What Is Socialization?
By the dictionary, socialization is learning to get along with others in a social milieu. In our society, this means many things. It means getting along with members of our families, our friends and neighbors, people whom we come in contact with in the course of purchasing products and services we might need, colleagues at work, teammates in any sports we might participate in, other members of musical ensembles we might join, and roommates whom we might share housing with.
However, in pretty much no place except in public and private schools are we expected to spend large amounts of times in the nearly exclusive company of age peers. In fact, some people think that the really obnoxious and unpleasant behavior that can manifest in middle school age students, for example, may partly be due to the unnatural grouping of age peers.
That being said, an only child who is homeschooled and has no experience of other people’s approaches to the same tasks and problems she or he faces, no experience of others who have different strengths and weaknesses, and who learn different material at different paces, and little experience (if such is the case) seeing people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds respond to a variety of circumstances may indeed be at a deficit.
Continually working alone, the child may not have the opportunity to develop the skills that support collaboration. Being on a different schedule from other children in the neighborhood could prevent the usual interaction between a homeschooled child and his or her neighbors as well and lead to a certain amount of isolation.
So What Should a Homeschooling Parent Do?
Agreeing that the public or private school method of “socialization” is not the only or the best way or a desirable way to socialize children does not mean that anything else one does is going to serve one’s children well. So how might one ensure that a homeschooled child is socialized in desirable ways?
- When appropriate, engage siblings in homeschooling together.
- As appropriate, join with other homeschoolers, neighbors, and others to other people to complete tasks, do activities, and forge friendships, along with your children.
- Socialize as a family.
- Give children opportunities to engage in larger scale activities such as choirs, instrumental ensembles, team sports, clubs that focus on some special interest that they have, etc.
- Offer opportunities for other group events such as read-alouds at the library, attending movies, plays, and musical performances as an audience member, going to parties, etc.
- consider explicitly teaching your child social skills that will foster interaction such as:
-saying please and thank you
-knowing how to introduce oneself and others
- making “small talk,” i.e., choosing and talking about subjects about which someone else is likely to have something to say, and which are not likely to lead to friction
- excusing oneself when one has done something that might cause offense or be considered rude
- taking leave
- listening politely
- turn taking
- waiting patiently
- being tolerant of different ways of doing things, different beliefs, and different ideals
In addition, making sure that children have the opportunity to interact with people of different ages and backgrounds, in different venues and circumstances, and with regard to different topics and subjects will help expand their horizons and help them feel socially comfortable wherever they may find themselves, and can be part of homeschool socialization.