What does socialization have to do with education?

“What about socialization?” is the question I get asked most frequently when an acquaintance or friend finds out I homeschool. I could feel pressured to reel off all the social activities my child (and children) did or do participate in to sooth the mind of the person asking. I don’t do that any more. There are plenty of opportunities for kids to be social, whether homeschooled, private schooled or public school, that is a fact. I can or cannot participate in said opportunities to the comfort level of my family.

“Noah Webster, in his original 1828 dictionary, reveals to us four minimal goals of education.  He writes: “Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to [1] enlighten the understanding, [2] correct the temper, [3] form the manners and habits of youth, and [4] fit them for usefulness in their future situations…””- America’s Providential History

There is nothing in the 1828 definition of education that leads me to believe the goal is socialization. I think when people say our kids need to socialize, they may be saying that kids need to be around other people and learn to get along with them. I agree. Maybe that falls under number two and three, “correct the temper” and “form the manners and habits of youth”, those are important goals, but they don’t have to happen in a brick and mortar building, they can happen in the kitchen fixing breakfast with your siblings. A child may have to tame his temper if someone else got the last pancake. I taught my children to say, “Life is not fair, but God is good”. They may have said it with clenched jaw and steam coming from their ears, but they said it. By saying it aloud, they reinforced the idea.

Another opportunity to form the habits of youth is working together for a common goal. Take seven children, one mama and pack a lunch for an out of town field trip and you have a recipe for taming tempers and forming good habits. Another phrase I taught my children to say, “What can I do to help?” Before you get some idyllic picture of my children lining up like in the Sound of Music, wearing drapes for clothing and saying things like, “Yes, Mother” followed by sweet smiles on angelic faces, think again. When I say, I taught, that means it was a process, it was work, it took training. There may have been three children crying while I coached one of the older ones in the phrase. Forming good habits is building character. See that word, building? Think of your kids building a Lego creation, they dump out or line up all the pieces, but it takes time, an instruction book and some patience to put it together. That is how character building is. You have the pieces you need, you have an instruction manual (Proverbs in the Bible is a great place to start). You have the time, by that I mean you can survive the chaos without any character development or any taming of the temper, or you can start one Lego block at a time, sixty seconds to repeat a phrase, five minutes to help a younger put shoes on, fifteen minutes to make some sandwiches and put them in the cooler. You get the idea. If you can get along with and function with grace in your own family, you can get along with anyone.

Back to the word socialization. Like I said, I do understand what people are getting at, how do you teach your kids how to function in society, to “fit them for usefulness in their future”? It doesn’t happen just being in the same room with their peers. That can stagnate or go down hill very quickly. Just get a group of boys together and watch. After a few minutes, they are wrestling or trying to start a fire. What is missing from the equation? Number one, “enlighten the understanding” must be accomplished in degrees before a child is able to function in society. This too, is a process, it takes work and it doesn’t happen over night. A child needs to know his place in the world, that he matters, he is important, he has purpose. Then he needs to move on from there to what he can do to help.

If the goal of education in any form is to be spoon fed knowledge in a group setting where ideas are visions are NOT shared, then it will soon become stagnate. Children will be bored, then they will act up and out. There is nothing socially appealing about that scenario at all.

We must teach our children that they have a place in this world, that their ideas matter and that with knowledge comes great responsibility. If we treat them like cows, putting them in the same field, feeding them the same hay, then they will begin to form to the conveyor belt mentality. Everyone be the same. Do the same. Wear the same. Same. Same. Same. An erroneous definition of socialization, but a prevailing one.

If this whole concept of education is new to you, then take some time and re-evaluate your idea, write your definition down. Are you running around like a crazy person, dragging your kids from activity to activity (been there, done that) because you feel an external pressure to make sure your kids are socializing, all the while you have an internal voice saying slow down! Take some time to settle in your nest and do some training. You’re less likely to be reactive if you are proactive in taking the time at home to correct those tempers and form some manners and great habits. After you have some great times of training under your belt, pack up the van, head out and enjoy!