Guest Post: Mrs. Karen, You Are Laughing at Real People


socialization picture

A Guest Post by Lana

I found the above comment on HSLDA’s facebook page, presumably by some homeschool mom who has been trained to laugh at the socialization question. And it made me angry.  See, it’s fine if homeschool parents want to tell their stories about how they were socially awkward as public school kids, or how they are a social misfit. I will not laugh at their stories. But you know what, when homeschool parents laugh at the homeschool socialization question, they are actually laughing at real people. We have stories, too.

Mrs. Karen, you are laughing at real people.

Like…….

April.

I used to say those things myself. Homeschoolers may often be more comfortable with people of other ages. It can be quite difficult for homeschool grads to socialize with people their own age – even with other homeschoolers. My siblings and I made some rough transitions as we learned socialization skills as adults despite our childhood of being able to talk to adults and those younger than we were. We were praised for being so polite and chatty, but we were sadly mis-socialized. Many homeschool grads have written blog posts about learning to talk to people their own age. There is another side to the story of socialization if you care to hear it from us.

Hannah.

I am credible to comment concerning this issue, as I was home schooled until I was thirteen years old, in a Christian home, I know many home schooler’s, used a curriculum, joined every homeschool-er socialising group out there, from p.e, to art, etc. You get it, I’m sure.

On to my point. I’d agree, homeschooler’s are not unsocialized one bit; the problem is that they are negatively, over demographically socialized. They socialize mostly with homeschooler’s, or Mommy’s friend’s that aren’t homeschooler’s, their worldview is almost entirely adopted from your own, and they are, in every view to You, an the rest of the world, productive, socialised, intelligent, etc. You ask them, and they will never think they are unsocialized or weird- because they wouldn’t know what it is like to be normal.

It isn’t that they’re bad… perhaps they are better. But they are very naive to the way the world really works. We all want to protect our children from anything that might hurt them. But if we never let them go outside so that they can see they’ll get hit by cars if they cross the street, then when they finally do go outside, they will get hit. Or worse, they will never go outside, and it will become a hereditary, narrowly exposed subculture, another one of the many minorities that the majority may rule, but have the irritation of providing rights.

[....]

I hope you ponder this though, I’ve been through homeschooling, private schooling, public schooling, college, and corporate work environment, and my interaction and ability to network, succeed and attain would have been severely stunted had I never learned HOW the world works. It is correct that i would be just as qualified and intelligent, if not more, to obtain my job and gpa, but it isn’t just about how smart you are, in the world. And as sad as it is, It’s true.

Anne.

I remember feeling this way too. Our family lived down the street from a highschool at one point, and I remember watching out my bedroom window every afternoon as the school kids walked by and wishing I could have the giddy happiness they had. I’d cry at nights listening to the cheering and music at football games, and wished I could go to highschool, but I was always taught how negative it was so I finally gave up hoping.

Latebloomer.

Now I’m 30 years old, with four years of college and eight years of work between me and my teen self, yet I still feel the effects of the isolation I experienced growing up.

First, I still feel significant social anxiety in even the most non-threatening situations.  I am particularly at a loss in group settings full of new people.  What do I say? When do I say it? Whom do I say it to?  How/when do I end a conversation?  Even in a circle setting, when it’s my turn to say my name, my blood pressure skyrockets.

Second, in the whole world, there is no place and no group of people where I feel like I belong.  It’s like I was raised in a different culture, with the distinct difference that I can never go “home” to it.  I’m permanently a foreigner; interacting in this foreign culture takes a lot of attention and effort.  I’ve tried to catch up on the culture I missed…to watch the movies, to listen to the music, to see pictures of the clothing styles…..but it will never mean to me what it means to you.  People always use cultural references and nostalgia as a way to build community and connections between people; for me, they create distance and remind me how different I am inside.

Sheldon.

I know in my case, when I spent some time at a Southern Baptist university, many of the former home school kids used to joke about being “awkward home school kids”, though the isolation didn’t effect them a fraction as much as it did me.

Fly.

I feel the exact same way when I see my younger sister, who isn’t homeschooled interacting with peers the way I never got to as a homeschooled kid.

Not to mention how left out I feel seeing the kids I graduated with posting photos of events that happened when I was being isolated for 5 years during a very important time (5th to 10th grade). They’re still close to each other and I feel like an outsider. We were friends in elementary school and highschool, but those years mean nothing compared to the years where friendships are made around the early teen years…

Cherilyn.

You are right, homeschooling does make people different. I was supposedly home schooled but my parents never bought any books. I have forgiven them for that but at the time it was horrendous because I felt very lonely and isolated as a teenager even though I had three siblings. The negative part was going to college with an education that stopped at 6th grade (I went to church school before that) and trying to figure out how normal people live.

Shans.

Yes, yes, yes. I was homeschooled as well. I thought it was fantastic at the time but now am seriously reconsidering how awesome it was.

Yes, there were benefits:
[....]
-Ability to develop self motivation

…but also detriments:
-Difficulty in participating in collaborative projects.

Christi.

I agree. One of the things that has helped me feel like I fit in more is that I realized there are tons of people around me who also feel like they don’t fit in. The problem, I think, growing up homeschooled propagates is that there really are no other choices for kids. If you’re a misfit, you’ll never really have the chance to change that inside the homeschool environment. At least in school, there’s that possibility that you’ll find a group where you fit or change schools or any number of things that could help. For me, I was trapped. There was no choice available to me. And since the problem was rooted in my parents’ choices, there was also no one I could go to for help out of a bad situation.

Sophelia.

An articulate, self-confident child who converses easily with adults is not necessarily well socialised! And the belief that they are will make it all the harder for that child to cope with the problems they face when they do eventually try to participate in a group their own age. When parents constantly dismiss concerns about socialisation, children internalise it as true. Then if they have trouble relating to peers or interacting socially, they may blame themselves: “I know was well socialised, so it must be something inherently wrong with me. I’m unlikeable, I say the wrong things, I’m clumsy…” I felt this way, and many of my homeschooled peers also went through periods of great depression when they began attending university and couldn’t cope socially.

Me.

I left her house tear-eyed because I wanted to be the public school girls so bad. I felt the isolation of the nerdy-cultured homeschool girl. And I looked over in the corner at the public school girls sending text messages and laughing and thought, I never got to do that.

When I’m in Asia, and an Asian friend tells a joke, and everyone laughs but me, I don’t feel crazy because maybe I missed a sentence or two because of the foreign language, or maybe its just an inside joke I’ll never understand. I have an excuse for the disconnect. But when I see teens hovered in corners in the states, I cry wishing I could turn back the clock,

thinking, wishfully, that if I could start over and be socialized in a group that my life today would be different.

 Libby Anne.

I was totally comfortable around all of the adults at my parents’ evangelical megachurch, but I was profoundly uncomfortable around the (non-homeschool) teens there. I grew up hearing that the whole “being comfortable around adults but not around peers” thing was not a sign of maturity, but that’s nonsense. It’s actually a sign of a problem. When you’re a child, interactions with adults are fairly formalized.

[.....]

I think what it comes down to is this: I was well socialized in homeschool circles, but not socialized beyond them. I was completely familiar and comfortable with other homeschooled students, but public schooled students were completely foreign and therefore frightening. They were unpredictable because I didn’t know what made them tick. I didn’t know their language, their habits, their customs. To some extent, the reason that I do so much better now is because I have been living among people who were public schooled (i.e. in mainstream society) long enough to learn their customs. It’s like moving to a foreign country: at first everything is completely foreign and often unintelligible, but over time you learn the culture and begin to fit in.

I think about this when I watch my daughter Sally. She never had to learn to navigate mainstream culture – it’s completely natural to her. I think what I feel watching her is often similar to what someone raising children in a foreign country must feel as they watch their children naturally and effortlessly picks up the customs and habits that continue to feel strange and foreign to them. She never had to learn these things the way I’ve had to learn them.

I can’t believe Mrs. Karen got 131 likes! But then again, I can believe it because all current research, funneled by Dr. Brian Ray’s shady research, is devoted to telling homeschool mothers that homeschool socialization problems do not exist. Google “socialization statistics,” and an article about homeschool socialization for the Washington Times, written by the president of HSLDA, pops up as the first article on the page. How is it that major newspapers such as Washington Times have managed to overlook the stories of homeschool graduates?

Simple: homeschool leaders lied to us. They had an agenda in mind.

Mrs. Karen and other homeschool moms, there’s another side to homeschool socialization if you care to listen.

Originally posted on Lana’s excellent blog, Wide Open Ground.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • aim2misbehave

    Work. That is where. Sure, they don’t age segregate us by year – but given that we’re all adults the difference of a year is indistinguishable, and they’ll effectively have us all segregated by skill level and area of expertise anyways.

    • NeaDods

      I thought that too. In some fields work is age and gender segregated too, because the field is new (or very old) or it has traditional gender connotations. But at work you still have to deal, in a professional manner yet, with people of very different backgrounds and beliefs.

      • aim2misbehave

        I’m thinking of the stratification that results since so much of the population goes to college by now – for example, a lot of my friends work in VFX or post-production in the film and TV industry. Almost universally, everyone in an “entry-level” position is in their first few years out of college, so there’s not a lot of people more than a few years older or younger than them before they get promoted to another group of people that are still pretty close to their age range.

        But, yeah. Dealing with people of different backgrounds and beliefs is something that the “socialization” part of homeschooling usually, and ironically, fails at.

      • The_L1985

        Er…a lot of the folks going to college are Gen X’ers or even the tail end of the Boomer generation. So a lot of entry-level positions are still being filled by older college grads.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Oh, but Homeschoolers like Karen aren’t raising ungodly, evil adults who will be content to just be cogs in the machine.

      They’re raising soldiers for Jesus’ army! Their kids will grow up to be missionaries, or pastors, or at the very least to run their own business, where *other* people have to do the boring, segregated work.

      So of course her kids won’t ever have to deal with that!

      • Rosa

        oh the joys of the Office Evangelist, who can’t go out to happy hour because she can’t even be in a restaurant that serves alcohol, and suggests as a team building exercise we do that Gotthard animal-themed personality test.

        And I can’t imagine that being the Office Evangelist, the one people avoid, the one who sits alone eating lunch and reading the Bible, the one who is always being rebuffed, is any fun either.

      • smrnda

        I love how they think we’re all cogs in a machine, all while trying to eradicate all traces of individual personality in their kids so they can be good Jesus-bots.

      • Baby_Raptor

        I apologize if you thought that I was implying that. I did not mean to call non-believers cogs in the machine…I am one. It was faulty wording. Really sorry. >.<

    • Kit

      In some professions you are segregated by year, or very close to – for example, in law, one of your primary identifiers to other lawyers is your Call year, which is the first thing on your profile. While you don’t interact exclusively with others in your Call year, it’s very close because you’re in the same point career-wise as others that were Called the same year you were and so you primarily work with similarly-aged and -experienced lawyers.

      In many (if not most) major firms, which hire new lawyers as students and grow them within the firm, you’ll have cohorts, where a group of about 20 students progress from summer student to first year associate to second year associate, etc, together.

      Since most people also go to law school at a very similar age, this effectively means you need to be able to interact effectively and work in a team with people your own age for the long term.

      • doctormaybe

        Even in professions where you are not formally segregated by age, as in law, there is usually a de facto segregation by age. Most of the people in any given profession got into it after training for it in college, at most a year or two after graduation. Unless they are just really bad at their jobs, these people move up at a pretty predictable rate. So if you’re a junior programmer, most of the other junior programmers are around your age. If you’re the new guy at the accounting firm, most of the other new folks are, you guessed it, around your age. Etc.

        In other news, Karen Starr is a dolt.

  • Composer 99

    Karen Starr’s leading question about “natural” IMO shows up the flaw in her argument. She is committing the natural fallacy. In fact, as far as I am aware the style of homeschooling I suspect Karen would advocate is at least as “unnatural” as public schooling.

    Or, given that the educational/training demands on humans varies considerably by culture and circumstance (such as, say, the difference in demands between being a Pleistocene hunter-gatherer in the area where Paris now lies, and being a modern Parisian urbanite), we can safely say that education/training requirements are social arrangements and dispense with natural/unnatural, and instead ask: what form of education is more likely to produce adults capable of navigating the social complexities of modern society?

  • http://Yamikuronue.wordpress.com/ Yamikuronue

    “Where in real life is this replicated”? In schools, which make up a good 12+ years of many, probably most, people’s lives in the countries where public schooling is readily available. Or is my life not “real” until I leave school? I’ll be almost 40 before I’ve spent as much time in the workplace as I spent in some form of school or another. That’s a major common life experience that helps govern the rules of social interaction for years after.

    • The_L1985

      It bothers me greatly when people act like school isn’t “real life.” It implies that I, as an educated woman, somehow did not have any real experiences before the age of 24 (which is when I completed grad school). That same stupid attitude is why I spent my first years of college more or less “waiting for my life to begin” instead of going out there and LIVING.

  • Mel

    In my experience, many extensively home-schooled teenagers are lacking in socialization skills for both teenagers and adults. People who have spent most of their lives around family members and a small, select group of outsiders don’t get much practice in the awkward but necessary skills of forming new relationships. A guy I worked with as a teenager didn’t know how or who to ask about changing his work schedule. He was hired at the same time as I was with about 5 other teens. We tried to talk with him, but he didn’t know how to keep a conversation going. We’d ask something like “So, do you have siblings?” and he’d say “Yes.” “So how many do you have?” “Three.” “What are their names?” “Suzy, John and Beth.” I’ve seen this same pattern with students who received minimal socialization at home when talking to me as a teacher. Most students eventually pick it up after intensive practice with teachers and being partnered with nice, friendly teens who will help the other student find a group of friends.

  • RowanVT

    Apparently Mrs. Starr has not yet heard of this new fangled thing called “recess” which allows children from multiple age groups to freely interact?

    • Conuly

      In schools that a. have recess and b. don’t divide it up by grade.

      • RowanVT

        You know of grade schools that don’t have recess and only let a *single* grade out at a time even though most elementary schools are at least 1st through 6th grade? In the (8 different) elementary schools I attended, there was always multiple recesses throughout the day, including lunch, and the most grade segregation that occurred was 1st-3rd grade out at the same time, and 4th-6th grade out at the same time.

      • Noelle

        Yep. I spent grades 3-5 at a public school in Toledo, OH with no scheduled daily recess at all. It was up to the teacher’s discretion if he or she wanted to schedule a time to bring us outside, and we occasionally paired up with another same-grade class. I never understood why. Was their playground not large enough? Did they not have the funds to hire enough playground watchers? It was a K-6 school and we were pretty wild with pent-up energy by lunchtime. The teachers had lame excuses whenever we asked. In retrospect, I’m guessing they weren’t happy about it either.

      • RowanVT

        Wow…. that, well, rather sucks. O_o

      • Noelle

        I know, right? It was almost 30 years ago that I was there. I just looked it up to see if the school was still open, but it was demolished last year and a newer school was put up with the same name not too far away. We moved out of the state after 5th grade, and I never kept in touch with anyone from there. It wasn’t all Toledo schools. I attended 2 others for 1st and 2nd grade, and both had large playgrounds with multiple recesses. The school itself was large and old. Some of the teachers I had while I attended there were excellent. But their no recess thing plain sucked.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Wow, that’s horrible. And I’m sure you’re right that the teachers didn’t enjoy it any more than the kids did.

      • Alice

        Today it is common for schools to cut down on the amount of time devoted to recess, or do away with it altogether. I’ve heard the main reason is supposedly to have more time for instruction, but they’re actually shooting themselves in the foot because children who get recess do better in school.

      • Conuly

        I went to a school with no recess. The older niece goes to a school that only lets one grade out at a time (and they don’t get recess every day, either, even if the weather is nice).

        The no-recess trend is increasing, not decreasing, and I suggest you look up the actual statistics before you get snide.

      • RowanVT

        It wasn’t snide, it was astounded.

      • Mogg

        I’m as astounded as you. I’ve never heard of either the concept of splitting up recesses, or the idea that not having recesses at all could be anything but completely counterproductive.

      • Conuly

        Also, I would point out that “most elementary schools” may run to the fifth grade, the fourth grade, the sixth grade, the eight grade, or another grade entirely. Even if one grade level is most common, I doubt it is statistically significant.

      • RowanVT

        It was a way to show that ‘most elementary schools’ have enough grades present on campus that it would seem incredibly awkward, time management-wise, to do it one grade at a time.

      • Conuly

        How awkward can it be? You have a yard sufficient for, say, 75 students. If you have three classes per grade, well, that’s who goes out at a time.

      • RowanVT

        Very awkward, actually. That is a very small yard. How does the school handle lunch times? Those are usually at least half an hour. At 6 grades, you’ve now spread out lunch over a 3+ hour span. Recess is usually 10 or 15 minutes, meaning over another hour. Even assuming an 8 hour school day, half of that is now spent shuffling kids around. And think about how sucky it would be to be the class that got the last lunch period, which would probably be around 2pm or 3pm. Hungry children are often cranky/restless children.

        And with the 3 hour span in the middle of the day occupied by lunch, that leaves 5 hours, split up, to squeeze a recess (or often 2) in. Only, with the hour that it would take to have the recesses in order, some students would either be taking recess almost ridiculously early, or almost on top of their lunch break.

      • The_L1985

        Um…some of the students are having recess while other students are having lunch. As a general rule, the cafeteria/dining area and the playground/schoolyard are not the same place.

      • RowanVT

        Odd. The schools I attended, once you were done eating, you got to play outside for the remainder of lunch time.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Mine, too. And all schools here in Toronto, as far as I can tell. (The kids call it “lunch recess” and eat their lunch as fast as humanly possible in order to have more of it…)

        The one exception was the (really crappy) public school I attended for half a year when we were on sabbatical in Spain, immediately post-Franco — there was no yard at all, just a rooftop, and no recess, but lunch was from 1 to 3 pm, since everyone went home to eat and have their siesta. (School was 9 am to 1 pm, then 3-5 pm.)

      • Conuly

        Well, that was your experience. Maybe you went to larger schools than exist where I am, but here, if they have recess, it is at a set time, not just after lunch. (And many schools nowadays have very short lunches, under half an hour. Yes, it’s crazy.)

      • onamission5

        It is awkward, I’m sure, but that’s how my kids’ elementary does it. Lowest grades can have lunch as early as 11 AM, older grades at around 12:45, each class gets recess after their lunch break so one grade will be filing out of the lunch room to go to recess while another grade is filing in. With a school of six grades and three to four classrooms per grade with 18-25 students in each class, they have to do it that way else the cafeteria would be as big as the rest of the school!

        Younger kids (third grade and down) get two short recess breaks and an after lunch snack. Older grades get one recess and no snack.

    • smrnda

      Kids you know who are the same age also tend to have older and younger siblings, and there do exist public spaces where kids can hang out and activities that aren’t necessarily so age segregated. I met a few friends doing martial arts who were both older and younger than me.

    • Stev84

      I guess it depends on the school and the people, but as I got a bit older we usually only hung around with our class mates. There were a few exceptions like limited space for a certain activity (such as sports), but people wanted to spend their time with people they were already very familiar with.

    • The_L1985

      Your school’s recess had students from different age groups?

      Ours didn’t. And a disturbing number of schools are getting rid of recess altogether, ignoring a child’s deep need for spontaneous play.

      • RowanVT

        I really don’t understand this trend. Admittedly, I have no children and haven’t been in elementary school for close to 20 years. But it seems so stupid to do away with recess when children are physically active! And then, of course, those children probably are wrongly said to have ADHD, or ‘discipline problems’ I suspect.

        Ugh. Just stupid all around to have no recess.

      • The_L1985

        Especially since so much lip service is paid to the obesity epidemic among kids. Gee, maybe fewer kids would have weight-related problems if they were allowed to exercise at school?

      • sylvia_rachel

        Ontario schools haven’t yet succumbed to this particular strain of insanity, thank goodness, but I have heard stories about kids being kept in at recess because they weren’t focusing or were rambunctious or whatever, and all I can think is, dude, don’t you realize that’s going to make it WORSE?!

  • jmb

    It’s very American of her too. A West African music teacher told our class that in his hometown, kids grow up in age cohorts that all go through coming-of-age rituals together, and you are closer to your age-mates of that year, than even to your older and younger siblings, in all social respects.

    I’m not an anthropologist but I’ve read of similar customs all around the world. Children playing with other children, rather than hanging out with adults, is as old as kids being sent out to herd the village sheep together in the Bronze Age, at least.

    Although, it’s funny, children all going to school together (if their parents could afford it) was a well-established practice by the time of the Little House books that homeschoolers so adore — how do they rationalize the hatred of public schools with the fact that Laura was a student, and then a schoolmarm herself?

    • onamission5

      I think they comfort themselves with the (often misfounded) idea that back then, the bible was considered a textbook, schools taught “bible based” curriculum, and kids usually didn’t get educated past the age of 13. So to their mind, prairie school was a lot like home school.
      /speculation and extrapolation

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    A small detail: Calling the Washington Times a “major newspaper” is pretty generous. The Times (as opposed to the Washington Post) was started by the founder of a cultish Christian group (The “Moonies”), has a well-known Christian conservative bias, and is generally considered to have pretty low standards of journalistic integrity by anyone who’s not a movement conservative. I’m not one bit surprised that they’d give the HSLDA a platform to spout its poison.

    • Scott_In_OH

      Yes. Absolutely.

  • Gail

    Beyond learning how to best interact with people your own age (which will probably make up the majority of people you interact with at college, any graduate school, and in the workforce), the biggest socialization issue is probably learning to deal with people who don’t share your background and worldview. I’m sure some homeschool parents address this, but if you’re only socializing with your siblings and other homeschool families, you’re probably not coming into contact with a diverse group of people and beliefs. I know this is why some parents choose to homeschool, because they want to control everything their children come into contact with, but that becomes a big socialization problem when a child enters the real world as an adult and hasn’t been exposed to a variety of cultures/religions/beliefs.

  • Gillianren

    I freely admit that I didn’t always fit in when I was in public school, but I could try finding a different group and fit in there. It worked well enough, and I learned a valuable life skill for the future. There were the same issues with cliques when I had a job, too; if I didn’t fit in with one group at work, I just found a different one and fit in there.

    And what about if you don’t fit in with your own family and you’re homeschooled? I have serious problems with my younger sister for reasons that I don’t want to go into right now, and while I did get along with my older sister, she’d side with my younger one if there were conflicts. So even at home, I had a decent chance of being on the outside. Extended family? I have no cousins my own age; they’re all either enough older that they weren’t interested in talking to me or enough younger that I wasn’t interested in talking to them.

    Finally, the whole “when do you socialize exclusively with people your own age?” misses a point. You’re much more likely to socialize with people of your own maturity, and in grade school, age correlates to maturity well enough to generalize.

    • Jayn

      Even if you never find a group that fits at school (while I eventually made good friends, I didn’t do well with any established groups), being there can also be a source of information on other activities outside of school. Some of the ones I did I might have known of anyways, but others I would never have heard of elsewhere, including the place I met one of my bridesmaids.

      • onamission5

        Absolutely. Given my home environment and extremely rural upbringing, if I had been homeschooled I would have never had exposure to any ideas outside of the very narrow lens through which my parents saw the world. As the oddball/outsider in my family of origin, I shudder to think how much worse it could have been for me had I not know there were other ways of living life which were much more suited to my needs than the way I was raised to be.

    • Gail

      What you say in your first paragraph is definitely a good point. Socializing in high school is often hard with cliques and such, but adults and especially workplaces can also be very clique-y, so learning to navigate difficult social situations is a vital skill for adult life. Homeschooled kids who are very active in extra-curriculars might get that experience, but I am guessing a lot of them miss out on it.

    • Alice

      The only social group I had access to as a preteen and teenager was the youth group at church, and I didn’t fit in with them at all, therefore I had no friends. If I had been at school, there would have been a lot of different groups to choose from. I wouldn’t have even needed a lot of friends, one or two would have made me perfectly happy.

  • smrnda

    This comment from Sophelia reminded me of my own childhood:

    “An articulate, self-confident child who converses easily with adults is not necessarily well socialised!”

    That was me about age 4 through 8. My parents had lived all over the world as my father kept getting these ‘guest lecturer’ positions, so the only adults I talked to were academics my parents knew, and I wasn’t attending school. I was really smart, but ‘socialization’ was really just me being shown off as a trophy kid. When adults and kids socialize, it’s mostly adults quizzing kids to see what they know.

    Once I hit school, I got bumped ahead a few grades which only made things worse. I was still a kid, but I’d also never done normal kid stuff, and the whole idea of ‘play’ was pretty strange. I’ve always thought the fact that I’m pretty deadpan and not very spontaneous was probably a result of not having socialized with other kids when I was young.

    But on age segregation – the difference between a 3 year old and a 5 year old can be pretty big. The difference between a 40 year old and a 50 year old isn’t necessarily significant. Age segregation makes a lot of sense, as children tend to develop along a certain trajectory, and social development is part of that as well.

    The other issue with socialization is though school can sometimes suck and feel like you’re just getting thrown to the wolves, being able to interact with people who aren’t similar to you, don’t know you, and sometimes have no actual interest in you as a person is a skill that’s good to have. There are some interactions that are pretty mechanical and you’re just a number, but that’s going to happen on a planet with so many billions of us. If I call the cell phone company I can’t expect to introduce myself by my first name and ask for someone else by their first name and provide me with customized, personal attention, that would just be ridiculous. Yes, sometimes that’s frustrating, but it cannot be avoided.

    • The_L1985

      So much this. Moving a lot is just as bad for a kid as homeschooling, as far as making new friends goes.

      • smrnda

        It’s even worse when it’s like 3-4 months in a country, then a whole new country. It did completely prevent me thinking the world ‘normal’ had any real meaning though.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I’m kind of baffled by the idea that kids at public school are only permitted to socialize with other kids of exactly the same age. Is there no recess? Is there no hanging out on the playground before and after school? Are there no extracurricular activities, intramural sports, or houses? Are there no buddy activities? Are there no split-grade and multi-grade classrooms? Are the kids actually cemented to their desks in single-grade classrooms for 13 straight years, forbidden to fraternize with anyone in a different age group?

    Because that certainly doesn’t match my own experience or that of anyone I know. For example, at my elementary school, every older kid (4-6) had a younger “buddy” (K-3) and was responsible for stuff like watching out for them on schoolwide field trips, holding their hand while crossing the street on the way to the local pool for swimming lessons (which were divided by ability, not age), and making sure they were properly wrapped up on really cold days (I grew up in Alberta, so this was sometimes pretty important). This was common when I was a kid, and nineteenth- and early twentieth-century fiction suggests it’s been a thing in public schools for a lot longer than that. My daughter’s elementary/middle school doesn’t have exactly the same thing, but they do have “learning buddies” — classes are paired up so that the older kids can help the younger ones with reading and math for a couple of hours a week. The playground is a shared space at recesses and lunch hours.

    Of course, when the kids are left to themselves, what mostly happens is that they gravitate towards other kids of around the same age; one of the great things about school is that nobody expects you to play with your four-years-younger sibling, because not only are there kids your own age whom you’d rather play with, there are also kids *his* (or her) age whom s/he would rather play with! Sometimes, it’s less about ages than about stages — I’m seeing this particularly right now because my DD is almost 11, and there are girls in her Grade 5/6 class who are definitely Interested in Boys and others who still think boys are seriously icky and others who think *most* boys are icky but there’s that one boy who’s actually really cute … anyway, the social groups have kind of sorted themselves out along those lines, even though the kids are all chronologically within 2 years of one another.

    I don’t want to idealize school, because I know a lot of kids have bad experiences. I did myself, between about Grade 4 and Grade 9, when I was bullied a lot. But I also had some wonderful, amazing experiences at school, particularly in high school, where I finally found a group of really good friends and was truly challenged academically. And even when I was having those not-very-good experiences … I was still learning things about coping with my peers, some of which have been very, very useful in the real world of office work…

    • Conuly

      Sylvia, again, in many places there IS no recess. Children who are bussed may NOT be able to “hang out before or after school”. There might NOT be extracûrricular activities – and a teacher-directed extracurricular is no more likely to include socialization than a test.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I guess I’m biased by the fact that my kid seems to be able to turn *any* activity into an opportunity to socialize :P

        I have heard about the trend toward decreasing or eliminating recess, and I think it’s one of the more terrible ideas of the century (for the teachers as well as the kids). I had not heard of schools doing recess by grade level, though. Weird.

        I confess I had also not thought about the fate of the kids who ride the school bus, but yeah, that can be an issue. I’ve also heard that in some parts of the US, the school day starts at times like 7:45 in the morning, which I would imagine seriously reduces the number of kids who arrive at school with time to hang out before the first bell rings.

        Obviously, many kids in public schools won’t have *all* the opportunities to interact with kids of other ages that I listed in my comment. I hope there aren’t too many kids who don’t have *any* of them.

    • The_L1985

      Hang out after school? With whom? The other kids in my class didn’t like me, and there were NO children my age in any of the neighborhoods where I grew up–I had to choose between people 6 years younger than me or 10 years older than me. When you’re already accelerated, this doesn’t exactly help your social development any.

      When? I had piano lessons, dance lessons, my brother had soccer practice. My ADHD meant that homework dragged on a lot longer for me than for anybody else my age (and that I had detention almost every day of 1st and 2nd grade). After-school cartoons were a rare treat, and I cried so hard that I couldn’t wait to do homework or piano practice after Tiny Toon Adventures was over.

      As for recess…I saw it as a time to either be mocked, or to hide out with a book. Some old tractor tires had been partially buried in one schoolyard for climbing on, and the inside of those tires made an ideal reading spot and hiding place for a small, friendless girl. And there’s a growing trend of schools getting rid of recess entirely, because academics aren’t being taught.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Like I said, I don’t want to idealize public school, and I ad some miserable experiences therein myself. (However, my problems were not, I think, ones that would have been solved by homeschooling, even if that had been an option. That’s one of those questions to which the answer is different for every kid, I expect.) I just wanted to point out that as far as I know, public schools don’t deliberately set out to prevent kids from ever interacting with people older or younger than themselves — opportunities do exist for such interaction, and yet most kids do end up hanging out mostly with kids their own age, because they often have the most in common. That’s a direct response to Karen Starr’s suggestion that nothing could be more unnatural than grouping kids by age.

        It’s starting to sound like some schools actually *do* set out to prevent interaction among kids of different ages, and even to eliminate opportunities for play, full stop, which sounds like a Very Bad Idea to me.

      • The_L1985

        I wasn’t even going to public schools. What you just read was my private-school experience. Some kids at Christian schools just don’t act very Christ-like.

      • Carol Lynn

        I’m sorry for your problems. I was ostracized at school too – for a number of my formative years for reasons that I still do not know as I have no problems making friends as an adult. I was the kid in my grade at my large-ish Catholic school with ‘cooties.’ I guess there had to be one. – but I did eventually find a small group of friends at school with the same non-mainstream set of interests that I have, some of whom are still friends over 40 years later. I cannot imagine that being home schooled with no friends, no siblings, and, pre-internet, no chance to ever make any friends at all would have been any better.

  • Beth Clarkson

    As a homeschooling mother, I have a slightly different take on the socialization aspect. I have watched my daughter, who was homeschooled until she started college (age 13 for her first class, age 16 when she was a full-time student) and my son (age 13 now) struggle with socialization issues.

    What strikes me most about their difficulties is how much easier enduring and solving those problems have been for my children than they were for me. This is not to say that there were no issues, nor do I mean to dismiss or diminish the socialization problems that many homeschooled children have faced. Those problems are real, particularly to those who experience them. I only want to point out that my homeschooled children did not suffer from socialization issues the way I did in my public school days.

    As LIbby Anne and others describe the socialization problems they have endured, I find them considerably less severe than the problems I endured as a direct result of the brutal and bullying socialization I received from public schools. I remain a believer in John Holt’s exhortation that if there were no other reason for removing your child from school, the socialization that they receive there would be reason enough.

    • LizBert

      Bullying is a serious problem, but I don’t think it’s a good reason to be wholly against public schools anymore than socialization is a good reason to be wholly against homeschooling. Not all or even most public school students experience bullying. I have been in public schools for the last 20 years of my life and while I was an awkward tween and teen and in some ways am still an awkward 20-something grad student, I don’t feel that being surrounded by my peers has damaged me at all. In fact, I feel like it forced to me to learn some pretty useful life-skills like how to deal with people who don’t like me, how to make new friends in a group setting, how to speak up when somebody’s behavior crosses the line, etc. I think sometimes homeschooling is the best choice for some families and children, but I also think it’s important that parents are able to take a step back from their own experiences and evaluate whether all public schools are awful or whether they just had a bad experience.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      You might be interested to know that bullying in school isn’t given the free pass it once was. There has been a lot done in recent years to curb the problem, which, as a parent of a daughter who will be in kindergarten in another year, I’m extremely glad of.

      • Conuly

        Well, that’s what they say. As somebody who was severely bullied at school, and who also is a born cynic, I have my doubts.

      • Anat

        All I can say is that whenever issues of bullying and related behaviors were brought up to the administration of my daughter’s school (back in her elementary years), whether by us or by her, they were dealt with and matters got resolved.

      • Conuly

        I’m glad to hear it. I mean, I’m *really* glad to hear it. There are a few zillion public schools in this country (more or less), so even in the supposed “bad old days” some of them were better at this issue than others. And even in the best of circumstances, some today will be bound to find it easier to talk about how bullying is wrong than to effectively deal with it, especially if a culture of bullying is alread entrenched.

    • sylvia_rachel

      I was severely bullied at school, too (roughly grades 4 through 9; in the early grades I think I just hadn’t clued in yet, and in high school I found my niche) — the kind of bullying that teachers and parents just didn’t notice, because it didn’t leave physical marks. For a number of reasons, I think I can state categorically that *for me*, homeschooling would not have helped matters — and not just because my father was a bigger bully than anyone at school :P (He was not physically abusive, particularly, but he had the verbal and emotional abuse market totally cornered.) But bullying at school is a real thing and a serious problem, and I don’t like to see its importance minimized, either.

      That said … bullying ain’t what it used to be. Schools and parents now consider it a real, actual problem and not just kids having fun. “Social bullying” is recognized as a thing that kids do and other kids suffer from — you don’t have to prove you’re being physically assaulted in order to get help. My kid *tells me* when something happens at school, whereas I would have died rather than tell my mom the stuff that went on when I was this age, knowing that she would freak out and call the other kids’ parents and then I really *would* get beaten up at school the next day. There are strong anti-bullying messages in schools, and teachers are much less inclined to say “nobody likes a tattletale” when a kid reports an incident. I’m not saying bullying doesn’t happen — it totally does, and in some ways the fact that kids now are living their lives online makes it worse; malicious whisper campaigns, which can now be graphically illustrated, are a good example — just that it’s no longer true, as it was when I was a kid being bullied, that your only options were (a) shut up and take it and (b) retaliate and get suspended because nobody would believe that you weren’t the instigator :P :P

      Undoubtedly some kids do better with homeschooling. I absolutely think homeschooling should remain an option. At the same time, I think the real solution to the problem of bullying in public schools is for us as a soceity to do something about bullying in public schools. Not least because for many, many kids, homeschooling is just not a viable option.

    • Rosa

      Your own pain is always going to seem more real than other people’s. it’s just about impossible to judge from the outside.

  • Em

    I am 23 and went to public school K-12. And I did not learn how to interact with people outside my age group. The only way I know how to interact with people more than about 5 years older than me is to view them as authority figures. I have no clue how to interact with children. I’m not trying to deny that there can be socialization issues associated with homeschooling, but I don’t think public schools are particularly effective either.

  • John

    We have a lot of anecdotes here from people who weren’t happy growing up. This doesn’t tell us anything about homeschooling, it tells us that some kids are unhappy.

    I guess if you were trying to refute the hypothesis that every homeschooled kid is happy, or happier than every regular-schooled kid, these stories would do the trick. But no one thinks something so dumb (I hope).

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I guess if you were trying to refute the hypothesis that every homeschooled kid is happy, or happier than every regular-schooled kid, these stories would do the trick. But no one thinks something so dumb (I hope).

      Actually, in my experience at least, lots of people think exactly that.

    • The_L1985

      Hi. You must be new here. There are TONS of religious homeschool parents who insist that their kids are better and happier because “educating your kids at home is God’s way,” and surely God’s way is going to make everything way better than those other ways of doing things out there.

  • Jennifer

    This post does not seemed balanced. First of all it does not represent the position of people who were home schooled and socialize very well. It also does not have a comprehensive voice from private school people as well as public school people. It feels very much like the rhetoric we face each and every day. Where it is Us against Them. I believe we can begin to understand differences and choice if we lay down an idea that we are an oddity. When in reality every person faces the same challenges in life as the other no matter what their social setting.

    When I read this what I hear is that children, teenagers need and want choice. And I whole heartedly agree that children, teenagers should be given a platform within their homes to voice and share their needs and opinions to grow into the person they feel inside themselves.

    My own story is that I was publicly educated with a tremendously dysfunctional home life. I did not know how to properly socialize and I was in the system of education for 17 years. The institution of education did not teach me the way of operating in the world that was helpful nor healthy for myself. I am also now in another education system for additional certification, but I have recovered from the effects of the dysfunction and I have learned how to be myself in society and ironically I am not age segregated any longer. This makes for an interesting opportunity in my education. It feels balanced, well rounded and whole.

    And this is our great challenge as a society and as parents. To raise children to know themselves and by knowing themselves they will BE themselves in society.

    My daughter is home educated currently at the decision of our entire family. She participates in that choice and she will continue to participate in that choice. What is most important for me as a parent is to provide her with a life that is full of opportunity to discover, observe and know her self. This challenges us to present her with a variety of social opportunities as well as educational opportunities. She does not lead a life of isolation, nor do we present ourselves to her or to others as being better because we have chosen a different path. We also did not choose this path to segregate her from society. We chose this path because we could not afford the level of education we desired for her in a private school setting. We also felt strongly that she be given the opportunity as an individual to discover and excel in her interest. She is currently engaged in that, but our environment remains open to her choice and changes that might suit better for her as she grows.

    Ultimately I believe that we are all responsible for meeting the needs of our society on every level. So to this I say. I have listened to your voices and I appreciate these experiences, but we must also be open to other experiences and voices so that our sharing is given as a whole and not in fragments.

    • Composer 99

      Jennifer:

      I would get into an extended treatment of why balance, for the sake of balance, is neither necessary nor desireable in discussions such as these, but I think it’s secondary to the points I should like to make in reply to you.

      The notion that personal experiences are not generalizable cuts both ways and is as far as I can see already acknowledged in the OP.

      The OP says right at the start:

      See, it’s fine if homeschool parents want to tell their stories about how they were socially awkward as public school kids, or how they are a social misfit. I will not laugh at their stories.

      and follows up at the end with:

      Mrs. Karen and other homeschool moms there’s another side to homeschool socialization if you care to listen.

      The problem with Karen’s attitude is that (a) it is an attempt at generalizing her personal experience, therefore almost certainly false if treated as a universal, and (b) it dismisses or diminishes the lived experiences of others whose experiences do not match hers.

      But contra the impression I am getting from your comment, the observation that people can have good socialization in homeschooling, or poor socialization in public/private schooling, is acknowledged in the OP and is neither dismissed nor diminished; this observation is instead merely not discussed (and why should it be? This post is about discussing people who were homeschooled as children who suffered from socialization problems as a result).

  • Jane

    I totally appreciate the struggles that all these former homeschoolers had and have. However, I am sixteen, have been homeschooled my entire life, and have never felt like this at all. I have a huge number of friends; homeschoolers and public schoolers alike. In fact, my two closest friends go to public school. I think homeschooling, when done right is an amazing learning experience, but do know a lot of people who were not socialized and have trouble fitting in. But, on the flip side, I know a lot of kids in public school who are so used to only interacting with their peers that they have a hard time forming relationships with adult mentors, or even carrying on a normal conversation with an adult. I am really glad to have been homeschooled, but I know that I am lucky to have had parents who made sure I spent time with all kinds of people.

    • Anat

      Aren’t teachers adult mentors? A few of mine were. My daughter has at least one current and one former teacher in such capacity.


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