What About Socialization?

Paideia August 31, 2015

If you have homeschooled for more than a few weeks, you’ve probably been confronted by someone who is quite concerned about your children’s socialization. The minute you begin homeschooling, well-meaning relatives, friends at church, neighbors, clerks in the grocery store, waitresses, pediatricians, trash collectors, school board members, legislators, reporters, and folks who have never noticed you or spoken to you before all feel compelled to ask you about your child’s socialization.

As a homeschooling mom, I often wondered how Jesus would have answered the question “What about socialization?” As I pondered this early one morning, it dawned on me that Jesus had an interesting way of dealing with people’s questions, especially those of a critical or hostile nature. Consider these examples:

Question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:10).

Jesus’ answer: “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? (Matthew 12:11).

Question: “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” (Matthew 15:2).

Jesus’ answer: “And why do you break God’s commandment because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).

Question: “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

Jesus’ answer: “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for Me, then I will tell you by what authorityI do these things. Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 2:24-25).

In every one of these conversations, Jesus answered a question with a question. Interesting, isn’t it?

We, of course, don’t have certain advantages that Jesus had when He answered these questions with questions. We can’t perfectly discern the other person’s motives. We don’t always know more than the people questioning us. We are not divine authorities on any issue. Jesus can call someone else a hypocrite because He is perfect; because we are far from perfect, we had better be careful about pointing fingers.

Despite these factors, I do think we can effectively employ some of Jesus’ techniques in dealing with other people’s questions about our children’s socialization, so long as we maintain a proper attitude.

Years ago, I started answering these questions with questions of my own. The questions I ask vary depending on whether I am talking to an educator, a neighbor, a legislator, or a prospective homeschooling parent. Here are a few:

  • What is your definition of socialization?
  • Are you pleased with the socialization your children are receiving where they’re in school?
  • Do you think all socialization is positive?
  • What do think causes negative socialization?
  • What does negative socialization cost our society?
  • Who should socialize children–their peers or their parents?
  • What does the Bible say about socialization?

Sometimes people who ask about socialization just want to know if your kids have any friends or if they ever get out of the house. But socialization is a much deeper issue. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines socialization as “the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.”

I believe the biblical response to this definition of socialization is discipleship. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe everything He has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus’ call to discipleship certainly includes discipling our children. Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary gives this definition of the verb disciple: “To assist and mentor new believers to mature in the knowledge of the Lord through continual oversight of their life and through edification and discipline.”

Lawrence O. Richards, author of The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, simplifies the concept further:

Jesus defined the goal of discipling when he said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Likeness to Jesus himself is the goal God has for you and me.

What a magnificent goal for our discipleship efforts–to have our children become more and more like Jesus!

Homeschooling is a powerful marriage of education and discipleship. We can teach our children two commandments most important to God–to love Him and to serve their neighbors–as we teach them academics, as we do chores together, as we go out into the community, and as we worship together. Most socialization in a traditional school environment leads to peer dependence and a self absorbed focus on popularity. At home we can emphasize the importance of loving God and putting others first–we socialize our children by discipling them.

This emphasis on discipleship over the traditional view of socialization doesn’t mean our kids won’t have friends or know how to conduct themselves in a variety of social environments. On the contrary, most homeschooled kids are very involved in activities in their neighborhoods, communities, and churches. They play sports, sing in choirs, participate in 4H clubs, play in orchestras, volunteer in campaigns, take mission trips, teach Sunday school, and enthusiastically embrace life (most of the time). More and more, college admission personnel actively recruit homeschooled students. As counterintuitive it may seem to some, homeschool students show a strong propensity for leadership.

When all is said and done, we want most for our kids to love Jesus. This love will propel them to be involved in the lives of others–to engage and improve their culture for the good of their neighbors and the glory of God. We want our kids to know what it means to learn, live, and defend their faith. That is socialization at its finest.

Z A N  T Y L E R (Director, Apologia Press)

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Today I whipped up french toast soldiers, read a collection of stories about a curious monkey, built a space ship, battled neighboring pirates, consoled, corrected, and encouraged, all before lunch.

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