What about Socialization

Every parent who makes a decision to home school can be assured that they are going to hear the dreaded "S" word. "What about socialization?" Often that's the extent of the question. Sometimes there is elaboration. It seems to me that there are 3 basic implications in the question.
    1. Socialization is necessary.
    2. Socialization is good.
    3. To be properly socialized, children must spend large amounts of time with their peers.

Before dealing with these assumptions, let's first consider one important question: "What is socialization?" I looked it up in my The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary. 'Socialization' is the noun form of the verb 'socialize.'

    1. To place under group or government control; especially, to regulate according to socialist principles.
    2. To convert from an antisocial to a social attitude; make friendly, cooperative, or sociable.
    3. To convert or adapt to the needs of a social group.
    4. To take part in social activities.

Let's consider the answers to the implications of the socialization question for each of these definitions separately.

    • To place under group or government control; especially, to regulate according to socialist principles.
    1. Socialization is necessary. ABSOLUTELY NOT!! This form of socialization is in direct opposition to the ideals of freedom and independence on which the United States was founded. Scripturally this is also unacceptable. Nowhere in scripture does it tell parents to give control of their children over to the government or any other group.
    2. Socialization is good. Again, ABSOLUTELY NOT!! We do not need, nor should we want, a nation full of children who think exactly alike and behave exactly alike. I truly believe that our current forms of government education are designed to pour all of the children into the same mold. Our government school system is patterned after the German system that was used to produce the "good German" citizens that helped bring us World War I and World War II.
    3. To be properly socialized, children must spend large amounts of time with their peers. This one is certainly true. If this is the kind of 'socialization' we are seeking then keeping children in groups of children is the best way to do it. Separated from adult influence children are more likely to be moulded into the form the government desires.
    • To convert from an antisocial to a social attitude; make friendly, cooperative, or sociable.
    1. Socialization is necessary. When raised properly, most children will grow up fairly friendly, cooperative and sociable. So putting kids in some artificial setting for this purpose is unnecessary.
    2. Socialization is good. When not raised properly, or when for other reasons children become unfriendly, uncooperative and unsociable, it is a good thing to try to reverse that pattern.
    3. To be properly socialized, children must spend large amounts of time with their peers. Being around other children is not going to help with this kind of socialization. If a large number of children are together, it is typically the bad examples that are followed rather than the good examples. One of the strongest memories I have of my government school socialization is hiding behind the building during lunch so I wouldn't be beaten up by the school bullies. That was not helping me or anyone else become friendly, cooperative or sociable. Indeed, much time is spent in government schools in trying to help students resist peer pressure. What is peer pressure if not the 'socialization' that government schools provide?
    • To convert or adapt to the needs of a social group.
    1. Socialization is necessary. Yes, it is necessary that children learn to adapt their behaviours in order to meet the needs of many social groups. The family only functions well when all members convert or adapt to the needs of the family. The church only functions well when all members convert or adapt to the needs of the church. The country only functions well when all members convert or adapt to the needs of the country.
    2. Socialization is good. It depends entirely on what the needs of the group are and who defines those needs. If the "needs" of the group are independent thinking, responsible adults, then, yes, socialization is good. If the "needs" of the group are likeminded automatons, then, no, socialization is not good.
    3. To be properly socialized, children must spend large amounts of time with their peers. Again, constant exposure to the immaturities and abuses of other children does not effectively bring about the good aspects of this form of socialization. Peer pressure brings conformity, not individuality. And it brings conformity in superficial or harmful ways. Everyone dressing the same and piercing body parts the same does nothing to help family, church or country. Being pressured into using tobacco, alcohol or drugs does nothing to help family, church or country.
    • To take part in social activities.
    1. Socialization is necessary. In this form, socialization is not only necessary, but unavoidable unless one chooses to become a hermit. Going to church is a social activity. Going to the grocery store is a social activity. Every time we come into contact with other people we are participating in social activities.
    2. Socialization is good. Yes, this kind of socialization is good so long as the social activity is not destructive to mind, body, spirit or property.
    3. To be properly socialized, children must spend large amounts of time with their peers. Since most social activities that people will encounter in life are not exclusively with children, it is not helpful if the majority of their social activities as children are exclusively with children.

Clearly there is positive socialization and negative socialization. Yes, children do need positive socialization. They do not need negative socialization.

Let's examine what would be classified as "Positive Socialization." Let us also consider whether these traits are more likely to be instilled in a government school environment or in a home school environment.

    • Learning how to get along with people. By this, I mean learning how to get along with a variety of people of diverse backgrounds in diverse situations. The artificial, age-segregated government school classroom does not afford any such opportunity. All that children learn there is how to interact with the same 25 or so children of the same age, with one adult thrown in as a balance. In a home school, in addition to the classroom learning, children will often accompany their parents during errands and chores during the day. They will encounter people at the grocery store, hardware store, post office and all of the other settings that they will encounter throughout life. They will see people of all ages and all backgrounds. They will see them in all kinds of situations. Clearly, if you want a child who will grow up knowing how to interrelate with a wide range of people then home schooling is the best choice. Home school wins.
    • Learning how to treat people with respect. I attended government school. I do not recall my interaction with my peers as a positive force in learning to treat people with respect. I recall slower students being called "retard." I recall people with acne being viciously ridiculed. I recall children from poor families being ridiculed for not having the best clothes. I recall smart children being ridiculed for being smart. I recall children being beaten up for no reason. I may be missing something but that doesn't seem to me a good way of teaching children to treat people with respect. When children are the primary source of socialization then childish values will be transmitted. Mature adults are necessary to teach the proper values. A government school teacher with a classroom of 25 or more children can not overcome and counteract all of the negative behaviour of the students. A home educated child is in constant contact with an adult who can give careful attention to the behaviour of the child, reinforcing the good and correcting the bad. Home school wins again.
    • Learning to conform to standards of good behaviour What standards of behaviour are learned through contact with children? Good ones or bad? Watch a group of children. Does the behaviour of the crowd get more greatly influenced by the example of the good child or the badly behaved child? Crowds tend to follow the lowest examples. I honestly think this is why so many churches see their youth begin to rebel and walk away as they reach their teens. The positive training that took place in the home and church during the formative years gets worn away by constant exposure to the negative behaviour of government school classmates. Jonathan Lindvall deals with this VERY well. He points out that in scripture we are told that "foolishness is bound in the heart of a child." (Proverbs 22:15) So when a child gets his main interaction from other children then he grows up as a companion of fools. Those who get their main interaction from fools grow up to be fools. Home school wins again.

Now, let's examine what would be classified as "Negative Socialization." Let us also consider whether these traits are more likely to be instilled in a government school environment or in a home school environment.

    • Developing peer dependence. We all naturally want the approval of those around us. Children who are in government school are around other children most of the time. Therefore they look to other children for their main source of approval. In order to gain the approval of a group, it is necessary to conform to the behaviours and norms of that group. Thus, government school children, by the very nature of the design of government school, will grow up dependent on their peers for approval. It doesn't really matter that they are eventually told to "resist peer pressure." That would be like putting a child in a room filled with candy and letting them eat all they want. Then a few years later you start telling them not to eat it. The habits are developed and will not easily be changed. In home education, the primary source of approval is the family. The family values and behaviour are transmitted. Those values are dictated and patterned by the parents. Home school wins again.
    • Drug abuse. Alcohol abuse. Tobacco use. Profanity. Promiscuous sex. Other anti-social behaviour. The standards of the group become the standards of the individuals in the group. If a child is constantly in a place where these behaviours are exhibited then the child is likely to participate in them or at least view them as acceptable even though they are not. How many of us have heard "good" kids use bad language? If they hear it enough they become accustomed to it. It they become accustomed to it they become accepting of it. If they become accepting of it they start using it. In a home where those behaviours are not accepted or exhibited then the children are much less likely to accept or exhibit those behaviours. Home school wins again.
    • Cliques. There is nothing wrong with having a close group of friends. However, there is something badly wrong when the attitude becomes that of a clique. That attitude is "If you're not one of us you are nobody." All of us who attended government schools remember cliques. Some of us were in them. Some of us were not. In neither case does the child benefit. The government schools, with the patterns of behaviour discussed above, are a fertile breeding ground for cliques. Home school wins again.

Government school provides virtually nothing of positive value to the socialization of children. What little it does provide is more than outweighed by the negatives that come with it. Home education is a far superior method for developing a mature, responsible, law abiding adult.

Yes, some children do go to government school and come out as fine young adults. But that is IN SPITE OF the government school socialization, not BECAUSE OF it.

Now let's consider some other specific objections to home schooling that are related to the socialization question.

Objection - Your child won't know how to interact with people of different backgrounds.

Answer - Very few home schoolers teach their children in a vacuum. Most attend church, play in little league or do other things that bring them into contact with people from other economic, social or racial backgrounds. They encounter those people in varied situations. They encounter people of more diverse backgrounds since they are not spending all day in an age segregated environment.
Additionally, they may even be more likely to develop friendships with people of different backgrounds since they won't need to deal with the peer pressure to conform to the behaviour of "their" group.

Objection - Your children will be sheltered.

Answer - Children are supposed to be sheltered. That is the whole purpose behind parenting. If a toddler tries to put his hand on the burner on the stove, we stop him. That is not "sheltering." It is protecting the child. When children are protected from the negative influences so prevalent in the government schools, they will grow up more emotionally healthy. They will grow up more firmly established in the values of their parents. That way, when they do need to make value decisions later in life, they will have a firmer base on which to make their decisions. When banks train tellers to recognize counterfeit money, they do not show them counterfeit money. They make them very familiar with real money. Then, when they see counterfeit money, they will know it is not real. Likewise, if children are immersed in positive values they will be more able to recognize negative values later.
Also, from what are they being sheltered? Gang violence. Drugs. Bullies. The latest educational fads. Ungodly philosophies. Immoral sex education. They are not ready to be exposed to those things and therefore they shouldn't be. We don't ridicule a florist for keeping a young, tender plant in a green house to shelter it from things it can not handle. Why should parents be ridiculed for shelter young, tender children?

Objection - Your children won't know how to deal with the real world.

Answer - I have never been in a situation, outside of government school, where everyone in the group is the same age and is forced to do the same things. I have always been in groups of people of various ages. Age segregation is not the "real world." In the "real world," people who can excel are not held back until the people who are slower catch up. That is how things are done in government schools.

Objection - Your children will grow to be too dependent on you.

Answer - A little more dependence is a healthy thing. We see too many children who are disrespectful of parents and all authority. As they get older they care less about their parents and families. Close knit families and consideration for others are things that are necessary for a strong, stable society. Everyone needs something or someone to depend on. Better that the child depend on his parents and the values that will be passed down in such a relationship than depend on the government and its values.

Objection - Your child will be lonely or not have any friends.

Answer - It is true that home school parents might have to go to a little more effort to give their children opportunities to meet other children. But it is also true that with the government schools not being a factor, the parent is better able to monitor the kinds of friendships that their children develop. Since home schoolers tend to be active in church, clubs, etc. their children are not likely to lack for contact with their peers. Many homeschoolers are active in home school support groups. Those groups provide further social activities.

Objection - The child will be socially stigmatised.

Answer - Differences are usually criticized out of ignorance or jealousy. To combat this, simply help the child to realize that what is being done is good for her.

Objection - The child will not be able to interact when swapping stories about school once he has grown.

Answer - This is not true at all. The home schooled child will have his own stories to share. There are many other home schooled children so there will be many other children with similar experiences. Further, in my experience, such swapping of stories in society is rare. Typically, the stories swapped are negative in nature.

Objection - Your kids are socially younger than their government school peers and this is due to the fact that they aren't in government schools.

Answer - Home school children will not be forced to act more mature than they really are to try to protect themselves from being mocked. They are permitted to enjoy their childhood by not being exposed to things that rob them of their youth and innocence. They will not be forced to become prematurely independent. Independence will come after they have developed the moral and emotional maturity to handle it.
My experience shows me that home schooled children tend to be more respectful, more self-confident, more mature and more capable than government school children.

Objection - The kids won't be able to learn how to fail or succeed in front of other people.

Answer - They will fail or succeed in front of their teacher just like government school children do. They will fail and succeed in front of their friends, siblings and family members. In home school, however, the failures are not going to be ridiculed by others, causing the children to become less likely to take risks.
Also, most people do not home school in a vacuum. Home school children typically participate in church activities, little league, etc.

Copyright 1997 - Fred Worth - Permission is hereby granted to reproduce or distribute this material as long as it is unedited and provided free of charge.

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