Since we started homeschooling over 20 years ago, one question has been consistently asked. “What about socialization?” I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been asked SO many times and I’m just tired of it, but it takes everything in my being to keep from being completely irritated.
Before I ever had children, I had the opportunity to be with a family that homeschooled. This was back in the 80’s, so hardly anyone was doing it. These kids were funny, smart, inquisitive and, dare I say, SOCIAL! They were able to hold conversations with all ages and seemed very comfortable in their own skin.
I started thinking about the social settings in schools and began to wonder how realistic they really were. As an adult, how many times do we actually find ourselves in a room with other people our own age for several hours a day for weeks and months on end? Was this really the optimal setting to prepare my kids for adult life?
I actually had a VERY good public school experience, but somehow in my heart of hearts, I knew I didn’t want the same scenario for my kids. Not only that, the other reasons to home educate were beginning to overshadow the “issue” of socialization.
Out of our eight children, we have five that are introverts. Our oldest was especially shy. She has a very tender heart and is fiercely loyal, but she struggled holding conversations with strangers. Sometimes I even felt like she struggled to talk with me about the deeper things in her heart. I prayed a lot, encouraged her when I could (without pushing), and waited. I firmly believe that if she had been under the unnatural social pressures that school settings often bring, she would have shut down and never had the opportunity to find out who she was. This happened in the warmth of a loving, tender home environment. When she was 15 she earned the lead part in a play, and we watched her blossom exponentially with this experience. We began to see a beautiful young woman who was becoming confident in who she was. Today she is a 25-year-old wife and mom to 2 littles. She lives 7 hours away and has a wonderful group of people she calls friends. She carries herself well, can talk to anyone, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes.
The world needs extroverts AND introverts. It’s not a requirement to be outgoing, and it’s important that our kids know that the world is full of many different kinds of people who all have something special to bring to the table. It’s also fun to study personality types with our kids and learn to recognize them. It helps us better understand others and be able to relate to them. It’s these kinds of communications skills that make our kids stand out, and it happens quite naturally, I’m convinced, when we homeschool our kids.
The truth is that there will always be kids who struggle with socialization…public, private, and homeschoolers. My friend always says, “Your kids will be as weird as you are.” She’s pretty much right on. As parents, we are our kids’ example of what healthy relationships look like. They watch and learn from us far more than we realize, and they will tend to do what we do, not necessarily what we say. So as we live daily life alongside of them, including them in our interactions with others and encouraging them to answer questions and take part in conversations, we are giving them a gift that many people their age will not have: the ability to learn from and engage with several generations.
For more encouragement, take a look at Durenda’s simple, mercifully short book on homeschooling called The Unhurried Homeschooler available at Amazon!