A Fresh Look at Socialization

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On a recent Saturday night Ray and I visited friends we have known for more than twenty years (I’ll call them Matt and Tina). Their younger daughter (I’ll call her Jenny) is active in a vibrant campus ministry at our local college. Their older daughter (I’ll call her Molly) just graduated from a Christian college. Molly and her husband (who works for that same Christian university) were excited to get to come home for almost two weeks of Christmastime celebrating.

While the family was together, they spent lots of fun time watching videos of Molly and Jenny while they were growing up. Since our two families were close friends when their girls were little, Ray, John, Bethany, Mary Evelyn, and I kept popping up in the videos.

When Ray and I arrived for a visit with Matt, Tina, and Jenny on Saturday night, Matt had video cued up to show us clips that included our family. Oh, it was fun!

As I started to write about a fresh look at socialization, I realized how those clips illustrated some of the socialization our children experienced when we were homeschooling.

Good for Some Things; Bad for Others

I don’t know if questions about socialization still come up for you like they came up for us many years ago, but it hasn’t been long since someone mentioned it to me. It is true that socialization can be an issue for homeschooling families, but not for the reasons that many of the people who ask the question are thinking.

While it is true that children in school have automatic opportunities for socialization, the results of those opportunities can be mixed. Concerning school opportunities for socialization, I say the same thing “Mama” said in the old movie, “I Remember Mama” when her daughter asked her if she would like to be rich. Mama replied, “I should like to be rich like I would like to be seven feet tall. It’s good for some things; bad for others.”

School opportunities for socialization are good for some things; bad for others. Churches and homeschool groups offer socialization opportunities. While we found these to be better opportunities, they were not foolproof for us because some church and homeschool parents we knew had different standards than we did.


Socialization at Church and Around Town

Still, we did find many good activities to give John, Bethany, and Mary Evelyn socialization opportunities, and we didn’t just tack on all these activities to “school.” When we could, we used these activities as part of school.

  • Our children volunteered at various places around town. This, too, can be problematic if the other volunteers or officials are not good role models, but we had great success with this.
  • We found that youth group was sometimes a detrimental influence on our children. Eventually our girls pretty much left it completely. While youth classes were going on at church, our children often taught younger children’s Bible classes. Although I prefer age-integrated classes and we did participate in some of those, teaching younger children’s classes were a great blessing to our children. They developed relationships with the children and with their adult or teen co-teachers.
  • Ray and I also accompanied our children on some mission trips, believing that it would be better for them if we went along.
Bethany, Mary Evelyn, and John in Mexico
  • We were part of two churches during our homeschooling years which had senior citizen groups. We and our children sometimes tagged along with them. Senior groups are a great group to serve. The ones we were involved with had folks who were wonderful examples for our kids. Our children became longtime friends with some of them. One group even went on trips which became great field trips for our kids.

Friends and Family

The two best socialization opportunities for us were those within our family and the ones we shared with friends. Ray, John, Bethany, Mary Evelyn, and I spent a lot of time as a family reading aloud, watching old movies, playing games, traveling (cheaply!), visiting relatives, and going on outings.

Our Family in the 1990s

Because we did so much together, our children simply didn’t need as much socialization time. When our children were teenagers, I remember being so grateful that our children were spending time with their own siblings, who would always be part of their lives, while I grieved a little as I wished I had spent more time with my own brother when I was their ages.

Our family also spent time with other individual families, and we participated in small groups with other families. These were not necessarily families with children the same ages as our children. In fact they usually were not. Often the children were younger. This was a blessing to all of us. Our children not only developed relationships with the children, but also with their parents.

On that recent Saturday night, Ray and I watched our then-teenagers joyfully spending time with thirty-something Matt and Tina, preschoolers Molly and Jenny, and their own forty-something mama and daddy.

Your family’s homeschooling can help prepare your children to love people of all ages. Paul taught Timothy about how he should treat people of different ages in the church:

Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father,
to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers,
and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
1 Timothy 5:1-2

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