Gene Edward Veith over at Cranach posted an excellent statement about homeschoolers and socialization. Since his blog gets so busy, and since it is just a paragraph, I hope I'm no offending him by quoting him here also.
In answer to a comment the other day saying that homeschooled kids lack social skills, etc.: I deny that! And my experience at Patrick Henry College, where 85% of the students have been homeschooled, gives me an abundance of evidence. Our students are MUCH better adjusted than typical young people their age, probably because they have had so much parenting. Their manners, deportment, personality, pleasantness, and conversational ability are far superior to their peers. It is NOT socially healthy for young people to spend nearly all of their time with children their own age, with little interaction with adults. Hang out at the mall or wherever, watch and listen to the typical pack of teenagers and tell me about their "social skills."
There is another side to the socialization discussion though. Of course, there are homeschoolers with "poor social skills." Rebecca Sealfon , winner of the 1997 Scripps Howard Spelling Bee and homeschooler who possesses some truly odd mannerisms, is a regular joke on Cheap Seats on ESPN Classic. But the fact of the matter is, everyone knows a few kids in school like her, too. Or like others. I had a terribly hostile nerdy type guy who sat behind me in science class. He was that way because his life was hard and everyone picked on him. I remember that. The fact is, in school, we are generally happy if we get through the day without someone finding something to scorn us for...and for those labeled "geeks" those days are few and far between.
When we were still in California, where it was nice enough through the Winter to have park days all year round, a family started coming to our homeschool group who were considering homeschooling their five-year old son. We started off each week with our Tiger Cub group, and their son had readily joined in. After a couple of weeks, the father said to me, "this is so great...these kids are the geeks. Yet they are free to follow their interests, and they can be themselves without worrying about it."
My first reaction was "Hey, my son isn't a geek!" but then I realized what he was saying. Deep down, he was scared that if he sent his sensitive, sweet boy to school, what he treasured most about him would be destroyed. His son would learn to be ashamed of one of his greatest strengths. I know that is the same with me. My kids are the same way. Often, their weaknesses are just the other side of their strengths. Sensitive, sweet kids are also emotional and easily stressed. Energetic, vibrant kids have a hard time sitting in their seats and get in trouble a lot. The very aspect of their personality that defines them often gets them made fun of or punished. Often they just need more time to learn to redirect it. In the classroom, they often have a label on them, or sometimes even a disorder, before they can do that. I've experienced it and I've seen it, time and time again. I don't think being in school and dealing with that (or not dealing with it) makes them stronger. I think it just hurts.
So next time, if you see some homeschooling kid with "socialization issues," remember not to simply assume that the parents cause the socialization issue by homeschooling. Maybe the homeschool because they know what would happen to the child they love if he was in school. Also, remember that growing up is an eighteen year process (at least), and that kid may just not be done yet!
go to part 4
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