"Socialization"
1994-2005 by Ed Dickerson, all rights reserved.
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"Socialization"

Puppies, Piglets, Peers, or Parents?

"What about socialization?" the reporter asked, and I could almost hear him thinking "Gotcha!" For some reason, opponents and skeptics often seize upon socialization as a fatal flaw in homeschooling. apparently believing themselves to be the first to raise the issue. But we've heard it from many sources--legislators, journalists, bureaucrats, educators, neighbors, church members, and in-laws. Unless we feel confident in our thinking, this continual barrage can cause homeschool parents significant anxiety.

Studies cited in the books of Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore demonstrate clearly that the most effective socialization takes place when a caring adult invests his or her time in the child. Everyday homeschool experience confirms what these studies suggest. Yet scholarly studies often fall short of persuasion when confronted with "common sense" and overwhelming societal expectations to the contrary. Facing confirmed skeptics or opponents of homeschooling who live next door, attend our church, or share our holidays, we'd like to have "common sense" arguments in our favor. You and your opponents may find these persuasive.

The "litter" explanation goes like this: "When you speak of socialization, do you mean children relating to other children of the same age in a group?" Usually the person nods at this point. "Unfortunately, we're designed wrong. If it were important for us to be surrounded by others of the same age, then we ought to be assured of that from birth--we ought to be born in litters, like puppies or piglets. That way, most of us would automatically grow up in a group of children the same age. But we're not. We're born one or two at a time, rarely more than that. Whether you believe in evolution or creation (I believe in creation, but not all skeptics do), the best setting for true 'socialization' seems to be a relatively small group composed of individuals of different ages and stages of development. In other words, a family."

Another question: "If we assemble a group of five-year-olds in a room without adult supervision, do we really expect that their behavior will improve? Or do we not rather expect the adult supervisor to regulate the children's behavior? In other words, it's the adult who socializes the children, rewards their appropriate behavior, and corrects inappropriate behavior."

And finally: "When we speak of socialization, we usually mean the ability to have mature relationships with others. Whom do you think would be better at teaching your child to develop mature relationships, an adult, or another five-year-old?"

We cannot expect to silence these critics entirely, whether they are journalists or relatives. But if we have thought through the issues clearly, our answers can build our own confidence and perhaps cause them to reconsider.