Homeschooling is often accused of being bad for a child’s socialization. This assumption is made because people don't understand the definition of socialization.
Socialization is the process by which we learn and internalize the values and expectations of our culture so that we may fulfill our roles. This is a never ending process. For instance, the role of a child at Christmas is different than that of a parent, and both are different from that of a Grandparent.
What people usually call socialization, the ability to interact well with others, is actually acquired social skills and interpersonal skills (there is a slight difference between those two as well).
How Homeschoolers Teach Socialization
So truthfully, both modes of education socialize our kids. Of course, it is minimally different subcultures but the same overarching culture.
My kids eat American food, watch YouTube, and keep up with trends like fidget spinners and video games.
However, they won’t have peers teaching them that’s it’s uncool to play with younger siblings or pressure them to act or dress certain ways.
Before I go any further, I want to be very clear. School, public or private, is not evil. It does a great service to our nation. I also don’t want to control my children’s every move or thought. However, I also don’t want to compete with immature, intellectually underdeveloped children to socialize my kids.
Homeschoolers fully take advantage of our ability to socialize our children and value our ability to be the primary influence on it.
We create a home culture and socialize our kids to it. “Home Culture” is the atmosphere we strive for in our homes, and it starts with us, the parents.
Think about what your home is like at any given time?
Is everyone glued to a screen (yes, this happens at our house, we are not a technology adverse family). Is there fighting or screaming?
Are the kids expected to help each other, with chores, or do they ignore each other? Do you spend time with your kids cooking?
Do you enjoy your home? Is it a place you can relax and be productive?
I think very intently on what our home culture is like and even wrote aFamily Mission Statement to give us a clear picture of what we are striving for. We want to emphasize education, entrepreneurship, cleanliness, the dignity of work, cooperation, character, and connection.
So how do I turn this abstract plan into a culture?
I make these things part of our daily life.
I model it as much as I can. I read tirelessly.
I am always sharing tidbits or interesting facts of what I read.
I weave science into daily life.
Someone doesn’t want to drink water before basketball? Let me count the ways the body uses water. . . .
I talk about our cultural expectations constantly, whether my kids understand fully is inconsequential.
They are learning, and it’s a never ending process; however, I don’t praise their results. I praise their work.
I stick to my guns. For example, I only take clean kids places. I ask who wants to go. Those that do, get a bath first. No bath, no go.
I set the example. If I lose my temper, if I hurt someone’s feelings, if I accidentally step on someone’s foot. I apologize.
Media is a launching point for conversations. We discuss how what we watch or see relates to our expectations. Is that character diligent? Did he do the right thing?
We spend time together focusing on connection and shared experiences. Spending time together working is as important as play. We cook together. Clean together. Do school together. We are together.
A strong home culture ensures that kids know what is expected of them. That in turn helps everyone avoid the stress of misbehavior. It builds a feeling of community and trust that we feel joy in the presence of each other.
My experience is that by making our home culture a significant part of our day, everyday, my kids have internalized it quite easily.
We have less behavior issues because my kids think it’s just a part of life. They know what is expected. They see cleaning as just another part of life.
Education isn’t just school. They know that learning to cook, clean, compromising, and everyday conversations all contribute to their education. It’s not separate. It’s life.
Establishing a home culture takes vision, time, effort, communication, and repetition, but the effort is well worth the result. Kids that grow into adults who are moral and hardworking who don’t cave to peer pressure.
What about Interpersonal Skills?
How do homeschooled kids learn simple social/interpersonal skills like sharing, taking turns and more complex behaviors like empathy and consideration?
First of all it is a myth that you must attend school to learn any social skills. Like socialization, learning social skills is a never ending process that starts at birth.
Many social and interpersonal skills are learned through day to day interaction. Each interaction has the potential to teach, and each is valuable.
Interacting with anyone, their siblings or cousins, friends, babysitters, grandparents are great opportunities to practice and learn social skills.
I would argue that homeschooled kids have more opportunity to practice these skills than traditionally schooled kids. Homeschoolers spend less time listening and doing busy work and way more time interacting than school kids.
In my experience, school was mostly: sit and listen, sit and read, sit and color, and very little group work. Our time to socialize was limited to before and after the bell, during lunch, recess, and break if we got one.
Next, I would like to distinguish between real play and interaction, and forced socialization. Forced socialization is what schools practice. All those kids don't really have a choice about what school to go to.
They aren't grouped by interests or abilities, rather geography and age.
Last, I would like to point out that there were not public schools for the majority of human history, and people were still socialized to their culture and learned appropriate social and interpersonal skills for thousands of years.
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Our parenting style is a mix of several different techniques based on age and maturity. All of our tools are founded upon respect for our children, and we do not spank or use vindictive punishments.
We want our kids to obey because they respect us and understand we are trying to protect them, not out of fear for their physical safety. And of course, at the base of all of this is also teaching our kids to recognize and deal with their emotions. But that is another blog post.
Let’s be real: There are sometimes when immediate control of a child is required of parents. We absolutely cannot let our children bite each other or stick a fork in a socket. You can teach kids to be gentle with each other protect themselves without using coercion. You just need patience and the right tools.
Kids can understand, even if they don’t have brain structure for self control yet. I completely believe, although I have no empirical evidence, that teaching kids why they should not do something will help them learn not to do it.
So with my young children, we do not spank or do times outs, though we do certainly pull them out of play if need be. We do not call them time ins, but it certainly mimics the idea. I will sit with the child and explain that they must be gentle and talk about how they feel.
1.) We frame as much of our discipline as possible through the lens of safety; talk to our kids in very specific ways to teach them what it means to be safe.
2.) Always give them choices so they don’t feel coerced.
If they are biting, I say, “Biting hurts. I have to keep everyone safe. You must stop playing because you are hurting them by biting them.”
If they are throwing, I say, “Since you are throwing toys, you are being dangerous. The toys you throw could break a window or hit someone; that would hurt them. I am going to take this toy away since you are throwing it. This will keep everyone safe.”
When we are in the grocery store, I make them hold on the cart. Whenever they let go of the cart, I remind them, “You must hold on to the cart because I must keep you close to me to keep you safe. If you let go of the cart again, I am going to have to put you in the cart to ride.”
Notice anything about the way I talk to my kids?
I avoid “not” and it’s contractions at all costs.
Not is a word that means “do the opposite”. So by using “not”, your child hears what you do not want them to do with one short sound that they probably don’t have the brain architecture to understand for several years.
“DON’T eat the chips.” -> “eat the chips” is easily understood. The N’T sound, not even a whole syllable, means “do the opposite”. That’s a pretty rich understanding, based on a single sound, that’s easily overlooked by someone whose brain is severely underdeveloped. That’s why I tell my children in easily understandable terms what they are doing, why they can’t, and how I am going to put a stop to the unacceptable behavior. My kids know with as much understanding as possible why they must stop.
Now, I am going to add the last facet of my communication style for my kids: How I give warnings. I believe that kids should get 2 chances in every appropriate situation to change their behavior, but I also practice a very specific way of warning my kids.
For example, let’s say a child is pouring water on my (concrete, thankfully) floor. I would tell them, “You are pouring your water on it floor. Water should stay in the cup. You need to keep water in the cup with self control. Either keep water in your cup or go pour it in the bathtub so the floor stays dry. If you keep pouring water on the floor, I will take it away.”
I have given my child 3 potential actions, keep it in the cup, pour it in the bathtub, or I take it away. They get their autonomy, and I get my dry floor. This is particularly effective with my kids. Although, they rarely choose the self control option, I am happy with them choosing the option where they still to explore the pouring the water out while containing the mess in the bath tub!
UPDATE: It has been 8 months since I wrote this post. AJ is almost 3, and Cayden is alost 4. Both are choosing the self control option and are able to practice self control, Well, most of the time.
Kids can learn self control with practice, and using games to practice add situational interest, a tool that helps children learn and retain new skills.
My parents didn’t teach me about money, assuming the public schools would. They did. I learned about budgets, checks, and interest. Never in great depth and sparingly in related subjects.
I never learned what passive income was or how repaying a loan starts by paying interest first so that the bank can charge as much interest as mathematically possible.
Homeschooling gives us the freedom teach our children according to our priorities so we painstakingly teach our kids about money. First, we opened our oldest a Johnny Appleseed Savings Account when he started learning to count money. He saved and spent, even saving $100 for summer camp! Watch Connor talk about Savings Accounts below!
We used this board game, Money Bags, to teach Connor how to count money and make change. Its a fast paced game (15-20 minutes) where you roll dice and collect money. You have the option to turn in coins for larger denominations and bills. The person with the most money at the end wins! We all have fond memories of this game and will use it with my 3 younger kids! I am currently working on a gameplay video so check back in a few days for that link!
Since then, we have given him money and made him earn it depending in the situation. We split up his chores into mandatory and paid so he learns that you don’t get paid to do some work and how hard money is to earn. We also are strict about making him live within his means. Rarely do we spot him money if he can’t afford what he wants.
Formally, we started with counting money and making change. Right now, we are going through a personal finance curriculum provided by The Actuarial Foundation (free here). Watch the unboxing here.
We also play Cash Flow for Kids, a board game (because, you know, #gameschooling) that illustrates the difference between active income, passive income, and liabilities. Watch us play below.
In the future, we will delve more completely into finance with him based on his own interests. We will play The Stock Market Game (this website) and help him start building a real, small business (like mowing lawns, bike or electronic repair, blogs or YouTube channels, etc all based on his interests) so, hopefully, he will be able to support himself when he graduates. Read about that goal here.
I feel like our society doesn’t prepare any of us to deal responsibly with money, but I will change that in my family.
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As a science obsessed homeschooling mom, I am so frustrated with our culture’s lack of scientific literacy. I could go on and on, from the “one study said” (spoiler— one study doesn’t make a consensus) to the little understood difference between correlation and causation. Well, I want to start by asking why do our schools only teach half of the scientific method (and completely ignore the engineering method and reading method!)?
That’s right! Schools only teach HALF of the scientific method. The research, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion flowchart we all learn in sixth grade is not where science stops.
What are our kids missing?
Arguably the half our kids aren’t learning about is the most important: Peer Review. Once a study is finished, a researcher must then publish their findings. Once published, the real science begins. Other experts criticize each finding. Looking for holes in methodology, bad data, weak conclusions, or outright mistakes and then going on to publish those criticisms. Some repeat experiments to test their reliability, and others take it to the next step.
The process of peer review is a long drawn out one that makes or breaks careers (and one’s self esteem)! Not to mention that it is how we build a consensus, defined as a large body of LITERATURE that supports a conclusion as valid. Notice a consensus is not about people’s opinions. It’s about much data supporting a conclusion.
How can we help our kids learn about peer review?
How can we teach this to our kids? Incorporate the history of scientific debate into our lessons! Paleontology offers a perfect case study in the importance of debate. Since data is sparse, it relies more on debate than other fields. There are plenty of articles talking about whether Tyrannosaurus rex was a hunter or scavenger, exactly how pterosaurs flew, etc. One could even trace debates through history! For much of the 1700s and 1800s, specialists argued whether pterosaurs were even reptiles, whether they flew, or swam, etc.
Why is this important?
Because people see headlines like “link between pooping and cancer found” and start assuming pooping causes cancer. Ok, ok, my example is obviously fictitious, but you get the idea.
Don’t forget to teach that this peer review (debate) is the most important part of science. And the heart of debate is learning about cognitive biases and logical fallacies, neither of which are in most schools' curricula.
Cognitive biases are patterns of thinking in our mind that lead us to cling to certain ideas even when all evidence provided to us supports the opposite. For example, the bandwagon effect is the willingness for one to accept something as truth because many others believe it to be true. You know on infomercials when the narrator is like "250,000 satisfied customers can't be wrong"? Yes, yes, they can. They often are. For example, Galileo was imprisoned under house arrest because he believed the earth to revolve around the sun instead of the opposite, which was the prevailing belief of the time.
Logical fallacies are patterns of reasoning that are inherently misleading. For example, when someone tries to convince you that apples will cure cancer and sends you a link of an article that a doctor wrote. The doctor's claims are meant to support the assumption that apples can cure cancer because the doctor is an expert in health. This is called "appeal to authority". The doctor knows more about food, health, and cancer than lay people do; therefore, the doctor must be correct. Yet, this is inherently problematic because they doctor may not be an expert in cancer.
This absence of knowledge leads people to make life threatening decisions, not to mention change daily habits unnecessarily. I see way, way too many logical fallacies on social media, especially within debates on certain issues like vaccination and gender debates that impact people's daily lives, y'all.
I truly believe that the absence of education about cognitive biases and logical fallacies is a blemish on the American education system that needs to be corrected to save lives, put us on a more equal footing with the rest of the world, and just plainly to make out society better.
Would you like me to prepare a curriculum that would cover cognitive biases, logically fallacies, and the importance of debate within science? Leave me a comment if so!
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Character counts in my home. I vividly remember a banner in a 5th grade classroom that said “Character is what you do when no one is looking!” I remember that it was to the left of the whiteboard, tucked back in a small alcove where the teacher kept office supplies and such. It had purple and blue on it. The Os in look were eyes. It made quite the impression on me.
This phrase has become the definition of good character for me. Character isn’t being nice because it’s expected of you or honest because you are afraid of being caught in a lie. It’s doing the right thing simply because it’s right without reward or punishment.
Why We Teach Character
I always see each moment as a way to teach character. I don't want to be a passive memory for my kids. When they are grown, I want them to realize that I spent every moment actively working to give them the best.
Modeling is the first step to teach children right from wrong. Children do what we do. Kids will not do the things we want them to, unless they see us doing them first. You can make your kids memorize a thousand character definitions but without walking the walk, all the talk is useless.
I often apologize to my kids when I model bad character. It really shows, even Connor (11 now) tells me how much he appreciates living in a family that apologizes and does not hold grudges.
Parents often overlook a fun tool that can teach character and increase empathy: FICTION!
Reading puts you in another's shoes and gives you experiences that you may have never had otherwise! It helps us to stretch our brains and get us thinking about why characters feel a certain way or why they acted that way.
How to Use this in Homeschool
Not all fiction is created equal. Pick high quality stories that focus on the character's thoughts and relationships, stories that make you want to understand why the character does crazy things.
It is important that these experiences be ones you can talk about with your kids so read the stories aloud together.
Please leave a comment if you'd like to hear more about the habit of reading aloud in homeschool.
That way you can pause to talk and reflect on the most important, puzzling, and shocking aspects of the character's motivation and resulting actions.
This is a good time to reinforce character words like responsibility, honesty, diligence, etc.
Talk about how their emotions affect their reactions. I always tell my kids that anger is like fire: it burns up all that is good and leave ashes in its place. I use every opportunity I can to reinforce this using stories (and movies!).
Explore the right reaction the character should have had.
Let your child tell your or write in their journal, what they would have done in the same spit and why.
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When possible, relate these ideas to real life experiences you have had to give your kids a jumping point to feel what they characters feel.
Last, don't hesitate to repeat this process with movies or TV shows. In fact, research shows that when parents watch, are engaged, and discuss TV shows like Daniel Tiger, their preschoolers learn much social and emotional intelligence from the experience. However, engagement and discussion are key. Without them, the kids don't learn as much.
We don’t teach our children Santa is a real person. Besides the fear that the lie will erode my children’s trust in me, I have a very practical financial reason: we can’t afford to.
Our society pressures us to pull off the perfect Christmas. Everyone needs everything on their lists. The decorations must be perfect, the food plentiful and delicious. But that’s a whole lot of stress that I don’t need.
I chose to skip the stress and tell my kids that Santa isn’t real. This doesn’t ruin their Christmas. It doesn’t take the joy out of it. In fact, it gives us an opportunity to have the best holiday we can.
What We Do
We love to watch movies, read stories, and participate in Santa culture. We make Santa crafts, and practice our “Ho Ho Hos”. My kids know and recognize him. They are not deprived of the fun that surrounds Santa.
They also know that he is just a man dressed up in a costume and an idea. We talk often about how Santa is fun, how he is pretend, how he doesn’t really come in the house, and how we are responsible for buying their presents.
Why Take the Magic Out?
Santa is a glorious example for my kids. We talk about the joy of giving, receiving, and the meaning of the season all while living within our budget. And celebrating within our means.
There are so many lessons that come out of these activities. Besides getting all the socialization surrounding Santa, they also get to learn about how Santa is folklore, we get to talk about budgeting and responsible spending. We get to explain want vs need, contentment, and self control.
Now, with all of that said here is the real deal: when my kids look at their gifts and compare them to their friend’s, I want them to know that the gifts were constrained by our budget. Not their behavior or Santa’s favor.
I want my kids to know that they didn’t get iPads or XBoxes or an expensive phone because we have to buy those things, not because Santa chose to give them cheap gifts where he chose to give their friends expensive ones.
Where the Real Magic Comes From
Christmas is always at the top of kids’ lists of favorite holidays because they get presents. But the magic of Christmas comes from generosity and love. The gifts and Santa culture are secondary.
We need to set a strong example for our kids about this time of year. Kids will not learn to take joy in togetherness, giving, or self control if we don't give them those things and model self control for them.
While I don’t begrudge my kids taking joy in the possession of things, I also want them to find joy in the giving and generous spirit of the holidays. This is an acquired taste for people of all ages. The Santa lie is the polar opposite of this spirit. Let's keep the symbolism of Santa but loose the materialism by being honest with our kids.
I want my kids to know that I didn’t spend $500 on things for each of them for Christmas on purpose. Toys break. They outgrow clothes. Things eventually disappear from our lives, one way or another.
What doesn’t slip through our fingers? Time used to build a solid relationship. Time used to make memories that will keep us laughing for the rest out our lives. Teaching my kids to bake Christmas cookies or fruitcake, make a wreath, wrap presents, or even just having a heart to heart talk is by far the most valuable thing you can spend on a child during the holiday season.
Making your Children Santa
I highly recommend using the holiday season to encourage your kids to be Santa. You can do it this on a budget and use it as a great way of spending quality time together.
With your kids, bake Christmas cookies, breads, or anything else you may have a fancy for. Then package up the goods, in pretty cellophane (available at craft stores), and drop them off at your local fire or police department, to EMTs, nursing homes, or anywhere else you know needs a little holiday pick me up.
You will never forget these memories, you kids will get to bring to joy to others, and practice self control. They won't just get to indulge in a fantasy; they will get to experience Santa.
We don’t lie about Santa because we are dedicated to sticking to our budget during the holidays, but also because we don’t want to shift the magic from the generosity, compassion of the season or our time spent together to a fictional character that we know our kids will quit believing in soon.
Homeschoolers value education, but also know that success is not equated with a degree. What alternatives are there to going to college?
Is College a waste of time?
I certainly don't think it is, although there are many problems with our system of higher education.
First of all, the cost. I went into debt for college and highly regret it.
Student debt is becoming a epidemic, preventing my generation from buying homes, or making significant investments across the board.
Second, underemployment is a problem, y'all. So much of our youth are pursuing a college degree then end up unable to find employment that matches their education level, both in pay and actual skills.
Third, my kids may not want to pursue higher education right after graduation. Forcing them to go will not produce a real education no more than force an 8 year old to read will create a love of reading in them.
What's the Alternative?
While I dream of all my children pursuing higher education simply for the dignity of it, I don’t desire to pressure them into it. There are many ways to create wealth, and a college degree is only one of those ways.
Option 1: Starting a Business
One of my favorite things about homeschool is the ability to use our time to encourage my kids to gain practical skills.
I would love to see my one of my kid's childhood hobbies become their career.
By making sure they develop a valuable skill, and monetizing it, I know they will meet independence prepared to support themselves either way.
We are choosing to focus on getting them to start a small business whether it be a blog, selling something like a craft or services, or something totally different.
They will learn about personal and business finance, how banking works, customer service, the actual skill that drives their business, patience in building a customer base, marketing skills, and how to deal with devastating setbacks. They will learn how building something great takes time, patience, diligent effort, and that it is rarely a linear process. Most importantly the work they put into their business will show them the value of work and the value of themselves.
I do not expect my children to become millionaires or work at this business their whole life. I simply want to give them a practical, valuable starting point.
However, I do dream of them paying for their own college simply because they love the dignity of education.
Option 2: Trade School
A trade school is usually a 2 year program. Offered through community colleges, these programs focus on only the skills you will need for a single profession. By the end, you are ready to be licensed.
The programs may also offer work experience programs like apprenticeships and job placement services.
Benefits of Trade School
Trades schools cost less, only take 2 years to complete, and are in high demand, like nurses and electrician.
You can also often use the credits from trade school to pursue more education later.
I urge you to consider that college may not be the best fit for your kids right out of high school. Teach and prepare them to make money through their own business or to consider a trade, first.
You will find this opens their homeschool curriculum to things that are probably more interesting to them, while teaching them they are capable of great things, and making money.
You will give the opportunity to fail, and raise form the ashes of that. Business is a social activity, too, so you will be ensuring they get to mingle more. Last, you will not be saddling them with debt or scraping to help them pay.
Please leave me a comment if you would like to hear more about children and teens starting a business, the college dilemma and why the answer is a trade, or kids who have successfully started companies.
The most annoying question every homeschooler gets is “How will your child ever learn socialization?” And we immediately launch into defending ourselves like we owe our interrogator a well thought out answer when we don’t.
This question, and our answers, show how little both parties understand the true nature of socialization.
What is Socialization?
Socialization, from a social science standpoint, is actually the process by which we learn our culture. Everything from learning to say please and thank you to Christmas traditions and what foods we eat is socialization.
So simply put, socialization is a never ending process, dependent upon our age (a grandmother’s role is much different than a mother’s), subcultures (sports, church, etc), location (expectations in the South are much different than New York City), etc.
As homeschoolers, we need to quit assuming that socialization is just about teaching our kids to play nicely or that they do not learn socialization in school settings. Schools absolutely socialize our children, and our homeschooled kids will miss out on that!
However, I am so thankful my kids will be spared the socialization of school! In my experience, school administrations do their best to teach kids great character and to enjoy academics.
It’s what kids teach other kids that makes me hesitate to send my children to school. I remember talking about how uncool it was to love your siblings, how our parents didn’t care about us during my elementary years.
During highschool, the socialization picked up from peers often includes how certain people/groups are disgusting (dehumanizing behavior), the utter waste of time that higher academics are (“I am NEVER going to use this in real life”), acceptance of (and often peer pressure to try) drugs, alcohol, and teen sex, the clique behavior, animosity towards authorities like parents, and an attitude of “I know it all”!
I don’t have the strength or ability to fight the negative peer socialization at school with positive socialization at home so I chose to skip school with my children. As mentioned here, I will let my kids attend public school during their highschool years. If I can build their character into strong, critical thinkers with kind dispositions they will be able to see the negative influences for what they are: hot air.
Homeschoolers all agree the point of homeschooling is to teach our children to love their families and academics. We are simply choosing to not expose them to the negative socialization that school settings make possible!