“But, What About Socialization?”
Even if you’re brand-new to homeschooling, the odds are pretty high that you’ve heard this question before. It conjures up images of lonely children with no idea how to interact with others, permanently scarred from a lack of attendance at public school. This question can strike fear into the hearts of even the most experienced homeschoolers because the last thing we want is to make life more difficult for our children.
But, what is socialization, anyway? According to the Home School Legal Defense Association’s analysis of the topic, socialization means the following:
- Regular interaction with people of all ages; is the opposite of isolation
- Preparation for the “real world”; e.g. engagement in civic life, competition in the job market
- Development of self-esteem, without the burden of peer pressure
- The ability to think independently, as well as to work as part of a team
While this is a good start, it’s not exactly the entire picture. Social scientists define socialization as “the process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, skills, and character traits that enable them to participate as effective members of groups and society”. When we start to view socialization this way – as a lifelong process by which we acquire and hone the skills we need to be effective, functioning members of society – we can understand how there are many opportunities for our children to acquire these skills as well.
Socialization occurs everywhere, and in every interaction between people. Within the family, children develop patterns for relationships and learn to model positive behaviors. In peer groups, children gain experience with independence and relationships with their equals. They also gain a sense of who they are in comparison with others. In the community, their range of experiences is broadened and children can gain different perspectives on life. The opportunities for socialization, then, are truly limitless if we spend any time at all-around other people.
While socialization isn’t nearly as difficult to acquire as many well-meaning friends and family might make it seem, it is an important part of development. As such, all parents (not just homeschool parents) should devote time and attention to fostering their children’s interactions with people of all ages and in a variety of environments.