Socialization (n) - to fit or train for a social environment.
In arguing the advantages of homeschooling, proponents suggest that homeschooled kids have a socialization advantage by essentially making three (3) points:
(1) The homeschooler has a community-based socialization, rather than a classroom-based socialization. One example, homeschoolers are not restricted to learning environments that are driven by.
(2) It is easier to model a particular behavior for your child if you have a wider range of ages to serve as models.
(3) Socialization for homeschoolers is real. It is not the artificial, contrived, false socialization of the classroom.
In my view, schools have an inherent advantage over homeschools in that they provide a microcosm of a particular community, rather than a simulated microcosm of community. Children in traditional schools also exist within the larger community and may even have an easier time connecting to community than their homeschooled counterparts. Classroom socialization is not artificial, contrived or false. It is age appropriate and closely resembles the socialized dynamic that is represented in a preponderance of our social structures (like work and college).
The First Point
The homeschooler has a community-based socialization, rather than a classroom-based socialization. The particular site I consulted argues that having children learn only among people their same age is forced and contrived. (I see this as two points – community based learning and learning divorced from age constraints).
With respect to the first point (community based learning) I cannot see an advantage for homeschoolers. They seem to argue that they learn about community best by withdrawing (even if only a little) from community. Initially, I thought the homeschool was rooted in the notion of home as the center of learning, and of course it is. But in my limited research, I found a lot of homeschool networks that form a community. Uniform homeschool curricula are available by computer. Homeschool parents meet to share ideas and approaches. Families get together to hire teachers for specialized subjects, to form musical groups and perform plays, and to participate in sports and other activities. But my argument is that homeschoolers have a home-based socialization. In order to have a community-based socialization, homeschoolers would have to be out in the community (which they are), but not nearly as much as students in traditional schools.
Taking the definition of socialization, if we are talking about training our children for a social environment, why not make that environment the community itself. Remember, one of the advantages of homeschooling is improved sharing of religious or philosophical concepts with one’s children. The more you go into the community, the more you potentially undermine that first advantage. If I were a computer genius, then I could place this all on a graph: the more at home you are, the less in the community you are. The more in the community you are, the less at home you are. The advantages of each, if not carefully balanced, start to compete with each other.
Homeschoolers are not confined to learning with “age-mates.” This particular homeschooler argues that true “classmates” are people of like ability, not people of like age. Learning with people one’s own age is limiting.
I agree with the general idea. It is better to learn with “classmates” than “age-mates.” I’m not sure homeschoolers necessarily do that. They learn at their own pace, so perhaps they are able to move on sooner than most students (my brother-in-law who has a Master’s in Education and experience as a teacher tells me that when homeschool kids came to his class, they were usually academically advanced, but socially behind – I realize that’s anecdotal). I wonder how families with children of multiple ages create classmates. I wonder if the oldest kid gets the same benefit. I wonder if the benefit of competition (I want to get the highest score in the class, or I want to get a higher score than Lisa) is lost. We know that homeschooled children can sometimes not have age-mates in their primary learning environment; can homeschooled children sometimes fail to have “classmates” as well?
So, let’s continue the argument that “classmates” are better than “age-mates” and in most traditional schools, there is a provision for this. Particularly in junior high school and high school, people tend to take classes and learn in rooms with peers – not people of their same age. In Minnesota, there is an International Baccalaureate program, and Advanced Placement program, and a curriculum that allows for class choice – consider mathematics – you take geometry, pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus I, calculus II or differential equations based on your ability – it’s true of everyone in your class too.
Also, most elementary schools have the ability to sort by ability and actually do sort by ability. A lot of traditional schools have children learn in age ranges (my daughter’s Montessori is set up so that she is in a class with younger and older kids. She learns; she teaches; appropriate behavior is modeled; she models appropriate behavior. In other words, the “age-mates” concept may not be a prevalent as this particular author suggests.
But consider one other thought. At a certain age, perhaps it is appropriate to learn among age-mates. Somehow I like the idea that my daughter will learn her address and how to line up for milk, the basics of language and math, and kickball all with kids who are around her age (though I have to add – not all of whom look like her). I don’t think she would be handicapped by learning next to a seven year old sibling (although there isn’t one), but I don’t think she is stunted by being around children of like age either. In fact, in a community setting, children may be less intimidated by learning in a class with people who are their size and age. Although certainly intimidation is not an issue at home.
The Second Point
It is easier to model a particular behavior for your child if you have a wider range of ages to serve as models.
I don’t want to give this advantage the short shrift, but I’m tempted to concede this point so that my post is not too long (I know, I know). If the older children are appropriate models, then fine, it’s easier. Traditional schools usually have a wider range of ages than most homes do. I also feel that we learn in myriad ways, including by seeing how we should act, and how we should not act. We learn in the classroom. We learn on the bus. We learn at recess. We learn on field trips. We learn at home. We learn during trips to the store. We learn all over place all the time.
The Third Point
I’ll start with a quote from the homeschool site I have referenced for this series.
…the socialization for homeschoolers is real. It is not the artificial, contrived, false socialization of the classroom. In the traditional classroom the variables are controlled by an unknown adult. The environment is controlled by people who have been hired to maintain the control of those variables for a defined agenda in classroom management. In the homeschool, students are exposed to all the variables of real life in the real world. They actually see adults they know, love, and trust solving the problems of daily living -- academic study balanced with real schedules, caring for the sick neighbor and getting her walkway shoveled, having the car inspected, doing the grocery shopping, changing the diapers while on the phone with Uncle Harry while turning down the heat on a boiling kettle, etc. etc. The never-ending balancing act that real people experience in the real world, not the spoon-fed phony regulation of the classroom.
This paragraph strikes at the core of my inability to appreciate the advantages of homeschooling. At times, I see the debate coming down to considering one concept as static (the traditional school) and the other as fluid (the home school).
Taking the key points from this paragraph…
I don’t want to concede that traditional schools are artificial, contrived or false environments for socialization (particularly since many home schools, I assume, seek to shelter children from some environments – sheltering in ways that public schools cannot).
I don’t want to concede that teachers in traditional schools are “unknown adults.”
After reading the persuasive comments to my first post in this series, I might concede that “the environment is controlled by people who have been hired to maintain the control of those variables for a defined agenda in classroom management.” One concern in traditional schools is that classroom management must occupy too great a portion of the learning time (classroom management is also a concern with homeschools, but presumably to a much lesser extent – and might environment management be an issue?).
But I flat out disagree with the following as a statement of fact or as a universal statement: “In the homeschool, students are exposed to all the variables of real life in the real world.” To this I say: not necessarily. In fact, it is highly unlikely to me that your average homeschooled child is exposed to all the variables of real life in the real world at anywhere near the extent of the average child at a traditional school.
Simple mathematics is all you need to figure that out. The more people you have, the more variables you have. A (usually) homogeneous school with five students has fewer variables than a (less homogeneous) school with 250 students. The more variables, the more real…and...the more like the real world.
I won’t concede that homeschooled kids “actually see adults they know, love, and trust solving the problems of daily living” but that children in traditional schools do not.
I won’t concede that academic study is not balanced with real schedules in traditional schools. In fact, I think real schools have an advantage over home schools in this regard because, to the extent that the end is considered, the setting is critical. Here’s what I mean. In college, you have set start times, in set rooms, with chairs that are all lined up in a row with set end times, a teacher at the front, and all the students doing the same thing at the same time. The students are diverse and different. In work, perhaps you sit in a cube, perhaps you go to meetings with set start and end times. You work on certain things at certain times. Perhaps you take work home at night – let’s call it “work you do at home” or “home work.” You are in an environment with many different people, and you have to figure out how to make it work. I’m saying the “regulation of the classroom” is a lot like the regulation in college, and a lot like the regulation at work too. Advantage, traditional schools.
In fact, the last two sentences in the italicized paragraph seem to me to be arguments for traditional schools. I always thought that homeschooled kids were learning in a more sterile environment. This suggests that while the lesson is more catered, the classroom management challenges – the challenges to the environment - are very real indeed. Is it okay if I don’t mind my kid sitting down at a desk learning adverbs if the alternative is shoveling someone’s sidewalk? Yes, it’s good to learn charity, but…as they say, charity begins at home. I can teach my child to be kind to neighbors after school.