Jun 28, 2010

Homeschooling Question 2: What About Socialization?

Holding Hands by WolfS♡ul, Flickr.comThe socialization issue is arguably the most frequently asked question not by homeschoolers but to homeschoolers.

"If you keep them at home, what will happen to their socialization?"

Well -- what is socialization anyway?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines socialization as

1. to make social; especially: to fit or train for a social environment
2. to constitute on a socialistic basis; to adapt to social needs or uses
3. to organize group participation in; to participate actively in a social group
This Filipino mom presumes that when parents ask about socialization, they refer to definitions 1 and 3, so we'll answer based on those.

Trained for a social environment

In homeschooling, do we get to train kids for a social environment? Absolutely! After all, who could be the best teacher for kids to learn how to play nicely, how to share, how to apologize, how to help -- who better than the kids' own parents?

Are these skills that a child can learn from other kids? Can the blind lead the blind?

Some would say, "Learn by doing." It makes me think of a baby taught to swim by getting thrown into the water. What are the chances that the baby would sink instead? How many of us have reached adulthood without really learning good socialization skills because we were never explicitly taught?

Good socialization is taught by showing nothing but good socialization. It is not taught by showing bad examples and saying "don't."

How are police agents taught to identify fake money? Not by showing them the infinite possible variations of fake money. Instead, they are shown the genuine article. Mastering nothing but what is true, they become sensitive to what is false.

"But," some would protest, "there has to be venue for the kids to practice their socialization skills." (see definition 3)

Participating in a social group

I, for one, think that the Filipino family is a perfectly valid social group. ("What are we -- chopped liver?") But in addition, homeschoolers are not really locked into their houses, as some might imagine.

Filipino homeschoolers have playmates on the street, cousins a few kilometers away, neighbors, members or their art/music/theater/swimming class, etc.

True, homeschoolers don't get to interact with all of these people at the same time, for six hours a day, five days a week. I dare say, most Filipino school kids cannot do that in a classroom either. If they did, they teacher would scold them for talking in class.

Socializing outside of school

In fact, I know from my own experience that if a child does not want to "socialize," she can avoid doing so even if you put her in school. I socialized with mostly the librarians for a good number of years in elementary and high school. I socialized with churchmates and co-athletes and co-firefighters in college. In all my many years in school, I know I hardly ever socialized with classmates.

School, to me, was an interruption in my socialization.

But going back to our topic: Socialization, like any other skill, is one that does not need to be "done on stage" all the time. Actors spend much more time at rehearsals than on stage. So do musicians. Athletes could begin training at five years old and never join a sporting event until they're maybe ten or older.

There can be no harm in teaching our kids socialization at home and exposing them to nothing but the right way to do it for so many years before we release them to the world. Then, they will not be floundering, but strong and well trained for socialization. When they do go on the world's stage, they will be ready, and they will do their socialization right.

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