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Jan 22

My Unsocialized Kids

A couple of weeks ago, someone wrote on an online forum that she liked the idea of homeschooling, but that she would never do it.  Why?  She couldn’t handle the possibility of her children becoming “social misfits.”  Because, you know, kids need to go to school to get properly socialized.  I have wanted to write a response to that woman for the past two weeks, but I haven’t had time… largely because my kids’ social calendar has kept me too darn busy.

I haven’t sat down since last Tuesday.

Like most homeschoolers, I am in turns annoyed, amused, and just plain bored with the socialization question.  But for reasons that I will forever fail to understand, this “social misfit” myth is irritatingly persistent.  So for that woman on the forum, and everyone else who shares her concerns, allow me this window into the lives of my four unsocialized homeschoolers for the past five days:

Wednesday was basketball practice for Everett (age 7).  He plays for a town league at the community center with a group of maybe 10 or 12 other 7 and 8 year olds.  Tegan (age 4) comes and watches with me while he practices.  Sometimes the bigger boys come to hang out, and sometimes they stay home… where they’ll play Minecraft and chat with friends from as far away as Japan.

On Thursdays, Tegan has gymnastics.  This is her second session, and she looks forward to it all week.  The boys usually like coming to that too, because they can hang out in the game room and play ping pong.. either with themselves, or with the other kids who are always around.  A lot of times, I won’t see them for the entire hour-long class.  They manage to go to the front desk to ask to borrow the paddles and ball, and otherwise interact with the people around them, despite their lack of socialization.

Fridays are park days.  We have belonged to a really lovely homeschool group since last fall, a rather long time for me us.  This week, Everett was so excited to get there that he begged me to drop him off before I’d even parked the car.  He jumped out and ran over to join to the kickball game, a weekly tradition that welcomes and involves kids from anywhere 6 to 16.  Spencer (14)  and Paxton (11) ended up over there too, while Tegan and I went to play on the playground.  She quickly made a little friend, and eventually told me, “You can go over with the other moms and watch me from over there, Mommy.”  The boys finished playing kickball, and graduated to swinging on the swings, playing touch football, and just chatting and hanging out with their friends, and their friends’ moms.  We stayed at the park until 4:00, when we had to leave to get Paxton to his basketball practice.

Yesterday, we were back at the same park for Everett’s Cub Scout Space Derby.  We got there at 11:00 in the morning, and spent the next couple of hours watching and rooting for Everett and the rest of his den while they competed to see who had the fastest rocket ship.   The highlight for Everett (besides winding up with first place and Best in Show):  Getting to race against his best friend for the top spot.

After the derby was over, it was a basketball game for Paxton, out to dinner with friends, and back to the park once again for skits and the award ceremony.

This morning, the boys all wanted to go to church with their friends… so they did, each to their own classes, while Mike and I stayed home to take care of some things around the house.  When they got back, our friends came over to 1) help Mike with a project on the car and 2) visit.  The kids – our kids and theirs – all immediately dispersed into the backyard and various rooms to hang out and play, but not before Spencer thrust a flier (for a teens’ barbeque and volleyball game) in front of me, and said “I want to go to this.”  And so he will.

Tomorrow is Monday, and Everett’s den meeting… and it starts all over again.

So are they social misfits?  Or just normal, happy, well-adjusted kids who like to stay busy, try new things, and hang out with their friends?  I guess it’s a judgment call.  I will say though, that when I go to bed at night, in those final moments before I fall asleep, when the events of the day run through my head, and I ponder what’s working and what I need to do differently….. I don’t ever, EVER think to myself:

Damn, I really need to get these kids some socialization.


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28 comments

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  1. Carma

    So, SO, SOOOO true! WHY is that always the first, last, and in between question? In the space of time I can see the question being framed and when it is completely uttered, I can feel ALL of those emotions (annoyed, amused, and just plain bored) and have time left over to take a deep breath and calm down to try and give a rational answer. It’s even worse when the questioner is sure she has just thrown out an unanswerable question, because when she believes it is unanswerable, it generally IS, at least to her ears.

    1. jen

      I think the ones that get to me the most are the ones who try to be all diplomatic about it, like: “Oh I’m glad it works for YOU, but it wouldn’t work for my kids because they need the socialization that school provides.” Meaning.. what, exactly?? Makes me crazy.

      1. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

        Ugh. Yes, the “well, my kids are such social butterflies, I could never keep them away from their friends.” I’ve only been homeschooling for 5 months and have had that conversation at least 5 times.

        1. bgurrl

          They can’t keep their kids from their friends, but the school can! It’s like people forget what it was like in school or have selective memory.

      2. Carma

        Oh, yes! The ones who say, “Well, it wouldn’t work for us because MY child is SO social and just loves to be with all his little friends!” I can’t help thinking, “WHAT, so my kid is socially retarded?” GAHH – wish people would think for just a second before they speak!

  2. serenity

    As a home schooled kid from the middle of nowhere I missed out on a lot of things until I went to high school ( with a college reading level I might add). Our problem was money and distance from town. Even though I missed out on socialization with other kids as a child I knew how to interact with adults just fine and I turned into a well adjusted, social person. Now with kids of my own I have to consider the school issue as public schools just wont cut it. ( I think BAD socialization is worse than NO socialization). I am not worried that my daughter will miss out on anything, if we choose home schooling, as the resources available in community classes and on the internet make it MUCH easier to connect. All it takes is a little effort on the parents part when starting out. Thank you for your blog, I love it!

    1. jen

      Thanks! :) And absolutely, 100% agree with this: “I think BAD socialization is worse than NO socialization)” Yes, there is no excuse for kids not being involved in whatever they’d like to be involved in these days!

  3. Jenna

    I think I can shed some light on the “they won’t get any socialization” problem. I don’t know where the women who you’re referring to is from, but in small rural areas where there aren’t many (or any) other home schoolers that’s a big damn deal.

    The town I grew up in had exactly 1 home school family and the kids were as socially misfit as kids could possibly me, I think largely because they didn’t have any friends. All the rest of us had our friends from school and they had no other home schoolers to hang out with.

    In a huge city like you and I live in the whole socialization thing is pretty much a non-issue… that’s not the situation everywhere though. Hope that helped.

    1. Carma

      I don’t think that where you live has much to do with it. Living in a huge city with TONS of homeschoolers, I still get that question just as often. And I doubt the socially misfit kids you knew would have been helped by regular social time. In my experience, some families and kids are that way, regardless of how much or how little socializing they do, and also regardless of whether they are in public schools or kept at home. If they homeschool it is an easy target to point at, but I remember a family very much like the one you describe IN school with me, when I was in junior high!

  4. jen

    I don’t know… I grew up in a small town too (less than 2000 people) I did have friends at school, but I was also very active in other things that were not school related. Girl scouts, 4-H, horseback riding clubs, dance, gymnastics, the town basketball team, etc… all things I could have done if I were homeschooled as well.

  5. hannah

    really fun to read absolutly loved it <3

  6. Anthony

    My wife and I pulled our kids out of the public school systems to properly socialize them, so when a few of my friends asked me if I was worried about it, I laughed.

    I laughed a lot.

    The socialization problems in our public school system are just a prevalent as the academic ones , starting with the complete death of critical thinking (zero-tolerance policies and their ilk) all the way to lumping kids together by age categories and not doing a very good job of it at that.

    And that’s not even bringing up bullying. Or the drug use in school.

    I understand these socialization comments for the most part. Academically, the school systems have slid so far that you can’t really argue anymore for the school system on those merits. Thus socialization is the old standby crutch, leading to arguments with no substance and little basis in fact or understanding.

    In all comes down to the same thing: Many people have to have mom and dad work in order to afford their standard of living. Whacking on homeschooling makes it easy to justify sticking Jr. in a place becoming less and less like the school system we were in when we were kids.

    1. Jo

      Amen! Well put! Although, I have to say that even if the government school systems of today were exactly like the small town schools I attended when I was younger, I still wouldn’t want my kids institutionalized.

      1. jen

        Agreed.

  7. Amy

    I think the reason that so many schooling parents are worried about socialization is because the school system drains so much energy out of their children (and the parents, too) that they have no strength left to socialize after school. I know we missed Eve’s Girl Scout meeting this Sunday, because we just wanted to rest and have fun before hopping back onto that hamster wheel this morning. How sad that I have chosen for us to be a part of a system that, in part, keeps us from living authentically. I’m not saying that it’s all bad, but I definitely do watch unschoolers wistfully and hope that I can get there one day, too. To have control of our own calendar, with no one else setting our schedule for us, would be bliss. I do have a plan. It just may take 10 years to make it happen.

  8. Kathleen

    Ah yes, since public school, especially high school, helps to be SO successful at socializing. They always feel welcome, like everyone supports them and believes in them.

    What does “socializing” mean, anyways?

    What percentage of kids in public school LIKE that as a social setting??

  9. Gina

    Girl, I fight that stereotype twice a week from the *secretary* at the public school where Annie has speech therapy. She said, “What do you do about socialization?” I was appalled. “Did you really just ask me that? We’re not in the 1970s anymore when that stereotype was much more typical.” The speech therapist just stood there and laughed…agreeing with me. Apparently to some people, children are only “socialized” if they are sitting in a classroom of kids their same age — where they aren’t allowed to TALK to one another during class time. Um, isn’t socialization actually socializing?! And to socialize don’t you have to talk to people and get to know them?!

  10. sarah

    i’ve only been homeschooling/unschooling for a year and i’m already SO tired of the socialization question. although, i must admit, having absorbed society’s concerns about homeschooling, it was one of my main worries before bringing my kids home! only takes a short while to see how silly it is though! :D

  11. Rou

    Ha. In my country barely anyone homeschools, so it’s not a question you’d hear asked often (it’d be drowned out by the sea of “you’re going to ruin your kid’s life!”), but it still makes me laught.

    School and socialization? I used to be perfectly fine with talking and playing with other kids, until, as my own mother notes, I went to school. By today, I have spent almost 11 years in school. I’m a social misfit. I need therapy to treat my social phobia and for years (5, to be exact) I have only had online friends.

    Schools and socialization? Don’t make me laugh.

    1. jen

      Oh I get plenty of “You’re going to ruin your kid’s life” too, believe me. But yes, people are still misguided enough to think that schools = socialization.

  12. Jo

    Also, how many public school teenagers have you known who can’t figure out how to have a conversation with an adult? I have observed time and again a dramatic difference. Many (not all) of these peer/self-centered techno-zombies can mutter a “hi” and give one- or two-word responses to simple questions, but then they immediately duck their heads and turn back to their friends and the iphone implanted in their palm. When I walk up to a homeschooled pre-teen or teenager, I can engage them in an actual two-sided conversation that both of us find interesting. It’s a night-and-day difference.

    1. jen

      I think that is one of the biggest differences I’ve observed between my children (and other homeschooled children) and many public schooled kids, particularly teenagers. They know how to converse with other kids their own age, but they also are able to easily, confidently, and comfortably talk to adults as well.

  13. bonnie

    I think it is just some work for the parents. “I wouldn’t be able to home school my kids” means “that’s more work than I want to do”. I knew going into this it would be lots of work, even if it is a good time too. ;)

  14. Kate

    I totally get what you are saying here and agree, but what is your short answer to the question? Because we have a 2 yo and are “planning” to unschool him (although of course that means he is already unschooled, right! ;) ) and I know in a few years we are going to get that question. In fact, when we pulled him out of daycare a few months ago… already they told us that because he wasn’t going to be in daycare anymore he would *need* socialization. I kind of just laughed and said “yeah, ok” but when the in-laws and stuff start asking I really want to have a short and non-confrontational answer.

    1. pathlesstaken

      Well, for strangers/aquaintances, a brief and cheerful, “Oh they have no issues with socialization!” usually suffices. For close family and friends, it just honestly isn’t usually an issue, because they can SEE how well-socialized they are. If they *do* make some sort of passive aggressive comment, I’m a big fan of the “bean dip” approach (answering the question as quickly as possible, then changing the subject: ie: “They’re so busy, I never worry about socialization at all. Can you please pass the bean dip?” :))

      1. Kate

        Ok! I like this!! I think I can make it work for us and shut down the comments a bit…. hopefully. Haha! :)

  15. webi

    Er Socialiding:i believe the issue being
    on how to relate with these other persons
    like different teachers,schoolmates,headteacher
    Etc.
    Only person i agree on homeschool is if school is
    Is too far or availablr schools are decidedly bad.

    Most home schoolers ,in ny mind, are some
    Kind of religious or other cultic people
    Who do not know what the best interest of the
    Child is.

    1. Sharona

      Wow…..that’s truly sad that you know such a small handful of ppl. The ‘best interest’ of the child is what the parents see fit for said child. We homeschool our last two children (2 of 4) not because of religious or cultivate reasons….we do so beach subliminal schools are not the standard we want for educating our children.
      Perhaps you should stay off homeschooling/ un schooling blogs if you can’t say nicer things to those who choose these paths for their families….please.

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