When it comes to the topic of homeschooling, there is one question on most people’s minds: What about socialization?
Despite my confidence in our decision to homeschool–and in our ability to do it well–I, too, have had to consider this question of “socialization.” Dictionary.com defines socialization as “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” Asking the question about socialization seems to imply, then, an idea that children ought to be socialized by their peers. I disagree. It isn’t my children’s peers who can best inform them of “appropriate” norms, values, behaviors, and social skills; it’s Travis and me.
That being said, I realize that the technical definition of “socialization” may not be exactly what most people have in mind when they ask the question. “Socialization” could mean to some just simply learning how to relate to and get along with one’s peers. By this definition, is socialization important? Yes! It is of great importance to Travis and me that our children be able to develop and maintain healthy relationships with their peers (and with people of all ages, for that matter). And that is why we don’t altogether dismiss this question that homeschoolers hear so often.
In fact, it was our consideration of the socialization question that first led us to entertain the idea of joining a homeschool co-op. It’s probably fair to say that homeschool families who participate in a co-op do so for one (or both) of two reasons: for academic purposes or for social purposes. Our objective was a little of both.
One potential obstacle to homeschooling is that some subjects are difficult to teach at home–namely, P.E., visual arts, and performing arts. So, while I feel that our homeschool is rather academic on its own, I did recognize that a co-op would fill in some gaps in my children’s education by providing them with a venue for these subjects which I cannot easily teach at home.
Despite what homeschool critics may think, my children have ample social opportunities (with or without a co-op, by the way). From playing with the neighborhood kids to attending church activities to participating on athletic teams, my kids get plenty of practice in developing and maintaining relationships with their peers. So, it wasn’t peer relationships I was seeking from a co-op as much as it was the structure of a classroom setting and the practice of “classroom skills” such as attentiveness, participation, cooperation, and time management.
Going back to the definition of socialization, I would just like to point out that socialization happens. Whether public school or homeschool, city-living or country-living, co-op or no co-op, children are influenced by experiences, by interactions with others, and by education; and all of those factors play a role in their growth into the people they will become. The socialization question, therefore, ought to be about the nature of these social influences in our children’s lives rather than about the existence or non-existence thereof.
This concludes my series on My Homeschool. I’ve shared with you why we homeschool, what a day in our homeschool looks like, what curriculum we use, and why we decided to join a co-op. I hope that these posts have served as an encouragement to those seeking direction for their own homeschool.