In the September-October 2010 issue of Scouting, the magazine for adults in the BSA, author Kathy Seal wrote an article titled “The Troop Bully.” STOP THE PRESSES! There are bullies in Boy Scout Troops? I thought bullies only existed in the hallways and on the playgrounds of public schools. Isn’t that what we are constantly told by those people that would end the practice of homeschooling in America? Children must attend public school in order to learn how to deal with their peers, both the good and the bad. If they do not attend public school they will not have the proper skills to prepare them for life. They call it “socialization.” I reject this type of commonly stated reason for opposition to homeschooling. There isn’t a “socialization” lesson a person can learn in America’s classrooms that cannot be learned by homeschoolers through simply participating in society.
Amy Hatch, writing in her essay “Homeschooling? Not for My Kids,” stated, “Homeschooling proponents say their children have ample opportunities for socialization, but I don't buy it. In our small community, the ability to organize a sports league or orchestra would be limited, at best. And then there's the time factor -- as working parents, we just couldn't manage.” There’s a huge flaw in her analysis. Homeschooling parents do not need to organize extra-curricular activities for their children. All we have to do is participate in the activities that exist. And we do. Homeschooling children participate in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, martial arts, cheerleading, dance classes, music lessons, scouting, church sponsored youth groups and a wide variety of activities that bring them in contact with their public schooling peers. During those interactions our children experience the same range of “socialization” that some children experience while attending school. Bullies don’t stop bullying when the dismissal bell rings. They bully in the park. They bully on sports teams. Bullies exist within homeschooling communities, too.
What other life skills do our children need to learn? Waiting patiently in line? Check. They learn to wait in line in the check-out lane of a grocery store, for a public restroom, on the dugout bench while waiting for a turn at bat, or in line for communion. Sharing? Homeschoolers have that covered, too. Our children learn to share school supplies with their siblings and with other children in homeschooling co-ops, with members of their sports teams, at Cub Scout meetings, and while playing with neighborhood children. Working in large and small groups? Check. That gets covered in Sunday school, youth groups, team sports. The simple fact is that public schools are not the sole source for gaining needed skills for life. For every situation that you can think of in a public school, I can find the same experience outside of school. And outside of school is where homeschoolers thrive.
Not only do I reject the importance of public school attendance but I reject the commonly held definition of “socialization,” too. “Socialization” is a noun that 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.” Notice that in the definition, there is no reference as to how an individual acquires these things. The verb “socialize,” which means “to make social; make fit for life in companionship with others,” also lacks the critical component explaining how a person is made social. I will argue that the best person to make a five year old “fit for life in companionship with others” is not another five year old, just as the best person to teach a fourth grader how to spell Mississippi or how to add fractions is not another fourth grader. These things are best taught by an adult, preferably an adult with a vested interest in the success of the child, and one who leads by example. It makes perfect sense for parents to educate their children at home and in an educational setting where they retain some control in order to teach their children “norms, values, behavior, and social skills” so that when children participate in society they have the skills necessary for success. It’s counter-productive to throw our children to the wolves and hope they survive!
The socialization argument is an old saw that needs to be retired. The “what about socialization” question is an ignorant, knee-jerk reaction to an issue that deserves thoughtful consideration. It indicates a person who has invested neither the time nor the energy to learn about homeschooling, to watch a homeschool in operation, or to broaden their educational horizons. Education is a profession dominated by liberal minded people, but they show a distinct lack of liberal open mindedness when citizens think outside of the educational box and try something different. It is time for homeschoolers to speak up, speak out, and make our voices heard. We cannot allow opponents of homeschooling to dominate the conversation or set the terms of the debate. If we do, we will lose the debate before it begins.