ask themselves if they are worried about their own socialization outside of their schooling experience.

    1. Riley, I hope you share this with your mother! Wishing you all the best in the next stage of your education.

  6. As a public school math teacher, I have had many experiences with students who became home schooled. When a child is in the earlier grades, most qualified parents do a great job with their home schooled children. Unfortunately, if the parents don’t have a good math background they will put the math aside and hope for the best. Many do not seek tutoring or extra help which results in some cases years of failing to learn much needed math skills especially at the upper levels. No one should take on home schooling if they are not capable of giving the much needed instruction in all areas or providing a qualified tutor! A co-op is great place for qualified instruction. Many students will be pushed along until the parent knows that there is a huge deficiency in math and place their child in a public school which can be very difficult for the child to make up after all the instruction that was lost over the years. I have had students who came the first day of school and told me that they had such poor math background that they would never make up the work that they missed when a parent skipped over the math and emphasized those subjects that they felt comfortable teaching like reading and history. Students who are home schooled by parents who know how to teach math or subjects like chemistry seem to be well prepared for college. I feel that a parent should not home school unless they can teach or get someone who can teach their children in subjects like upper level math, science and foreign languages. Students who are unprepared in math will be at a liability for the rest of their lives and unfortunately feel that they can never make up for all the instruction that was lost by inadequate instruction. All students who are home schooled deserve a quality education and not just an escape from the public schools.

    1. Lynda, I agree with you that parents have to make sure that basic skills are acquired. There are even some excellent on-line math programs that do a very good job. I also think that it is unconscionable that students can graduate government schools without basic math skills. I think your point holds true both for homes and schools – taking on the responsibility of educating the next generation requires a serious commitment to do so and an honest assessment of one’s deficiencies and how to make up for those.

      1. Susan,
        I am currently teaching adult education in mathematics. It is not unusual to have a person in their 40’s, 50’s etc. to come to my class and sit and cry since they are so overwhelmed by what they have missed over the years. If you do miss out on proper instruction in mathematics at a lower elementary grade, where and who will teach these students who never received the standards that were supposed to be taught at 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and all through the grades? How could a student ever make up all that work from elementary school when they are in their upper years of high school? It then becomes clear to so many of them that they will never be able to earn a high school diploma and always have a menial job with no real future. You would be amazed how many older students have been left behind and have no hope to catch up and recover for so many years of math instruction that is just lost to them! Many years ago I was referred to a teenage girl who desperately needed a math tutor. The parents were had little money and admitted to me that they could not afford to pay me much, if any, for my services. I told her father that I would try to help her. I was very interested how she could be in such a desperate state. She was a nice young lady, but could not attend the public schools since she was often made fun of by the other students in public school because she could not measure up to her peers academically and socially. I had no idea where she was in math and brought a diagnostic test to her for her to complete to show me where she needed to begin to learn math skills that were never taught to her. I was amazed by what was revealed to me in her diagnostic test. She was about 17 years old and was functioning at about a 4th grade level in math. She had been entirely home schooled by her parents for many years. Both she and her parents felt that she could never never function in a public school environment. Both she and her parents concluded that the entire situation would be resolved when she could marry someone who would provide for her. Although she seemed able to do reading, English, history and other subjects, her lack of math skills would always make her feel inferior and incapable of getting a high school diploma. It is sad that there are many students who have pursued home schooling, yet ended up on a dead end search for an education. We moved out of state and I lost communication with that young lady and I wondered what happened to her? Her parents took her out of school and assumed the role of home schooling mentors, but the final outcome was not in her best interest. A person who has had such a disastrous experience with education can never really have much self esteem.

        1. Lynda, I think we can agree that math and literacy skills are vital -though I do think that it’s a shame to give up when one is an adult rather than trying to educate oneself. It is harder to absorb basic skills when you’re older, but it isn’t impossible. I think we can also agree that there are homeschooling parents who don’t make the grade and there are also teachers and schools that don’t. Rather than pretending that ALL schools or ALL teachers or ALL parents fulfill their obligations, we would do better, I think, in focusing on supporting each of these entities.

    2. I agree completely with you that lack of math literacy causes under-achievement in life. My story is how being “educated” in a GIC totally lowered the trajectory of my life. I was severely abused in second grade by a Miss Winegar of Salmon Creek grade school, Seattle c. 1958. She used to pick me up by my shirt-front and shake me back and forth, snapping my head in her rage. I was quiet, trying not to cause any trouble, but she was quite sadistic, for no reason that I could tell. I was in the “slow” reading group under her tutelage and helpless with numbers. Eventually, in terror I ran away from school at mid-day after a particularly terrifying experience with her. The principal told my sister, as they were looking for me, that he WANTED to fire Miss Winegar, but couldn’t because the teacher’s union protected her. At this overt cry for help, the administration moved me to a different teacher, and I blossomed to the “fastest reader” group. But “math fears” had set in because of her trauma and this set me on a life-long fear of math. I was bumped along up through the grades, even though I never conquered simple arithmetic because I excelled in English, Grammar, and History. No one cared that I couldn’t do math. The teachers of lower grades knew, but didn’t care. So I graduate, attend one year at a community college and finally confess my ignorance to a math professor who incredulously states, “You don’t expect me to help you with THAT do you???” (There were no math labs back in ’71. ) So I drop out. Then finally I re-enter college in 2001 and it took years (due to an ex-husband trying to stop me through threatening and intimidation), I finally graduate with a Bachelor of Science (with the help of a compassionate math teacher, Marilyn Tober of Shoreline Community College). So because of my experience, I would like to assert that GICs have been stealing the future, and the earning power, of children for many years.

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Sadly, you’re quite correct in your conclusion, Narnia Girl,
        Many parents tragically assume their responsibilities end with placing their children on the yellow school bus each morning.

  7. Thank you for this. I am sharing it on our Facebook page. Our firstborn child is off to college; his first day of classes were yesterday. The day, for us as homeschoolers, was like the first day of kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades all rolled into one.

  8. Hello
    Being from the Baby Boomer Generation and attending public schools I can positively see how Home Schooling is more important now than ever.
    In Ohio we have an educational system called Common Core in public schools. We have more and more students who cannot pass Proficiency Tests at different grade levels. The liberals want to keep this system and argue that more money needs to be spent on Education. The conservatives argue it is not the amount of money spent but the curriculum. We are simply not teaching our younger generation what they need to succeed in life.
    There is also the political agenda of left wing brainwashing at public schools and colleges. By being taught at home children can excel in life. As mentioned in the article they can also have a Social Network with all the activities available.
    I once watched a program where in Germany parents were arrested and had their children taken away because they chose to home school. I pray that America never gets that bad!

    1. Matthew, I also think that homeschooling is more necessary as the educational system gets more broken.

    2. It seems people’s social need can become, “Group Think”, seen in gangs and National Socialist type of thought. This is a poorer substitute for family, when we dismiss the norm. Events seen recently rubbed it in. Thank you for your accidental timeliness.

    3. 20/20
      I recall a parent quite distanced from society by parents who too even more separatist. The home schooling was not readying for real-world situations. Extreme gusto for ,” the norm”, must be cautioned against as well. So, Let me get religious please. I borrow from the text. The parenting which is sharp discusses wh/wh as commanded referring to the 613 commands. NT has similar carefulness, being well-borrowed. Being realistic and connecting is protection by sharp analyses.
      Thank you for the soap box! You help me think.

  9. Our children were homeschooled for a few years till health prevented it. The fourth grade teacher said our child had the best social skills of any 4th grader. The second grade teacher didn’t approve and basically made it known to us and our child had trouble that year until she left on maternity leave and then he blossomed

  10. Dears,
    We have homeschooled our 4 children, 3 sons and one, the youngest, our daughter. My oldest is in his last semester of community college, my next oldest just started.
    People along the way made comments, especially when they were younger, however that all has stopped. All of our kids played baseball and softball from a young age. My youngest son still plays with the high school team ( my husband is a varsity coach)
    Over the years our kids have made a few good friends. Our house has become the ‘hang out’…as we would rather the older guys have somewhere safe, late at night to be…plus we are one of the only households to have happily married parents.
    Two more points I wish to make…
    It wasn’t easy for my oldest to start college. He didn’t want to go away to school and had opportunities to play ball for a few different community colleges. He ended up not wanting to play ball anymore, anyway. Here’s the point, although my husband was initially concerned that his wanting to stay home was due to homeschooling…so far at least 6 boys we know, bombed out of their freshman year and are all enrolled in the same community college he is…all living at home. One was valedictorian, another one really smart as well. So he’s now ahead of them.
    The other thing I will mention is that last year, my son thanked me for homeschooling him. He said that unlike his friends who went to public school, I allowed him to think for himself. He’s able to discuss or even debate a topic really well and in a thoughtful way. 😍
    Just wanted to give some encouragement, stay the course!

    1. Kim, re your son’s comment about thinking for himself. When one of our daughters went to high school, the teacher asked for a vote on something at the beginning of the year. She then commented to our daughter that she knew something was different about her because she made her choice without looking around to see what everyone else was doing.

  11. In the first 100 years or so of this country, especially for those on the ‘frontier’, all children were home schooled using the Bible as the text book.

    Educating and rearing children was the responsibility of the parents – children were (are) better for it

    1. Karen, I was thinking that many of the pioneers were pretty isolated -maybe getting together or going into town infrequently. Yet the family unit was strong.

  12. There was a study done years ago, by Stanford University, that came to the conclusion that children who spend more time with their peers, before the age of 12, become peer dependent and children who spend more time with adults, before the age of 12, become independent. There is positive and negative socialization. As my children’s parent I had an obligation to direct how much and how little of each my children would be involved in. Homeschooling allowed me to do that in a much better way. I took my responsibility as their mother seriously.
    That was pretty much what I told anyone who challenged me with the socialization question. It was pretty effective!

Comments are closed.

Shopping Cart