Homeschool Socialization: The Irony of this Question is Lost on Most

Homeschool socialization has been talked about a zillion times. Homeschool parents know what a ridiculous question it is, but we all get it at some point (s) when we tell someone we homeschool.

Homeschool Socialization
The Irony of the Homeschool Socialization Question by Jennifer Andersen

The question about homeschool socialization comes in different forms, such as “but what about socialization?” “I’d just worry about socialization” or “I don’t think it’s fair that homeschooled kids don’t have socialization.”

First of all, when you ask this question and a homeschool parent stares at you, it is not because we do not understand the question. It is because we cannot believe that you are missing this irony! Your schooled child is forced to sit in a room (most often at a desk or table) with a group of same-aged children (none of whom are chosen by said child) and is penalized for speaking out of turn. They must raise their hand to talk (or maybe some slight variation) and are penalized and/or reprimanded/publicly shamed for chatting with their peers (aka socializing).

It might be hard for some of you to read those words. It does not make them untrue.

We do not say this to you when you talk about homeschool socialization, though. Instead we answer you respectfully, even if slightly annoyed. It may be a quick answer so that we can move away from the topic. Sometimes it might be a longer and more truthful answer.

The truth is socialization is just part of life for the (many, many, many) homeschooled kids we know. On any given day our kids talk to people who are actually out LIVING in the real world: grocery store clerks, painters, architects, gardeners, museum volunteers, other homeschool parents, same-aged kids, different-aged kids, working parent’s colleagues, bus drivers, salespeople, check in people at various recreational activities like jump houses and play spaces, drama teachers, gymnastics coaches, art teachers, police officers, fire fighters, attorneys, senators, nutritional coaches, Girl Scout Leaders, activists, and on and on.

Not only are homeschooled kids chatting with all sorts of different people of all ages and backgrounds in a given day, they are doing so authentically. They are learning how real back and forth conversations work. They are learning to listen to a response, and respond thoughtfully because they are invested in conversations. From watching people older than them converse (and with reminders from mom and dad) they learn when it is appropriate to join in, and when it is best to listen.

Homeschool Socialization Frequently Catches Grown-Ups Off Guard

Many adults are caught off guard when conversing with homeschooled kids because they are not used to kids who know how to socialize with all ages. The homeschool children we know look people of all ages in the eye when speaking. They ask questions. They provide thoughtful answers and additions to the conversations. Their parents include them in conversations between adults rather than shushing them. For the (many, many, many) homeschooled kids I know, homeschool socialization is not only part of life, it is a huge part of their education.

These conversations with people of all ages and backgrounds create large vocabularies for homeschooled kids. They bring comfort in conversing with different people. The homeschooled kids we know are not afraid of adults or of talking with them, which is great because it is often these very adults who have the backgrounds to answer the questions homeschooled kids have about things that interest them.

Homeschool Socialization Means Socializing with Different Ages and People

In my experience, it is common in homeschool circles to see a child of any age sitting in and participating in a conversation with mostly adults. It is also common to see a 5 year old engaged in a conversation with a  12 year old- and there is not condescension between them. It is so freaking cool! Seven year olds talk to 15 year olds, 13 year olds talk to 8 year olds, 9 year olds talk to 17 year olds, and they all chat with adults comfortably. Age is not a reason for separation, segregation, or lack of socialization.

So when you ask a homeschool parent about homeschool socialization and they pause before answering, know that it is because of the irony. Homeschooled kids are socializing as part of normal life, as it should be. School kids are being socialized. This is a huge and undesirable difference.

When it comes to homeschool socialization, the only real question should be: “how can I get my kids in on that?!”

Are you a home/unschooler?  How often do you have to address homeschool socialization? 

Click here to follow our Home/Unschooling adventures on Instagram (so much fun!).

Click here to read how we deduced to homeschool, and here to read why I love unschooling!



4 Replies to “Homeschool Socialization: The Irony of this Question is Lost on Most”

  1. Super post.

    There is essentially no way to answer this common and ironic question without it being perceived that you are insulting their children’s experience in compulsory school (the truth of it could be a hard blow no matter how conscientiously discussed). I’ve tried, politely and with kindness and examples, and it has yet to elicit an intrigued or understanding response. The “socialized” programming is deep and in my experience, almost impenetrable.

    If anyone has had success (meaning a positive exchange of thoughtful ideas) answering the question, please post details!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Pat. Yes, the beliefs run deep, don’t they? When writing this I thought “God, that sounds awful”. It’s such a double standard though- we can be asked those horrid questions but because it is against a societal norm, when we ask the converse it is rude or seems insulting… ah, well.

      Thanks so much for commenting, Pat.

  2. Absolutely I went to school – suffered social phobia, intense shyness, lack of confidence etc. My son has never been in school and gets on with everyone of every age and personality type .

    • Hi Samantha- I was outgoing, involved in a zillion things and had lots of “friends” (I put that in quotes because I was great at being who I needed to be so that I was accepted. Nobody actually knew *me*.) and I hated school, too. It damaged me in so many ways- ways I do not even know of yet, and so many ways I do. It’s healing though, isn’t it, to be able o see our children so happy, confident and authentic? As you well know, you are in plentiful company of people who had horrid school experiences. I’m giving that little girl a virtual hug.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write.