I don’t much like the word any more. It never bothered me before. But, lately, not so much.
I’d be willing to bet that lots of other homeschoolers are getting tired of it, too.
I think it’s because socialization — at least to old-timers (at homeschooling, that is) is old news. It is way over-used. But most importantly, when you stop to think about it — misses the point altogether anyway.
The majority of the people who talk about socialization probably know very little about homeschooling. Either that, or they’re already on-the-fence or completely opposed to homeschooling for some other reason anyway.
These good folks probably think that homeschoolers are —
- improperly socialized,
- only partially socialized; or,
- are completely unsocialized altogether.
On the other hand, anyone who really knows anything about homeschooling knows that homeschoolers are actually well-socialized. Even better socialized than their same-age peers. There have been articles, there is current research, plus there are thousands of examples of well-socialized homeschoolers and homeschooled grads walking the planet right now.
So, the socialization debate really isn’t real. It’s made up. Because it’s been proven. So, these people are focusing on the wrong thing. It’s all about semantics.
Instead of talking about socialization, I think that opponents are really talking about fitting in. When folks talk about homeschoolers not being well socialized, I think what they they mean is that homeschoolers don’t always fit in with other kids their age.
And there’s a difference between socialization and fitting in.
Socialization means having a personal identity and using it to interact with others. It means knowing what is normal and expected in individual situations and how to interact with other people in a way that is most appropriate in those situations. Since situations vary, so appropriate behaviors must also vary. Thus, socialized beings must be able to gauge the values, traditions, social mores, and everything else that goes into making circumstances what they are, and then must adapt and behave in the most appropriate way possible in every single life occurrence.
Fitting in, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. In a nutshell, fitting in is the opposite of standing out. The best way to fit in is to not be different. Therefore, the only way to not be different is to be the same. Stretching the definition, it can mean dressing the same, talking the same, acting the same, liking the same things, and so on.
I assert that homeschoolers really don’t fit in. At least many don’t always fit in. It’s true. They are socialized, but don’t always fit in.
At the risk of sounding geekier than I already am, I’ll offer an example. My children, for instance, are best of friends. However, like most kids, they argue from time to time. Actually, some days, they argue a lot. But, they’re kids, and they’re perfectly normal as far as my husband and I are concerned.
When my kids argue, however, often they argue about geeky things [which I love]. Like how many helium balloons it would take to levitate a chair. And whether the regular latex balloons would be more effective than the foil/mylar type. Or what the combined weight and number of people it would really take to hold a Macy’s Day Parade balloon down. Or what might happen if said parade balloon were punctured, where it might fly, at what speed, and how long it would travel before coming to rest. And what horrible things would happen to anyone caught under the deflated balloon once it finally landed on the ground (well, they’re kids after all).
Or, they argue about setting prices on goods they intend to sell for maximum profitability. They think of things they might purchase (a new hand-held gaming system, for example) to sell at auction, and they talk about how to complete the entire transaction before the credit card statement arrives, so that it doesn’t end up costing mom or dad a penny and we might actually agree to doing it. They fight about which stocks to buy and why. And they get mad when we don’t actually buy their stock picks and the stocks went up (we don’t like when that happens, either!).
Over the years, my children have fought over who gets to read certain books first. Who gets to release the butterflies. Who should hold the flash cards. Who gets to erase the chalkboard. Who gets stuck folding the towels. Who isn’t helping dust the family room. Who takes the bread out of the bread machine. Who can use the typing software first. Why they have to vacuum both the upstairs and the downstairs on the same day. Why they can’t get a driver’s license the second they turn 16. Why they can’t work at a convenience store late at night. Why they have to recopy the literature passage again and again and again. Why they have to read the same book again when they didn’t understand it the first time. And who gets to focus the microscope. Plus a host of other things just like that.
And, naturally, they fight over the bathroom, the last piece of cake, and what to watch on television. As I said, they’re normal. Would they necessarily fit in with another group of kids on the playground while talking about such things? Perhaps not. So, they probably wouldn’t have the helium balloon discussion at the playground to begin with. But can they join in to a game of hide-and-seek or basketball with another group of kids at the playground if they wanted to and get along just fine? Absolutely.
I’ll tell you a quick story.
While getting a hair cut several years ago, the stylist (I’ll call her Andrea) started talking about homeschoolers. She had met some homeschoolers before and said they seemed very nice, but were awkwardly shy around her own and other children.
Andrea said she noticed that the homeschooled kids were smart and had a lot to say when she cut their hair. But that they just stood around at the park and at the ball fields and at other public events watching the other kids. Andrea said the homeschooled kids didn’t fit in and they didn’t always do what the other kids were doing.
I listened to her, smiling as respectfully as possible, of course (I wanted a good hair cut, after all). But I smiled internally too, because I liked what she was saying. But not for the reasons she thought.
It was because my kids and other homeschooled kids I knew were exactly as Andrea described. They did watch other kids and they were discerning about what other kids were doing. And they didn’t always join in. And they don’t always fit in.
That’s because my children are socialized.
That’s because my children don’t always fit in.
And my husband and I are very happy about that.