What about Socialization?

We all hear it at some point in our home schooling career--What about socialization?
And I think we all have a response to it. My usual comeback is, "Are you talking about character development?"

This is funny because it makes them think about what they are asking. Most who are blatant enough to confront you on the issue of "how your kids will be able to cope in real-life situations if you home school them" are the same who are blatant about knowing nothing about what they are asking. So when I ask if they mean character development, they stop to think. Maybe for the first time.

Then they have to think about:

-what is character development?
-where should it take place?
-who should be responsible for guiding young people?
-what do I mean by socialization?
-what kind of answer did I think I was going to get with such a question?

Then they realize they just asked an expert about something, which is fine, except they just also assumed the expert knew nothing, which is absurd.

So here is something to add to my favorite retort. A psychology textbook's definition of socialization: the process by which children learn the behaviors and attitudes appropriate to their family and their culture. (Morris and Maisto, 2008, p.326)

The context of the quote is the conflict that occurs when children strive for autonomy and parents exert control. Finding the balance is difficult for both children and parents.

It is interesting to note that both the context and the definition have nothing to do with the contrived and artificial culture of a school setting.

The context and content of the paragraph cited and, indeed, the entire chapter on Social Development both refer to a family situation and both recognize the family as the source of character development and growth.

How does the school fit into this? What is normal about putting 30 kids the same age into a group and expecting them to "socialize"? What do we hope our children will learn from their peers? Conformity? (usually in the form of inappropriate behavior). Priorities? (cool is good, smart is uncool). In general we find that putting groups of kids together with other kids of the same age is a recipe for undermining family culture. Children come home from school and start to question what has always been the family norm. Suddenly Dad is not the authority anymore and whatever Mom has taught you can't possibly be true.

Honestly, when the socialization question comes up I'm very tempted to laugh. Homeschooled children seem to be more "social" than the public school kids I come into contact with. Homeschooled parents are well aware of the issue. They make sure their children are involved in sports, music classes, dance classes, scout groups, church, and outreach programs. Homeschooled children interact with their parents and siblings and family and friends of all ages. Often they tend to have friends in a wide range of ages, rather than just those of the same age. Of all the issues that can be brought up, socialization seems to be the least of the worries.

There are a lot of great articles out there on Socialization. Here is one. We Don't Believe in Socialization.