Socialization of home schooled children is a common concern.  Socialization is different than having a social life.  Socialization is knowing how to act appropriately in various situations and is best taught by adults who care about a child.

Children are socialized by their parents and other caring people who help them learn appropriate behavior at home, in public and in formal and informal activities. They need many opportunities to learn and practice social skills while interacting with the real world on a  regular basis.  Home schoolers can have as many friends and activities as they choose and parents provide support for.

The issue of socialization is a frequent question asked of homeschool parents, for isolation appears at first to be a possible problem for  homeschoolers. School, on the other hand, provides a seemingly obvious  opportunity for social interaction. We are all generally acquainted with that environment while homeschooling is unknown to those who haven’t done it.

Social interaction and development for homeschoolers tends to be different than in a school setting. Social differences that present a challenge for some families in school are “pack mentality”, peer pressure and competition before cooperation. These factors tend to  be less prevalent in homeschool situations. When they are present, parental availability influences the impact.

When a child spends time with people who are different ages and involved in different levels of activity, there is opportunity for learning that varies from what is available within a group who are the same age and doing similar activities.  Historically, there is a natural flow to learning from those who are learning ahead of us and days spent with children of varying ages offers that option. In many ways homeschooling is simply continuing the life learning that we witness in our children prior to school age. If a family has isolation and socialization issues, they are likely to be present whether children are being educated at home or at school.

Homeschooling provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in a project until completion or to work in the garden for an entire day. There are other times when we need to provide the social dynamics of a group.  Because it is not always an inherent aspect of a homeschooling environment, being part of a community requires self-motivated action. This is in contrast to students in school who may be very social but over-extended. Required activities and group participation often prevent the time to quietly contemplate life, listen to intuition, follow one’s own interests and experience feelings that arise through self directed activity. Seeking social environments in which our children thrive is preferable for some homeschool families as an alternative to counteracting unappealing behaviors that can be acquired at school. Certain stressors can impact the child’s development. It’s a matter of choice. We all love our children and have a desire for them to be functioning balanced contributors in society. I trust the  judgment of parents who make a decision to homeschool. Statistics support this choice.

Studies show homeschoolers mature and are better socialized than are those sent to school. Dr. John Wesley Taylor’s nationwide study revealed that the self-concept of home school students was significantly higher than that of public school students for the global and all six subscales of the Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale. The Galloway-Sutton Study (performed in 1997), showed that from five success indicators (academic, cognitive, spiritual, affective-social and pyschomotor), comparing with public and private schooled students, “in every success category except pyschomotor, the home school graduates excelled above the other students.”

It is true that there are families who do not have skills that provide an emotionally healthy homeschool environment for homeschooling takes dedication and continual awareness.  Parents need to want to home school their children. It is not difficult to find evidence of home schooled children who are socially adapted nor is it difficult to meet children who go to school and are socially skilled. They are just different alternatives. Parents generally have the best interests of their children in mind when they make decisions about where they will be educated.

Perception is another significant factor in this issue. In a recent conversation about a homeschool child attending a class, the man I was talking with described the child as clingy and fearful. He had  initially witnessed what he perceived as insecurity and inappropriate fear in the child. He reflected and realized that what he saw was a  child having his emotional needs met by his mother which led to an experience of outstanding confidence and certainty in the child when he did step out on his own. The idea that we must walk away from our children in order that they become independent was challenged by the observation that when the child was allowed to make the decision about  when to step away he did it with less apprehension because he felt comforted and ready. The space created by mother’s absence has to be filled with something and when it can be filled by mother it allows the child to feel whole. The gentleman had a look of deep understanding with a peaceful affirmative uh-huh.  Feeling whole gives children the confidence to interact with other children and the teacher in a socially appropriate manner.

Homeschool children have a lot of opportunity for one-on-one time and attention from parents and others throughout their days. Parents of homeschool children are in a position to closely see their children mimic the behavior patterns that are modeled for them. This mimicking will happen whether a child’s time is spent with a parent or with a teacher, with a sibling or with a student. The result of children learning to deal with life on life’s terms while having a parent available offers an opportunity for security which prove a lifelong supportive value. Homeschool parents are available to their children in support of learning communication skills and values as well as academics. Mahalo to everyone who supports the social wellness of children!

Author Pamela is a Homeschooling mom here on Maui.