Monday, April 18, 2011

Socialization: My Thoughts

In my last post, I asked some questions about socialization. Here, I share my responses:

How many people do you know who did not attend grade school or high school?

Before I had kids and started thinking about this for my family, I had never met anyone who didn't go to school. There was one person in college who was known as "the homeschooled kid" and all of his weirdness was attributed to that one fact about his past. Now that I am more involved in the homeschooling community (both locally and globally online), I know a lot of people who never went to school. I can say that in my experience, I have found about as much variation in all the usual social characteristics in the unschooled population as in the schooled population.

Are you basing your opinion of unschooled people on a handful of families you have met, or maybe haven't even met but have only heard about? That is like forming an opinion of an entire country or race of people based on the same limited knowledge of them. I was guilty of it too.

Think about the five most antisocial people (by your own definition) you have ever met. Did they go to school?

Most people I have met in my life have been schooled, and my answer to this question is definitely Yes. And all this means to me is that attending school is certainly not a guarantee that one will turn out socially gifted.

If not, what do you think would have been different if they had gone to school?

If you know someone who never attended school, and is somehow antisocial, really think about this question. I think it's one of the most important ones to consider. When I was in school, it was the shyest, most awkward kids who got picked on incessantly. I don't see how that was going to help them be more social. They didn't learn how to get along with other people better. They spent their days trying to ignore the barrage of put-downs.

How did your school experience benefit you socially, then and now?

The only good things I got out of my 13-year school experience socially are two really great friendships. Other than allowing me to meet them, school did much more harm than good.

I remember being pretty outgoing and friendly as a little kid. It was fifth grade that changed all that. I can even pinpoint the exact moment that my social world came crashing down. A girl who had supposedly been my best friend for about a year, actually started a club called "The Vickie Destroyers," complete with a whole-page typed manifesto, detailing how she and a few other girls were going to destroy me. When I found out about it, she crossed out my name and wrote in a different girl's above where mine was still visible on the page.

You might think it's silly that I still remember this or care about it, but it was a big deal for my eleven-year old self. In fact, it would be a big deal if a friend did the same thing to me now. That girl accomplished her goal. I was instantly destroyed. My trust in people took a big hit that day, and was further eroded in the subsequent years I spent with the same 40 or so kids. Over that time, they made fun of me for being flat-chested, for not shaving my legs early enough, for being smart, for having braces, for not wanting to play spin the bottle with them in sixth grade, and lots and lots of other things. All of this was done behind my back, while the same kids pretended to be my friends.

This experience is not the reason I don't want to send my kids to school, but I do think about it every time someone brings up the socialization issue. School is far from being an ideal social environment for all children. And before you say you can't protect your children from being made fun of, it's going to happen anyway, I will tell you I do realize that. But they will be able to choose who to socialize with instead of being stuck with the same kids every day, whether they like it or not. My children will learn that they do not ever have to put up with abuse or harassment.

During how much of the school day is socializing allowed?

Not much, in my experience. Lunch? Recess? Maybe an hour a day? Trying to socialize at other times could get you in trouble. Most of the day for a child in school involves quietly sitting and listening.

Without school, how do you socialize (who with, where, why...)?

Now that I am no longer in school, I socialize with only people whose company I enjoy. And I have to be pretty sure they also enjoy me. I am still hesitant to trust people, and I often question whether people actually like me or not. I am usually afraid that someone in my life is upset with me, constantly questioning whether something I said or did was offensive in some way.

Thank goodness the real world is nothing like school. Thank goodness I now get to leave situations in which I am feeling harassed or unwelcome. 

I get to be with people who make me feel good about myself. I wish it could be that way for everyone.


  1. Wow. That girl was not a very good best friend. I remember in 4th grade being made fun of for not knowing who sang "I am too sexy" and "James Brown is Dead". It was just 5th graders asserting their superiority in the class though. I later found out that I was getting made fun of behind my back in 3rd grade because I just transferred from Catholic private school. They soon got to know me though and became some of my best friends. One actually was my maid of honor.

    I suppose only an hour or so in the day is ALLOWED for socializing but I did it all day long. I got scolded constantly for talking in class but it didn't do much good. I just kept talking, I couldn't help it. Also there are class projects and whatnot that require you to work with others so its probably closer to 1-3 hours a day of allowed socializing.

  2. This was great to read. I just announced that I'm homeschooling my kids (for several reasons) and have been warned that my children will turn out weird and antisocial. Ha!

  3. Oh yes, beware, the warnings will never stop. People are very concerned about this. One way to handle this is to turn the conversation around and ask how the other person's social experience was in school.

  4. School made more MORE antisocial. The last two years I've finally felt enough confidence in myself to go hang out with someone new or not worry if a person is going to like me or not. School made it worse for me.

    On the other hand my son has autism and he needs to be practicing his social skills constantly, so I have him in school...the one with the best anti bullying policy. I think he needs it.

  5. @pluckymama, Oops, just saw you already read this one, before I replied to your other comment... So anyway, I agree. I still have major issues with trusting whether my friends actually like me. I always have the feeling that someone could turn on me any second. It's a terrible feeling. :(

  6. Haha! How many adults plan their social lives around a person occupation, their dates of birth and what letter their surname begins with? because at school that determines your peer group and your seating plan. My homeschooled kids socialise with everyone we meet - regardless of generation, colour, gender, occupation, and place in the alphabet. School seriously and criminally diminishes a child's opportunity to socialise and instead teaches them that safety in socialisation comes from joining the clique that has the biggest "picking on" power. All us schooled people repeatedly heard "Be quiet Miss Ashwell, we are NOT here to socialise" No **** Sherlock!

  7. Jane! Your comment was lost for a little while after the Blogger fiasco. But now it's back! Thanks. Gotta love that "we're not here to socialize." School is not the best place for socialization!

  8. I feel the same about socialization - kids really aren't allowed to socialize much at school. (My kids do go to school, but I wish they didn't.)

  9. Thanks for your comment, Julinda. That's why it's so interesting when people bring it up as the first objection to homeschooling. It doesn't make any sense!