One of the most dreaded and most often asked questions to homeschool families is how our children are taught socialization if they are not in public schools. It amazes me that people actually believe that teaching your children at home hinders them from being productive and active members of society.
Do they not think that we talk to our children or that they do not play with other children? Do they think we lock our children up for 18 years only to throw them out into society unprepared for all the things that the world will challenge them with? I'm sure there are thousands of questions that pop up in the head of the inquisitor.
The first thing that most people do not understand is that one of the primary reasons that most of us choose to homeschool our children is to keep them from being socialized into the negative aspects of a public school education. Public school may teach raising your hand before you speak or how to get in a straight line to go to lunch, but it also opens the door for foul language, bullying, and peer pressure that often begins in the 1st grade.
My oldest was in public school in Kindergarten and 1st Grade. He was constantly bullied and the teachers and staff did absolutely nothing to stop it. I repeatedly was called to the office because they said he "talked to much" in class. They would tell me that he had trouble engaging with the other children. He was so educationally advanced above his peers that he was bored. He was behind in socializing with others and this was a child that had been in a daycare and preschool prior to going to public school. We finally decided to homeschool him hoping to give him not only a Christian Education, but also wanting to challenge him.
When we first took him out of school, everyone was so worried that he wouldn't have friends and that he wouldn't develop proper social skills. We lived in a neighborhood filled with children and he played with them daily. Some of them were even jealous that he got to stay home and do his work. He participated in sports and Awana. Now that he is older, he is in Youth Group and sports. No matter where we moved or where we went to church, he always had a group of friends.
This year we enrolled him into 8th grade so that he could prepare for high school. He wants to play football and unfortunately in our community and state you can't play sports or participate in extra-curricular activities, if you are not an enrolled student. We had a lot of reservations remembering how many times we had to go to the school to discuss his "talking" issues, however we gave it to God and asked him to help us through it.
I have to say that when we had our first parent/teacher conference that the teachers all raved about how respectful and articulate he is. They said that one of the most impressive things about him is that he treats all peers and teachers with respect. He opens doors for people, he shakes with a firm handshake, and he knows that there is a time and a place to be quiet and listen to your teachers. These things were not taught in a public school, they were taught at home.
We still worry about the poor influences that he has at school, but because we have spent several years building his faith and knowledge of God's word, it has made this transition very easy for us. Our youngest two are still at home and we will homeschool them until they graduate or decide at 8th grade that they want to go to high school. While it is not popular among most homeschool families, we have asked God to help us individually make that decision for each one of our children.
The one thing that I do know whether you send your children to public school, homeschool for a few years or homeschool from birth to 12th grade, home is the best place to teach socialization. It is the parent's job to teach children how to respect and honor others. It is a parent's job to teach children how to listen and to ask questions when you do not understand something. It is a parent's job to teach children what kinds of things are and are not acceptable when selecting friends. I think that if more parents took this responsibility more seriously and didn't lay it on burden of teachers, that our society would be in much better shape.
When homeschooling parents are involved in their community and church it's no wonder that their children turn out to be strong Christian members of society. These children have grown up in a loving and secure environment, safe from the pressures of dating, alcohol and drugs. They have been able to learn without the fear of being picked on in the lunch room or playground. They have made friends with families that share the same values whether through homeschool groups, sports activities or church membership. They have been allowed to learn at their own pace and explore things that they wouldn't have been able to do in public school.
Our family looks at homeschooling and having a Christian home like building a house. If you do not lay a strong foundation, the structure is going to topple when it goes through a strong storm. When we educate our children in a loving and supportive environment built on the love of Jesus Christ, we will help them stand when the world gets tough.
I am hoping that God helps me to build the foundations in my children's lives and that no matter how many times I have to ask the "socialization" question, that I can handle it with grace and love. I'm not against my friends and family that have children in public or private schools, because I know that is the decision that they have made that is best for them.
I also know how hard it is to have a child who you have homeschooled and to let them venture on to public school. It also has been hard for us within our homeschool peers because many believe that we have caved into the sports thing and should have just said no.
I think the "socialization" thing has become such a controversy amongst parents that it is right up there with stay-at-home moms verses working moms and the whole bottle or breastfeeding controversy. We need to support and love each other not judge each other's choices on how we choose to raise our children. God wants us to pray for each other, spend time learning from each other and also "socializing" with each other. God Bless my friends!! Have a Great Week!