Why Is Socialization Important?
It seems that few discussions of homeschooling (especially when they involve those new to the concept) get very far without at least some focus on socialization. For some less familiar with it, homeschooling seems so different (so “out there”) that they imagine the home-educated child as isolated and antisocial. Speak to the average homeschooler, however, and you will find that this is far from true. But what does socialization really mean? How much does it actually matter, and what does it have to do with home education, or any type of education, for that matter? Here are some points to consider.
What Does Socialization Really Mean?
Ask 10 different people or check 10 different dictionaries and you’ll get 10 different answers. For the sake of simplicity, let’s go with Merriam-Webster’s take on the word “socialize”. According to this source, it means “to make social; especially: to fit or train for society or a social environment.” So, when we talk about socialization, this is what most people probably mean—preparing children to go out into society and interact with others in a positive manner.
Why Does Socialization Matter?
People do need people. Relationships provide important support throughout life, and knowing how to communicate with and get along with others is critical in everything we do from checking out at the grocery store to attaining a job or running a business. Social skills lead to positive relationships, which contribute significantly to overall satisfaction with one’s life.
So, socialization does matter because it involves learning how different people react to various types of situations. It also allows children to continually develop their people skills and learn appropriate behaviors when speaking and participating in various types of activities. It helps children to understand that the world is bigger than just them, and it encourages them to be mindful of and sensitive to others’ feelings and needs.
What Does Socialization Have to Do With Homeschooling?
Often, this topic comes up with regards to homeschooling simply because most people are used to the traditional school style of socialization. In most schools, a child is grouped with his or her peers. He spends his day with children of the same age, and typically, in classrooms with little interaction between other age groups. Many people think this supports the development of social skills that helps young people resolve conflicts, solve problems and develop friendships. On the contrary, the types of interactions that take typically take place in an artificial environment do not nurture the development of social skills.
Since home education is entirely different, some argue that homeschoolers aren’t properly socialized, simply because they don’t spend hours each weekday in a traditional school setting. They worry that homeschoolers aren’t prepared for dealing with others in the real world. But if we really think about a traditional classroom environment, we have to acknowledge that it isn’t remotely similar to the real world. In the real world, people must interact with all types of people, from various backgrounds, with a myriad of interests and within a wide range of age groups. Traditional classrooms don’t provide this, and as such, are not truly the place for meeting socialization goals.
As far as home education is concerned, the problem is often a skewed image of what homeschooling really means. Some people imagine children stuck behind tiny desks with only Mom or Dad to interact with 5 days per week. But this image couldn’t be further from reality. Homeschooled students are often encouraged to reach far beyond the boundaries of their own age groups and interact with people of all ages and from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Then there’s the fact that socialization begins when a child is born as they learn how to interact with others by observing and doing. Parents teach their children how to socialize without even trying. But learning doesn’t stop there. Children are socialized even if they never set foot in a school, through the following and more:
- Interactions with friends of the family and neighborhood kids
- Homeschooling groups in which older kids are encouraged to interact with the younger children
- Participating in community events and extracurricular activities
- Trips to the library, grocery store, and post office
- Field trips
- Doctor’s visits
- Volunteer opportunities
- Scout groups
- Classes outside the home
Research has demonstrated that home education can and does lead to happy, well-adjusted, prepared young people. The Washington Times cites one such study stating that socialization is not a problem for homeschoolers. Other homeschooling research has long supported this assertion.
Socialization lays the foundation for future relationships that will hopefully last much longer than a child’s school years. However, it’s not something that requires attending school to accomplish. Instead, “being social” is simply a natural part of living and growing, which home education fully supports.
Author: N Madison, NC Parent