Public Education and Socialization

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The most comment/question we get from people who find out we homeschool revolves around socialization.

I’ve discussed previously the issue of socialization and homeschooling, so I am not going to discuss it here. What I would like to discuss, however, is the idea (or, at least, the implication) that public schooling is the source of societal socialization.

I attended 7 schools. The schools were spread over two provinces. That’s a pretty small sample size for sure, but think it does point out at least some consistency in education among some public schools.

In those 7 schools, I was taught various topics: social studies, history, math, physics, French, English, computer science, biology, chemistry, general sciences, health, woodworking, cooking, sewing, typewriting, and so on. I even had physical education classes.

What I didn’t have, however, were etiquette classes. I received absolutely no formal training on protocol for interacting with peers and superiors.

Sure, I had group work and interacted with teachers. Those experiences taught me how to work in groups and how to interact with those in authoritative positions. That being said, they weren’t the only source of my lessons in those areas.

I learnt social skills at church, in Scouts, on my soccer team, buying chocolate bars and Fresca at the corner store, in my friends’ backyards, talking to the police after pranking 911, ordering food at a restaurant, attending family reunions, growing up in a family of seven, getting into fights, working at McDonald’s, getting my driver’s licence, applying for my SIN, bartering on the price of my friend’s 100 comics, and so on.

My own experience teaches me that I learnt social skills throughout my life and because of numerous, varied situations. Going to public school does not seem to have been the basis for my current social skills.

As a result, I wonder not only if this makes the question “what about socialization” moot, but if the purpose of public school is even the point of public education.

Should the point of public schooling be to provide social experiences, which it does to a very limited degree? Should the point of public schooling be to provide instruction and knowledge?

36 thoughts on “Public Education and Socialization

  1. It’s really quite entertaining when people bring up the socialization issue. I often respond with, ‘I have found that I spent more time working some of those learned socialization behaviours OUT of my children after school more than gaining GOOD social skills!’

    We took our daughter out of school this year to homeschool her. I thought it was silly that I would more often hear ‘aren’t you concerned about her social skills’ instead of ‘aren’t you concerned about her quality of education?’ If they knew my daughter at all I’d respond by telling them I was not concerned with her social skills at all.

    It seems to me school should be ABOUT education, but that sure isn’t what people express concerns over when you leave a bricks and mortar school.
    It’s all qutie backwards, isn’t it?!

    The one thing that has been a wonderful surprise in our homeschooling experience is the friendship that has blossomed between our two children. If we hadn’t accomplished anything academically (which we have) but if we hadn’t, just the growth in our family relationships would have been enough of an accomplishment to satisfy me. :0)

  2. Some of the best friends I made were made in school (and I still have some of them as friends). My mother was very strict with us and if we hadn’t actually gone to school we would not have had any social contact at all outside of family. I should also say that a lot of the social experience in school was painful. We were the “poor kids” and so we were looked down upon by a lot of kids (and their parents) and I was picked on a lot (as was my younger sister). I did learn a lot from both positive and negative experiences, though, as painful as some of those were. Several people I know well home school their children and I have never been concerned about their socialization. I have, with one friend’s children especially, been concerned about their quality of education. As far as I have observed, a lot of people who “home school” just let their kids learn what they want (math? who needs math?). That concerns me. Socialization? Not so much.

  3. SS

    Homeschoolers do it all differently, but really the key is to help children learn to LOVE learning. The many homeschooled children I know (including my own) are getting a marvelous education in a wonderful environment. When people actively choose to homeschool, they do it for one of a number of reasons, but the main one that seems to come up, is that they want their children to be educated.

    If you are concerned with the ‘quality’ of education your friend’s children are receiving, just be patient. Not all education styles fit the conveyor belt type prevalent in most schools and this can be a good thing. If you trust that your friend has his/her child/ren/s best interests at heart, be assured, they are getting a marvelous teaching and when they are ripe and ready, they will blosson into that beautiful learning.

    No one CAN educate a child (or anyone for that matter) they can only inspire and help that desire grow. We educate ourselves. No one can make us learn unless we want to learn. And if we want to learn (as children or adults) no one can stop us.

  4. Mary – my friend’s children are wonderful giving, kind, loving children. Their home is great and their parents love them. However, basic education is basic education whether it’s in the home or at public school. My friend and I have had this discussion many times over the years. She just does not feel it is important that they learn things like math or science or even proper spelling. She feels they should concentrate on what they like and if someday they happen to want to learn math, that’s fine. This is a disservice to her children as someday they are going to have to be in the real world and try to get into university and jobs. Being great people who know all about Ukrainian Egg Colouring won’t get them into University (although it’s a great topic at the dinner table!). Personally, I have no problems with homeschooling as long as the children are being given the same basic education as everyone in the public school system.

  5. “No one CAN educate a child (or anyone for that matter) they can only inspire and help that desire grow. We educate ourselves. No one can make us learn unless we want to learn. And if we want to learn (as children or adults) no one can stop us.”

    I’m absolutely not trying to pick on you or your post, but I couldn’t disagree more on all of these statements.

    I was forcefully educated on several topics. I was absolutely forced to learn things I did not want to learn. I had absolutely zero interest in the topic and learned about it regardless.

    I also think I was a better person for being forced to learn some of those things. Looking back, I can see where I would have been lacking a fundamental understanding of some pretty important concepts, had I not been coerced into learning about them early on.

    I have personal experience of scenarios where people have been stopped from learning about topics as well. Think Hutterites or the Amish (or the LDS for that matter, but let’s not kill the thread).

  6. Rick

    You can disagree, but you can’t actually ‘learn it” unless on SOME level you want to learn it. I still stand by that statement, and unless you understand how education actually works, you won’t see the point I am making or how I am making it. It takes much pondering and study. I am not saying someone can’t try to force you to learn, but we all have free will. No matter how we may be coerced in whatever manner is used, no one can force our free will, to respond, or retain or take in, learn what we need to learn.

    I still maintain that learning is up to the student, no one else.

  7. To state that we can be forced to learn anything is basically to say our will doesn’t exist, or can be manipulated. I don’t agree with that.

  8. SS

    How old are they? Really, that can make a difference. She can’t stop them learning ‘the basics’ at some point. Honestly, unschooling does work for some children, and she, knowing them, would know what works. Does she read to them? Does she play with them? Does she take the time to show them things? Go on field trips? Explore the world around them? This is all important and very valuable education. She more than likely does teach her children the three R’s. Just not in the conventional way.

    I don’t use the public school system as a base for teaching my children. It’s too limited for my use.

  9. I was forcefully educated on several topics. I was absolutely forced to learn things I did not want to learn. I had absolutely zero interest in the topic and learned about it regardless.

    Can you expound on this, Rick? I don’t think I was ever forced to learn anything in public school, so I am interested in hearing how you were forced.

  10. Well Kim, it went something like this:

    I am in a class where I can’t leave.
    Topics are discussed.
    Through absolutely no effort on my part, somehow (probably through repeated exposure) I pick up knowledge of the topic.

    It’s like learning the melody of a tune; you don’t actively pursue the acquisition of it but you end up recognizing it nonetheless due to repeated exposure.

    “No matter how we may be coerced in whatever manner is used, no one can force our free will, to respond, or retain or take in, learn what we need to learn.”

    To carry this to a ludicrous extreme Mary, are you saying that if I were to threaten your child with death unless you learned a seven digit series of numbers, that you wouldn’t be coerced into learning?

    “unless you understand how education actually works, you won’t see the point I am making”

    Where was this knowledge acquired, Mary? Is it a resource available to the public?

  11. I am in a class where I can’t leave. Topics are discussed. Through absolutely no effort on my part, somehow (probably through repeated exposure) I pick up knowledge of the topic.

    I hardly see that as force, certainly not anything like the example you ask Mary above.

  12. I could pretend to you that I am learning, doesn’t mean I actually do it. Or you could look at it this way. You wouldn’t be forcing me because that would be motivation to make me WANT to learn. I will always maintain that you cannot force anyone to learn truly learn, against their will. Yes, it is ludicrous and it intrigues me why you always disagree with my statements on education. But so be it.

    Well Oliver DeMille for one teaches this concept as do other education experts through time. And besides that, it is common sense that we cannot have our will forced.

    By the way, Lucifer is the one who promoted forcible learning. His plan was rejected.

  13. I may not have “learned” much in school Mary, but I sure have a lot of information in my head from what I “absorbed” from being forced to sit in those classrooms all those years. And most of it has done me a lot of good.

    Sorry, I do not believe that walking through a park counting daffodils counts as basic learning. It’s nice, yes. And it should be part of every child’s school experience. But I still say that sitting down with books and – for instance -learning the times tables (lord, how I hated doing that) is necessary. One of my friend’s daughters has already had trouble getting into university because of her so-called “education”, and is having to take night school classes in order to qualify. It is all information she should have learned in her home schooling. If her parents had been doing their duty to her in regards to her education, that never would have happened. As you know, sometimes making decisions about your child’s life is necessary. It’s called parenting.

  14. Again, I am being misunderstood. I too attended public school and had great experiences and not so great experiences. I am not assuming you or anyone else didn’t ‘learn’ in school. It certainly has it’s place (public or private school). What I am saying is that I don’t need the public school system in MY home, because I don’t need it to teach my children. This isn’t casting aspersions on you or anyone else. Frankly, it doesn’t concern me what choices other people make, it only concerns me what choices I make for my children since they are my stewardship.

    All I am saying is, you may not know all the methods your friend is choosing, and it is her stewardship, no one else’s (except her husband’s) and I would prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt that if she is the wonderful parent and home provider you say, she may be doing much better than you, or anyone else, thinks. Just because someone’s style doesn’t fit into our way of thinking doesn’t mean it is automatically bad.

    And field trips often consist of more than counting daffodils. My son, 7 years old and in his first year of homeschooling knows way more about dinosaurs than I do, and more than many people (and he probably will be a paleontologist…well maybe, he could change his mind). I didn’t teach him that, he soaks it up on his own.

  15. I do not believe that walking through a park counting daffodils counts as basic learning.

    Of course it counts as basic learning. Whether it meets state/provincial curriculum requirements is another issue altogether.

    I still say that sitting down with books and – for instance -learning the times tables (lord, how I hated doing that) is necessary.

    Speaking specifically to your example, I do not think using a book to learn the times tables is necessary. For that matter, I don’t think it is necessary to memorize the times tables to know how to multiply. Learning to multiply can certainly be accomplished through practical experience (like managing a savings account for example). I’m not saying whether times tables are right or wrong; I’m saying that times tables (and particularly times tables through book learning) is not necessary.

  16. Oh and to relieve Kim’s mind, I am not closeminded and bullheaded. I just have opinions that some people seem to think are way out there. It doesn’t bother me, because it works for me, I don’t expect everyone to agree, but somehow many people think I should conform to their way of thinking. It always boggles my mind why people feel so threatened by another point of view (and I am not saying you, SS or even Rick is threatened, but some people are and avoiding the attacks can get tedious).

  17. No Mary, I don’t think your ideas are way out there. I’ve known a number of homeschooled children who are WAY more educated than I or any public schooled person will ever be. And their parents have done it like it sounds like you are doing it – with love and attention and freedom. Knowing my friend as I do (and seeing the consequences of the type of education she espouses), I can say honestly that she has done a poor job in home schooling her children (and her husband agrees – although he supports homeschooling, her methods have caused considerable tension in their home). I gave an example of her daughter taking night school classes in order to go to university – that is appalling to me (and her daughter is quite angry about it). As I said in my original post, I do not have any problems at all with homeschooling – if it is done properly. And from what I have read you and Kim certainly seem to be doing that.

    Kim – if I hadn’t learned the timestables out of a book I never would have learned them. I loathe math and numbers altogether (always have, always will). And I was being facetious about the daffodils. I taught my niece her basic primary colours from Uno cards. Sometimes play is the best way to learn.

  18. No, it shouldn’t be, but it is one of the purposes of public school and many public school educators/administrators admit this. Some people think it is more important than the education children receive.

  19. That’s a good point, SS. Times tables are a better tool for some people. That’s one of the reasons I like homeschooling: it gives us control over what tools we use for our children. That’s flexibility not found in the public system (e.g. everyone has to learn times tables). That lack of flexibility isn’t an issue for some parents. That’s fine.

  20. Well, again, I don’t know your friend, but if it is that bad, I hope her husband will intervene more. It’s part of his role too.

    Well thanks, but I just hope I can inspire them to learn and sometimes it works.

  21. RE: #11 & #12

    Being forcibly confined would meet my definition, Kim, but your mileage might vary.

    “I could pretend to you that I am learning, doesn’t mean I actually do it.”

    If you display competency on the topic, does it really matter? I completely understand being motivated to learn vs. being forced to learn – point taken on the distinction.

    What would you see as the distinguishing factor between learning and truly learning; I don’t see one at all.

    “it intrigues me why you always disagree with my statements on education.”

    This would end if you’d simply concede the point. =)
    We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this point, I guess.

    “it is common sense that we cannot have our will forced.”

    Once again we’ll have to agree to disagree, it seems. I guess I just believe in the power of indirect coercion more than you do, perhaps.

    What I don’t understand is, why, if the experts know the real way to learn, we don’t see an appreciable number of home-schooled individuals running our countries, businesses and research facilities. If it is indeed a better way to educate, why don’t I see more evidences of its’ successes?

    “By the way, Lucifer is the one who promoted forcible learning. His plan was rejected.”

    You know that I don’t believe that to be true, and I don’t really see how it applies to the discussion at hand. Are you saying that home-teaching is more Godly, somehow?

  22. Being forcibly confined would meet my definition, Kim, but your mileage might vary.

    But then that goes back to defining what force means. That’s like defining happiness as “the state of being happy”. It doesn’t provide much value to the person trying to understand the term.

    Likewise, using “forcibly confined” as an example of “force” doesn’t really clear things up. Do you mean armed soldiers guarded the door with orders to shoot if anyone left, and the windows were all barred? Was there any physical obstacle that prevented you from just leaving the room, or even just siting there ignoring what was being said?

    I am still trying to understand how you were forced to learn. Maybe my schools were different, but I never felt forced to be in any of classes and never felt forced to take in anything that was taught.

  23. “Do you mean armed soldiers guarded the door with orders to shoot if anyone left, and the windows were all barred? “

    Evidently, you’ve never met my mother…

    But seriously, being forced to be somewhere where things are being discussed will cause you to pick it up even if you try and block it out. Consider if you will my music melody example. How many times have you caught yourself knowing the gist of a song you can’t stand? It happens to me all the time.

  24. Ah, you would be surprised how many people who have run countries were homeschooled. Currently? I cannot say. In the past? Numerous leaders were homeschooled, mainly because the current main method of education (conveyor belt style schools/public schools rather where the majority of students participate) is very recent and has been more common in the last`70-100 years. It was designed for the masses, rather than everyone. The middle classes were traditionally private schooled and the upper classes/royalty were homeschooled/tutored from home.

    Ok, an idea of how many prominent people in the world, world leaders have been homeschooled?

    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein (they took him out of school because the teachers thought he was dumb), Winston Churchill, Sandra Day O’Connor, Robert Frost, Joseph Pulitzer, Andrew Carnegie,Charles Dickens, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Florence Nightingale, Woodrow Wilson, the Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, General George S. Patton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Wolfgang Mozart, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, C.S. Lewis, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Stonewall Jackson, John Quincy Adams, James Madison, Hans Christian Anderson, A.A. Milne, George Bernard Shaw, Pearl S. Buck.

    So a few non leaders in there, but some definitely influential people. And I didn’t list them all.

    So homeschoolers are in good company.

    Do I think Homeschooling is more Godly? I don’t presume to speak for God in what education He feels is the best. I would venture to guess He thinks the teacher has a greater impact than the location. But that’s just a guess. Do I think it is best for my family? Yes. For other families? Again, I don’t have an opinion because that isn’t my stewardship.

    I have a family full of teachers. My sister is a teacher, I have two aunts and an uncle who teach in the public school system. I also have 5 cousins who teach in the public school system. I have an aunt who homeschooled and I have another cousin who homeschooled for a period of time. My opinion is that we need great teachers everywhere, in the public and private schools, and at home.

  25. So if that many prominent people were home-schooled, why is it not the norm rather than the exception?

    I also don’t see very many, what I would define as ‘technical’, people in that list; Da Vinci being the standout. Does homeschooling position itself as a feeder system into the social sciences more than the hard sciences?

  26. Because of the government. You would have to study the history of education to get a clear picture of it, but the government started setting up schools to get everyone an education (started out alright) and so the current style of education where everyone is trained in the bare minimum to prepare them, number one for a job, and then for some, a career (better paying job)became more prevalent.

    No, there aren’t, but then technical positions are a more recent phenomenon. Though you could put the Wright brothers in that category as well, I would think.

    No, you will find all sorts these days. Homeschool doesn’t stick to any one type of education, but hopefully it creates thinkers who can do a myriad of things and lead out in their own field, whatever that may be. That’s my personal goal anyway, I can’t speak for all homeschoolers.

  27. I should say homeschooling doesn’t teach for any one type of future, whatever it may be. It’s meant as a type of learning that fits best for a family or child.

  28. “Because of the government.”

    But you just listed all of the politicians who were home-schooled. Are you saying these people didn’t want their own people to do it the way they did it?

  29. First, I don’t think Mary claimed they were all the politicians ever homeschooled. Second, I do not believe prime ministers and presidents set provincial/state curriculum.

    In short, your comment doesn’t make any sense. ;-)

  30. Rick,

    As Kim said. Really, if it interests you that much, I would suggest you put some research into it. I don’t have time to give you a concise explanation, as I have too much on my plate right now.

  31. Ok, I’ll ask it the long way :P

    If the best politicians who were home-schooled were to be elected to positions of power (which those listed were) why did they not make more concerted efforts to make allowances for more people to be schooled in the manner that they, themselves, were?

    Or did they, in fact, determine that the system that they, themselves, were educated in was found to be wanting and, in turn, decided to promote the public system instead.

  32. Rick, we both know that is not a question we can answer. Unless we have records as to their reasons for not promoting one type of education, then we can only guess at their intent. That being said, education is not a federal responsibility, so none of the politicians listed would have had direct influence in setting provincial/state curricula. But I believe I already said that.

  33. I don’t believe it’s a question of jurisdiction, it’s a question of clout.

    If they had, in fact, felt it was the ideal way to set up an educational system, it’s my opinion that they could have made more efforts to make it so.

    That ‘the government’, whoever that is, is looking to marginalize a better system of education (that being homeschooling’ in some sort of grande act of manipulation is a bit beyond the pale, once again in my opinion.

  34. The point is we don’t know they considered homeschooling as the ideal way to set up an educational system.

    If they did consider such, and I am suggesting we don’t know, one could argue they have made efforts to make it more so. Homeschooling is a much more viable option today than it was 20 years ago. There is a lot more governmental support (financial, recognition, etc), and more universities and colleges are accepting home schooling education as sufficient enough to meet entrance requirements. I can’t say that any of these things are a direct result of any effort of the persons Mary listed above however.

  35. Homeschooling was a normal education option in those days, so I don’t think they even considered it as something that needed promotion. AS time went on it became less prevalent due to more public schools. The government was looking how to educate the masses, and when doing that, the conveyor belt (everyone educated pretty much the same way, in a public school system) was the best option. I don’t think the government was looking at the most optimal type of education for people so much as the need to educate more people. As well, for future workers, they needed some education, and this was a way to get it.

    As far as anyone I mentioned, particularly leaders, I think they were more interested in getting the country running (at least the founding fathers).

    But research it. It is interesting to learn about.

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