My husband drove to the community theater to pick up our oldest after a recent performance of a musical he was in. As Jon pulled up, he saw what he described as “a swarm of giggling girls all hugging each other”. As he looked closer, he noticed our son’s baseball cap sticking up out of the middle of the crowd. Cub extracted himself from the group, sat down in the car, and Jon looked at him sideways and said, “Well, you’re doing alright then.”
Yes, our homeschooled throughout, high school freshman has multiple friends he chats with through all the typical teenage apps, participates regularly in theater productions and comes home just as regularly with funny stories of the antics he and his friends get up to when they aren’t on stage, can hold a conversation with an adult, a preschooler, or a fellow teen with the same amount of ease. In short, our homeschooled son, despite the concerns of many a random stranger, exhibits social skills. In fact, I might even suggest he excels at social skills. He takes respectful leadership roles in groups and activities, he has chosen to mediate complex and difficult conversations and conflicts among his groups of friends and does so with grace and compassion, and has been a skillful listening ear and steadfast shoulder for many of his friends to rely on. Well, and don’t forget he was surrounded by cheerful, hugging girls.
The most asked question when someone learns that a child is homeschooled . . . drumroll . . . “but what about socialization?” A frequent concern of parents who are contemplating homeschooling is the question of whether or not their child will have friends.
So, for those of you readers who do not homeschool, for those of you readers who are contemplating homeschooling, and for those of you readers who are currently homeschooling but early enough in the process that you still worry you aren’t doing enough for your child . . . I will say it quite clearly . . . home educated children are no more or less likely to be socially awkward as the neighbhorhood public schooled kid. And my extremely introverted, never set foot in a public school, but socially successful teenager is but one case study to prove it.
In fact, millions of homeschooled kids disprove the ill-informed, biased, misconception that all homeschool kids lack basic social skills and simply hang out on their own in the corner mumbling quietly to their imaginary friends. Not only are this kids generally capable of basic communication, but they are often more comfortable conversing with people outside of their chronological peers than children who are educated in schools that stick to age=level delineations. Additionally, many of these homeschooled kids feel grounded and more secure in their own identities that they can freely be who they want to be and therefore engage vulnerably and authentically with others. Especially for our fringy outliers, they can embrace their fringy-ness rather than censor it to simply fit in.
It’s interesting, when I asked google for the definition of socialized, she responded, “Having been made to behave in a way that is acceptable to a particular society.” Which kinda put a knot in my stomach. “Having been made to behave. . . . “ I think socialization might actually be part of the reason we have so many kids with high anxiety these days. They’re being “made to behave” in certain ways. If we shift our focus to guiding our children toward increased wellness and self-unerstanding, they will behave within the norms of society, or they will intentionally choose to push at the norms of society as needed.
So, to end. Am I worried about socialization? No. My homeschooled kids learn phenomenal social skills. Am I worried about socialization? Yes. I worry that socialization is breaking many of out gifted and 2e kids from being their own unique selves at the altar of being made to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.