Home School Myths – My Child Will Get No Socialization
As homeschool myths go, the topic of social interaction is often at the top of the list. It is also one that is exceedingly false. This home school myth likely started based on preconceived notions, incorrect ones, as to how most home schools work. Images of overprotective parents forbidding contact with the outside world abound. At Homeschool Pool we want to expose these homeschool myths for what they are and educate others as to how it really works. Homeschool myth: children get no socialization? False! In fact, now that we home school, our kids get better quality and more frequent social interaction than ever before.
The choices we make in homeschooling our children create a foundation for a rich social, educational and professional life. They get to interact with other home school children who have a variety of ages, backgrounds, religious beliefs and homeschool styles. They also get to interact more frequently with adults in situations where the adult takes on more than an authoritative role. The vast array of social interaction, with different people in different situations, which home school children have, helps them develop well-rounded and valuable social skills. When they get into the “real world” they will be able to navigate the social complexities of their environment better than their public school counterparts.
The reality of peer groups
In a traditional public school, children are all grouped together based on their age. Often this is not even equal to their ability because everyone is learning the same thing at the same time. The idea that they are peers comes from a balancing of all subjects, hoping in the end it all equals. But children are not all the same. They each have their own unique talents and struggles. Johnny in 4th grade may have more in common with Susie in the 7th grade when it comes to art. But in public school Johnny and Susie will likely never meet to discuss their common interests. In fact, the social structure of public school may even actively discourage such an association. Johnny may not have anyone in his “peer group” who shares his talent. What happens then? If he is lucky that talent is still fostered outside of the school setting but if not, it is possible it will fall by the wayside.
As an adult, peer groups are more in line with common interests and skills as opposed to age group. How often do you go to work in an office where everyone is within a year of your own age? It’s not very likely. For those who have grown up in an environment where peers are their own age, what happens when you have to deal with people who are significantly older or younger but who have an equal footing in your chosen career path? The same can be said for social activities. When you join a cooking class, yacht club, wine tasting party, fishing expedition – odds of everyone being equal in age is slim.
Homeschool socialization is akin to how it works in the adult world with children tending to form groups based more on interest than age. They learn how to relate to people of all ages with similar interests. Plus, they learn how to find common areas of interest in larger groups when those interests are not spelled out to them. In most home school groups we have participated in, intermingling within the ages is accepted and even encouraged. The home school children have the opportunity to both learn and teach among other children, their peers, regardless of age. They learn to view the definition of “peers” in a broader sense as opposed to strictly one based on age.
The perception of authority figures
When you accept a job you may find your supervisor(s) are the same age as you, older or even younger. You need to be able to relate to those people as authority figures and recognize they got to their position based on a factor other than age. Of course, we would like to say they got there due to their skill level but we all know that is not necessarily always the case. Regardless, if you have a supervisor who is much older or younger than you, you will have to find a way to effectively communicate with that person in order to be successful.
For those who home school there are ample opportunities to deal with just this issue. There are times when home school kids are asked to lead younger siblings in a lesson, help tutor or act as a caretaker. In larger home school groups, often tutoring or mentoring is available based on skill level which may or may not coincide with similar age groups. Older children and teens are often involved in lessons as teachers or teacher aides. Extracurricular activities are often peer-led groups with adult guidance or supervision. From the home where siblings interact to the larger homeschool group activities, leaders emerge in all age groups at different times. Home school children start to see others aside from adults as possible authority figures and thus learn how to relate to them in that role. When they reach adulthood and are presented with the possibility of having to accept those younger as authority figures, they will be able to do so graciously.
The role of adults
Adults are also cast in many different roles. Some act as teachers very similar to what is found in public school settings. But even the teacher can have vastly different teaching styles since they are not restricted to public school standards. Adult teachers may mean you as their parent, grandparents, other relatives; teachers in supplemental classes, co-op classes and anywhere you have a more structured learning environment. Some take on a mentor role to help advise a child in a particular area. This may be a coach, group or club leader. Others are guides, available to the child as a resource such as on a field trip or tour. There are also many opportunities where home school children interact with adults in strictly social settings. There are small but important distinctions for each. Home school children learn to relate to adults in different roles even if the role of the adult changes from time to time.
It is not beyond the realm of possibility that your child deals with an adult in different roles at different times. They may take a co-op class with the same adult who is the Cub Scout leader. Or they may be involved in an art club where the leader also acts as docent during a museum tour. These adult may come over for dinner or be present at a holiday party. Children learn how to effectively communicate with the person and recognize that behavior and communication methods may vary depending on which role the adult is taking at the time.
Children who are homeschooled are often a lot more comfortable asking questions of adults and expecting to have their questions answered honestly, thoroughly and reasonably. In many cases this leads to a much richer learning experience for all involved. It challenges the adult to be better which in turn challenges the child. Such ability to effectively communicate with those older than they are is a valuable skill that will hold them in good stead throughout their life.
As home school children socialize with others they learn to navigate boundaries for themselves and others. Boundaries will differ depending on the relationship the person has with the child. Parents, relatives, teachers, mentors, friends, siblings, acquaintances – all have varying degrees of authority over the child at different times. They all require different ways of relating and communicating with one another to ensure a positive relationship.
Children learn to recognize the differences and understand when boundaries are breached. They have no issue in questioning authority when needed or deferring to a parent. They often also have the confidence to hold boundaries in check by themselves or seek assistance in doing so when needed. This subject may have rather ominous undertones and while that is a valid concern, the more probable boundary breaches are much less worrisome. They occur when someone is asking too much of another, when friends are being bossy, when someone is taking advantage of another, when someone acts as an expert who is not one.
The skill to recognize when these boundaries are being overstepped is a very valuable one but even more important is the ability to gracefully deal with it when it happens. Homeschool children learn how to do this very early through their socialization opportunities.
What about respect?
Respecting your elders is something that many of us grew up with and what we also teach our children. But being respectful is not only for adults, it is for everyone. Teaching our children to be kind, respectful, attentive and obedient while maintaining proper boundaries is a necessity. It is a skill acquired by doing. The way a child does this is through socialization. In homeschool, socialization occurs with many people, of many ages, on many levels. They learn effective communication skills, tolerance, confidence, how to teach and how to efficiently learn. They learn this faster and more successfully than public school children do because of the many opportunities they have to socialize in various situations with different people.
Homeschool children get no socialization? This is definitely a home school myth and one of those home school myths that is completely false. Not only do homeschool students get socialization, they get better socialization than most public school children are ever exposed to in their formative years. Another homeschool myth debunked!