Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How “Socialization” Happens in Homeschooling

Guest Post by Homeschooling Mom Heather DeGeorge  

Editor’s note:  When I mention home education as an option some in the education world who are in my PLN have brought up socialization being an issue.  Heather DeGeorge has wonderful feedback on the Homeschooling, Unschooling, Uncollege, Opt Out, DIY, Hack Your Education group. I asked her to share her insights here and she said yes!  This is part 1 of her insights.  Part 2 will address homeschooling and socialization with children on the Autism spectrum.  Thank you Heather.

It’s such a hot-button issue, isn’t it?

I’m the mother of a 7-1/2 year old social BEAST.  My kid has spent (literally) EIGHT hours playing with the THIRTEEN kids on our block and come in at night crying that he barely got to play with his friends.  So please—I’ve been there if you have one of those.  It’s misery.

But I’m also a very fervent believer that children need to learn how to work with others in joint decision-making, on a team, taking direction from other figures of authority, and just understanding basic, NORMAL, day-to-day social interactions.  And really, I think this is what people are thinking that homeschoolers just toss to the wind “in exchange” for the academic benefits.

SO not so.

The reality is that: as homeschooling parents, we have a lot more opportunity to teach our children social skills and interactions.  In fact, we have the best opportunity because we are there to see them and redirect our kids behavior while it is still fresh in their heads (and hearts) and before it becomes a habit.  It’s a basic supervision issue.  We are better able to supervise our kid under a variety of situations better than they are getting in a school setting.

We are also available to model these situations for them better, too.  Those 30+ hours each week of classroom time is now spent with (and watching) me interact with all manner of people in all manner of situations.  My son holds the door open for people at the post office not because I told him to do it (because I haven’t), but because he’s seen me do it, asked me why, and decided that (predominantly for the praise it receives him—no different from most other kids his age) it’s something he should do, too.  He overhears my phone calls to the credit card company, the doctor’s office and to the lawyers when I was trying to resolve some real estate transaction issues—and my tone and demeanor differ with all of them based on the situation.

We have homeschooled in two states.  One has a much more active homeschooling community than the other. 

In addition to homeschool coop classes and regular park outings, opportunities for any homeschooled child to “socialize” (aka “play”) with other children are:

  • recreation teams and activities
  • community activities
  • church functions and religious instruction
  • family functions with relatives that have children
  • play dates
  • playing with neighborhood kids
  • enrichment classes (art, music, etc.)

Many of these things not only provide play time with age-peers, but taking direction from another authority figure.

Think about exactly what it is “socialization” means to you before you decide this is something that is best learned in a school—where your child is spending 6 hours/day with the same group of children who are the same age (and usually same academic level, possibly the same race, ethnicity and socio-economic status depending on your particular district) in a single building with a single adult authority figure (maybe a few more if they’re a little older).

The schools were not set up to teach social skills.  They were initially designed to promote literacy, and changed with the industrial revolution to enhance the vocational workforce.  But as we move towards more service-driven industries of the future where social skills, creativity and analytical thinking are critical, these are skills we need to take very seriously.  Giving them the care and attention they deserve in the settings our children will most likely use them in as adults gives them the best possible social training we could ever ask for.

And it’s not happening in a classroom.

Heather DeGeorge holds a Bachelor's in Business Administration and a Master's in Education with additional graduate credits in Special Education and teaching children with autism.  She is a biological and adoptive mother; and former foster mother and teacher.  Her journey with the children in her life and helping in their significant struggles has led her to becoming certified in Holistic Health Counseling and focusing on children with developmental and behavioral issues.


  1. Another aspect of home education is that the children are socialising in a much more natural group of children and adults from a range of ages.

    In my experience they accept people for who they are rather than the artificial age band definitions promoted by schooling. By this I mean that they have adults whose opinions they value and those that they do not; and children both younger and older than themselves who they respect as 'experts' on a particular topic.

    Due to this, there is much less likelihood of a home educated child blindly following an adult's instructions as they are generally happy to question and then rationalise the answers before they carry them out - annoying at times as a parent but much safer for the child concerned!

  2. I think one of the most important aspect of the socialization, is not just the way we can make them work in teams, delegate roles, or be responsibles within the class, but ... the way they show their emotions and how much value they put on that.


  3. Great post. I love the part about impacting their head and their heart.

    I can say that in my community, the homeschool community is growing stronger. There is not a stigma with it anymore. With the extensive opportunities to socialize, no one has any room to argue anymore.

    To comment on Lynn's comment: We do want students to question authority when it goes against their core beliefs and values, but there is a place for submission to authority (I would not call that blindly following, but I just wanted to clarify that point).

  4. Great post! sharing with more readers. At school-some of my kids have gone to public school-kids learn to socialize into groups of Us and Them. My kids that have never gone to school don't ever think of this dichotomy.

  5. Being homeschooled all my life allowed me to develop a much more rounded social experience. I was able to participate with my own age group, volunteer at nursing homes and be involved in community organizations. Such a well rounded social experiences outside of my own age group has helped me grow into a successful adult.

    Brianna Olds
    CoolProducts Social Media Marketing Manager

  6. Is school for socialization or academics? Because I can tell you, teachers don't like kids who socialize during class. Those kids that do, are disciplined. For those teachers that don't have decent classroom management skills, have classes where kids are incredibly disrespectful, disruptive, and display immature and/or aggressive behaviors, none of which is the type of "socializing" behavior I want my kids to emulate, nor is conducive to learning. When kids do get to socialize, it's during lunch and recess/gym, if at all. And what happens then? The constant jockeying for a false position of importance based upon a superficial ideal of values is tolerated and in some cases, encouraged. Yuck. That, and many other reasons, are why I pulled my kids out this year because I can no longer tolerate the school bureaucracy and the sub-par educational priorities.