It is commonly thought that a disadvantage that homeschooled children face is the lack of socialization that they have with peers. I must admit that I was never homeschooled myself, but over the course of my life I have had the chance to interact with a great many homeschooled children and teenagers and I tend to find that these concerns are overrated. At least in my experience and observation, there has been no loss to the young people themselves for not having spent more than a decade involved in the sort of socialization that occurs in public schools. Admittedly, it requires a high degree of motivation for parents to be willing to homeschool their children, but children who have parents who care deeply about their learning and who are themselves very knowledgeable and articulate and able to deal well with adults socialize as well as anyone else can be expected to do. Learning to deal respectfully with authority figures and be able to speak with confidence is far more useful than thirteen years or so of dealing with petty bullying and cliques and what passes for socialization in our own decadent age.
What is it that children should learn from other children? Normally speaking, in education we assume that children are there to learn and adults are there to teach. To be sure, children can be taught to engage in self-education through reading as well as practical lessons and how-to-videos and the like. Yet we do not expect that children will have much to teach having not lived very long. What they do provide that is of value is enthusiasm and energy that has to be controlled and corralled as well as a freshness of perspective that is less cynical perhaps than those who have lived longer. But these do not amount to things that can be taught to others, but are rather things that one enjoys simply by being around them. And these benefits are actively harmed by putting children together in mass and letting them corrupt each other as tends to happen. Children in small quantities can be appreciated and can deal with adults on a one-to-one basis with a large amount of mutual respect. When children are present in large quantities, though, there is a far greater need to control that tends to harm the sort of one-on-one or one-on-few interaction that makes it easier to appreciate the individual aspects of someone one desires to educate. To the extent that someone is able to appreciate someone else on an individual level, teaching children more resembles the intensive education that one expects from graduate schools, and obviously prepares children to handle such more advanced and individualized approaches to education.
One of the things I have noticed is that a great many people grow to adulthood without being able to defend why it is that they like certain things. For many younger people today, it is enough to say that one likes something or wants something for it to be a legitimate interest. This is not sufficient in all cases. To have the self-knowledge to know why one likes something or what one likes about something, or the ability to place one’s own longings and preferences at a distance and to examine them from the point of view of an outsider is of vital importance because of the conditions we spend our lives in as human beings. We live in a world where our longings are continually inflamed and provoked and manipulated by various corporate interests, and where the ability to recognize the right way to go about fulfilling one’s longings can be the difference between a happy and successful life and immense multi-generational tragedy. To believe it unimportant to be able to rationally understand and defend our wants and preferences is a grave mistake that opens people up to a serious inability in preserving health, character, and freedom in a world that does not view ignorance as a defense against the operation of the coercive operation of the state and other authorities. But to defend one’s interests and preferences, one has to be prepared with research as well as rhetoric and one has to be able to understand oneself in light of the insight and experience that can be gained from a thoughtful apprenticeship in adulthood with loving and protective adults who have the best interests of the child at heart rather than the sort of situation in which young people tend to find themselves in with similarly clueless young people from whom they cannot gain very much insight.
At any rate, the sort of socialization that occurs among peers is overrated. An ability to socialize with those who are not one’s peers is a far more useful lesson to learn. After all, one will always be dealing with people of different generations, people who one has to find common interests and common belief systems to unite with and enjoy time with who one socializes with by choice. In addition, it is not as if families and workplaces will be run on the same way that schools are run, so the lessons one learns from dealing with cliques and intense peer rivalries are generally not successful skills if one wants to be a thoughtful and morally decent and well-adjusted adult who can move between a wide variety of social circles and deal well with people of many different backgrounds and ages. What is it that makes people afraid of the decision of other parents to homeschool their children? What is it that is gained in our own corrupt public education system that is viewed as being so important given the massive danger it places vulnerable children? When someone defends a policy that is obviously and deeply unwise and dishonest, it is well worth investigating what is truly at stake in such matters.