If one more well-meaning person asks me, upon learning that we homeschool, “What are you doing for socialization?” I think my head will explode. My daughter is an introvert and prefers small groups or one-on-one, while my son is gregarious and loves to be around other children. It’s a bit of a challenge, but most of the time I think we’re doing just fine. Should I be worried? How do you suggest I handle these questions?
Frustrated in Philadelphia
Although this question has become something of a joke within the homeschool community, it is actually an interesting topic. When someone asks about socialization, you might turn the tables on them by asking what, exactly, they mean by that term. After all, socialization and socializing are not the same, and it seems to us that many people confuse the two. Socializing is about interacting with others in a social manner. Homeschoolers generally have myriad opportunities to do this in ways that are appropriate to their children’s needs.
Socialization, on the other hand, is about the relationship between the individual and the group. Positive socialization results in a harmonious relationship between the two; poor socialization implies otherwise. Regardless of what educational choice a family makes, the parents still have the primary responsibility for ensuring that their children acquire socialization skills. These can include the ability to read social cues and respond appropriately, deciphering the unwritten rules of a group, understanding specific cultural expectations, and basic self-monitoring to function independently.
The reason this distinction is important is because there is no guarantee that a child will learn the rules of socialization through unguided socializing, such as happens in many school settings. For example, the playground offers opportunities for socializing—but so did the island in Lord of the Flies. Homeschooling families generally have a much smaller adult:child ratio and, therefore, more (personal) guidance for children in challenging social situations. A neurotypical child may, in fact, pick up many of those skills intuitively; a child who is neurologically different may need specific instruction, modeling, and practice.
The bottom line, then, is that you can be confident that the time and effort you are making to meet the disparate needs of your two children is a good investment. You can ignore the skepticism because you are living up to your responsibility as an engaged parent. Good for you!
For more on this subject by these authors, check out Writing Your Own Script: A Parents’ Role in the Gifted Child’s Social Development.