Regarding Socialization

by | Raising Children | 2 comments

I have faced some opposition to homeschooling from two close friends, as well as from my
parents. Do you mind sharing a bit on this topic? Of course, the main objection that my friends and family have to homeschooling is the infamous socialization factor. For instance, my friend and I had lunch on Monday. Our daughter (age 3) was with me. It wasn’t long before my friend asked, When are you going to start her in preschool? I told her that we weren’t going to put her in preschool. This opened the door for her to share unsolicited advice about how our daughter needed to be with children her own age, on a much more frequent basis than the play times we have now. I explained that we have three families who we get together with regularly for play. She insisted that outings 2-3 times a week were simply not enough. That child needs to be around other kids, she insisted. She then pointed out that she was shy about speaking to the waiter who served us our lunch. I thought her shyness was quite normal for a three-year-old. She called her shyness cowering. I call it shy. Frankly, in the crazy world in which we find ourselves I’m not concerned with the fact that our daughter is shy or hesitant around strangers. She also insisted that it was insufficient that she spends most of her time with her family: myself, her father and her grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousins. She insisted that a much more broad exposure to other children her age was crucial. I just don’t understand where this idea came from. I keep asking myself, What possible benefit could there be for a child spending 5-6 hours a day, surrounded by 20-30 other children of the same age? Who decided that it was healthy for kids to be surrounded (inundated) by other kids for the majority of their day? How would you address this? I’d love to know your thoughts. J.R.

Here are some random thoughts on the socialization issue.

Children will pattern their behavior after whoever they are around the most. Most children today are institutionalized from a very young age — 2 or 3 in preschool — till age 22 when they graduate from college. For the most productive part of most every day, they are in the company of a group of children their own age, most times their exact age. Of course, most children who are institutionalized during those years will have many days where they socialize with others of differing ages and walks of life, but the majority of their life is spent with kids their own age. Is it any wonder that whatever bond which the child formed with Mother or Daddy in the first couple of years of his life begins to weaken, till at about age 8 or 9 it becomes so weak that it takes little pressure to break. In the meantime, a strong bond begins to form between the child and his peers, and even between child and school teacher.

I suppose that one of the reasons you chose to homeschool your child is that you would like that bond, which started to form the day she was born, to continue to grow and stay strong until the day she marries and her affections are transferred to someone else.

Your daughter needs to be with children her own age. You’ll hear this quite a bit over the next several years so it might be good to have some ammunition — some good hard facts — to counter this argument.

My favorite answer to this is: How do you know that? What proof do you have that this is true? And they don’t have any proof. It’s just one of those pseudo-science factoids that has been perpetuated by the NEA perhaps. On the other hand, there is an abundance of studies to the contrary. Here is something I just read in the PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter (July-August 2005):

Few parents have heard about the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care, an ongoing $100 million survey of 1,100 children. It’s the largest and most rigorous examination of day care in history, taking into account family income and the quality of day care. Recent evidence from the study shows that the total number of hours a child is without a parent, from birth through preschool, matters. The more time in child care of any kind or quality, the more aggressive the child, according to results published in Child Development. Children in full-time day care were close to three times more likely to show behavior problems than those cared for by their mothers at home (excerpted Psychology today, Vol. 38, No. 3, p. 18).

Here’s something else to consider — an excerpt from the book Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld:

To be sure, socializing plays a part in rendering a child capable of true social integration, but only as a finishing touch. The child must first of all be able to hold on to herself when interacting with others and to perceive the others as separate beings. This is no easy task, even for adults. When a child knows her own mind and values the separateness of another’s mind, then – and only then – is she ready to hold on to her sense of self, while respecting that of the other person. Once this developmental milestone is achieved, social interaction will hone the child’s individuality and hone his relationship as well. (p. 242)

That’s just two items. There’s lots more if you look.

It doesn’t sound like she has any evidence to back up her statements, but since she is your friend you might be hesitant to confront her on the matter. Perhaps she is feeling a bit guilty that you have decided to homeschool and she is taking the easy route. Or perhaps just a few words here and there on why you want to homeschool will get her to thinking outside her box.

Concerning shyness, I think I can speak to that subject with some experience. I had some of the shyest kids in the world. They would hide behind me when we met up with strangers or even people they knew. I’m sure our relatives thought we were ruining our children by homeschooling them. But today, I doubt anyone would call our children shy.