Answering the Question of Homeschool Socialization
What about their socialization? How do you know your kids are socialized? Aren't homeschoolers weird?
This is easily the #1 question homeschoolers are asked 'on the streets.' It is an infamous question that new and experienced homeschoolers regularly face. Homeschooling is on the rise, and every year the percentage of homeschooled students in the U.S. rises. Nevertheless, stereotypes do not leave easily. Probably the biggest myth about homeschooling is that homeschool students turn out unsocialized or 'weird.' This article is going to cover homeschooling and socialization issues and include some socialization statistics.
The effects of homeschooling on socialization
They will be isolated from the world.
Is there really a lack of socialization in homeschooling? Most homeschool websites and articles actually argue that homeschoolers are even more socialized than their public school peers. Nevertheless, there is another group of homeschoolers that embrace the 'weird' and 'unsocialized' title. They believe that they are different in a good way. In fact, that is why they homeschool.
This article will examine the issue of homeschool socialization and then provide some tips and ideas about socialization opportunities for your student. There are several aspects of this question that need to be answered. What is socialization? What is the objective and point of view of the parent? How do we judge 'well socialized?'
What is socialization?
What is it that people are 'getting' at when they talk about socialization? There are many different definitions that have slight variations and nuances. One definition claims that socialization is the process by which people acquire the skills to value and conform to the social norms required for successful integration into a group or community.
A second definition argues that socialization is simply the process by which an individual develops a personal identity and learns the values, norms, behavior, and social skills appropriate to the individual's social position. Finally, another definition, popular to sociology, places a much greater emphasis on group acceptance.
Socialization allows and prepares individuals to become members of an existing group so that they can think, feel, and act in ways appropriate to that group.
Homeschooling and socialization
After reading these definitions it might become clear to you why there is a group of parents arguing that they want their kids to be unsocialized homeschoolers. A large, large group of homeschoolers agree that one of the reasons why they homeschool is because they do not believe in the public 'system.' They do not like the values that are taught in public school classrooms. This group has religious members and secular members. This response is triggered by the aspects of the definition of socialized that emphasizes 'group thinking' and accepting 'group norms.'
Most homeschoolers will tell you they want their kids to learn to think on their own. Education is about learning to think, not becoming what someone tells you.
It is only fair journalism to note that the same argument can be made against some homeschoolers. Naturally, a homeschooler will be exposed to the beliefs of the parent. A parent can easily choose not to expose their child to certain ideas.
There is another aspect of this definition that does need to be addressed. This is the only part of the definition that the people asking, "How will you socialize your child," care about. Will the homeschool student be able to fit in with the rest of society? Will the homeschooler be able to learn norms?
Homeschoolers are not "well socialized"
In one grand, sweeping statement, homeschoolers are not "well socialized." The following are all generalizations, but most hold true:
- Homeschoolers are exposed to appropriate behavior more regularly
- They experience feedback and discipline quickly
- Their bad habits are correctly in a timely manner
- Their field trips and co-ops are nothing like the school alternatives
- They are often able to devote large amounts of time to extracurricular they are passionate about
- This leads many to become very talented at a young age
- They often volunteer more regularly in their community
Socialization and social norms
Some 'norms' of our society are not good things. Some norms of our society are good things. Finding a healthy balance between these two things may seem difficult in theory. Nevertheless, homeschooling plays a smaller role in 'fitting in with the rest of society' than one would imagine.
Think about it -- there are unsocialized children in public schools as well. There are 'sheltered' public school students. As long as a homeschooler has opportunities to engage in community outside of the home, there is no reason to seriously worry about their social skills.
Are homeschoolers socialized differently than public school peers?
Of course they are! They are raised in a completely different environment! They are not forced to go through the same routine every day. They are not taught in classrooms full of students their exact age. Take a moment and think about how artificial a public school classroom really is. What real life scenario exists outside of school where a person interacts primarily with individuals of their same age. Not to mention, they are all 'learning' the same subjects on the same path through the same curriculum.
Homeschool socialization vs. public school socialization
How is sitting at the lunch table with the same people who are all the same age, every single day, going to expose a student to different people? Homeschoolers often tend to participate in clubs, teams, and groups that have much wider ranges of social circles. Homeschoolers also spend a lot of time with grown-ups. (Not just their own parents.) Homeschoolers are commonly able to engage in mature dialogue with adults that far exceeds their peers. Having a mature social life at a young age is a good thing. There is no reason to think anything of the contrary.
Homeschoolers often end up forming relationships that are much deeper and long-lasting than their public school peers. They often cherish the friendships they have and make a greater effort to stay connected to their friends.
Academic research on homeschool socialization
The most famous research conducted about homeschooling is "Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization" by Richard G. Medlin from Stetson University. In his conclusion he states that:
Home-schooled children are acquiring the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes they need. They have good self-esteem and are likely to display fewer behavior problems than do other children. They may be more socially mature and have better leadership skills than other children as well. And they appear to be functioning effectively as members of adult society.
Many parents choose to home school not for academic reasons at all but to surround their children with the kind of nurturing atmosphere that will support their development as individuals.
— Richard G. Medlin of Stetson University [source]
The U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education has numerous research reports that address homeschooling. What did they find? I'll be brief:
- No, they were not isolated
- Homeschool students had very high levels of achievement and mastery of skills
- Most parents do actively encourage their kids to be active outside the home
- Homeschoolers almost always have strong self-efficacy and self-esteem
- Home educated students usually face fewer behavioral issues than their peers
- They are more mature (already went over aspects of this)
- Civil engagement levels and leadership among homeschool students was much higher than average
- Home educated students have a lower drop-out rate and a higher rate of graduation in college
- Homeschoolers have less difficulty making the transition into 'adult' society
- Anxiety levels among homeschoolers was lower -- accompanied by high levels of independence and responsibility
- They typically score 15-30% above public school students on standardized academic achievement tests
- ...the list goes on
This list does not sound normal to me. Does this list seem normal to you?
How can I make sure my homeschool student is socialized?
While homeschool students are never going to be 'normal,' some parents may be concerned about finding social opportunities for their child. The list below should give 'beginners' a better idea of the many opportunities.
Popular social opportunities
- Club team sports, community sports, rec. league sports, and homeschool league sports
- 4-H (extremely popular)
- "Play Dates" with other homeschool families
- Summer camps
- Church, church groups, and church activities
- Early college classes through a local community college
- Music, band, art, and other classes
Tips for socializing homeschoolers
Start socializing at an early age. Potential options are preschools, mom and tot groups, little league sports, homeschool preschools and co-ops, church groups, volunteering at nursing homes, early music lessons, etc.
As he/she grows older, encourage volunteer/service hours.
Take advantage of field trips, free tours, national park services, museums, and other learning experiences that involve experts in a field.
Additional resources and sources
What is homeschooling? – A complete introduction to home education.
How To Get Started Homeschooling.
Gov statistics about homeschooling.
Research facts about homeschooling from NHERI.
Gaither, Milton, “Homeschooling and Socialization Revisited,” International Center for Home Education Research Reviews, July 19, 2013.
Kunzman, Robert, and Milton Gaither, “Homeschooling: A Comprehensive Survey of the Research,” Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives, 2 (no. 1, 2013), pp. 19—23.
Kelly, Anita E., “Pioneers on the Home Front: An Exploratory Study of Early Homeschoolers in Hawai’i” (Ph.D. diss., University of Hawai’i, 2008), pp. 25-32.
Last modified: March 20, 2017