Socialization is a Bunch of Malarkey

Every homeschool parent has heard some variation of The Question:

“What about socialization?”

In my first few years as a homeschool mom, I went to great pains to explain all the ways Kathryn interacted with other children. Now further along in my homeschooling adventure, I realize socialization is a bunch of malarkey.

Encyclopedia Britannica defines socialization as:
“the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society).”

Homeschool Socialization

The real question is, do I want my children to “behave in a manner approved by” kids their own age? Which brings me to a story about our dog.

Puppies are {sort of} like kids.

When we brought WonderDog home from the rescue group at six months old, she played far too aggressively with us, mouthing and chewing on us. Kathryn couldn’t play with her at all. We quickly taught her what she could and could not do, but we realized the problem had been caused by spending her days running and playing with many other young dogs in a rescue home. There was no adult dog to reprimand them with a nip when they got too rough, nor was there any human with time enough to train them all. She and the other dogs were perfectly socialized with other puppies — but that did not prepare her for life as a family pet. (Now, for the record, she has learned how to be gentle.)

socialized dog

It sounds a bit odd to compare puppies to children, but once I realized the reason for our dog’s behavior, I realized children can pick up this puppy-pack mentality as well. More recently, I’ve seen this with our 6-year-old daughter. After years in daycare and a year in public school, she picked up habits from her classmates — mostly in the form of a whole lot of sass. The things she talked about and the words she used came from other kindergarten mouths. Now that she’s been home nearly four months, she has expanded her conversational topics and her vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds. {Asking for “assistance” rather than “help,” for instance!}

After the kids had been here a few months, our caseworker noticed our 4-year-old’s speech had dramatically improved; he hadn’t been in speech therapy, but was having far more conversation with adults and older children than when the majority of hours in his day were spent with other four year old kids.

Life isn’t about spending time only with people our age.

Can you imagine if your Sunday school class included only people your age? Or your workplace? Or your book club? Or if you could only hang out at the pool with neighbors whose birthdays are within one year of your own? BORING! That’s not real life, but this is exactly what traditional schools expect from children.

socialized friends

From the time I was little, I learned that younger children could be a lot of fun, and folks significantly older than me were usually doggone interesting when I took time to listen to what they had to say.

These days, I am blessed with friends a decade or so younger than I am, as well as decades older. And I like it that way. I learn much from both ends of the spectrum.

Why would I want my kids to conform?

This article describes socialization this way:

Successful socialization can result in uniformity within a society. If all children receive the same socialization, it is likely that they will share the same beliefs and expectations. This fact has been a strong motivation for national governments around the world to standardize education and make it compulsory for all children…

Here’s how a dictionary defines it:
so·cial·ize (v.)

  1. To place under government or group ownership or control.
  2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable.
  3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society.

Definition #1 sounds downright scary. The other definitions seem innocuous at first glance, but do we really want to “fit in”(definition #2), or to conform to society (#3)? It is absolutely possible to be a contributing member of society without conforming to what society deems as “normal.”

I get it. I really do.

Most folks who ask about socialization mean well. They are not plotting against homeschoolers, but they are uninformed. Though I may think socialization is a load of you-know-what (and I may have to suppress an eye-roll), I do not say so. Those who have taken the time to know us well have seen for themselves that this is not an issue; those who don’t know us will continue to think whatever they want to think — but I can still reply with a gentle attempt to enlighten them about the sometimes strange world of homeschooling.


Dear Well-Meaning Askers,

The truth is, I don’t want my children socialized. I don’t want them to conform to what others think they should be. I want them to be who they were made to be, and right now, I want to be the primary influence in their lives.

To ease your concerns, I should tell you my kids are involved in all sorts of outside activities with other kids: church choir, concert band, field trips, enrichment classes, and more. Even more importantly, they “socialize” with all ages as we go about our days: helping me shop, telling the chiropractor about our memory verse for the week, talking to the man who installed our new play set, and daily interacting with older and younger siblings.

I want them to learn to care for and interact with people both inside and outside of our home. Yes, I’ve known families who have made that happen with their children in public school, with a great amount of intentional parenting, but we choose to do this through a lifestyle of homeschooling.

Read more on homeschooling and the “S-Word” from the iHomeschoolNetwork bloggers:


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There IS a socialization difference between kids who are homeschooled and are not. In some cases it’s positive in others it’s not. Picking up the ‘social cues’ of your given peer group is simply not something we can teach our kids. We can expose them to groups of kids that aren’t homeschooled but my older daughter who went to both public/private school who is now homeschooled did say that her homeschooled friends had ‘odd’ social behaviors compared to her peers. She said they acted more ‘niave’ about certain aspects of communication she and her peers took for granted. But the… Read more »


I would prefer they be naive about some things that are normal topics for kids in school. Childhood should be a time of innocence.

Zephyr Hill

I’ve met both kinds of homeschoolers: those who are socialized to a wide group of people and experiences and those whose social experience is limited to other homeschoolers just like them. I agree with you that some people ask the S question out of concern or interest. Sadly, others ask it in a critical spirit. Unfortunately, some homeschool families set others up for this kind of scrutiny by isolating their children in an effort to protect them from the world. This is their prerogative, but it tends to make others critical of homeschooling. I’m glad that your kids’ vocabularies and… Read more »


I am experiencing this right now! My 8 yr old is playing baseball this fall in a Christian league but he is the only homeschooler. I have quickly realized that he doesn’t get a lot of those “social cues” – the sarcasm of the other boys, the taunting, the peer pressure comments. And I am GLAD!!! I am so happy he is clueless when the other boys make sarcastic comments about his hitting ability or somewhat exclude him. Or when they make inappropriate comments! He is just having a ball playing ball! I’ll keep him naive for a little longer,… Read more »

Michelle C.

The point you made about same ages is dead-on. It’s unrealistic and nothing like “the real world”.


I have friends who homeschool and many who do not. We do not but we also don’t bash those who choose homeschool with questions about socialization, etc. But posts like these just add to the problem. I understand homeschoolers are defensive about their choice, but then rants begin about all the “negative behaviors” public school children pick up, or how their language is compromised, or how my kids are the ones not in “the real world” because they are in a class of same-age peers. Just one more knife in the “mommy wars” battle. Just let me be, and I’ll… Read more »


Thank you for articulating this so well!

Chandra REgan

My daughter’s social world for the first thirteen years of her life was in a Girls’ Home (orphanage). When I tell people that she’s from Thailand, they automatically assume she was most influenced by the polite Thai culture. No, she was most influenced by orphanage life, which was a very tough, “survival-of-the-fittest” environment. She came home with habits like kicking others (especially boys) if she deemed them a potential threat. So, I’d say that teaching her new social skills was high on our list of teaching priorities. While she was in public school, the teachers also worked on trying to… Read more »

Cathy Dey

Last year ended 26 years of homeschooling the youngest of five children. It has been a rewarding time for me and is wonderful to see one of my children homeschooling his children. There is so much less stress and the socialization argument is no longer valid as homeschooling has been around long enough to disprove many of the naysayers.


I’ve given up on forced socialization, as far as play-dates go. I hope this doesn’t sound cruel, but I found that the many homeschool groups that we’ve been a part of were almost always kids with learning disabilities and I started to see that it was unfair to force my kids to try to be friends with kids that they normally would not. They weren’t having fun and were always anxious to get home in time for their neighborhood friends to get home from school. As far as socializing with an array of people, my kids are shy, like me,… Read more »


Thank you for the excellent post! As a homeschooler myself, ahem, let me just say that you are 100% right in every aspect! Through the years I have been able to go up and have a conversation with anyone, even “scary” grown-ups that my public schooled friends wouldn’t speak to. I am plenty capable of surviving away from home and around people I don’t know because my mother didn’t “socialize” me. 🙂


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