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.
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.
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.