Tongue-tied when someone criticizes homeschooling based on socialization concerns? Here are the common criticisms and how to answer them. Never find yourself tongue-tied again.
It’s the WORST when you hear these kinds of things, and can’t think of a good rebuttal on the spot… Doesn’t it drive you bonkers when you only come up with a good response hours later? When it’s too late to help you? Well study up my friends – here are some answers you can prep for the all the naysayers ahead of time!
1. “Well, they’ll never learn to deal with bullies if homeschooled, and won’t know how to handle it as an adult.”
To this I say, “So does that mean if your child goes to a traditional school and is fortunate enough to fit in and not be bullied, they are actually being harmed?”
“Should we be concerned about all those kids who were too popular, who avoided being bullied a lot in school, you know, since they didn’t get enough practice being made to feel like crap and learning to get over it?”
I doubt you’d find many people who would answer “Yes!” to those questions.
I’m certainly not suggesting our kids should be protected at all costs from sadness and disappointment – they need to learn to handle those things, whether caused by people or other random life stuff. But, it is wrong to suggest that traditional schooling is the only way to learn these things.
2. You can’t protect them from everything, you know.”
This is usually said when I reply to concern #1, above. True, I can’t protect them from everything, nor should I. However, we all make choices to protect our kids from some things as they grow up, and rightly so.
Parents protect their little ones by holding their hands when they cross the street – so they won’t run off and get hit by a car.
We protect them from eating too much candy and dessert when we say “No, you’ve had enough for today and you need to fill up on healthy food.”
We protect them from staying up too late and getting cranky when we set a bedtime for them, rather than allowing them to go to sleep whenever they please.
There is an endless list of things we protect our kids from. And while we’re busy protecting them, we teach them how to deal with those things, so that by the time they reach adulthood, they will be able to deal with those things successfully on their own.
And then there are also things we protect our kids from things that we hope they’ll never deal with in real life: like abusive relationships, addictions, rampaging bears, and murderous serial killers. But we certainly don’t deliberately expose our children to those things growing up so that they’ll “know how to handle it as an adult,” nor should we.
We can educate our children on life’s perils, teach them strategies for handling the challenges and disappointments that life might throw at them, but not everything requires loads of first-hand experience in order for them to learn good ways of dealing with it.
3. Homeschooling our kids could turn them into unsocialized serial killers some day. Because there was apparently “that guy who was raised alone by his mother and homeschooled and then grew up to kill a bunch of women… “
That was a doozy that someone recently expressed to me in complete seriousness, and truly, they meant well…
Anecdotes prove nothing. These kinds of worries are waaaay overblown. Other than that, I have nothing more to say about this one.
4. “They won’t learn to get along in groups.”
Right, because their family, which they practice getting along in every single day, isn’t a group? Strangely, despite this state of affairs, they seem to get along just fine in groups, even if the group is made up of a bunch of people they’ve never met before. Personally, I think they now get bonus points for stellar performance, against all odds. 😉
And, if my anecdotal information isn’t enough (and it shouldn’t be), there is lots of research which shows that homeschooled kids end up able to handle social situations (which by their very nature often involve groups) just as well as anyone else does.
5. “They’ll be lonely.”
So the fact that they are forming closer bonds with their parents and sibling is somehow a detriment and will be a cause of loneliness? People may be surprised to know that our kids claim they are not lonely. I’m not in school, and I’m not lonely. I don’t think it should be terribly surprising that my kids would not be any different.
Interestingly, my oldest son spent kindergarten and grade 1 in a traditional school. When asked if he’d rather be in school like that, or out here with us, he says he’d rather do this. And for the record, he did fine in school, got along with the kids etc. He just prefers being homeschooled because he has a lot more freedom in deciding what to do with his day. I can’t blame him. Can you?
And besides, it’s not like anyone with half a brain wouldn’t ensure their child gets enough opportunity to hang out with other kids, homeschooled or not. There are definitely enough opportunities for homeschooled kids to hang out with others, if you’re careful to look for them – for example you can make regular trips to the neighbourhood playground when you know lots of kids will be around, or sign your kids up for lessons (ex. music, martial arts, theater etc) – there are endless options available that will give them chances to meet people. (And yes, these things are all possible even when traveling as we are.)
6. “What do they do all day? Don’t they get bored being home with you so much?”
Where to begin. First of all, if this is really a great concern, maybe we should rethink giving children in traditional school 2 long months off every single summer – you know, in case they will be bored. The poor kids who stay home with their parents all summer surely must be suffering, right?
I think we all know that’s not true for the vast majority of kids.
For most of us, the fun we had being home from school all summer was our favourite part of the year – we never wanted it to end.
And if you grew up and couldn’t wait for summer vacation to be over so you could return to school, hey, that’s cool too. I’m just saying that being away from school isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.
But to be honest, being bored once in a while isn’t the end of the world anyways. It’s important to learn how to be alone with one’s thoughts. It’s important to learn how to fill one’s time with healthy pursuits, without someone else filling your time for you. It’s important to learn how to just relax, be patient and watch the world go by.
The Life of a Homeschooling Traveling Child
As for my kids, hopefully this will give the skeptics, concerned about their boredom levels, some idea of how they fill their days.
They do their schoolwork for part of the day, of course. A large part of their day is filled with hours of playtime together, where they get to stretch their imagination, perfect the art of compromise, and practice their negotiation skills. They also spend time at the playground and pool, where they are learning to swim, plus practicing the art of reading people, and making friends with kids outside their family.
Thanks to NOT being in school, they’ve been able to see famous Unesco World Heritage sites like Angkor Wat with their own eyes, explore temples and places of worship from a variety of different cultures, learn how to interact with strangers safely (no, the vast majority of strangers are not so scary after all), learn about different cultures and languages, see that no matter where we are in the world people at their core are all the same… I could go on and on. They have thrived in a diverse range of places, from Canada to Cambodia.
They will grow up to be students of the world, with first-hand knowledge of what life outside their home country is like. They will know from first-hand experience that they can survive, and thrive, anywhere life takes them.
Guess What? There are No Guarantees
Last I checked, there are no guarantees when raising children with one’s best efforts, no matter if homeschooled or traditionally schooled.
Many people assume that if we are homeschooling, our children will never be exposed to the outside world, never interact with people outside their immediate family, never play with other kids outside their family… And that is simply not true.
Obviously their experiences in life won’t be the same as a kid who is traditionally schooled, but being different is not always a bad thing. Just like going along with what the majority is doing is not always a bad thing either.
I’m sure people can come up with all kinds of other worries about the fact that we are homeschooling our kids, and traveling “too much” or “too long” but I hope people would remember that there are concerns with traditional schooling also – neither is perfect, both have pros and cons.
And the fact is, the research shows that homeschooling does not damage a child socially, and in fact, some studies show children are better off if homeschooled, both socially and academically. I’m not saying there are any guarantees… nothing is guaranteed in life… but to treat homeschooling as some kind of horribly concerning choice seems a bit much.