Real measures for socialization
I love this post by Aaron Smith about why homeschool parents are entrepreneurial. It’s a great way to look at homeschooling because in the 90’s when I launched my first startup, most people thought I was a hopeless loser and unemployed. Now we celebrate business entrepreneurship, but it makes sense to me that parent entrepreneurship is the next frontier, and, of course, people think it’s hopelessly misguided and the kids are not learning.
So that analysis by itself makes Smith’s post worth a read. But he also talks about socialization in a really interesting way.
For example, Smith points out that 2.7 million kids are on medication for attention disorders, and this is largely the result of school needing to socialize kids (boys, mostly) who do not fit into the mold of what kids should be doing all day (to prepare for factory work, mostly, but that’s another story).
Also, Smith links to data about how homeschooled kids are more likely to vote and participate in community service. Which seem like fine indicators of whether someone is attached to society at large.
And then I started thinking that when people talk about socialization, they tend to talk about social skills. But we know from Asperger’s research that social skills are innate. Each of us is born knowing how to pick up social skills, and if you are not able to pick up social skills by osmosis then you have a brain disorder.
So when we talk about how school socializes kids, we are really talking about how school makes kids care for the community beyond their own family. And then, if you go back to Smith’s data, it appears that socialization is measurable, and homeschoolers are outperforming kids in classrooms.
This makes sense. Classrooms teach kids to do what the teacher tells them and receive individual praise as a result of following the rules. But caring for society in a larger way is mostly about what looks like pissing away time. Voting, for example, is largely symbolic and you do not get a gold star for doing it. Working at a soup kitchen has no goal attached to it, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to measure if you are good at it.
So what I’m thinking now is that we can measure socialization by how much someone is willing to forgo the opportunity to have personal, measurable achievement in the name of doing something for society.
And, to be honest, I’m not great at this and I’m not great at teaching my kids this. But I do drag them with me to vote. And maybe, in the process of socializing my own kids, I will finally become less achievement-oriented and more socialized myself.
I love how your boys are sitting together. My girls often sit intertwined like that and it always makes me feel happy to see them so close.
The concern about homeschooling and social skills is just what you said. If social skills are acquired by picking them up from other people, then the concern is that homeschooled children won’t be around enough other people or around as many different types of other people enough to pick up enough social skills and function well in the world. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but I do know that your argument isn’t logical.
If socialization is defined as being around enough different people than how are public school children socialized? They are around two groups and two groups only all day every day – their own age peers who are just as lost or confused about who they are as everyone else in that age group or authoritarian teachers. The world, or at least our home school world, is WAY bigger than that. I have an only child even —- and she gets to interact with a larger body of ‘different’ all the time. I can’t wait for the day when the ‘socialization’ agrument becomes as moot as the ‘academic’ argument put forth against homeschoolers back in the day was made. People like Penelope are helping to make that happen!
Over the years, a few people have had the patience to explain to me what exactly it is they mean by socialization, when they say that homeschooling does not provide an adequate amount.
Apparently, the socialization school is uniquely qualified to provide involves learning to handle people being mean to you, being rude or cruel to you, possibly even being violent toward you. It’s about toughening you up so you can withstand “real life” which, they tell me, is this way.
I’m told the commandment that one needs to operate effectively in this world is “do unto others, as the opportunity arises.”
I have to agree, school is quite effective at teaching that. Not so much because of the teachers but because of the kids descending culturally en masse to the lowest common denominator.
And I concede, homeschooling does tend to sorely lack this kind of soul-toughening.
Brought up mainly by their own parents, rather than designated strangers, children will tend to be treated with respect, patience, consideration, even love. As a result, a child does tend to retain the naive concept–that they get from who knows where–that it is generally best to treat people as you would have them treat you. They will expect people to be reasonable and mature, by and large. They will likely have learned that acting this way is how people get along in the world with a minimum of fuss.
Is such a child, once exposed to the real world, destined to be devoured by it? This is where we may differ.
To the extent these arguments have any merit, the world is a rough place largely because of the ways we desensitize and systematically de-humanize kids. The solution is not more de-humanization, no matter what we call it.
Kids can be taught the dangers associated with the sharks of the human world without them having to be thrown into an actual shark tank.
I might copy and paste this to a file to memorize for personal use. Permission?
I’m pretty sure you can memorize whatever you want without concern for permissions. But I’m no copyright lawyer. My intention whenever I comment here or anywhere else is to set those thoughts free to roam in the public domain. :)
I read your reply about copyright laws and decided to ignore them. I will print your post because I intend to read it frequently and pass it on to my friends. I promise to give you credit for the words. I am often discouraged by people who tell me my kids need to ‘toughen up’ and live in the ‘real world’. But I am glad I can choose what world they live in now. I can prepare them for the sharks while we go to the aquarium on a weekday in October!
I’m confused why you think that voting or working at a soup kitchen would be more beneficial for society than working in a productive field where you get lots of individual attention and praise. Is the world better off because you voted in the last election or because of the businesses you’ve started?
I don’t like when people pose either/or situations such as this one. But one thing poped in my mind. The iphone has revolutionized the world, sure. But I don’t know if the world is a better place for it.
If business owners and other people of high influence were constantly reminded how low people can fall and how much need they have and that we need to be more compassionate maybe they would be brimming with ideas on how to solve world hunger, human trafficking, etc. through amazing technology rather than just create a gadget that facilitates our lives and entertainment.
do i make sense?
in a nutshell, what i’m trying to say is that yes, working at a soup kitchen or voting is propelled by caring. and if compassion for the hurting was the fuel of these entrepreneurs rather than money or the next super entertaining gadget then the world would be a better place. And then you get loads of money and praise for your good job.
While the iphone was in the works since 1995 agencies that fight human trafficking have been underfunded and understaffed. There is no technology to help the fight either. No one has put so much concentrated effort into these issues as much as they have put effort in revolutionizing technology and other things to “make our lives better.”
It makes OUR lives but no the lives of others better.
Do i make sense?
Ok, if you don’t like Apple, forget about the iPhone, what about Walmart? Who has done a better job of improving poor people’s access to food: Walmart or all the soup kitchens in the world? I don’t mean to disparage charity. I think volunteering is fine if that’s what you want to do. I just want to emphasize that if socialization means not just caring about but actually helping your fellow human beings then there is no more powerful force for socialization than the market.
you are right. Except that I don’t believe the market is a great way to socialize people and get them to help and care for society but rather a tool to do so.
when you go to that soup kitchen and realize what it feels like to give something to someone who doesn’t know if they will get any….that’s pretty powerful.
it’s powerful to be close to those people.
I personally have had many of those experiences and always try to dream up ideas where you bring the market and the charity together.
which i doubt that was the basic principle of walmart: “HEY! let’s bring all kinds of food to poor people!”
though i’m not sure, i may be wrong but i haven’t researched walmart’s founders’ intentions.
my point is, teach both. because then from one you learn compassion and you got fire in your belly to go get off your ass and do something for your fellow man. the other one helps you mobilize and actually make things happen.
Great article you have on clarifying socialization. I raise my twins at home, who are now 3, and people are amazed at their social skills. I just teach them basic interaction rules with our family, to be polite and say hi back, and they have a few friends too. Like you said, a big part is innate, and for the rest I believe the basis of socialization is at home, where you establish good relationships and carry that out to the world, a bit like an extension of the attachement bond we have with them since they’re babies. We care about them, they learn to care about other people and extend compassion.
Thanks for the link, I love the term parentrepreneurs, about fixing what is wrong in the system.
As an adult I have never encountered the kind of ruthlessness I encountered in my public school system. It is more a rite of passage than a meaningful social learning experience. My self confidence was destroyed as a child, and as an adult, now that I am out of the shark tank, I have re-built that confidence once again. I don’t think the kind of socialization you get in the school system prepares one for life as an adult. I would prefer to let my kids skip that part, and instead socialize with my neighbors, people at the museums, stores, other children and adults in various classes…in all these cases people behave more realistically — more as a society. The world is NOT composed entirely of people my same age who are all vying for attention. That is most certainly not the real world. Ok, perhaps on Wall Street the work environment can get ruthless (only guessing here) but in my job we are all civil to each other. (I don’t homeschool by the way, but often dream about it).
i know right!? i keep hearing the whole socialization issue as an argument for school but man! when i got out of school i was shocked by how sweet and nice people actually were!
I was always waiting for someone be mean and dismissing when most people were actually nice.
I finally breathed. No more high school meant no more having to be with people that made me uncomfortable but that you couldn’t call out on it.
“But caring for society in a larger way is mostly about what looks like pissing away time”
I would like this to hang on my wall, preferably in cross stitch.
your last line made me chuckle. but now i want it myself. challenge considered….challenge accepted!
so i’ll cross stitch it before the end of february!
Not to mention there is a large prison population. So us adults have weeded out the undesirables and deposited them in a place so none of us has to brush up against them in a hallway.
When you’re a kid in public school you have to face those future prisoners every single day.
Wow. I don’t know where to start with this comment. First of all, the US incarcerates more kids than any other country, so maybe that will console you – those kids are out of the school system.
But it shouldn’t console you. Because kids who need help are not bad, they just need help, and we put them in prison instead.
People who grow up poor, without two parents, without consistent homes – those are the people most likely to go to prison as adults. So it’s seems disingenuous to say they are inherently poor influences on kids. I think, rather, our society is an inherently poor influence on the future felons.
Also, there are plenty of rich white people in your neighborhood who have gotten in trouble with the law. They just have money to buy themselves out. And then they lead your kids choir. Or whatever.
I wish I were more articulate about this. i am mostly flabberghasted by the comment.
For a person who writes that “…in the nature vs. nurture debate, nature is winning by a landslide,” and “Nothing you do as a parent matters as long as you’re in the middle class…” you’re presenting a pretty pro-nurture point of view here.
I would be glad to see you back on my side of the argument, except that you have swung around all the way to the other side of me somehow.
You say that kids that are being put into prison just need help. I thought everything down to when the kid will first have sex is determined genetically.
If they have bad genes, and genes are the sole determinant, then a bad kid is just a small version of the bad adult he will inevitably grow up to be. Sometimes we get lucky and the genes are polite enough to tip us off early.
On the one hand, you say that how parents raise kids has no effect. On the other hand, you say that having two irrelevant parents prevents criminality, but having just one causes it.
It seems your head is on one side of this argument and your heart is on the other. An affliction, I hasten to add I am prone to myself.
The intellect is easily led astray, common sense–not so much.
Common sense will tend to pull you from the stark black and white poles the intellect finds so appealing, toward the grey middle, where tenable positions are to be found.
I’ll repeat what I have commented here before: the science is not settled on the nature/nurture debate. There is no simple answer. Nurture has a role, and your comment here derives merit from that fact. Nature, too, undeniably also plays a role that we’re learning more about all the time. Your points in the past to this effect derive merit from this latter fact.
The extreme of the nurture side is as dangerous as the extreme of the nature side is absurd. It can cause people to overlook behavior in kids, that in adults would be deemed criminal. After all, the kid just needs counseling or help, or they have some really good excuse, right?
As a result of this all-too-common tendency to overlook, ignore, and excuse, there may well be an over-representation of predators and victimizers in the population of kids in general and therefore in the population of schools.
I can say this much with certainty: the only time I have ever been a victim of violence, it was in school. If I was to be a victim now, I would expect the authorities to say something very different from what I recall the principal saying to me then, which was in effect, “well, you might want to avoid that kid then.”
I think you get PT’s problem: her politics don’t jibe with her view of human nature.
We’re all works in progress, Anon.
A lot of times I find the disparate elements in my own beliefs to cause some friction in my mind if not outright riot. If you’re growing, that is bound to happen.
Penelope sticks her neck out in her writing, and manages to keep a fire going here: a place for us to gather and exchange ideas, sustained just by the firewood she brings and sparks she provides.
She comes up with some wild things sometimes, but that is part of her appeal.
What Penelope might, from time to time, lack in rigor, she more than makes up for in originality, freshness, and a willingness to honestly say what she feels and thinks. And equally impressive, she tolerates people calling her out and contradicting her here–within her own space–as I just did above. For a second, imagine people coming to your place of business and arguing with you, or–as happens too often–insulting you, in front of your customers.
She demonstrates that what matters is not the point tally but that you are in the arena and getting better all the time as a result of the scuffle.
She sets a good example for those of us, like me, that struggle with putting our authentic voice out there where it will be questioned, tested, and at times ridiculed.
I like Penelope, and I find her spunky courage refreshing. I don’t have to agree with her all the time. What fun would that be?
Here, I think, we get to the most core argument in western civilization: Are people born good (Jews believe this) or are people born bad (Christians believe this).
As a Jew, of course I feel that I can argue with any Jewish teaching — it’s a core believe of the Jews that all arguments are important and no truth is sacred. That said, I cannot see another way to look at humanity except that we are all born good.
I would never look at a kid and think they are bad. I’d think they need help. They are good and someone messed them up and we should help the kid.
All people are good, and all kids are good enough to be in school with my kids. If school were good :)
When I read that comment, I laughed and thought it was a joke, like nobody would actually mean that in reality. Was it not a joke?
I meant the original comment posted by Jennifer, not the two subsequent ones.
I’m not sure Jennifer is correct, but what is so shocking about what she said? In essence, she’s saying that all children are in school. The violent ones (who go on to commit crimes as adults) are arrested and isolated from society, so as adults we don’t interact with them, but when they were children, they are in public schools, where we as children interacted with them.
As I said, I suspect she isn’t correct. Or, rather, most of the people on this blog don’t brush up against violent criminals in school because they are middle class and went to relatively safe schools, so most of the people on this blog didn’t brush up against future violent criminals when they were in school.
But whether she or I was right or wrong isn’t terribly important. I’m still wondering what was so shocking about what she said. Are you under the impression that people are all innocent and safe until they turn 18, and only then become violent?
I didn’t think it was shocking, I just thought it was a joke that was partly true — one that some might laugh nervously about. I was just responding to Penelope’s comments to Jennifer’s post. It appeared that she certainly was surprised and shocked at the comment.
It’s easy to feel sorry for them when you are a grown-up and aren’t getting your head slammed against a locker by one of them. Also, when your own children haven’t had to experience this. I suspect that if one of those violent little thugs ever did that to one of your kids, your “blame society” argument would fly right out the window and you’d be ready to kill the people who are REALLY to blame, and that would be the kid’s parents.
last week i learned about different people in need. close to me and not close to me; as far as africa actually.
i wanted to help but i don’t have much money. and i actually wanted to spend some time trying the whole “repurposing” business and making stuff that we can use out of things that we don’t need.
so i had the idea that i could cut, adjust, resew bridesmaids dresses and “sell them” but instead of having money to myself the people who get the items must donate it to different organizations or if i say, for example, “Juanita lost her job due to her illness and her health insurance will run out this month. donate that money to her and help her find a kidney donor.”
this takes a lot of work, sure. And does not reimburse anything to me money or time wise.
but the $30 I could’ve donated might now become $500, $1000, God knows what.
I don’t know if this will workout. I have to try it out on myself first. I have a few braidsmaid dresses that I want to wear to work as skirts and that’s it. so we’ll see.
but it made me think “why do i have a compulsion to help others and loading up my plate even more in the process.”
well maybe i’m well socialized! tada!
except that i am not that great at avoiding people’s feelings when I talk. The worst part is that i really don’t care.
and it scares me because i see my dad and my grandma (his mom) in that side of my personality. and thang! i don’t want to be like that but i can’t seem to help it.
i feel bad but after the fact, not before.
so maybe i’m “socialized” but not too well….
I don’t think that kids should be sent to school to be ‘toughened up’ through bullying. But what about things that are less unpleasant but important for work, like working on teams with people who don’t pull their weight or doing tasks you aren’t interested in. Does a child develop those skills if they are doing independent, self-directed learning or interacting with kids at their music lesson (or other activities)?
I thought it was interesting how Ken Robinson talks about personalized education in his TED talk. To me, it sounds like homeschooling.
I’m surprised that so many people think “toughening up” is what is meant by socialization. What is meant is exposure to people who function in the world differently than you do. This can be exposure to loud boisterous people if you come from a quiet introverted family, kids who messy when your mom’s a neat freak, kids with two moms or two dads, kids who listen to different music, kids who have a pig farm when your parents are doctors and any other kind acceptable social behavior that isn’t practiced in your house. Likewise it teaches kids what kind of behavior that might be acceptable in their hour that isn’t actually acceptable in the world at large. That is what people mean by socialization.
That’s what some people mean by “socialization,” and it’s perfectly reasonable. But there are many, many people who don’t know what they mean when they use the word or actually do mean “toughening up.” I know this because so many people who ask me “what about socialization?” respond to my question, “What do you mean by ‘socialization?’” by either being unable to answer it or by describing a process of getting used to being mistreated and working with unpleasant people.
If they were able to define socialization as reasonably as you do, it would be easy to explain that homeschooled kids often work in groups, often visit other homes, and get to experience a wide variety of environments, occupations, and personalities.
Essays like this are so important to bdroaennig people’s horizons.
I am pretty sure that home-schooled kids get plenty of exposure to different types of people, even more so than one would at school. Just because a child does not go to school doesn’t mean he sits at home by himself all the time. There is plenty of time for interacting with other kids of all ages and with other adults. The homeschooling community is very large, especially if you live in an urban area. What I have found as my kids get older is there is very little time for socialization at school. They are always working, not allowed to talk, walking in a straight line, etc.. My eight-year-old gets recess for only 30 minutes per day, and when he has physical education he doesn’t get recess. That is so little time! Home-schooled kids often have time to interact more, goto each-others’ homes, interact with other families in and out of their homes, and generally learn more about the essence of people than one learns in a manufactured environment such as school. And regarding the argument whereby a child learns how to do things he doesn’t like, or learns how to put up with others…if you are building a society of people who silently obey orders and learn how to grin and bear it, then the US form of public education is perfect! However, if you want to breed a nation of creative thinkers who change things when they disagree with status quo, then lets all be homeschoolers. We probably need some of each and it is up to individual families which path to take for their own desired outcome.
I don’t think social skills means caring about the community in a way that makes you vote. I could believe that homeschooling is better at creating socially skilled adults, but whether they vote is not a good indicator of that. Social skills are more like- the ability to lead without alienating people. The ability to disagree and move on smoothly. The ability to see when you are going too far, to read a room. How to deal with a boss (teacher) who is meticulous when you are a free spirit or vice versa. The ability to deal with dramatic people when you are stoic, or to deal with reserved people when you are expressive, how to come into a new situation and observe quickly enough to act appropriately. I think that school probably does that a little easier than homeschooling, but I also think you are probably right that it is mostly genetic.
I love this photo of your sons. It’s a great selection for this post on the subject of socialization. And it’s so in tune with the markedly different personalities of your sons – right down to the clothes. Priceless moment because they’re not fighting and they seem to be learning together in different ways on different things.
This subject always interest me. I attended public school from K-12. I don’t think the environment helped me be more social. If anything, the teasing that was suppose to “toughen” me up and help me to not be naive caused me to be more shy than I would’ve been otherwise.
As a parent who plans to possibly home-school I think that teaching them to respect others, to watch for verbal/physical cues to determine appropriate responses, how to work hard, and how to have fun will help them become socialized. Along with teaching them to have a basic respect for others whether or not they share the same beliefs. I think that most family dynamics include enough conflict to teach good conflict resolution skills. If kids don’t learn this at home then I doubt they are going to go to school and learn good conflict resolution skills. I think they’ll probably just react the same way they witness people in their home react for the most part.
I think it’s hard to raise kids into successful adults. It takes a lot of work. I don’t want to decrease my chances by having my kids being “socialized” by kids that don’t exhibit good behavior.
I take my kids (3,4, and 5)to the park a few times per week, and they have experiences to test out the things we try to teach them at home. They make new friends about every time (by friends I mean little playmates for the day). They have situations where they aren’t liked by another kid…other kids may fight among themselves…my kids may not like playing with another. These are all socialization skills things they witness that we talk about at home.
I have met several adults/young adults who were home-schooled, and they seem perfectly socialized to me. They didn’t try to bite me, and they even engaged in some conversation. I have met plenty of people who went to school who I can’t necessarily say the same thing about because in many ways they acted kind of barbaric in my opinion.
I’m not sure why there seems to be a acceptable and not acceptable amount of time that kids have to be around a large group of other kids to learn socialization. They may spend only 2-3 hours practicing tee-ball, gymnastics, or some musical instrument but still learn it sufficiently.
What a great discussion!
As a homeschooling mom (6 children, 4 school age) I get the socialization questions/concerns on a regular basis. I try to tell people that there ARE indeed kids who have been homeschooled and are socially inept. I could name several! I also tell people that I know plenty private/public school kids who are social failures. Perhaps the initial prison comment relates here.
I live in New Orleans. Just last week we had 8 people shot (several died) within a few miles of our home. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of these shooters were raised by the public schools and were “socialized” there. It’s tragic. I do realize however, that NO is an extreme situation.
Public/private schools “teaches” our children to “relate” (btw- sex is a great way to relate) to their peers in a similar age category. I suggest that homeschooled children learn to socialize across the board. Let me give some examples:
My older 4 children (age 8-14)are great with young children on the playground… they’ve learned about child development and behavior from their younger sisters. I can’t teach that in 9th grade history.
Homeschoolers learn to socialized with sr. adults. My children are often asked to sing for our church’s sr. adult luncheons. They learn how to relate to these precious members of society. I can’t teach them how to relate to Sr’s in an 8th grade PE.
Homeschooling is NOT for everyone. It’s not. But to think that socialization is a legitimate concern is bogus.
I’m new to your site; I’m assuming you’ve devoured all of John Taylor Gatto?
We’re a homeschool family for the past 8 years, after going through the blue-ribbon-school routine and being constantly in trouble for daydreaming and not working up to the teacher’s standard. I just had to remark on Jennifer’s interesting comment about putting the convicts away by the time they’re adults, but the kids have to live with those protocriminals at school everyday. As I carry a scar on my head, some capped busted teeth in my mouth, and a certain amount of PTSD every time I have a migraine (memories of being beaten up at school resurface), I’d have to say, yes, there’s some truth to what Jennifer says.
Ironically, the kids who pounded on me (“He likes you!” or “Don’t play with those kids,” or “Well, I wish you girls would sort out your problems” was all the adult help I ever got)have become pillars of society and some even apologized for being so mean. I think school violence is a total fail on the part of the adults. They are only prison wardens, to begin with, vastly outnumbered, totally uninterested in the nasty little creeps who provide a reason for their paycheck.
I’ll spare you more details, but maybe you see why I think that homeschooling conducted by alert parents is the best way to make sure kids behave in a kindly, respectful manner to each other, or work out differences before they fester or life-long complexes are set. As homeschoolers, we interact with babies, same-age kids, parents, and old people in family-sized groups, and we pursue civic and charitable activities to help the kids feel like they belong in the community.
“Socialization” in public school is just beating the kid into his bucket on the feeding chain. I truly wonder if some of those gangsters and substance abusers in prison, as well as the Suburban mean-girl Moms and bullying Dads, might be better human beings if they had enjoyed the individualized care of concerned adults in a smaller setting. If they had had a real family instead of an institution.
Your boys are adorable!
I don’t think you need to worry about their future interacting with the society: they are two and they are not alone every single day as other kids educated at home. A friend of mine was home-schooled but she lived with her brother who brought a lot of friends with him almost every day and she never had a problem of socializing in future.
It can be an option for you too: why not invite your own friends with their kids to your place and see how they get along with each other?
Picture editor free software manager,
I agree that you can be socialized while homeschooled. As Penelope pointed out “social skills are innate.” This is the ability to look at a person and read emotional cues. I see socialization as the ability to understand and react to these cues according to the rules established by the society or culture.
Homeschoolers who are kept out of the mainstream do not learn the mainstream culture, thus they miss social cues and react in a manner which can seem awkward. A structured environment is not necessary to learn a culture and thus become socialized in that culture. Exposure to the culture leads naturally to socialization.
I moved overseas at 6 years old. I learned to react in the appropriate way to social cues as defined by the people in that community. Because my father’s job took us to a remote location where no formal school was available, I was home schooled for most of k-12.
Returning to America for half of my 4th grade year, I experienced the American public school system. Through complete emersion I learned anew how to react in the appropriate manner, with plenty of mistakes along the way. This culture shock filled experience of living in America, going to the grocery store, attending social functions, going to school, etc re-socialized me.
Now as an adult, being socialized to multiple cultures has helped me to interact with the people of varying backgrounds that I encounter in my personal and professional spheres.
P.S. Penelope, I have really enjoyed reading your blog since I discovered it a couple of months ago. Thank you for the thought provoking commentary.