What About Socialization?
Learning the Rules and Roles of Society
By Theresa DeMario
“What about socialization?”
That’s the go-to argument against homeschooling and life learning. Naysayers
are quick to point out that your child is going to miss out on all that
important socialization that happens in school, and aren’t you afraid that
your poor isolated child is going to suffer?
The evidence shows that if
anything, homeschooled kids are better socialized than public schooled kids,
not vice versa.
Before exploring the issue
of socialization, we need to define it. Dr. Dennis O'Neil can be found in
the Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, in San Marcos, California
where he teaches Anthropology and does and exceptionally good job of explaining
socialization in an online document he uses for teaching called simply “Socialization.”
“Human infants are born without any culture.
They must be transformed by their parents, teachers, and others into cultural
and socially adept animals. The general process of acquiring culture is
referred to as socialization. During socialization, we learn the language
of the culture we are born into as well as the roles we are to play in life
Socialization is important in the process
of personality formation. While much of human personality is the result
of our genes, the socialization process can mold it in particular directions
by encouraging specific beliefs and attitudes as well as selectively providing
So, to sum it all up, socialization
is the process by which children are taught about the rules and roles of
Let’s take a closer look
at how public schooled students are really socialized. They spend an average
of six hours a day, one hundred eighty days a year in a classroom where
they are not even allowed to socialize. And then during recess, breaks,
and lunch, when they are actually permitted to socialize, it’s solely with
kids their own age. Their adult contact during this education day is limited
to rare one-on-one interaction with their teachers.
Writer and leading figure
in educational reform John Holt, said in the book Teach Your Own: The
John Holt Book of Homeschooling about socialization that “the social
life of the children [in public school] is mean-spirited, competitive, exclusive,
status-seeking (and) snobbish.” Knowing how crucial the social education
of our children is, is an age segregated, group education the environment
in which we want our kids?
Former New York teacher of the year award winner
and homeschool proponent John Taylor Gatto says in his essay, How Public
Education Cripples our Kids, that the current method of education is
a “forced confinement of both students and teachers - as virtual factories
of childishness.” A friend of mine once put it this way: “Take a walk down
any high school corridor during break and show me three behaviors you want
my kids to emulate.” I think that gives a pretty accurate picture of public
Dr. Dennis O'Neil describes
socialization as a “learning process that begins shortly after birth.” He
goes on to say that this early childhood period where we are learning the
fundamentals of our culture is also a time of the most intense and the most
crucial socialization. He notes that it is also when much of our personality
takes shape. When we look at socialization from a social science perspective,
again, I don’t think the “childish” environment of public school is an appropriate
place to grow.
Socialization looks much
different when a child learns without school. Homeschooled kids have more
social interaction time with their family, something they will have every
day for the rest of their lives. They will also participate in many groups
and activities, educational co-ops, outings, clubs, and frequent field trips
to a variety of public places where, it’s guaranteed, they’ll find other
people to socialize with. They’ll chat with the librarian about their favorite
authors and ask the plumber to explain exactly what he’s doing to the sink.
In the quest to educate their children, homeschool parents have endless
opportunity to expose their kids to a large variety of social behaviors.
Dr. Larry Shyers, a psychotherapist
and Chairman of the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and
Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling, wrote about socialization
in his 1992 doctoral dissertation at University of Florida's College of
Education. In Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally
Schooled Students, he said that “a child's social development
depends more on adult contact and less on contact with other children,”
which gives the life learning child who spends all day with their
parents (and other adults) a big advantage over their schooled peers.
Still, there are people with
doubts. For instance, there’s the group that thinks that since homeschools
are not strictly regulated, there’s no guarantee that the parents are good
socialization role models. The thought here is that the values may be narrow-minded
and there may not be enough exposure to different ideals and ideas. To that,
I hardly have a reply as I feel it’s getting dangerously close to a discrimination
issue; I mean if they aren’t fit to socialize their young, how about deciding
if they're fit to parent? And who, exactly shall we get to decide this fitness?
“Socialization” has become
a catch word used in many arguments against homeschooling with little or
no basis on factual evidence or even a clear understanding as to its meaning.
The best response I ever heard to the question of socialization, I read
on a blog; this mother told her relatives “Don’t worry, we have that worked
out. Dad and I will take turns stuffing them into lockers and stealing their
lunch money.” I think that’s a brilliant answer, but I’m trying hard not
to use sarcasm to deal with all the well-meaning, ill-informed queries I
receive. So I just smile, and wait for them to figure it out for themselves
or get frustrated and wander off, whichever comes first!
Holt, John; Farenga, Patrick.
“Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling.” 2003 Holt Associates.
O'Neil Dr., Dennis. “Socialization.”
Palomar College; January 14, 2013.
Kruse Dr., Jack. "Living
an Optimized Life." Dr. Jack Kruze, 08 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.
Price Dr., Jeffery. "Circadian Rhythm." Honors Colloquium. University of
Missouri/Kansas City, 10 Feb 2011.
Author of Science Experiments:
Homeschool Style, Theresa DeMario enjoys a professional writing career and
a life surrounded by her family of life learners. Life can get hectic when
everyone stays home, but for Theresa and her family, there was never really
any other choice that made sense.
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