Not quite wonder woman

Socialization, Forced Association, and Age Segregation

I actually thought that the question of socialization was settled and over. I found out that I was wrong about that.

I think with every new generation of homeschoolers the inexperience of it all, the newness for them and for their family and friends is why socialization becomes a worry. Like I said, I thought we had moved on from this particular issue.

A few day ago I was talking with one of the founders of  She is going to do a video interview of me Monday morning for the growing homeschool community that subscribed to their website. As she was walking me through the topics, socialization came up. “The S-word”. I found myself unprepared and feeling defensive about something I know deep down in my bones is not a problem.

Why was I unprepared? I thought when new homeschoolers brought it up that they were just being paranoid or picking up on old issues and reviving them so they could know the struggle. After 20 years I seriously thought it was resolved. After 20 year of personally having homeschool in our house I thought there were enough grown, competent, well adjusted homeschooled adults to put this particular objection to rest.

Why was I feeling defensive? The same reason we all feel defensive at times. When someone questions us we read it as criticism.

This day was a mixture of homeschoolers and public schoolers with an age range of 5-15.

Because we all have reflexes and knee-jerk reactions. We all want to make our point. We all want other people to see our side, look at things our way. Also I know that I do make opportunities for my homeschooled kids to interact with other kids a well as adults.

Now Aditi from Lead with G.O.O.D. did in no way seem judgemental or critical, she was sincerely asking a question. So how does a 20 year down the road homeschool mom answer the question?

The 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). According to most social scientists, socialization essentially represents the whole process of learning throughout the life course and is a central influence on the behaviour, beliefs, and actions of adults as well as of children.”

Seriously think about that for a minute. ‘Socialization is a central influence on the behaviour, beliefs, and actions’ of individuals. Where do you want your children absorbing how they will behave, what they will believe, why they act the way they do? Who do you want to be the influence that determines the behavior belief and actions of your child? If socialization teaches an individual to behave in a manner approved by ‘the group’, who is this group?

Where does socializing occur? In a room full of same aged people randomly assigned and legally required to assemble together 7-8 hours a day? Who is socializing this group? The one adult put in charge? Are they ‘socializing’ each other? What is the behavior approved of by this group? Is pulling hair an approved behavior? Is drawing on walls in the bathroom an approved behavior? Is calling someone a stupid ugly poopy face an approved behavior? Is saying the f-word every third word in conversation an approved behavior? Is openly talking about getting drunk, sneaking out of the house, smoking pot, and snapchat sex approved behaviors?

I’ve come to realize that socialization may not be the correct word that people are questioning. Maybe the question is ‘whom (or is it who) do your children socialize with?’ instead of ‘what about socialization’? To partially quote Inigo Montoya: They keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I will admit to being a nitpicky stickler for words, it’s a gift and a curse. Socializing can mean interact, converse, mix, mingle, meet, fraternize, hobnob, keep company, rub elbows, circulate, associate, in other words “How do they make friends?” I feel like this is the real question. I may be wrong but it is tangled up in the concern that people have.

Maybe instead of asking homeschooled students where and how they make friends, we should ask public school kids that question. The answer sounds a little strange if you say it out loud.~~

Public school kids are divided by neighborhoods and divided again by age and then the age groups are subdivided into smaller groups called classes. Parents get very little say in any of this besides choosing to live in a ‘good school district’ to ensure there is enough money spent on nicer educational supplies and the groups their children are divided into will come from similar ‘better’ neighborhoods. Then within these sub-groups of same aged children the student can make friends. Friendship by forced association.

While confined to schoolroom a child is put in a class with a specific number of other same aged children. They are assigned certain times and days to play outside with these same children, they are assigned to a table with their class in the lunchroom to eat with everyday, they are assigned a time to use the bathroom, and I think you get the point. The only friends a child is able to make will be a same age student who is assigned to the same classroom which of course will be changing the next year and then the process starts all over again.

Instead of organically making friends here’s is a worksheet to help you out.

And instead of humans organically forming social bonds, teachers pass out worksheets on how to make friends.

There are not real world opportunities to socialize, just those constructed by a school system that is segregating people by age. Every adult in this structure is an authority figure so socializing with a grown up is practically impossible. If a student and a teacher get too friendly the the student is labeled as a teacher’s pet, the teacher can be accused of favoritism, or worse, could be accused of inappropriate conduct. Students of different ages, sometimes only months different, are located on different hallways, eat lunch at different times, and in general are inaccessible.

And what about this age segregation? We tend to think that people want to be around other people their exact age but studies show otherwise.

The ‘kids’ at my daughter’s high school graduation party, ages 7-24.

A study from the American Psychological Association notes ‘436 children, aged 1–12 yrs, were observed at home or outdoors in a middle-income neighborhood. Across all age groups, strict age segregation was less common than was expected. Ss were with same-age peers in only 6% of the observations.’ So they expected to see age segregation naturally happening but it’s not how the real world works.

In the paper “Should We Be Concerned About Age Segregation?” the author notes, “Institutional arrangements that segregate old and young persons from each other, and from other age groups, restrict opportunities for individuals to form stable cross-age relationships.” It goes on to say, “settings which facilitate mutual socialization between young and old are necessary to ensure that the young grow up with an awareness of history and cultural heritage, and the old ‘keep up with the times.’ Thus, segregation deprives both young and old of essential teaching and learning experiences.”

We don’t really need psychologist and university studies to tell us what people have known for thousands of years. It is only in the last 150 some odd years that children have been divided by age groups into grades. Without being a psychologist or psychiatrist or professional educator I can use simple logic and common sense to understand that dividing off young developing people together 8 hours a day, with people from the same age group, and making them learn the same information at the same time, where they will be tested, graded, and compared, does not create a social environment that fosters and exchange of ideas and understanding.

 “Iron is polished on iron, and a man polishes his friend’s behavior.”  Proverbs 27:17 Byington

You can’t learn socialization and how to behave from a room full of people with the same inexperience level as you. You can’t be sharpened by students who are taught the same exact things you are taught. Their can’t be a sharing of information with people who have the same teacher, eat the same food, have the same experience, and go home and watch the same television shows.

And even it you could learn socialization in an age segregated classroom how would you? You can’t get socialized by sitting in a room with 30 other people in desk facing the same direction looking at one person. You can’t get socialized who you are only allowed to talk by raising your hand. You can’t get socialized by raising your hand to talk when the teacher asks a question and then only being allowed to say the answer to the question. You can’t get socialized by being assigned who to eat with,when to eat, and how long you have to eat. (On this point my daughter who went to public school for a short time had a big traffic light in their lunchroom and if it went red it made a noise and then all talking in the lunchroom had to cease.) And you can’t get socialize when walking from point A to point B requires that you stand in a line, facing forward, no talking making sure to stay to the right side of the hall.

So, I think maybe I thought homeschool socialization was a non-issue because I see public school socialization as the problem, not the other way around. Both groups are socialized but in vastly different ways. I’ve seen both sides and I think learning socialization from parents, siblings, family, close friends, mentors, and tutors of a variety of ages and backgrounds will be a better learning experience for life and for the real world than the social experiment that public schools offer.




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