Forget Socialization! Let’s Talk About Personalization!

Forget Socialization! Let’s Talk About Personalization!

If you’ve chosen to homeschool then inevitably you’ve already been confronted with the concern by family, friends, neighbors, and yes, even strangers–

{gasp!} “But what about “the socialization?”

As if keeping your children out of the classroom and interacting firsthand with the world in some way forces us homeschoolers into a weird societal black hole. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy being able to immerse my children in society with a greater frequency than a tight school schedule would permit. We’re free to interact, socialize, and observe the world with a far greater propensity than only nights and weekends would allow.

Photo by Thomas Hawk
Photo by Thomas Hawk

Do you want your children to be socialized? Or sociable?

If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time you already have a quick “go-to” answer for the stigma of homeschooling question. For me, it’s simply that I have no desire whatsoever for my children to be socialized but rather sociable. I do not want my 6-year-old feeling she must be able to do or not do what other first graders are doing. I want her to arrive at herself naturally.

I want my children to be comfortable with who they are and appreciate their uniqueness in this world and therefore respect the individuality of others. I do not want socialization- I want sociability. And yes, I believe my children can easily attain a sociable nature without the intervention of the public school system.

I’ve recently added an addendum to my automatic response. It came to me the other day while I was sitting across from my 6-year-old daughter at a local pizza buffet. We’d been having a rough go of starting our regular schoolwork back up after a brief break. I noticed we weren’t in the groove. She was dragging her feet, and I was short on patience. After a few days like this, I decided something had to give. I told my daughter we were going to have a parent-teacher/student conference over lunch. Just the two of us.

Simple Tips for Personalization

We sat across from one another and I explained again why we had chosen to homeschool her and her siblings. I think it’s important for her to understand this decision and be reminded frequently about our family’s rationale for homeschooling. Then I admitted to her that the past few days had been rough and I didn’t want her education to feel so, well- so “school-like” and tedious. Finally, I asked her for her input on how to make her education more fun, more rewarding, and more personalized for her. What did she want more of? Less of? What did she want to change?

Here is what she came up with:

  • More horses.
  • Spelling is boring now.
  • Math is boring now.
  • More music.
  • More snacks.
  • Be allowed to play bring toys to the table.

Here’s how we compromised:

Horses– Instead of practicing our handwriting with our daily journal writing, she will begin to write her very own story about horses. One sentence a day in cursive to be followed by her own illustration. After she completes the story she can work with me to bind it.

Spelling-I was surprised that she found spelling boring. I always thought it was one of her favorite subjects. She told me that she didn’t like all the writing. We use All About Spelling (which we LOVE!), and early in the second book, we stopped using the magnetic letter tiles that go with the program. She had asked to write out her words instead since she could do it faster that way. We’ve been writing it out ever since. Turns out she’s been wanting to go back to the tiles for a while now. I’m glad I asked.

Math– This was another surprise for me. She flies through her math lessons and gets new concepts fairly easily. So easily, in fact, that I pretty much just show her a few examples, and then she completes the workbook without much assistance. Because she picks it up so quickly, I stopped using math manipulatives because I figured we were just wasting time. Turns out using manipulatives is what makes math fun for her. Sure, she gets math mentally, but the manipulatives—that’s what makes math entertaining.

Music– Easy enough. We both love classical music, and I used to play it quietly in the background throughout most of our day. I don’t know why I stopped. Maybe I just got lazy walking the 10 feet to our CD player. Commencing music now!

Snacks– Snacking will be permitted as long as it doesn’t prove a distraction.

Toys– I had to put my foot down on this one, but instead of simply saying no, I explained my reasoning. I gave examples where I allowed toys and showed how it never worked out. She humbly agreed. She didn’t pitch a fit; she realized we were compromising.

We scribbled our list on a napkin and signed our names to the bottom. Since that date, our school days have been flowing much more smoothly. Is it perfect? No, of course not. We still have our ups and downs, but at least my daughter is confident of her importance in her own education.

I plan on making these individual conferences a regular event with my girls. I want to make a point to do them often so even if things seem fine, I may just learn a few things about my girls that I didn’t know before.

But most importantly, I want my daughters to know that their roles in homeschooling are just as important as mine, and their voices matter.

So now, whenever I get that blasted “But aren’t you worried about the socialization?” question, I’ll still give my go-to answer, but I’ll add-

“Forget socialization…What about personalization?


Kristen is a mother to three young daughters. She made the decision to leave her career in investments to become an at-home mom when her oldest was a toddler. For her family, the option to homeschool was a natural progression, and they enjoy living and learning together. 

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  1. You make some good points, but I guess I never felt that I was free to be who I was when I was a kid just because I was homeschooled. There was still peer pressure, just homeschool peer pressure in its place.

  2. I so agree with you that homeschooling should be personalized for our kids. I love that you meet with your child over lunch to discuss her homeschool. I bet she really feels like an important part of the decision making in her homeschool!

  3. I think this is a great reminder for us all. In our quest for a better education for our kids, let’s not forget one of the most wonderful aspects of homeschooling – personalization.

  4. Thanks for this excellent post. In your example of how you compromised with your daughter, you illustrate perfectly the different between being taught socialization (in the public schools) and being taught to be sociable, specifically in dealing with conflict and disagreement.

    I went through public school and remember clearly: When there was a conflict/disagreement between a student and teacher, there was usually an immediate punishment (go to the office, get detention, etc…) with no attempt to talk through the issues involved, because the teacher was involved with 20 other kids. If there was a conflict between two students, it was usually dealt with via typical immature behavior such as name-calling, bullying, etc…

    In contrast, you modeled for your daughter a proactive way to create understanding, compromise, and a win-win situation, and you made her feel as though she could express her disagreements without fear of punishment. That is teaching true, mature sociability and, in addition, you give her a personalized education that shows her just how much you value her individuality!

  5. I’m looking into homeschooling for my daughter next year, and this is one of the most compelling things I’ve read on the subject. I love how you included your daughter in her learning, and how you were honest enough to share your frustration and mistakes on here. I just found your blog and facebook page, but also wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your post. 🙂

  6. Thank you everyone for your kind responses to my guest post. I’m truly touched to be able to read the emails and messages that have come through to me because of this post and learn that it was able to help solidify and cement into words how some of you were feeling – and also give some of you another insight into the forgotten perk of homeschooling- personalization!
    I wish everyone much success and happiness in whatever paths you choose to take!

  7. I love that you and Mira had a conference – I’ve been learning so much reading your blog. This is another something that I never thought about but need to start implementing. I think your compromises are excellent!

  8. I just the love “the list” of things that your daughter requested to make her education more personalized- Adorable!! I can’t wait to hear my my DD has to say in answer to the same question! Great compromises too!
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  9. Both socialization and personalization are important. We are really lucky to send our kids to an unschooling-like school that provides our kids with both. Without it we’d homeschool, though it would harder to meet the socialization needs.

  10. I love the idea of having teacher-student conferences! I can definitely get into the rut of doing what I think is best, not what is necessarily best for my kids. Great reminder! Thanks for sharing this with us at Trivium Tuesdays!

  11. Great article! “We’re free to interact, socialize, and observe the world with a far greater propensity than only nights and weekends would allow.” I agree completely, and love the catchphrase.

  12. GREAT reminder & idea. We’ve been having a really rough time after a long spring break (several weeks off, since weather here is way too hot in the summertime to enjoy time taken off). I’ve actually been thinking I need to sit down and let my oldest tell me what he would like to do differently, because what we’re doing isn’t working.

  13. Teacher-student conferences are great! I love how you listened to your daughter and were able to adjust things slightly to make them more enjoyable and meaningful for her. I find myself having to do this with my boys quite often. Their needs and desires constantly change. Listening to their heart makes such a big difference in our homeschool. Great post! 🙂

  14. I like the idea of “checking in.”

    As for the toy, did you consider just letting her put ONE quiet item at had workspace? As an adult, I have a little do-dad my kiddos gave me, a couple of photos, etc. that make my desk “my” space. My son often brings an action figure to the table and parks it above his spot – it visually divides “his working-on-stuff space” from “the other stuff on the table” (teacher manuals, the drying art project, other subject stuff, etc.). He isn’t permitted to *play* with it except during an “official” break (if he did, it got moved so he learned quickly to let it be), but it let him have “his” space instead of an “anonymous” table end.

  15. What a fantastic post! Personalization is so important!
    (And I bet that since you’re adding back in the spelling and math manipulatives, she won’t even think about the “missing” toys!!!)

  16. Wow, you stated that so well. I do what you are doing, just didn’t think about it. We make learning fun at our house. Socialization has been a topic with many people. I explain and remind them what classrooms in our district our like and that I don’t want my children to learn that kind of socialization. They have learned to be social and they are polite. My shy 10 year-old really didn’t like going into guitar lessons at first, I knew she would love the lessons, after 6 months she has blossomed there and now says hi and smiles to everyone when she walks in and is talking to her teaching and telling her what she is learning. But she gets more than just being with her peers and she is happier. But personalizing school, I have learned along the way what they like and how they like to learn and make adjustments. Learning to spell a word is much more fun when playing hangman. Or reading a book is more fun when you dress up like grandfather in Heidi. Or draw pictures of something you are learning in history. Each child is different and when possible we work to make incorporate how they want to learn, might be using the white board and markers for math. We have such freedom in making learning fun for our children.

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