I was asked *THE* question

I am usually a very confident person, especially when it comes to our homeschooling, but for some reason, when *the* question was put to me recently, I felt very not confident and my mind went blank.  It is not like we have not been asked that question before – after all, we are now in our 8th year of homeschooling!  So, for my mind to go blank was very not like me.  I do not know why I froze.  It could have been just the way the question was posed, the tone of voice she used perhaps put me on the defensive side, and it could have been because it was someone who has known my kids for many years and all of a sudden she asked this question.  Or, just a combination of it all.  (Photo taken from here.)

Anyone who has homeschooled knows what *the* question is, it is the most famous question a homeschool parent is asked (and yes I can even hear some of you snickering!): “What about SOCIALIZATION? Do your kids SOCIALIZE?”

I think everyone understands the importance of these two words, but I am not sure how many people actually understand what they mean. Socialization means a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position. In other words, taking children out to various places, stores, the market, etc. and teaching them how to interact with the various kinds of people from various walks of life is teaching them socialization. Socializing means to make social; to seek or enjoy the companionship of others. So, having my children become friends with each other and playing with each other (as well as some peers) would be socializing. (Definitions from dictionary.com)

I thought I saved an email from one of my homeschool email lists that had a beautiful response to this question, but for the life of me I cannot seem to find it anymore.  I would like to post it if I do find it.  In the meantime, I would like to post part of an article that was sent to me by my sister from the August 19, 2009 Homeschool.com e-zine. (The article can be found here.)

For centuries, children have learned socialization within the context of their own family and community. Institutionalized education is relatively new to the human condition. It is, and it always has been, through the home environment, that children learn the vast majority of their socialization skills.

Research supports this.  According to Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization by Richard G. Medlin, “Home-schooled children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. They are certainly not isolated; in fact, they associate with–and feel close to–all sorts of people.”

He continues, “Home schooling parents can take much of the credit for this. For, with their children’s long-term social development in mind, they actively encourage their children to take advantage of social opportunities outside the family. 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.”

This and other studies support the irony of the socialization issue in homeschooling that we have known for years, which is that traditional schools are actually more on a path of de-socialization.  In traditional schools students learn to stay in a class to which they’ve been assigned and are grouped according to age and academic level, and generally with students from the same geographic area and socio-economic background.

So in a sense, as I like to say, many people are homeschooling because of socialization reasons.

That seems to sum it all up very nicely.  I take my children all over the place – to stores, to the market, on other errands that need to be done.  They learn how to talk to various kinds of people, and people of various ages.  Oh yes, they also get to play with peers, they attend Scouts and we try to get them into camps when we can, among other things.  Some other ideas for socialization are:

  • Getting involved with homeschool co-ops
  • Less structured homeschool gatherings
  • Local field trips where you meet people from all walks of life
  • Community events such as scouting, 4-H, sports, etc.
  • Volunteer.  There is usually a minimum age requirement, however, some places will allow a younger volunteer if a parent stays with them.
  • Don’t forget about online socialization.  There are many children who are registered in virtual online classes in which they meet and interact with other students.

As I am finishing up, our mailman just drove down the street after finishing his route, honked and waved to my boys as they were going on a walk.  They enjoy talking to him, and I think he enjoys talking to them!

I am posting a link to a very cute video.  When I told one of my boys I was going to include it, he quoted his favorite line (after only watching it 2 times and it was several months ago at that,) and the two of us had a very good laugh, so I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did!

2 thoughts on “I was asked *THE* question”

  1. very nicely written. also i like the new format!
    my question is a variation, though….
    how do you provide socialization with other frum kids, who are in school til 4 and have lots of homework (especially in the older grades)? what factors did you consider when providing socialization options for your children with non-jewish kids? (did they discuss these things at the conference in baltimore? i still have not had time to listen to the recordings…)

    1. Hi Adina, glad you like it. 🙂

      You have a very valid question, and I do not recall this topic being raised very much at the conference, but I could be wrong for I did not listen to all of them either. The answer to your first question is Shabbos, Sunday and vacation. There is really not much other time for that, especially since there are basically none my children’s ages in a short walking distance from our home. Right now, I have some of my children who are getting together almost everyday with their friends. Another is not quite so lucky for first he was at camp (making new like-minded (and frum!) friends!), now his friends are, so it is a bit harder, but I try hard to keep him busy and am much more lenient when it comes to skyping with his other frum friends who live out of town. Do not underestimate video chat – it is not quite the same as in person, but the boys love seeing other friends they have met in their virtual classrooms and elsewhere. They can actually share quite a bit because they actually see each other, each others siblings (yes siblings LOVE coming and waving hi to the camera!), you can show projects and almost anything else, making it almost as good as in-person visits. (Skeptical about internet/technology – listen to my talk!)

      As far as with non-Jewish children, there are very few in our area that are my children’s ages, and very few of them I would encourage a friendship with. (I think there are more at the other end of our long street, but not sure.) However, that said, if there were any, I would not discourage it. I think it is important to have friends, and if there are no frum children, I have to fill in the gap with others. We have been involved with groups such as 4-H in the past, which gave my children the opportunity to be in a group, and a group that had “elected” positions for the children, but since the group we were in dissolved, and the inability of several lead people in the local area to be able to send us a list of groups they even had, we were not able to continue, unfortunately.

      There are several other options that are open to us, if money were not an issue, such as after school sports or even several homeschool sports/other groups(that one is more of a time issue, it does not fit into our schedules usually.)We do have the boys in a Jewish scout group and that also has great opportunities, not just within our own Pack or Troop.

      Basically, we are more involved with our children’s socialization. First and foremost, our boys are friends with each other. I was not close to my siblings when I grew up for I never played with them. Our boys are close to each other – and yes, they do sometimes kibitz – I hope as they get older they will grow even closer to each other, and perhaps some of them will even be best friends. What better friends can you have than someone who you grew up with, who knows you and all your strengths and weaknesses, but yet loves you and you know will stick with you no matter what? Wherever we might move, they will have friends, for they are friends with each other. Frum/Jewish friends are next in line and then non-Jewish friends.

      Each family will be different. Some families ONLY want their children to play with other frum children, and that is fine if there are frum children to play with. Others live in areas where that is impossible.

      Hope that helps a bit! There is more that could be said. Each situation is different, and you will have to look at your situation and come up with your own solution, but definitely finding out about how others deal with it will help you.


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