Socialization: What I Learned from School
Homeschooling / Unschooling

Socialization: What I Learned from School

Socialization: What I Learned from School

‘Aren’t you worried about socialization?’

I’ve spoken about the socialization issue before (here and here), but it’s the absolute number one question homeschoolers get so I think it requires some attention. When people ask if I am worried about socialization the answer is yes and no. Yes, I’m worried about it, that’s why I’m homeschooling. No, I’m not worried about it in the slightest for my kids who don’t attend school.

Socialization: What I Learned from School

People seem to have developed the belief that socialization equals school. Spending 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, with people of the same age for 13 years produces socialized adults. Really? Some of the most antisocial and unpleasant people I’ve ever met were from my time at school. When I think back to all the ‘socialization’ I learned there, this is what comes to mind…

I learned to fit in, not stand out or I might be ridiculed.

I learned to keep quiet and not offer my answer in case I got it wrong and was laughed at.

I learned that knowledge equals power. Let me rephrase, gossip equals power.

I learned that individuality was not a good quality.

I learned that girl friendship groups were based on manipulation, gossip, bitching, and power.

I learned not to defend others, it would just make me the next target.

I learned that doing well meant outdoing other people, even friends.

I learned that ‘dobbing’ on a bully would probably just make things worse.

I learned that your value as a person depends on your appearance.

I learned that it was ‘uncool’ to be too smart.

I learned that being good at sport was more valuable than being good at maths.

I learned not to sit next to the ‘uncool’ people or I might be made fun of too.

Not exactly the kinds of things we hope our kids learn are they? Sure, I made some great friends and I enjoyed my time with them, and still do! But I don’t think I learned ‘good’ socialization. I don’t think I learned the qualities I want to encourage in my own children. I didn’t learn to be kind and compassionate and accepting from school. I think I am now, hopefully! But school was not the place that fostered that.

Socialization: What I Learned from School

I do not agree that teaching socialization means sticking a group of kids together with no guidance other than punishment when they do the wrong thing. You don’t learn socialization from only people your own age, with the same level of social skills as you. You learn from being guided and supported in social situations. And you learn from watching older children and adults model appropriate behaviour and relationships. This happens outside of school!

So when I’m asked ‘Aren’t you worried about socialization?’, I think ‘Yes! That’s why I homeschool’.

Socialization: What I Learned from School


September 25, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Good points. Ideally, kids should have contact and experience with other people of all ages, not just their own age. Being socialized to the environment of a conventional school is not good preparation for the world of work and play outside the home.

When I was in the seventh grade I offered a creative answer to a question that stumped everybody, and the teacher’s response was “No, stupid!” to the approving roar of my classmates. Socialization?

Andrea (hippyhappymama)
September 25, 2015 at 4:36 pm

I totally agree. When I think about some of the things I said and did at school in order to make my friends like me (what a ridiculous notion!) I cringe. And I have many examples of the teachers basically bullying me and dumbing me down because I questioned their answers. By choosing not to engage my children in the school system I’m not trying to shelter them, but to give them the opportunity to learn about social intereaction in more natural and diverse ways, and so far we definitely see the benefits.

September 25, 2015 at 10:29 pm

Bravo!!!! Yes!!!

Alecia grimm
September 26, 2015 at 12:05 am

I totally agree!

September 26, 2015 at 6:27 am

Spot on, when my children were in school, they weren’t even getting the same socialisation as the others because of their special needs. My children are emotionally delayed and couldn’t be like the others, so they were left out. Now they interact wonderfully with people from 0 to 90, now they have been given time and guidance to learn those skills.

Rachel | Racheous - Respectful Learning & Parenting
September 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

Absolutely agree! I was the stereotypical nerd so learned much of the above plus bullying and shame. Thank you for writing this!

September 26, 2015 at 12:21 pm

so many good points!!

September 27, 2015 at 3:13 am

I love this!

We’re radical unschoolers. One thing we’re struggling with right now isn’t all those points in regard to school, but all those points in regard to groups we try to be a part of. And, it seems, we have a hard time keeping up with two little boys who always want to play with kids. They want playgrounds, or similar free-play type places, where there are a lot of kids running around, constantly. In the summer, we find the busiest playgrounds and go there, for hours every day. But in the fall and winter, when kids are back at school and weather gets too cold for playgrounds anyway, it’s really tough.

My daughter has always always had these issues in any group of people we’ve tried to fit in with: She just doesn’t quite fit in. A clique usually forms, and she’s usually not in it. She even felt like an outsider at an unschooling conference we attended.

For awhile, the local homeschool group met our needs. Lots of activities that we could show up for–play grounds, library game days, even sort-of structured events like “books and bowling” that had a book activity then bowling. There were cliques there, but we ignored them. But now they’re trying to make meetings apart from kids mandatory, and it’s becoming more and more schoolish. We’re feeling less and less welcomed there. For many of the reasons you stated above.

We’re wondering if trying to pull unschoolers from a wider geographic area for activities is the answer.

It’s not a problem for me and my husband and my two introvert sons. We’ve got our home and each other. But for my extrovert daughter and her 2 kids–they want action, with other people, often.

October 1, 2015 at 6:25 am

Yes!! This exactly. It’s uncanny the amount of times were asked about socialization as if all the public school kids are perfectly socialized. I definitely remember holding back, trying to be something I wasn’t and hoping not to stand out enough to get picked on. School was much, much crueler than the real world I was constantly warned about.

October 1, 2015 at 5:38 pm

I learnt at school that socialization means pain. Excellent post

December 7, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Thank you for confirming what I already knew, it always helps when somebody else says it!

February 12, 2016 at 6:25 pm

This was a fantastic read and 100% spot on I feel so much better for reading this and more confident to face my critics

March 19, 2016 at 3:39 am

This is the first post I’ve EVER come across to say this! BRAVO!!! And thank you so much. I have older teenage daughters and I think that I spent more time trying to defend their self esteem than anything else. I can already see my younger ones changing from who they are into people trying to be someone they think they should be. It’s so disheartening. It’s one of my main reasons for researching a new way for them to learn. I wish I had known more about other options sooner. I could have saved my older children so much unnecessary pain.

Jessica @ marvelousgloom
March 30, 2016 at 4:39 am

I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately we are not a homeschooling family as we originally planned to be, but I was homeschooled when I was younger. I remember having a bit of a shock in my first few months of homeschooling – I realized there is a whole world out there! There were all kinds of people with different backgrounds that I met going to different places. My only regret is that I didn’t leave school earlier. Socialization is the easiest part of homeschooling in my opinion! πŸ™‚

May 26, 2016 at 7:09 am

I can relate to so many of your points, it’s cringe worthy. Thank you for writing it out so clearly for all to see!

January 26, 2017 at 6:48 am

Perfect! I will just send this when I hear the question from now on!

October 13, 2017 at 7:26 am

Wow. I’ve sat through my children’s Harvest Festival at school today. It was filled with children taking every opportunity to move and talk and let their eyes wander, whilst adults told them to shush and face forward and sit still. I spent the service wondering why we are doing this; what is the educational benefit? Why are we constraining them? What are they gaining? The children wanted to be social. They wanted to discuss what they could see, what they were doing; they wanted to engage with their parents and the adults. But the constraints of the situation made that impossible – adults created a weird, socially unnatural scenario and expected the children to conform. Reading this article has made it click for me – we absolutely should be questioning what we mean by ‘socialisation’. Thank you!

November 16, 2017 at 1:00 am

As a parent who homeschools I object to some of your lessons learned. This may be true for some individuals but every child has different experiences in a homeschooled environment and in a public school environment. To lump all public school kids into the same group is unfair. I had drastically different experiences than yours at school. I saw what you are talking about and have been a part of all parts of that pendulum. I was bullied and stood up to my bully. It made things better not worse. I saw others getting picked on and stood up for them and did not make myself the next target. I was not one of the “popular” kids but had a strong group of friends in both the smart group as well as the athletic group. I am ashamed to say in elementary school is was also a bully and I look back on those years wondering what I was thinking and how much of an ass I was and hopefully that individual made out alright in life despite me.
I also learned that competition meant bettering myself as well as helping others and encouraging others to better themselves, to push beyond adversity.
I have no knowledge of the female persuasion, mentality and cliques. I was too busy enjoying life in all capacities.
My wife on the other hand had a much different experience in high school hence our decision to homeschool amongst other factors (mostly political within the school system). The only thing I struggle with in homeschooling is teaching our daughter that it is expected to stand up for the underdog regardless if it puts you in the line of fire and that everyone needs to be accepted regardless of talent or skill and that everyone deserves encouragement. That’s where extra-curricular activities come in. Both homeschooling and public education have their benefits AND pitfalls. Everyone must choose what is best for them and their family.

    Mrs. C.
    January 4, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Thank you, Carlos…as a public school educator, it breaks my heart when so many of the homeschooling parents of today’s society place us in one large group of inept babysitters. I have seen my share of these types in the over 20 years I have spent in the classroom, but I have seen and worked with so many more wonderful teachers that put their hearts and souls into each and every day they spend with the children in their classrooms. Sadly, they are the ones that do not receive the praise and recognition they deserve.

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