If you’ve ever even mentioned you’re thinking of homeschooling to non-homeschooling people, you’ll get the question, “What about socialization?” For many homeschooling parents, “socialization” is a trigger word…causing clenched fists and eye twitches.
I TRY to have grace when people ask the question. Some days, that grace comes more easily. Some days, it’s harder. Often, I can rationalize that people are asking simply because they want to know. I understand that the perception of homeschooling is a little skewed and people often think of homeschooled kids as weird, pale faced, dreadfully shy freak kids. But then there are those people. The ones who truly don’t get why we do what we do. And they’re trying to trip us up. The same folks that will ask history or math questions to see if kids have really learned anything. (Yes. This happens).
Here’s how I’ve chosen to handle THE question. It doesn’t always debunk preconceived notions about homeschooling (as my youngest licks the grocery cart and talks incessantly about poop), but it’s certainly helped.
Let your kids speak for themselves
I’ve been in restaurants, stores and many other public places with my kids and when it comes to interacting with the employees of the establishments, I’ve had my children order for themselves, pay for their own products, ask questions about things. In our family, this is just part of our homeschooling and child rearing philosophy. They need to be able to interact with adults in a wide range of situations, so we feel strongly about having them do it as soon as they’re able – our 4 year old even orders his own food at restaurants (with some help). Servers and cashiers are often very surprised by their ability to communicate and their manners. Another opportunity for socializtion came when our co-op hosted an international fair last year. The students manned their table and answered questions as parents and other students traveled from station to station. It was a great time and a nice environment for practice.
Remind them (politely) what socialization is
Socialization is simply the activity of mixing socially with others. By definition, if my kids are talking to people in stores or restaurants or playgrounds, they’re socializing. I personally know plenty of traditionally schooled children who can’t carry on a conversation with anyone who isn’t their age. Trust me, as a parent who’s chosen this route, I consider their socialization a ton. I understand that because I’ve chosen to keep them from a traditional school setting, I have to compensate for the lack of interaction they’re receiving. So, politely reminding them that my kids’ well being is one of my top priorities, I’ve made sure to create opportunities for socialization.
Don’t take it personally
This is the best advice for me to personally remember in so very many situations. When my insecurities flare up, being seemingly challenged on a parenting choice hits me hard. All those mom doubts that float around in my head are stirred up and I – for a split second – wonder if maybe I’ve made a huge mistake. Then I stop and breathe. And re-focus. And I realize that sometimes a question is just a question and it is in no way meant to imply that I’m a horrible mom. In fact, MOST of the time, a question is just a question…far more often than not.
Answer it honestly
Maybe the question stings sometimes because you realize that you haven’t done a great job socializing your kids. If that’s the case, it’s not too late. Sometimes the world seems scary and as homeschoolers, it’s super easy to hide out and focus all our attention within the walls of our house. But that’s robbing the world of the precious little people you’ve been busy making sure are great! Allow the world to experience them. Find some good groups to get involved with – an area co-op, a field trip group, a science club, a church, a playgroup – anything where your kid feels like they fit. You just might find some grown up pals, too! I get burned out and want to hide out sometimes, but that’s not what’s best for my kiddos.
I’m an extremely extroverted person and it’s bad for me to go too long without interaction with other grown people. My husband is introverted, but being without people for too long is bad for him, too. He withdraws into his own thoughts. We’ve realized that to be healthy, we need other people. And we also realize the same is true for our kids. So when people as ME the socialization question, I try my best to first assume they mean no harm and are just curious. It helps my mental health to assume the best in people…and sets a good example for the little eyes that are constantly watching me. I also take the opportunity to talk about our great community of homeschooling families and how appreciative I am for the support, encouragement and accountability. Often, people are so curious about the whole subject and a great conversation erupts!
So, what do you say?