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The Real Socialization Issue: Catholic Homeschooling

What about socialization?!

Life as a junk drawer

This article is not about how homeschoolers have friends and interact with people just like everybody else. If it were about that, I would say that homeschooling parents go to great lengths to make sure their kids have friends and would point out the fact that there are homeschool support networks and co-ops and live, interactive online classes all over the country. I would also mention that homeschoolers participate in church activities, sports, drama, music, art, brainiac nerd camp, or all of the above at the same time. If this article were about that, I’d say: Hey everybody, we’ve got socialization covered.

But I won’t.

We’ve said all of that before – which is the real issue.

There is a reason you hear homeschoolers explain and defend themselves about socialization. It is that everybody presumes that site-based schools set the standard for how to be socialized. Supposedly, the mere fact of being physically surrounded by a group of kids your own age gives you several social advantages.

Advantage one: You have friends.

Advantage two: You learn to accept others who are different than you.

Advantage three: You grow as a person which prepares you to interact well in the adult world.

The presumption goes further than this. The rest of us need to imitate school if we want to be successful socially. So homeschoolers be like:

My kids have friends! They do sports. They do co-op. They do nerd camp!
My kids play with the neighbors!

My kids already know how to talk to adults! My 13-year old has her own business!

There is only one thing wrong with those answers. You are on the defensive.

Being on the defensive is a crummy position for an apologist – meaning someone who is called upon to explain the merits of a way of life. Here you are, a representative of homeschooling, an excellent thing! Don’t apologize for it. Be an apologist!

How? You set the terms of the argument.

I learned this years ago when I got interested in Catholic Apologetics. Say that someone knocks on your door to challenge you about some Catholic belief or practice:

Knock knock person: Why do you confess your sins to a man?

Defensive You: Because Jesus said so. It says that in the Bible right here.

Knock knock person: Here’s a different verse that says you need to confess your sins to God.

Can you spot your mistake? You accepted the terms of their argument, which is that you have to prove that your beliefs are Biblical and Christian.

Instead, turn the argument to an offensive one – without being offensive of course. Try this:

Knock knock person: Why do you confess your sins to a man?

Offensive You: You believe in the Bible, right? So do I. Do you know where the Bible comes from? The Catholic Church. It was Church Councils that decided which books were inspired by the Holy Spirit. But that didn’t happen until centuries after Our Lord and the apostles walked the earth. (For more information on this, read the classic Where We Got the Bible by Henry Graham.)

Then, if the person is still standing on your porch (unlikely), you can tell them the part where Jesus gives the apostles power to forgive sins. John 20:23

You will probably fail but at least you will have given the real argument, which is not this or that doctrine but where the authority on the matter is. You have to challenge the premise that the Bible is the sole authority on Christian practice by showing that the Church was there first. She came before the Bible and is the authentic interpreter of the Bible. Then you can talk about any doctrine or practice you want. You now have the proper context.

It is similar with a conversation about homeschooling and socialization. You have to challenge the premise that schools automatically socialize kids and that families have to imitate them to measure up to their standards.

Actually, it is families that socialize kids. Families were there first. Kids are born to parents. Brothers and sisters are born to kids. Many years after the families came to be, schools were instituted to support families. But the way people talk, you’d think it was the other way around. A representative from our local school district once told me that they sometimes “lost” students to homeschooling – as if, the local school possessed them in the first place.

Now let’s challenge the premise that socializing in a school setting is automatic.

In every school, you find kids who are healthy and kids who are not. Why is this? In most cases, the healthy kids come from healthy families and the unhealthy kids come from unhealthy families. They may be in the same homeroom. They may sit in the same row. They may wear the same plaid uniform or the same brand of jeans. But they are different.

Now let’s look at the supposed social advantages of a school setting.

Advantage one – You have friends. Okay, you probably do. You at least have kids to hang out with. Whether they are your true friends who will stick by you your whole life remains to be seen. (How many kids do you still keep in touch with – in a real way, not Facebook – now?) You have some enemies too. Perhaps you are bullied and come to dread the whole school experience. My point is that the friends thing is not automatic. It works for some and not for others.

Advantage two: You learn to accept others who are different than you. Define different. Different is subject to change. Some kinds of different are trendy; other kinds of different are anathema. People may extol diversity but we all know that some kinds of diversity are more equal than others (a reference to Animal Farm). And don’t we all know kids who come home from school and decide that Mom and Dad’s brand of different is anathema? How is this accepting others who are different?

Advantage three: You grow as a person and learn to interact well in the adult world. Granted, most adults are decent at interacting with other adults. The question is, do you learn that in school or do you learn that once you are an adult? As an adult, you have the freedom to decide who you want to socialize with and who you don’t. The ability to choose whether to sit down next to someone or not tends to make you easier to get along with.

Now let’s look at the social advantages of homeschooling.

Advantage one: Your whole family knows your friends. Your parents are friends with their parents. Your brothers and sisters are friends with their brothers and sisters. You invite a family over and it’s an automatic party. You keep these friends throughout your childhood and into your adulthood. One day you are playing horses on the floor; the next you are standing up in each other’s weddings. Eventually, your kids are playing with their kids. You enjoy good times with like-minded people who love you. This is called fun.

Advantage two: People who are different notice you are having fun and want to be with you or they think you are weird and do not want to be with you. Both are good.

Advantage three: You grow as a person and learn to interact in the adult world. Knowing that God loves you and your family loves you and your friends love you makes you a confident person. You need confidence to make it in the adult world. People you meet in the adult world notice that there is something put together about you. They come to you with their problems and ask you what the secret to happiness is.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The best way that man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.”

It is homeschoolers who socialize the way nature intended. So, next time you find yourself in a defensive mode about socializing, don’t apologize. Be an apologist.

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Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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