Monday, June 01, 2009

What Is Socialization All About?

It's been forever since I've updated this blog, but lately some great stuff has been coming out and I have to post about it!

One of the best articles I've ever seen on homeschooling and socialization (and after being in the homeschooling world for many years, I've seen quite a few!) was posted yesterday on Just Enough and Nothing More. It's entitled, "General Response to Homeschoolers: Do They Care Too Much?" I haven't read the link to the original article; it sounds a little too frustrating for me to read today. But the author of the response post did her homework when she decided to homeschool, and her observations about homeschooled teens and families are fascinating.

I've worked with groups of homeschooled kids for several years now. I'm currently working with two different groups of about 120 kids each, ranging in age from 5 to 18, helping administrate two different one-day-a-week enrichment programs. About 40 of our kids in each program are teens. Being a homeschooling mom myself, I'm always observing carefully the interactions of the teens, especially as my own daughters approach those years, and I find them to be exactly as the author of "Just Enough" describes them. Homeschooled teens are typical kids in many ways, but they are honest and accepting, and they care about each other. Generally speaking, they have decent relationships with their parents, they have good friendships, and they are kind to younger kids. They interact positively and comfortably with people of all different ages, including their own peers - something which is fairly uncommon among those teens who attend school. Not only that, but when they encounter people of different races or socioeconomic classes, they are far more accepting than most schooled kids I've seen.

Obviously, some kids are better at this than others; there are those who struggle socially in any context. What's amazing is to see how a group of homeschooled teens can take in those who do struggle, accept them, and provide a positive opportunity for growth. In the case of one young man I know, he came to our group as an seventh-grader out of public school. He had had great difficulty socially in school; he was failing all his classes; and when he first came to our group he would sit all day hunched over, with his hoodie over his head. His mother was desperate. Within a few months, he was more positive, but throughout that first year he would often leave class and come sit sullenly at the office table. At the first parent-teacher conference of the second year, his parents came to our table with a question: "We don't understand - what do these grades mean?" They were just typical letter grades - but the young man had all A's and B's, and his parents couldn't believe it! They went to his teachers to thank them, but the teachers knew and stated clearly - it wasn't them, it was the other kids, who had come around the young man, had supported and encouraged him, and had gently shaped his behavior to be more socially appropriate. During the second year, he never came to our office table any more, and the hoodie had been left behind while he interacted with his friends. And at the end of this past year, this young man got multiple awards, including one for "Most Improved in Drama," and the High Honor Roll - he had discovered that not only did he have friends, but he was quite gifted in acting, and he had earned straight A's all year! All this, primarily because his peers had accepted and believed in him, and had helped him become more than he could otherwise have been. How likely is it, honestly, that this young man would have achieved this kind of positive result if he'd been in a regular school setting?

Now that my older daughter is almost 13, I have to agree with the author's assessment of homeschooled teens. I am so pleased with how my daughter gets along with others. She contributes very positively to our family; she loves her younger sister and (while of course getting very annoyed by her at times) spends time reading to and interacting with her; she impresses the adults around her by her friendliness and maturity; she goes into nursing homes to perform for them or polish their nails, and is friendly and kind to them; and she has many good friends she loves to email or talk with by cell phone or go to movies with or learn to do archery from. She's consistent in her schoolwork and loves to practice her piano, flute, and cello; she studies hard, plays hard, generally sleeps well, and is pretty satisfied with her life for a junior higher. She is an all-around healthy young lady, and I'm not at all sure she would be at such a positive place in her life if she'd been in school all these years.

The post linked above describes how many of the homeschooled teens the author observed are much like those I've known, and it is excellent. It's not terribly long, and well worth reading the whole thing.


ProntoLessons said...

Your comments regarding the benefits of homeschooling on teen attitudes are exactly consistent with the USA Today article published last week in which the author states that most of the reasons for parents getting their children into homeschooling is because of the unfavorable social environment/moral instruction that they found at public/private schools. Also, the article states that significantly more girls than boys are being homeschooled today (60% girls vs. 40% boys) and that this is again, because of the unfavorable social environment found at public/private schools.

The article can be found here:

I also left my comments to this article in the "comments section" -look for the "P" icon.

Marcy Muser said...

Pronto - I read that article myself shortly after it came out, and I've since gone back to read your comment. I've been considering posting on the article anyway, because I have some very significant problems with their use of the statistics. But I definitely agree with your comment. I'm in the process of reading a book I just discovered by Rachel Gathercole, entitled The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling.

You know, in my experience, parents considering homeschooling often worry a lot about socialization, but once they've homeschooled for even a year or so, most recognize the tremendous social positives that come from homeschooling. It's sort of funny to me that so many anti-homeschoolers cite socialization as their major criticism, when anyone who's done it for long knows homeschooled kids have the advantage in social situations.

Anyway, thanks for the comment. I hope to see you here again! :)