Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Kids' Social Club

Have you ever listened to or been part of a conversation where a parent has been considering homeschooling?  Concerned individuals of the motion usually aren't concerned about the quality of education the child will receive, although whether their education will later be valid is a good concern that will come up.  The most common question is this: How will your kids learn to socialize?

I tire of hearing this lame question.  Since when is school about socializing?  Unfortunately that's become a very important, if not the most important aspect in today's system, but it shouldn't be.  There are many reasons why parents choose to homeschool, but shouldn't the quality of their education be a primary concern, rather than their social life?

I personally spent 11 mostly miserable years in the public school system and spent two years at home studying through an individual study program.  For the most part, I don't have a lot of good school memories.  Yes, I liked learning and my grades were good, but I was always struggling to fit in.  I often felt like I was near the bottom of the pecking order and many days I just wanted to play sick.  Being smart didn't help either.  Unless you're popular, you're better off being a loser and sitting in the principal's office every week than being a "teacher's pet."  I was more than happy to leave when I did.

How will they learn to socialize?  How do children learn to socialize in public schools?  They learn to form cliques, to shun others, to bite, chew, tear down, and drive the outsiders to depression and thoughts of suicide.  Oh yes, the students listen to countless anti-bullying speeches, but they often seemed pretty fruitless.  Kids learn to stay in touch with the latest trends in our culture, to discover and experiment with drugs, talk dirty and how to have "safe sex" or not so safe. Is that really how you want them to learn to socialize?

The funny this is, as many homeschooled friends as I have, I can't say any of them are anti-social or ill-mannered.  Many of them are much more socially competent than the high school students I knew.  I'm sure there's plenty of bad homeschooled examples.  The fault lies not in the method, but in the parents.  It's up to the parents to teach their children how to socialize and conduct themselves in public.  By getting them involved in church activities, homeschool groups, sports teams, other extracurricular activities and spending time with other young families, they'll get plenty of time with kids their own age.  They don't need a school.

I like how Oliver DeMille examines this issue in A Thomas Jefferson Education.  Although it's not a book about homeschooling, it definitely favours the method over what he calls the conveyor belt method, if done properly.  And according to DeMille, socialization is a lot more than what children are learning in schools.  "The highest level of socialization, the ideal, means the ability to effectively work with people of all backgrounds, stations, and positions, of really caring for them and being able to build and maintain long term, nurturing relationships."

After 11 years on the belt, I never learned to do that.  Let's face it.  The kids' social club doesn't produce good social skills.  Stop giving me that lame objection.  You'll have to come up with something else.  And judging from how many of conversations I've heard, I already have a good idea what it is.  I don't want to hear it anymore.


  1. I had no idea that you had been homeschooled. Of course, I never asked.

    I learned a lot of things in public school; compassion and kindness were not among them.

    I'm ok with Christian parents sending their kids to public school. I truly am. I just don't really buy that their kids are actually learning how to lead their peers to Christ in the process.

  2. I agree with you Kevin. I never experienced steady spiritual growth until I left school. I think I made very little impact for Christ while I was there. As much as Christian parents and other leaders want their children to make a difference in public schools, it's very hard to stand firm and to grow in that atmosphere. I speak out of my personal experience.

  3. By the way, did you mean you didn't know I had or hadn't been homeschooled?

  4. I was homeschooled, but I attended a weekly coop with my sister for all of high school. It was more like a school, except once a week. Honestly, it taught my sister and I valuable social skills.

    Homeschooing can be SO detrimental to a young person's social growth.I won't deny the EXCEPTIONAL benefits, but socially? It can be very destructive. I cringe when I'm around most homeschoolers because they simply have either no tact or far too much. Being around one's peers is an excellent sandpaper board. It teaches one that we cannot always say what they think without consequences.

    Also, as much as I admire homeschooling, public schooling can very much be a great outreach to the world. I don't at all disagree with parents who chose to place their child into the public or private school system.

  5. And yes, even if my children learn words they would not normally know, learn about sex in a not-so-sheltered environment, or spend time with non-Christian friends...they will learn that in the workplace as it is! Why not teach them how to bear themselves with grace early on instead of treating them to a rousing round of culture shock when they hit 18 and head to college or into the working world?

  6. Rachel, I totally understand where you're coming from. What I advocate is not over protection of children. I'm saying a child does not need to be thrown into a public school system to learn how to socialize. All methods of schooling can go very well or very wrong. I'm not saying homeschooling is the only way to go. And yes, college and workplace are usually some of the next big questions that arise and I totally understand a person's perspective on that.