Socialization (Homeschooling & Peers): I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means

Socialization (Homeschooling & Peers) I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means

Socialization (Homeschooling & Peers): I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means

“But they need to be with friends their own age.”

Her eyes revealed the earnestness with which she believed her words. She wanted to homeschool, but….

Homeschooling or not, too many parents have a deeply-ingrained belief about peers that is not only incorrect, but extremely damaging.

I feel emboldened to say that peer dependency (and our encouragement of it) is one of the greatest hindrances to raising whole, well-adjusted adults.

Here’s something:

The practice of grouping same-age kids together for large amounts of time is new. Not to us, but in the course of history, it has only been the last 100 or so years that this experiment in human behavior has been conducted. Previously, kids of all ages intermingled, and for shorter amounts of time. Before that, families were the primary social group and children were taught social skills (how to become an adult) from adults.

I need to make a couple of declarations:

  • Socialization is not what you think it is.
  • Your kids being with other kids all day is not a good thing, much less an essential thing.

Socialization is simply,”the process by which social skills are learned.”

So let’s ask the question:

What social skills are important for a child to grow up to be a well-adjusted adult?

Let’s begin with honesty, kindness, courtesy, compassion, self-control, the ability to make wise choices, the ability to listen and express one’s thoughts. At the least.

According to numerous studies, bullying and emotional abuse is one of the biggest problems in school, aggravated by the “herd mentality.”  (How the Public School System Crushes the Soul)

When I think about what many children endure at school, it’s hard for me to believe the best we can do is implement another “bullying program” which does little to change the hearts of children. If a child is treated at home the way many are treated at school, or offered drugs, or inundated with explicit sexual information, the parents would be arrested for abuse.  Yet we wave it off as a mere fact of life and even endorse it with a hearty, “but they need to be around other children, above all else.” Never mind the damage being done. We still proclaim it’s the best thing for them.

I don’t know, but that might be the most schizophrenic idea ever to enter the minds of parents.

It’s not a big secret that the aforementioned, desirable social traits are not being widely demonstrated among peers in school. So why do so many parents automatically tout “socialization” as one of the main reasons they send their kids there if it’s not even happening?

And for Christians, it should be a double no-brainer. We are given the clear warning that “a companion of fools suffers harm.” And while it’s not a popular notion that “all kids are fools”, they are still growing in wisdom (if they’re being discipled in wisdom) and so are not yet wise.

On the contrary, we’re told that if want to raise our children to be wise, we should be making sure they are “walking with the wise”, as in living among them, associating with them regularly, and observing them.

It’s not my idea that our children need to be closer to their parents than to others. That father in Proverbs had the same hopes that we do, “My son, give me your heart.” He knew how to rightly socialize his children. That’s what we must be after.

Furthermore, it is often argued that our kids won’t be able to function in the real world unless they are “socialized” among peers at school. The irony of this should be blaring:

School does not resemble the real world in the least.

Bottom line:

Friends are not bad. In fact, they can be really good. My kids have lots of friends and enjoy being with them regularly. But the idea that our children need to be with friends more than with family, that dominating peer groups are the essence of a healthy childhood and socialization, is absurd.

If you are trying to make a decision about homeschooling, or public schooling, consider the real factors. But having your children be around kids their own age for the majority of the day should be a major reason to homeschool, not a reason against it.

Addendum: I felt led to say that these discussions are so hard because there are parents who feel they have no choice but to have their children in public school. I don’t mean to hurt people by writing posts like this. I mean to overturn wrong thinking that is hindering so many people from making a well-thought decision. I mean to overturn a myth. Please know that if you are a parent who feels you have no options, my heart goes out to you.

55 Responses to “Socialization (Homeschooling & Peers): I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means”

  1. Cindy says:

    Well, it might not be a popular notion that kids are fools, but it’s a biblical one. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child…” Seems it’s always the true thing that is unpopular. Mighty uncomfortable way to live, if you ask me. 😉

    • Guest says:

      How very sad to view one’s own children this way, Cindy. I hope they never read that.

      My children, who are nearly grown, love school and have suffered none of the terrible effects frequently cited on this blog. Their school is a delightful place, and they’ve each found an area of interest that will probably blossom into a career. Their teachers have uniformly been kind and gentle. We are blessed indeed!

      It is interesting that Kelly’s progeny don’t seem to share her dislike of schools. Her son-in-law is enrolled in higher education (which is certainly a school), and her daughter teaches in a preschool. I am not sure why they have formed opinions so different than hers.

      • Bria doesn’t teach at a preschool, and even if she did,it wouldn’t mean she has a different view than I do (she doesnt). I have also maintained my support of college if-when it is necessary. If you comment, be right. (This, for the sake of others reading, not the troll.)

      • chris says:

        Guest would do well to understand that in-laws are not progeny. But what of it? Children will not be cookie-cutter images of the parents. Any government school that has proven to be safe and kind is a blessing indeed, as well as very much an exception to the rule. When Cindy’s children read their Bibles, they will discover that their mother believes and agrees with the Most High God when it comes to raising the children He’s given her. Period.

        • I could not love this comment more.

          • Guest says:

            Actually, I feel rather sorry for Cindy’s kids.

            When they express a need like, “I need to be around more kids my own age,” she picks a bible verse that fits her agenda, and calls them fools.

            My own kids, who have been taught to think critically, would recognize that right away and would remind me that Scripture *commands* parents not to exasperate their children.

            • Your children then, would reveal their foolishness. What if they expressed a need like, “I need a new sports car.” Or, “I need to not do my chores.” (I’ve had exasperated children plenty when they don’t get what they want.) Don’t be silly.

              • Guest says:

                Never happened. At least not to my kids.

                You don’t need to call a kid a fool at 8 to have them grow up to be a sensible 16-year old.

                In fact, calling them fools really damages the parent-child bond. They may also question why you call them blessings in one breath and fools in another.

            • Mrs L says:

              I don’t feel sorry for CIndy’s kids. I wish I was one of them. Cindy is HILARIOUS.

  2. Eileen says:

    So true! And once thought through, so hard to believe I ever thought otherwise… Thanks for writing this. 🙂

  3. Smitti says:

    The scary thing I’ve found (via my husband) is that the ‘real world’ can be very much like school – with the cliques, the bullying, the herd mentality, etc. being carried into the office. The act of actually doing work can often be secondary to the gossip and drama of the workplace as well. I am also a tad concerned that the few actual ‘grown ups’ he chats with regularly are retiring soon. What will happen when the ‘grown folk’ are gone? (shudders)
    I praise God my husband had your attitude about socialization before I ‘got on board’, and also that he enforced it from the beginning of our homeschooling adventure. It was hard to do at first, but God’s wisdom has turned out children I am very proud to call ‘mine.’
    Now, if I could just Aways remember His Way is the Best Way MUCH more often than I do! 😉

    • 6 arrows says:

      Incredible as it seems, the bullying, etc. that you describe, Smitti, is beginning to go beyond the workplace and has entered the assisted living population. Your comment reminded me of this:

      I was shocked and saddened to learn yesterday, talking to a friend, that her mother, who lives in an assisted living situation, reported that the woman who lives across the hall from her is getting picked on by the other residents. This woman has become more confused, and is having more difficulty caring for herself, and those who live there (except my friend’s mother) see this as a reason to mock and treat her cruelly.

      What has our society come to, when even our older citizens treat fellow humans this way? How did this happen, that fewer and fewer of our culture’s “adults” have actually grown up?

      If I would even hint at anything I think may be partially behind it, I’m pretty sure someone will have my head, so I’ll say no more. But it does cause one to pause, when antisocial behavior we commonly see in children at school (and trolls on the internet) is similarly repeated again and again in the adult world.

      A tragic turn of events from years long gone, I believe, and one that bears careful consideration of the causes, and possible means of preventing this while we have the ability to effect some change.

      • Claudia says:

        I second that comment, 6 Arrows, on the situation you shared of an assisted living home. A precious 93 y.o. friend from church shared a similar situation about the bullying and gossip and “cliques” in her assisted living home. She was a strong, godly woman whose life exuded Christ to all she met. She felt she was called there to do missionary work. And YET, this other, most popular lady, had an impact on her because she was so domineering. And a beautiful aside: My dear friend just recently went to be with the Lord. The staff found her in her chair dressed to shoes with lipstick on…. Bible open in her lap.

        • 6 arrows says:

          I love that word picture you painted, Claudia, of your friend who just went home to the Lord. A very peaceful image with which to close the day.

  4. Thank you for this post! I often remind people that one of the few times (if not the only time) we are ever in a room with 30+ people the same age as us is in traditional school settings (or our class reunion)! Nothing about it prepares a child for the real world… well maybe standing in lines but I can teach that at home with my 6 kids. 😉

  5. […] Socialization (Homeschooling & Peers): I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means […]

  6. Jennifer S. says:

    Thank you so much for saying this. You said it so well. This is something my husband and I have believed for a long time.

  7. Hi, Kelly! I really enjoy reading your blog. I just had my 6th baby and particularly liked reading your posts on pregnancy. 😉 I purchased the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle through your site last week and am letting you know for the bonus gifts. Thanks!

  8. Josie says:

    Hi Kelly Just wanted to say that I too thought that your daughter was working at a preschool because of the article about parenting ditches.I love and agree with your post about socialization but I just wanted to be fair to the comment by “guest” .

    • Josie,

      Yes, I’m aware why Guest assumed that from my parenting post. (Bria worked for several days, or when needed, for my sister who is the director of her church’s school.) But she regularly combs my comments to “collect” data in order to use against me. So I’m not really interested in verifying myself to her. 😉

  9. Josie says:

    Okay, thanks for clarifying for me friend.

  10. Erin says:

    My mom was with a group of her friends, mostly retired educators, with some who are still working. A woman there, who is still practicing family medicine, brought up how annoying it is to see entire homeschool families in the waiting room at her clinic. This prompted everyone to jump in with how terrible it is to see them out and about everywhere, the grocery store, library, etc.

    The winning quote: “They need to be at school so they can be in the real world.”

  11. Mrs L says:

    I am so thankful we’ve been able to homeschool. Our children are only 7, 5, 3 (and a baby) but already they are so different from their peers. I can only praise God that He led us in this way and has been keeping us by His kind mercy.
    It’s hard some days- but so worth it.

  12. Claudia says:

    An interesting thing I have noticed is that I hear from so many parents (without any prompting)about how wonderful their school is and how their kids pray together at recess and how many teachers are Christians. I am so thankful for the Christian teachers in the schools, and the Christian parents, heavily involved in their child’s school. Still, I am hearing different testimonies from the 5th and 6th grade students in our Sunday School class. They say yes, they do pray at recess. They compare themselves to an underground church because they have to find hiding spots so they won’t get in trouble. Others tell me how hard it is to find even one single Christian friend in their school (and these kids are in a very large, metropolitan church). They struggle with all the evolutionary teaching, the bullying,and sexual innuendoes, and frequently request prayer for said issues. And here’s the thing: I don’t judge my public school friends. I think their job is so hard; So much debriefing to do after school. Still, for some children, being the salt and light in their school is overwhelming them. They feel alone, and struggle because they so want to fit in. I see the (many) Scriptural examples of believing people going into unbelieving environments with a good/positive outcome. But all these examples involve adults, or young adults. Does anyone know if there is an example like this involving children? Sorry if I got a bit off track, Kelly!!

    • Mrs L says:

      I pray so often for Christian children in government schools.
      I am a homeschooling mother who runs her own schedule and occupies her own quarters- but I still struggle with wanting to conform to societal norms and ‘prove’ myself to scoffers. It must be so much harder when you are penned in with them day after day.

  13. Claudia says:

    Oh, and I love all your new sidebar stuff, Kelly!! Can’t wait to check it out!!

  14. Lin says:

    I have been a home schooling mother for over 18 years now. When my children were young and I would get the “socialization” question I would feel a need to let that person know all the ways my kids did socialize… with people at church, kids in our co-op, adults and elderly we would minister to or just strike up a conversation with when we were out running errands. But I remember one day in particular when a woman in our neighborhood posed the concern, “Do you think your kids are missing the socialization they would get if they were in school?” In a moment of confident spunk I replied, “Absolutely, that is exactly why we educate our children at home. The social behaviors they will learn from their peers are all the wrong kinds of behavior.” For “social” reasons I chose not to ask a question with their question, “What social skills are you talking about: peer dependency, bullying, gossiping, or the artificially high value placed on clothes, grades, sports or social status?” But I must be truthful, the thought did cross my mind.

    • Amanda says:

      Reminds me so of a conversation I had with my aunt many years ago. We were at the beginning of our homeschool journey and so very odd to everyone in our family. My aunt asked me the question we’ve all heard so often “aren’t you worried about socialization?” My reply, “YES!! That’s why we’re homeschooling!” She never asked again. Her doctor husband would often quiz me on academics, and how I did it. This aunt recently passed away and at her funeral my uncle told me repeatedly what a wonderful family I had!

  15. Lin says:

    In response to Claudia, a well respected more seasoned home school mom once asked, “Would you send your child into a battle field without the proper training and equipment to protect themselves?” This was her response to should our chidren be salt and light in the school system? In another spunky moment, I had a man in our neighborhood tell me that his children were in the schools to learn diversity and how to get along with children from different cultures. I approved of this noble cause and then asked, if that was the case, why did ‘he’ choose to live in a middle class mostly all white neighborhood located in a town that had very little diversity? He didn’t say much in response. We went on to chat about other stuff. Grins and giggles to all. Keep a light heart about other’s arguments which challenge why you have chosen to direct your child’s education from home. Most are sound bites that aren’t often thought through.

  16. Donna says:

    Thank you again Kelly.
    My 16 year old son was so impressed that you used a ‘Princess Bride’ quote. It’s his favourite movie.
    As always, bless you and thank you so much – for everything!

  17. Karena says:

    As someone who attended public school from K-12 and graduated semirecently, (2008), can corroborate the claim that not much meaningful socialization goes on (always with exceptions, of course). All the quality socialization I did was through church or extracurricular activities. Maturity-wise, many kids were below the level necessary for meaningful socialization.

  18. Beverly says:

    Some of us really have no other choice. Single mothers with limited income have very few choices. Both my children are in public schools, and I work in the school system. I see the problems you talk about. Some of the teachers with whom I work would pull their children out and homeschool if they could.

    • Beverly,

      I feel so much for those who feel trapped. May I offer this encouragement? When I chose to come home from teaching at a Christian school, (and by default, chose homeschooling) we could NOT do it either. Literally. It didn’t work on paper. (My husband had a net income at the time of about 20K/year). We did what we knew in our hearts we had to do, determined to make it work and trusting the Lord would fulfill HIs promises. (Where there’s a will…) That was 14 years ago and I am so thankful we took that leap.

      • Keri says:

        She mentioned that she was a single mother. She may have no other option right now. God Bless you Beverly!!

        • Yes, I know. The encouragement was just as much for the friends she said who wished they could homeschool. But I’ve known quite a few single mothers who found a way to homeschool too, so the advice doesn’t exclude Beverly either. (And what do you mean in your comment to 6 arrows?)

          • Keri says:

            Encouragement is always good for single moms. Sometimes we just have to be realistic and realize that it might not work for every single mom and their situation. Lets face it, most churches would just not financially support a single mom just because she wants to homeschool.

            My mom was one and had to go off to work to literally pay the bills and put food on the table. I have sweet Christian friends who have to work and put their kids in school. It’s not easy but they find many other ways to teach their kids about Jesus and how much he loves them.

            It’s easy for us because we have husbands who work and support us in what we do. I pretty much just meant that even though they might have to put them in public school as a single mom who is responsible for it all, that the Lord will still help them and give them wisdom. I’ve seen this many times. Have a Blessed Weekend.

            • 6 arrows says:

              You’re right that we should encourage single moms. IMO, part of encouraging is offering solutions where they may not be readily apparent.

              Beverly mentioned her colleagues who would pull their children out and homeschool if they could. And she also said “I see the problems you talk about.” I feel for her and her friends, who see these problems in the public schools, and wish for a way out.

              If there might be a way out, and one has seen that solution work beautifully in other families, should a person not share that?

              We can have empathy for a present situation, and still offer alternatives to the current circumstances.

              That was the hope I wished to give Beverly (and her colleagues). It was not my intent to crack anybody up.

    • 6 arrows says:

      Beverly,

      I’ve known families with single parents who have homeschooled. I want to encourage you that it is doable, with good supports in place.

      My recommendation is two-fold: 1) See if your local homeschool support group (and/or individual homeschool families you know) can put you in touch with homeschoolers they know are single parents — someone you can talk to who’s been there, and can be a source of mentoring and encouraging you if you decide to homeschool.

      And 2) don’t be afraid to ask your church for assistance: prayer support, financial assistance, practical help with your children when you need a time of refreshment for yourself, and the like. We in the Body of Christ are called to bear each other’s burdens, but it isn’t always readily apparent what other members of the Body are going through. State your challenges and your desires, and sometimes doors open that we never imagined would.

      Blessings to you.

  19. […] Socialization (Homeschooling & Peers): I Do No Think It Means What You Think It Means […]

  20. Rachel says:

    This is wonderful. I’ve seen a few articles on the subject lately (amazing that this is still an issue!), and I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject, based on what a wise homeschool counselor once pointed out.
    http://trialanderrorhomeec.blogspot.com/2015/05/socialization.html

  21. piret says:

    On kids and friends and peers and groups and whether all this can be obtained from school or elsewhere/or is it on the whole too late, I recommend a good book: http://www.dtv.de/buecher/grosse_kinder_36220.html

    Apart from that and homeschooling, I must say that I have problems with supplying my kids with enough company.

  22. Charity says:

    What people think about homeschoolers and “Socialization.”…….INCONCEIVABLE!! 😀

  23. Lauren says:

    You had me at Inigo ‘Montoya! Yes and amen to all of it!

  24. Tammy Noel Smith says:

    Thank you,thank you ,thank you for this post! I cannottell you how glorifying this is to God! I wish that more Christian parents would see that we have all been a part of a socialized experiment.As I read Lamplighter books to my children and we read the Bible together and American history,I can’t help but SEE the truths that you speak of here….Before the last 100 years or so,families were the influence and the hub of every day life and where children learned how to live and love and work alongside one another.I say,If you can’t get along with your own brother,you will most likely not get along with your husband.If you can’t get along with your sisters,you will not have or be a very good friend in life.Thank you…I love this and am posting it and making a copy to read to my family!!! Found so much encouragement!! God blesss you!!

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