Socialization and Homeschooling Get Married

By: Maggie
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I am intimately aware of the stereotypes and connotations that are immediately associated with that word. Oh, think they, so you must be socially awkward, you dress funny, and you think you're smarter than the average joe who has mashed his brain into the constricting mold of 'public education.' You are unsocialized. Knowing this, it has always given me a bittersweet 'kudo' when some person is surprised to find out that I rank among the Awkward Ones. Thank goodness I dress okay, and that I actually know how to talk to people. I am smart, but attribute that not to my social deviance; rather to the encouragement of my parents for me to pursue education as if it were a buried treasure.      

Socialization.

The purpose of socialization is the passing on of the core values that compose a society and its culture. It may almost be likened to an immunity-if society may be called the disease. A person cannot survive exposure to society without some amount of social immunity, awareness, and appreciation for its importance. How is this immunity to be passed on? Physically, immunities are developed by exposure to the disease, bit by bit, shot by shot, minor sickness by minor sickness. I was not immunized against Polio by being fully exposed to Polio. I had a tiny amount injected into my body at strategic times in my growing-up years. It took just these few doses immunize me, creating a medically confident indiviual sans fear of Polio.

The same course of action is necessary when ‘immunizing' socially. Children are not expected to conform to all the social norms from the time they are able to make their own decisions. My brother is two years old and very vocal. He says things like, "Maggie, why is that man fat?" and it is embarrassing-but not offensive. He is not expected to have a full awareness of social norms and innuendos at two years of age. I will tell him "Malachi, don't say that," knowing he does not understand why, and that I will have to give him another ‘dose' later on in his life when he can understand more.

The key, then, to socialization is the ‘dosage' and when and how it is administered. The core values education, religion, cordiality, self and cultural awareness, individual personality, respect for others, etc. are the focus of child-rearing. The family is where this begins. What better one to keep track of social immunization records than a parent? Universally, the parent-child bond is the strongest, and therefore should be where the most important things are taught.

The purpose of social institutions is to implement this type of socialization. If education is not prized as a core value in our society, we would not list an educational system among our social institutions. Obviously. The purpose of Education is to ensure that succeeding generations are fed the same grass that their ancestors grazed on. What dire straits indeed if a child was merely allowed to learn what he or she felt like learning! We would end up with a posse of geniuses for Harry Potter trivia who know nothing of geometry or English literature. A kind of educational anarchy that would result in a very unreliable workforce when those eighteenth birthdays started rolling around.

But one social institution cannot possibly be expected to painstakingly avoid its neighboring social institution's territory. Social institutions must overlap. For example, what school does not teach the basic principles of family? What preschool or kindergarten classroom is bereft of the classic cardboard picture book, "My Family," or "Mommy and Me," depicting our socially acceptable ideals of how families ought to be?

If Education is allowed to step on Family's toes, why then would it seem odd to reverse the equation and let Family do some of the space-invading? The ideal family is one that possesses all the powers of socialization: a balance of adults who have reached social maturity and can pass on that legacy by inculcating succeeding generations. This has a name-it is education.

In recent years the educational capability of the family unit has come into question, and it has become understood that in order to be socialized one must be immersed in an unrealistic concentration of peers in a controlled environment. An article by Kevin Swanson, a father of five, on the cons of mass education explores the true meaning of socialization. He argues that it is not a measure of contact with peers or anything having to do specifically with a school setting: "When you understand what it truly means to be socialized, this question readily answers itself. It has less to do with surviving in a room full of first graders, and more to do with honesty, respect, and the maturity to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds." Since socialization is the ‘passing on' of knowledge from one generation to another, how can this be exclusively accomplished by one first-grader to another? What first-grader is more socialized than the boy next to him?

Parents who choose to home school their children are doing so because they feel the need to be the ones to administer the ‘doses' of socialization to their children. Is it all done in the home? Of course not. The home is not society. I was not socialized by sitting at the kitchen table every day buried in my studies. I was socialized by the interaction with varying members of my family, trips to the grocery store and checking out books at the library, every day activities that educated me as to how I fit into society. I was socialized by serving at soup kitchens, participating in 4-H clubs, and going to church. I was socialized by asking my mom what types of birthday presents were appropriate to give my friends, by watching my self-employed machinist father interact with customers in his shop, by gazing in wide-eyed wonder as my older sisters put on their makeup or picked out clothing or talked on the phone with their friends. I was socialized by playing baseball on a homeschool team and going to my brothers' basketball games. I was socialized by having summer jobs and babysitting jobs. I was socialized by talking with the mail-lady when she came to the door, and watching my mom talk with the furnace repair-man.

Socialization and Homeschooling in the same sentence? Sure-but socialization does not really depend on whether or not you learn at home or learn at school. It is defined by the frequency, potency, and appropriateness of the dosage of society in a child's life. Can Homeschooling provide more diverse and complete dosages?

Maybe so.

Maggie Kercher is regular contributer to TRCB.com.

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