Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

December 6, 2006

And What About Socialization?

Filed under: Homeschooling, Socialization — texased @ 8:22 pm

This is a must read column no matter how you are educating your children.

Jay Mathews – School Boundaries, Money and Race – washingtonpost.com:

Grice is my guest columnist today. This is a big risk for me since it is clear she is a much better writer, and much braver about getting to the heart of the issue — how much our school boundaries depend on the skin color and the size of the paychecks of the families involved. Nonetheless, this is a must read:

Some of you may be wondering, “so what’s the homeschooling connection on this?” Well, what is the first issue anyone brings up when discussing homeschooling–what about socialization? We are often accused of isolating our children and denying them the opportunity to mix with people of different backgrounds. And how many people who live in the wealthier, white, Union Grove community discussed in the column would be quick to join in such accusations? See my point now?

I will admit that homeschoolers aren’t as ethnically diverse as I would like. African American homeschoolers are still a rarity around here but then again, they only make up 13% of the population. And it is changing.

What I will argue is that my son is much more likely to meet someone from a significantly different background than his cousin who is in his public school. I went to one of his middle school football games and his team was essentially all white and the opposing team was a majority Hispanic with a scattering of whites and African Americans. Both schools were in the same district. And San Antonio is over 60% Hispanic. Figure that. There are plenty of Hispanic homeschoolers around.

We are also much more likely to interact with people outside our income bracket. If our car breaks down, we take it to the shop and maybe even get a rental if necessary. For a lot of the homeschoolers we interact with, a broken down car means we wouldn’t be interacting for a couple of paychecks. Even in schools that have some diversity in income levels, students somehow manage to be segregated in classes by income. So while you may go to school with the “poor” people, you aren’t taking Algebra with them.

Yes, there are plenty of homeschoolers that associate only with others that share their same religious beliefs. But they are a much smaller number than you think. As an Odyssey of the Mind coach for the past few years, we have had team members who believe that the earth is only 6000 years old (or something like that) but it never really came up during team meetings. The same is true of the fencing class my son takes as well as the German class. Probably a lot like kids who attend public schools.

Basically, my point is before you accuse homeschoolers of not socializing, take a closer look in the mirror.


  1. For me socialization in school was being called names and made fun of. Yeah, that really helped!

    My kids don’t get the pleasure of being picked on and called names, because they are homeschooled. I think the whole socialization issue is crazy. When my kids come in contact with schooled kids, guess who introduces themsevles?

    My kids!

    Guess who acts shy?

    The school kids.

    Homeschooling children don’t have all the baggage that schooled kids pick up. No peer pressure to worry about, no name callling. This makes homeschooled kids more outgoing and less fearful.

    I my opinion, the socialization question is just ridiculous.

    Comment by George — December 7, 2006 @ 10:23 am

  2. I like the fact that we can separate socialization from education. We can learn, and then go out and meet with others… It makes it all go alot smoother.

    Comment by andrea — December 8, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  3. Socialization is a crucial aspect of education. As a person who was actually homeschooled I am very well aware of what I missed out on, and I find it entertaining to listen to parents who make the choice to homeschool their children because their reasons are often selfish and uneducated.

    Comment by Sarah — December 8, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

  4. What did you miss out on and how and where were you homeschooled?

    Comment by texased — December 8, 2006 @ 3:34 pm

  5. I was homeschooled grade 2-12 by my mother. While she had good intentions when it came to our education, she was also blind to her own ignorance. I was not homeschooled due to any religious beliefs, just for the simple reason that my mother thought she could do a better job than the school system, and that her children would benefit from homeschooling. Now as an adult with children of my own ages 3 and 9 months I am started to think about what will be best for them, and I can say without a doubt that they will not be homeschooled.

    Mostly what I missed out on by homeschooling was socialization. I was part of a homeschooling group with 10-12 other homeschooling families in the area that met once a week or so. In addition I took dance lessons and art lessons outside the home. This did not provide me with what I needed as a developing child and as hard for me as it is to admit but sometimes very obvious I suffer from a lack of social skills today.

    Socialization is not the only subject that was negatively impacted by homeschooling. Any subject my mother was not a quiz in, I was on my own to learn. In public schools there are different teachers for different subjects for this very reason. One person cannot do an adequate job of teaching all subjects and a child cannot do an adequate job left on his or her own.

    While homeschooling your children it is far to easy to get caught up in the day to day maintenance of your home and other activities and lose site of structured learning and setting educational goals that are critical in your child’s education. I have encountered far to many parents homeschooling their kids for all the wrong reason, most of all because of their own separation anxiety.

    Comment by Sarah — December 8, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

  6. Obviously homeschooling wasn’t a good choice for your family situation. I don’t think homeschooling is the best answer for every family. But I also hope you realize that not all families who homeschool are like yours.

    We do homeschool information sessions and bring up many of the issues that happened to you. Of course, people will still homeschool who probably shouldn’t. But with homeschooling a legitimate option, I would argue that there are plenty of people who send their kids to school who would be better off homeschooled. One bad teacher can ruin your education experience for life. This is something I run into often with parents requesting homeschool information.

    And ultimately, it’s not an “either or” situation for a family or even child. I know many families who homeschool one child and send the other to school. There are also many who plan to homeschool only until high school. I know some children in that situation and none seem to feel that homeschooling was a negative experience for them.

    As for separation anxiety, I’m sure you are right that many parents seem to start homeschooling rather than have to send their child to school. This may prove a significant problem in some cases but I could also argue that a person may be much more ready to “separate” at age eight or some at age three. It’s like with most human development, we don’t all develop at the same rate. While five is the magical age now, it could very well be three with the coming of universal pre-school. My son was in day care full-time at two months and it’s not something that I regret. We brought him home because of problems with school. We were doing what was best for our family.

    Growing up, it was probably a good thing that I wasn’t homeschooled since my mother was a teenage immigrant and was busy figuring out American culture. She did go back and get her degree and became a high school teacher. She has said that if she were making her choice today with the knowledge she has accumulated, she would homeschool. But that isn’t the same as saying she would have done it, let’s not be too specific but just say when she first became a mother 😉

    Bad parenting happens and sometimes schools are able to mitigate it’s effects. But bad schooling happens as well and good parents will do what they think is necessary to mitigate those effects. It’s unfortunate that you had such a bad experience homeschooling and haven’t seemed to encounter any homeschoolers who might offer a positive view of homeschooling. I just hope that whatever decision you make that you are able to stay involved enough in your children’s lives to make sure it is the best for them.

    Comment by texased — December 8, 2006 @ 5:29 pm

  7. I would also like to add that homeschooling today is MUCH different than it was ten years ago. The “socialization” issue has been beated so to death, that it’s rare to find a new homeschooler who isn’t concerned about it.

    Public school is also a lot different than it was ten years ago. Heck, our culture is a lot different than it was ten years ago.

    Lastly, high school homeschooling is also changing dramatically. Most of the kids in our community use the local college or resource center for high school subjects. Many use virtual schools.

    In any case, nobody’s childhood is perfect. So, isn’t the goal to do the best with what we have? I have confidence that parents, as a general rule, do this. Even if they aren’t perfect.

    Texased, thanks for the thoughts on social skills. You definitely have interesting observationsa about it!

    Comment by Tammy — December 8, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  8. There are also a large number of public schooled children who would say the same thing. There are a lot of children in the public school who don’t get the opportunity of dance classes, art classes and really meeting with anyone outside of their little classroom where they are expected to sit still and quiet for hours on end.

    Most “socialization” in my public school was strongly discouraged. There are obviously a string of extra-curricular activities available, but they are available to homeschoolers as well. (Even through the school district in some areas).

    My public school experience was mixed…most of what I really learned had nothing to do with the classroom. And the socialization issue was a bit of a joke. None of my friends were in my classes or my lunch hour.

    Comment by Dana — December 18, 2006 @ 5:43 am

  9. Well, I too am a homeschool graduate (1st-10th grades, then on to college)and now teach my own children, the oldest of whom are in 2nd and 3rd grade, respectively. I always kind of laugh when I hear all the worries about the big S, since in my humble opinion the personality of each student has a LOT to do with whether they fit what our society has termed to be “proper” socialization.

    Do I sometimes feel awkward in certain settings? Yes, but I think it’s a rare person who never does. My own children are sometimes a bit too extroverted 🙂 (not sure the clerk wanted to know your entire day’s schedule, dear…) but that’s a learning process too.

    Anyway, my point is that I know very outgoing homeschoolers, and very introverted public schoolers, and yes, the opposite too.

    I love a point a preacher friend made a few years ago; “Don’t kill me until you hear me out, but I believe all parents should be home schoolers. By that I don’t mean that all parents have to teach their children the three R’s in their home, but all parents need to be vitally involved in their child’s education.”

    Again, I know of homeschooling families who really shouldn’t keep their kids home (though they’re few and far between) and of public school families who are doing their best for a good education for their family.

    We must all make careful, wise choices, with full knowledge that there is no absolutely perfect educational method, because there are no perfect teachers, or perfect students! There will be “holes” somewhere in everyone’s learning and social processes, no matter where they go to school. But then, isn’t that part of what makes the world so interesting to live in? Just my 2 cents.

    Comment by Happy Mom — December 19, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  10. Just wait, Sarah… you may change your mind yet. I, too, was homeschooled, and I, too, was bitter about it as a young mom. When I got together with my husband I was completely anti-homeschooling and I convinced him! I considered myself to have been socially hindered and sheltered and I had gone to the extreme in the opposite direction, rebelling and “making up for lost time”.
    I became a teacher and started teaching in a quality private school. Gradually I realized that I was not satisfied with what my children were learning in school (to complete busywork as quickly as possible; that the product is more important than the process; that what you learned is far less important than whether you put a dollar sign at every step of that math problem; etc.). Gradually I realized that the way my parents and their friends had homeschooled had more to do with their parenting style than the homeschooling itself. Gradually I realized that the “weird” homeschoolers I had grown up around (and they do exist!) were weird because of their parents, not because of the homeschooling itself. Gradually I realized that there are huge numbers of socially retarded individuals, jerks, rude people, horrendously shy people, etc. and 99.999% of them went to school all of their lives.
    It took me a couple years to convince my husband that I had been misguided in my dismissal of homeschooling, and that it was actually a powerful, positive alternative. I didn’t start homeschooling until my oldest birth-child was 10. You never know what you will learn and discover as your children grow!

    Comment by Sarah — December 19, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

  11. From the comment left by Sarah, I fail to see how anything bad happened as a result of homeschooling. She doesn’t know what could have happened if she had gone to school. Sarah’s description sounded like her mother did a really good job. She was not isolated, and not nearly as isolated as many children are at school.

    Children go through school with huge gapes in their knowledge, and this is considered normal. I didn’t learn about the branches of government until after I was married. I couldn’t have told you what was in The Constitution to save my life. I knew almost nothing about world history. I’m a horrible speller. I graduated with honors from both high school and college.

    Sarah, I was wondering how much tv do you watch? Sometimes people want something that doesn’t exist, but is merely a creation of the media. Reality can never compete with fantasy. If you mentally compare your real life at home with life in tv-land, you will always be unhappy.

    This fantasy of school doesn’t exist for anyone. The “popular” girls hate each other; drugs and promiscuity are the norm; most teachers are dull and don’t have training in the field they are teaching; bullying is a constant; you spend most of your energy worrying about how you look; homework is time consuming and often pointless; cheating is rampant; and so forth.

    Children come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Homeschooling doesn’t make children shy or unsocial, that’s a function of personality. If you are an introvert, you are an introvert. Introverts can learn to fake it, but they will never feel like an extrovert. Social situations will always leave an introvert feeling drained. And remember, introverts are NOT broken extroverts. Introverts just have different needs than extroverts.

    If as an adult you are feeling uncomfortable socially, the problem is you in the here and now, not your upbringing. If you didn’t learn the “social skills” as a child, than educate yourself and quit whining. Children at school don’t magically learn social skills. I went to public school and always felt like the odd man out. At 40 years old, I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and school had nothing to do with it.

    Having said all that, homeschooling is not for every family. However, most functioning parents have more to offer their children than an institutionalized education provided by a government bureaucracy.

    Comment by Janine Cate — December 19, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

  12. you really had some great discussion here after this post. it was worth reading.

    Comment by melissa — December 20, 2006 @ 12:00 am

  13. Happy Mom has some great points. I was not homeschooled, and yet during high school I remember feeling SOOOO socially inept, and so sure that everyone else knew how to handle social situations better than I. Increasing social comfort only came after years of interacting in adult society. I still am a natural introvert. But now I can enter a situation with confidence and usually can find someone to make conversation with.

    As counterpoint, two of my children (homeschooled) are natural extroverts, and can at age 4 and age 15 can make graceful conversation with anyone. My other kids are no slouches either, but it is obvious that these two just have a natural gift for loving social situations of any time, and finding a way to be confortable and make friends.

    Many of the rest of us take years to learn similar skills.

    Mary, mom to many

    Comment by Owlhaven — December 21, 2006 @ 11:07 am

  14. In some ways, homeschooling an only child has made me even more “attentive” to the needs of “socialization.” I’m definitely an introvert, my husband falls on the extrovert side. It’s taken me a long time to realize that despite society’s images to the contrary, it’s okay to be an introvert. There is nothing “wrong” with me.

    As it happens, my son is on the introverted side. He’s not shy, he’s just happy to spend time by himself. There’s a natural tension between me wanting him to experience new people and places and letting him spend time on his own. But at least he’s not in high school feeling like he’s some sort of outcast because he doesn’t want to hang out with the crowd.

    Comment by texased — December 21, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

  15. Just to jump in on the conversation…

    I was public schooled from beginning to end. I loved it. I did fairly well. My brother hated it. He didn’t do well, though not because he wasn’t bright. He was TOO bright for his classes, and he hated work and didn’t do it. Also, socially, I loved it, he hated it. He was picked on, tormented, and isolated. I was never the most popular girl, but I had enough friends and fun to keep me happy. You can see the extremes for two similarly bright and equivocally parented children – even within the same family. I agree that location and teaching style aren’t the only factors that play in socialization. Personality is a part of it, too.

    As an adult, I have three children – six, three, and one. As much as I enjoyed public school, I homeschool. There are many reasons why. I am not perfect at it, and I am learning how to make things best work together, and socialization is definitely on our priority list. My children do enjoy homeschool, and I’m sure they would equally enjoy public school. But I choose to school them here at home because of our reasons. 1.) I want to teach them through the lens of Christianity – science as how God created it, history as how God ordained it, etc. 2.) I want to be the one to pass on knowledge to my children, I want to be that intimately involved in their learning and growing processes. 3.) I want the ability to adjust learning rate and style to meet the needs of my children. 4.) I don’t want my children exposed to certain ideas and information until they are emotionally and mentally ready to grasp, understand, and process them each. Most importantly, I feel it is what God has asked of me, and I want to obey God’s call.

    None-the-less, I don’t feel there is one certain mold that children learn by. For some families, home-schooling is a good choice. For others it is public school. Some children need the environment of public school to thrive, for others it is the home school environment. Because of this, it is difficult and incorrect to make sweeping statements about either schooling avenue,whether positive or negative. One cannot pass judgment on either system based on one success story or one failure.

    I suppose my punchline would be: keep an open mind, be actively involved in your children’s lives, find what is best for your children, do what God has called you to do, and don’t listen to those who would berate you for your decision.

    Comment by proverbs31 — December 21, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

  16. Sarah, you’re still quite young, and I don’t doubt that you’ll grow out of your “blame the parents” attitude soon. I felt the same way toward my parents, but in reverse. They sent me to public school, and for years after high school, I blamed them for the education I could have had, if they’d only been paying attention…or so I thought. I was lonely, bored, under-stimulated, and really, really shy. Of course, my parents probably could have been more involved, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that they’ve done the very best they could just as your parents most likely did. Parents can only do what they think is best. Sometimes they’re mistaken. Sometimes, though, grown children blame their parents for things that they’ve actually done right. My social ineptitude, it turns out, is part of who I am, not what I was taught. Public school didn’t help me be less shy, or more popular, nor did it make me worse. You are who you are no matter where you go to school. If you would really, truly like to be a social butterfly, now’s your chance! Don’t sit around mourning for your lost youth. You can’t possibly be too old to find some mom-friends and go out for dinner and bowling once a month. Tame stuff compared to prom night drunkenness, I guess, but lots of responsible fun can be had that way. Seize the day! On the other hand, if you feel strange in social situations, don’t blame your mom! Chances are you’d feel that way no matter where you went to school.

    One more thing. My math teachers were never very good at math. I ran circles around all of them. Public or even private education is NO guarantee of excellence, so don’t worry too much about “gaps” in education. If you expect to know everything you need to know by graduation, you’re in for one heck of a shock.

    Comment by Daisy — December 26, 2006 @ 5:25 pm

  17. Wow! I think what we’re looking at isn’t homeschooling vs. public schools (or private), we’re looking at parenting and the decisions that come with that. Essentially many homeschooling moms understand the need to socialize and therefore implement that in their programs. There are incredible homeschool co-ops that are free to participating parents. The children can meet one to three times a week and take writing, reading, lab, P.E., choir, art, drama, band and other classes and have a lot of time to interact with one another (and that the instructors are more than capable to teach). Also, the children have an opportunity to plan events with eachother, and since homeschooling is a 24 hour “thing” planning events among the children is incredibly educational.
    For example: you may have a group of kids who want to set up a lemonade stand together. They would make a budget (money, percentages, addition, subtraction: you name it!), bake some items (learn about measuring), and sell (SOCIAL SKILLS). This is why I find that “well educated” children, whether in public school or homeschooled, do a wonderful job socializing.
    I am friends with people that homeschool and don’t homeschool and it boils down to parenting. If a homeschooling mom provides opportunities, the child learns to seek out relationships and cultivate them. It is possible that they will mature quickly because of the varied ages a homeschooled child comes in contact with. When my children went to public school, before I started homeschooling several years ago, I had to invite children to my house so they would interact with my son (he was deaf with language delays). I can’t blame public schools for him not making friends there, but I can blame myself for him making friends through after school ideas that we came up with!
    If you love your child, which we all do, you can research both options and make it work (most times our own personal experiences are exceptions, not the rule). I literally pulled my children out of the public school system due to lack of social interaction and seven schools assuring me that they knew what they were doing while my child kept getting put back a year (a total of two years). I knew it was time to go when they said he would NEVER read well (he was then nine years old) and he would not be able to communicate verbally. Since being at home with “little ole’ mom” he’s reading proficiently, has more friends than I know how to keep up with and my daughter who was very shy in public school has FINALLY come out of her shell and is helping plan “social” outtings this summer which you can find on my blog “site”.
    If you’re a great mom, you may be a better homeschooling mom than your mom was…but maybe homeschooling is not a good decision for you! Me, personally, I WOULDN’T TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD!

    Comment by timothy1st — May 28, 2008 @ 11:30 am

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