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    Home Education

    The Socialization Question {Part I}

    May 11, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Our son is finally getting to that age where people ask us about school. Usually, the question is concerning sending him to preschool, though sometimes it is more along the lines of private schooling versus public schooling. More recently, as homeschooling has gained in popularity at our church, the discussion has turned to where we will homeschool {as in, through a Christian school, a public charter school or by registering our family as an independent private school}, and whether we will join a support group.

    Whenever we discuss the issue of homeschooling, it seems inevitable that the question of socialization is raised. Honestly, this was {initially} my biggest concern as well. I mean, I went to college and met peers who wanted to be teachers, but didn’t love reading. I’ve met teachers who chose their vocation for the primary purpose of enjoying the time off during summer and Christmas. I have never felt that my child would get an inferior education by being at home with me as his teacher. But I’ve met some really strange homeschoolers, and so the socialization issue was a real issue for me.

    The decision to homeschool was one we made before E. ever said his first word. So we’ve had some time to think about all the issues and plan a course of action. Our initial solution was two-fold: first, get involved in a homeschool group and, second, play sports.

    Neither of these solutions is a bad one, though I must admit that the idea of trying to go to a homeschool group with any regularity doesn’t sound as enticing as it used to. This appealed to us more when we were living in Los Angeles County and didn’t have any friends with children to speak of.

    But now I find myself second-guessing the question itself. And I am asking new questions: What does it really mean to be socialized? What is the average person asking when they raise socialization questions? What does an “expert” mean when they use the word “socialization?”

    I do not deny that the average child educated in an institutional setting sets the standard for what our society considers to be normal in regards to the socialization process for children, but what is average does not tell us what is best, nor does it reveal God’s standards for a person’s conduct.

    Dictionary.com has some very interesting definitions for the word socialization. Honestly, I was surprised by what I found to be the primary definition. What most people who raise this question mean when they use the word actually appears as the secondary definition: “To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable.” But I find the primary defintion much more interesting: “To place under government or group ownership or control.”

    When I have asked myself the socialization question, what I have always meant is something along the lines of: Will they have friends? Will they get along with others? Will my shy child be able to speak up in a job interview and get hired? Will they be able to function in society, get married, and create a God-honoring family? And I think that this is what is meant by the average person who asks me, “What about socialization?”

    And I think they ask the question out of genuine concern. I know I did. And now I laugh that I once thought a child would be better socialized in the public schools than he would be at home!

    The reason for my laughter is because I’ve been analyzing my own behavior (past and present). I am, after all, a product of institutionalized schooling, so I’m as good of a case study as anyone, and a little self-criticism is always helpful. So please allow me to share my observations.

    When we became parents, I became thrust {for the first time} into a situation where we didn’t fit. Up until that point, I had {since kindergarten} always been around people who were pretty much exactly like me. After all, most schools divide the children by age. It had already been a bit difficult because I was the first of most of my friends to be married. But then when we had the baby, everything changed.

    Now, there is a natural and beneficial break that occurs whenever a person marries. After all, a new family is being created.

    But we really struggled beyond that with the idea that our friends weren’t exactly like us anymore. In fact, we felt like some of them were uncomfortable with the situation, too. We met other parents where we lived at the time, and I remember discussing with Si how much older than us they were, as if that was a bad thing. When we moved to our current location, we were happy to meet others our age who were married and had children. And they became our friends.

    Now, we are recovering from all of this. We have managed to keep in touch with old friends. And we have learned to have friends that are in different life stages than us. But what I have noticed that I can observe these negative qualities in my own life. And I believe them to be directly related to the fact that I was segregated by age for the first 17 years of my education.

    I contrast this with a little 11-year-old homeschooler that I know. I am always astounded by her ability to love everyone around her. I have seen her greeting visitors at our church. She can talk sweetly to our tiny daughter and interact in a friendly manner with an old widow. She seems to be able to have relationships with such a variety of people, something I was completely incapable of at her age.

    Tomorrow, I will discuss the ties between the concept of socialization and the drive for conformity, but suffice it to say that I found myself asking a new question today: Who is more socialized?

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    2 Comments

  • Reply Brandy May 11, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    Gina,
    I had to laugh. I never knew Sarah was homeschooled! I totally agree with you about the METHOD of homeschooling being a huge determination. I see value in a child knowing how to teach themselves, but I don’t think they should left alone the way some of them are! After all, God created all of us to function within a community, and a hermit is quite far from that calling!

    By the way, thank you for the birthday email yesterday. It was very sweet of you to remember after all these years! 🙂

  • Reply Gina May 11, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    Brandy,
    I think that’s a good question and it seems to me that it really depends on HOW a parent decides to homeschool. I had friends who were “homeschooled” and basically just left to do curriculum by themselves. They were very lacking socially and just in general. My first positive experience with a homeschooler was in college when I met Sarah Nugent. In fact, I was amazed when I found out she had been homeschooled – it couldn’t be, she was way too “normal”! But her family was very involved in some sort of network and was very intentional about making sure their kids were able to socialize in a variety of ways. Where I stand right now, not having any kids of my own, is that it will depend on each individual child whether we will decide to homeschool, do private school or public school. Anyway, there’s my two cents!

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