Note: Graduation season is once again upon us. A few years ago, I received a copy of an essay my oldest daughter did for one of her college classes. Now if you homeschool for almost any length of time, occasionally there will fly through your consciousness the nagging thought that you are somehow ruining your children by educating them at home. (Just so you know: that’s a lie from the pit!) Whether you are in that camp already, or considering taking the plunge into homeschooling, I hope you find these words encouraging!
Yesterday, I was talking with one of my co-workers at a new job, and the subject turned to homeschooling. I told him, proudly, that I had been homeschooled from first to twelfth grade. And he gave me the customary, expected response: “How did you get socialized?“
This is not a new question to me. Since I have been in college, I have had countless people ask me how it is possible that I, a homeschooler, have turned out as socially un-awkward as I am. Apparently, it is surprising to many people to see a well-educated, articulate, adventurous, friendly girl who has never attended a “real school”. The funny thing to me is that they even are shocked! My experience is that it provided me with an exceptional preparation for life, and probably with more relevant “socialization” than traditional schools.
First, let’s address the most obvious issue: friends and friendships. True, homeschoolers do not have the daily interaction of being with dozens, or even hundreds, of their peers. But honestly, is that really a bad thing? Many times, the only thing that students in a high school class have in common is that they all were born roughly around the same time and live in the same geographic area. Sometimes there is the additional commonality that they drink and do drugs and have sex…and pressure those around them to do the same. Personally, I would rather have no friends than those kinds of friends.
But here is where the beauty of homeschooling comes in. Rather than being shunned into the corner of society or relegated to a lonely life with no one to associate ourselves with, we get to CHOOSE who we associate with and befriend. Sure, it might be a bit more difficult, but it is so much more worth it.
- When I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, I took biology and chemistry courses with other homeschoolers at a community college.
- My junior and senior years, I took several college-level courses every semester, and made friends from those classes, as well.
- I took dance classes for several years throughout my middle school and high school years.
- I played soccer and baseball in the community recreation leagues.
- I joined a Girl Scout troop.
- I acted in several community-wide plays and musicals.
- I was an officer in an all-homeschool Key Club chapter, the high-school arm of Kiwanis.
- I helped my dad and his buddies work on cars and race them.
- I was able to keep a half-time job throughout high school.
I never lacked for friends, and I was able to avoid the bad influences and peer pressure that are so rampant in many American high schools. I had lots of friends, all good, wholesome people with whom I have many things in common.
Then there’s the more generalized issue of social skills and relating to non-peers. I often wonder at the social skills of traditionally-schooled students when they relate to people unlike themselves. Pull them outside their peer group, say in a nursing home, or a daycare, or with a group of foreign exchange students, and their eyes start to glaze over and get a “deer in the headlights” look.
The nature of homeschooling forces students to learn to interact with all sorts of people. We have no problem around kids. Others, because of our flexible schedules, get jobs in the “real world”, with bosses who have well-established lives and careers. We have no problem being around older adults, either. When we meet people from other countries, instead of being uncomfortable and tongue-tied, our inquisitive minds barrage them with questions. Homeschoolers, in my personal experience, have a “flexibility of sociality”. For the most part, they can move with ease, respect, and grace from one social circle to the other, and neither party ever feels inconvenienced or uncomfortable.
I have been called sheltered many times; naive on more-than-one occasion. But that is not something that I lament, and much of it was intentional. It is quite true that I do not know the crude jokes, or misogynistic slang, or drug and alcohol-infused party atmosphere…but I don’t care to. I have had people offer me drugs, and invite me to parties with lots of beer, and make sexual innuendos around me. But, because I was homeschooled, none of this happened until I moved away to college. And by that time, I had been able to sufficiently develop mentally and emotionally so that I was able to withstand the peer pressure. The people that I hang out with know my values, in no uncertain terms.
Because I was able to avoid peer pressure until I was older, I have been better able to avoid caving-in to it: I simply don’t feel a need to change who I am to please others.
Finally, there’s the academic issue. Good homeschooling does not necessarily teach students WHAT, as much as it teaches them HOW to learn. We are not herded around in classrooms every day and told where to go and reminded of what we need to do. Many homeschoolers, especially high schoolers, basically teach themselves. When I was in high school, each fall my mother gave me my schedule for the upcoming year. Although she kept up with scores and “checked in” from time to time, it was my responsibility to stay on top of the schoolwork and make sure it got done. This taught me time-management and prioritization skills that were useful not just when I entered college, but for life in general.
It is only in traditional high schools where people are given the freedom to act like adults but still are treated as though they have the mental capacity of children…
There are pros and cons to both homeschooling and traditional schools…however, at the end of the day, I think homeschooling has the potential to better equip students for life, with the social skills necessary for surviving and excelling. I am living proof of a student who was homeschooled the “right” way. I would never ever have had it any other way!
Since writing this, Lauren has graduated from college, spent a year as a Fulbright student teaching ESL in South Korea, and completed Graduate studies at Georgia Tech, studying International Relations. A newlywed now, she blogs about her travel and personal experiences at Forging Significance, and periodically guest posts here. She delivered the 2016 Commencement speech at the graduation ceremony for the homeschool association she was a member of for many years.
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