Homeschooled Kids: How Do They Handle “Real” Life?

Posted on November 17, 2011 by

This is a repeat, but since I am constantly questioned about how my 5 year-old will adjust (socially, of course) since she isn’t in school, I thought I’d revisit the subject. I’ve heard these questions before- from my own kids in fact.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that my three oldest children are enrolled in public school. We are on this path for numerous reasons, and our educational history is outlined in this post. The short version is that I was unfamiliar with homeschool (how it works, what it entails, and its benefits) until my twins were ending their sixth grade year. I began to look into it, discussed it with my husband, and the decision was made that since they were so far along in their school careers, it would be best for them to stay put. Private school is not an option financially.

After more than a decade with no babies, we had a little girl in 2006 and another in 2008. Upon Little Princess’ arrival, I immediately began praying, reading, studying, and preparing for homeschool life. It has been a fascinating exploration. Not only have I been encouraged by the vast number of resources available to help us on our journey, I have also been struck by the uniformity of responses I get from people upon realizing that I have no intention of enrolling my next “generation” of offspring in school. What about socialization?`

Today, however, one of my 12 year old twins [they are now 16] expressed concern about whether or not our Little Princess will have any friends. I found the comment interesting because my kids spend almost no time outside of school with their school friends, save one girl around the corner whose mother I am friends with and who I trust implicitly. Most of their social interaction outside of school is with each other (90% of the time) and cousins who are also being raised in a Christian home. One of my other daughters wondered if their younger siblings will be able to handle “real life” in a home school environment.

They found my response surprising and encouraging all at once. I explained to them that there is no more artificially engineered environment than the one you find in the average school setting.  In real life, I don’t only associate with 40 year-old, Black mothers who have one 17 year old, 16 year old twins, a five year-old and a three year-old . In fact, I am the only  such one I know. Conversely, at school, everyone they are in contact with is the same age, in the same class, and lives in the same neighborhood. I also pointed out to them the numerous times they have come home from school angry or upset after encounters with teachers or students in class that they have no choice but to deal with again tomorrow at school: whether they care to or not. That it is not my reality. By and large, I am in control of who I spend time with and what I listen to. Let me pause and note that I respect the value in learning to love the unlovely, and unfortunately, my girls have had more than their fair share of opportunities to practice that Christian virtue. Thankfully, more often than not they have made us proud.

The reality that what they are experiencing right now is not, in fact, a snapshot of real life, was surprising to them. And it made me think of how many times I have heard opponents of homeschooling hold up socialization and diversity as reasons why kids are better off in school. Can you think of place that is less diverse than the average public school? In my area, I will admit, our neighborhood is fairly diverse from the perspective that the school my children attend is predominantly white or Hispanic. And almost none of the kids they spend time with at school are black. But the differences end there and in my opinion, race is the least important factor in any relationship behind shared faith, values, and interests.

Isn’t it amazing though, how we often assume that our reality is the only one? I know kids are more prone to that type of thinking and I don’t want to leap too far with my analogy, but it’s worth thinking about. I am well aware that my children are an anomaly in their school. When the husband decided to leave them be, we worked even harder at protecting their hearts, minds, and surroundings than we had before we stopped to take a long, hard, look at how they were being educated. I don’t think they even realize that they are much more sheltered then their younger siblings may ever be.

Their homeschooled siblings will spend most of their time with me, true, but will encounter people that I encounter-people of all ages, races, socio-economic status and backgrounds. They’ll also have plenty of opportunity to relate to other homeschool kids, but again, there will be much more diversity than the average school setting. The idea that millions of children all over the country believe that the reality they encounter every day is real life is startling and a good indication of why so many young people are unable to adjust when real life, real diversity, and real people who are different from themselves come their way. Hence, poor communication and social skills, lack of respect, and an inability to think critically when the need arises.

While I have long made peace with our decision regarding our older children’s’ education, I am thankful that this subject came up. It has given us yet another opportunity to open up a dialogue with our children and talk about school life, homeschool life, real life, and the differences between them. They had already accepted the fact that their little siblings would probably receive a better academic education by virtue of greater one on one instruction. Now they are beginning to consider the other advantages of homeschool as well. I think it’s important to have these conversations despite the fact that they are enrolled in school. My prayer: that when the time comes, they will homeschool their own kids.