DISCLAIMER: I am not trying to convince you to home school, or even saying that it is the only way. I am answering the questions of those who have asked politely, and those who have criticized. These are the reasons why I made my decisions. I believe that God is calling me to this, and I am simply answering the call.
It is an inevitable part of any home school parent's life. I totally understand all of the questions. I had them too at one time. And let's face it, TV shows like Law and Order do their best to portray the darkest side of anything- including home education. People tend to think of home school families as Amish-looking kids that neurotic parents hide away from the world. When public schooling has become the "norm" it is normal for people to have questions for those of us who choose a different path.
So, this is the BIG question. "What about socialization?" Almost everyone I talk to asks that question eventually. I want to encourage you to look at the issue in a different light.
First of all, most home school families do not hide their kids away from the world. They may socialize in different circles than you do making it seem like they never come out, but they do. My kids have friends at our co-op, at church, and in our neighborhood. They have even made "one-day friends" with a girl at the mall. (We ended up having lunch with her and her mother that day-I had never met them before..) My kids all go to the grocery store and anywhere else I need to go with me. Chances are, they see much more of the world than their government educated counterparts.
A couple of years ago, I had a friend attack me a bit. She was frustrated with the personalities of those around her and told me that I wasn't adequately preparing my kids for the real world. She told me that they needed to deal with difficult people in order to survive. I can understand her point of view, but I believe that it was quite short-sighted. When I was young and had to deal with friend "drama," I didn't come home and share every detail with my mom. I really had no constructive guidance on how to deal with issues when they arose. We have all read Lord of the Flies right? We do know what happens when kids are left to govern themselves.......right? Without close parental supervision and intervention, even siblings can end up being the worst of enemies. Oh....do I have stories to tell!
It doesn't have to be that way!!
I don't claim to have any magic formulas. I don't know how to cook a kid so properly that they never argue or complain. I do know, however, that there are people out there who actually enjoy their kids teenage years. We are so accustomed to thinking of teens as moody, argumentative, and unpleasant, that when we see kids that aren't that way we think them weird! I will tell you what I suspect is up. Ask me in 8-10 years and I will tell you if I was right. I have already said it. Kids need supervision. The don't grow up to be stellar people all by themselves. But, if you are away from your kids 8 hours a day, 9 months a year, you might have very little idea what is really going on in their lives. I can tell you from experience--my mom had very little knowledge of what was really going on in my life. Only what she saw. On the contrary, if you kids grow up with a wise parent guiding them through almost every situation, things might be a little different. Before compulsory education, this was the norm. We would be ignorant to say that respect and manners in kids have improved over time. (what planet would that be on?)
There is another great irony beneath all of this. I have had people tell me that their kids were failing 3 subjects in school because they do not care about their school work, all they care about is their friends, and in the same breath ask me "what about socialization? How do you socialize your kids?" Really? If we think about this, I should have been asking them, "what about education?" Socialization can be negative at times. I remember sitting in Mr. Sly's chemistry class in high school praying he wouldn't call on me, all the time thinking about what I was doing Friday night, what so and so said about me, I can't believe he likes her...etc.. I did terrible in chemistry and hated the class. With my past and most of my friends behind me, I took a college chemistry course and got the highest grade in the class. I could have done that in high school. I just didn't care. My social life was much more important. I do wonder from time to time what I could have accomplished had I really tried.
I have saved the most obvious for last. My kids will never be exposed to drugs, alcohol, or lewd behavior in my home. It is not that they won't understand what these things are. We have already had a talk about Miley Cyrus and her "bong" incident. They know Elvis and Micheal Jackson both died of drug overdoses. They know that alcohol affects your behavior and destroys your liver. They know that this is not normal. They know it doesn't glorify God. It is most likely that they will not have friends who encourage them to try these things. I'm not saying that they will never face the temptation, but hopefully they will confront it when they are old enough and mature enough to know that it doesn't matter what their friends think. My prayer for them is the Christ will be their best friend, and that they will seek to honor Him.
I realize that everyone is different. I know there are home-school families with kids who have problems. I will say with all boldness--it's not because they are home schooled. I am honest enough with myself to know that when my kids behave badly it is a reflection of me. In this day and age, people want to blame everything on a disorder instead of taking responsibility. (yes, there are real disorders out there.....no angry mail please...) It is pretty plain to me that those who discipline their kids have well-behaved kids and those who don't--well, don't. I want my kids to be well-disciplined. I want them to care about what God's Word says about their lives and how they should behave.
All of this to say: socialization isn't an issue. Kids who have good role models by their side day in and day out will do just fine without all of the "issues." So next time you tell me about your kid and their school, don't be surprised if I ask you.....what about socialization??