The simple answer to that question, backed by empirical research, is no.
As humans, we are very social creatures and socialization becomes an important aspect of one’s personality that could eventually affect their career, their interpersonal relationships and even their well-being. Many parents who consider homeschooling are often told that their children will be “socially crippled” and this is the most common misconception.
What defines socialization?
Although no one agrees on what socialization for homeschooled students entails, there is universal acknowledgement of the fact that socialization is not a simple, one-dimensional process. As a parent, you cannot control this process because at the end of the day, this process is controlled by your child’s decisions and their interpretation of social interactions.
Before getting into the process however, we can give you a definitive answer – Homeschool programs affect socialization, but in a positive manner!
You can look at socialization in homeschoolers from two perspectives – the process and the result. While most people are interested in the results, we have to remember that the process heavily influences the results, but it is important to first assess what is usually seen before investing into it!
How does Homeschool affect socialization?
Let’s jump right into the facts and the results. We already know that home education involves a change in environment and hence, it will affect socialization but what has been observed in many research papers (for example, Stetson University’s “Homeschooling and Question of Socialization), is that homeschooled children display a more diverse circle of socialization.
Children who attend conventional schools are usually limited to interactions with children from the same age group, but homeschoolers who are exposed to a variety of social opportunities are seen to have a better socialization circle that involves people from not only different walks of life but also different age groups.
Researchers have also observed that homeschoolers maintain higher-quality friendships and better relationships with adults.
Adults who have been educated at home are seen to actively participate in social issues and also exhibit less emotional turmoil.
A Parent’s Role in Socialization
As all good things, socialization begins at home and parents play a huge role in the creation of social opportunities for their child.
The most prominent difference in socialization in the two settings is that education at home remains a relatively controlled environment.
Many argue that homeschooling promotes “parental despotism” and this could result in the development of youth who are unable to think for themselves. However, the goal at hand is not to exercise complete control; that would be unhealthy and ineffective. As a parent, it is important to create an environment that has diverse social exposure. While a conventional student’s exposure is limited to peer-to-peer interactions, homeschoolers with adequate exposure are seen to be more empathetic and considerate.
It is observed that they are inherently less peer-oriented, but this is not necessarily a bad thing – essentially, with the right exposure, one can eliminate the worse aspects of social interaction. Homeschoolers are less dependent on peer validation and this makes them less concerned about social status and encourages independent thinking – they do not conform blindly to social ideals. Home-education also leaves the parent in charge of inculcating moral values and the implications of behaviour.
With this, we understand that in observation, homeschooling has the potential to positively affect the social skills of a student but the onus of obtaining that result lies greatly upon the parent.
How do I create positive social opportunities?
Diversity is Key! Education at home gives the parent control over the exposure to stimulus and material. The issue is that misuse of this control in promoting ideas and opinions that your child should be forming independently could lead to a very suffocating environment.
For example, you may be a doctor but expose your child to the fields of arts and commerce in addition to that of science. You have the upper hand because every child’s social needs are different and you can assess and provide accordingly which is something conventional schools cannot do.
Expose your child to the world and its problems in a controlled environment rather than controlling the environment of their social interactions.
Independence in Social decisions
Constantly remind yourself that you are not the agent of socialization but are only creating opportunities for social interaction. At the end of the day, a child’s social skills cannot be taught to them. Allow your child to communicate the opinions they form about friends and people they interact with and carefully mould their opinions. Careful moulding involves not coercing them to reflect your ideals but correcting derogatory behaviour that could be racist, sexist or inconsiderate and rude.
Your child will be an active contributing party to their socialization. Do not set up meetings or activities without communicating with them first and ensuring that this is something they want to do.
Most after-school activities, either hosted privately or by institutions have individual registrations open to all. They make for great spaces for peer-to-peer interaction and can range from sports to music to art!
A large number of homeschoolers take part in multiple extra-curricular activities. With proper organization, there is adequate time left to dedicate to such activities and it not only introduces your child to competitiveness but also invites them to be a part of a group of peers who have similar interests and talents.
Some religious homeschoolers take part solely in religious activities, but branching out is necessary.
Exposure to Life
Conventional schools cannot provide an extensive social exposure but you can. Good citizens are not only empathetic towards and aware of social ills but also participate and contribute to solving them. Exposing your child to the pains of society gives them a more well-rounded perspective to form an opinion on. Participating in charity events or organising a project through which your child can help and interact with the lesser fortunate people will make them more socially aware. With older children, you can consider mentorships which involve discovering and observing occupations in the fields of their interest. Unlike conventional schools, such exposure is specifically crafted by you with the needs and interests of your child in mind and can make education more about experience-based learning.
Goal-based Exposure At younger ages, children usually are not expected to make their own decisions and also require help forming opinions. Now the previous tip was to limit intervention but how do you decide when you need to intervene?
In the formative years, maintain a list of goals with respect to social morals and values to inculcate. Any social experience you plan for your child should meet one or more of these goals but not all social experiences your child has should. Playing with friends located in the vicinity nearby also count as social interaction but this is a social decision your child chooses to carry on.
Examples of goals would be, “I want Sam to be aware of the less privileged” or “I want Diya to know about the importance of kindness”
Organising a field trip to a home for the aged or an orphanage with your homeschooling network would meet these goals.
All of this can seem very exhausting and a lot to take in at once but trust yourselves. What you can take away is that socialization in conventional schools comes with certain pains such as peer-dependence and you reduce the influence that has on your child with homeschooling and replace it with healthier social interaction opportunities.
Planning can get tough but reaching out to homeschool networks can halve the amount of effort you will need to put into this, so don’t forget to do that!
At the end of the day, you will have still invested a large amount of time into this process so be proud of yourselves.