Even in my brief tenure as a homeschool mom, I’ve heard the ‘socialization’ question often enough that it’s right up there with many of the FATQs (Frequently Asked Twin Questions, such as ‘Are they identical?’ even when one twin is dressed head to toe in pink and the other in blue) for making me sigh and roll my eyes. I try to use my ‘inside voice’ for the sigh of exasperation, but it takes some willpower, that’s for sure.
Socialization. A psychologist would say it’s the process by which a person acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society; or the development of behavior according to the societal norms of the individual’s culture and locale.
By those definitions, my kids, and most homeschooled students I’ve met, are doing just fine. They wear clothing in public, they have decent table manners, they sit quietly in church, and so on.
The socialization questioners usually have something else in mind, though. What they really want to know is won’t my kid become that weirdo in high school, the one who sits alone at lunch and never learned about deodorant? Just last week I had a teacher tell me that homeschooling was OK for younger children, but that teens really needed “the high school experience.” I’m not so sure about that. First off, the main emotion I feel when I crack open my high school yearbook is something between disbelief and embarassment (that perm was really ill-advised). Second, various local homeschool organizations organize yearbooks, senior trips, prom, even a large, statewide graduation ceremony for those who choose to partcipate. Homeschooled students in this state are eligible to play on sports teams of the public school they would attend if enrolled, and they can participate in any other extra-curricular activities (and receive special services) at the public schools as well.
As for socializing — which I think is what people in fact mean to ask — the opportunities are endless. So far this year we have group gymnastics lessons, a mid-week children’s program at church along with services and Sunday school, classes at two co-ops, 4-H, field trips with homeschool friends, even a group that meets at Disney World (during the week, when we have the place nearly to ourselves :D)!
And finally, I’m posting this entry a bit later than usual because tonight we attended a sunset beach party with a couple dozen families from one of our co-ops. One thing I love about the homeschool groups I’ve encountered is how often I see kids of different ages playing together. There’s no stigma attached to an older child playing with a younger one, and the kids themselves often don’t even know (or don’t care) what ‘grade’ they are supposed to be in. As far as socializing goes, it looks far more pleasant to me than the social scene at my school: the teasing, cliques, cafeteria politics, and a friend pool limited to a single class.