Mrs. Karen, You are Laughing At Real People

Homeschool Socialization — Mrs. Karen, You are Laughing At Real People

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on May 16, 2013.


I found this comment on HSLDA’s FB page, persumably by some homeschool mom who has been trained to laugh at the socialization question. And it made me angry.  See, it’s fine if homeschool parents want to tell their stories about how they were socially awkward as public school kids, or how they are a social misfit. I will not laugh at their stories. But you know what, when homeschool parents laugh at the homeschool socialization question, they are actually laughing at real people. We have stories, too.

Mrs. Karen, you are laughing at real people.



I used to say those things myself. Homeschoolers may often be more comfortable with people of other ages. It can be quite difficult for homeschool grads to socialize with people their own age – even with other homeschoolers. My siblings and I made some rough transitions as we learned socialization skills as adults despite our childhood of being able to talk to adults and those younger than we were. We were praised for being so polite and chatty, but we were sadly mis-socialized. Many homeschool grads have written blog posts about learning to talk to people their own age. There is another side to the story of socialization if you care to hear it from us.


I am credible to comment concerning this issue, as I was home schooled until I was thirteen years old, in a Christian home, I know many home schooler’s, used a curriculum, joined every homeschool-er socialising group out there, from p.e, to art, etc. You get it, I’m sure.

On to my point. I’d agree, homeschooler’s are not unsocialized one bit; the problem is that they are negatively, over demographically socialized. They socialize mostly with homeschooler’s, or Mommy’s friend’s that aren’t homeschooler’s, their worldview is almost entirely adopted from your own, and they are, in every view to You, an the rest of the world, productive, socialised, intelligent, etc. You ask them, and they will never think they are unsocialized or weird- because they wouldn’t know what it is like to be normal.

It isn’t that they’re bad… perhaps they are better. But they are very naive to the way the world really works. We all want to protect our children from anything that might hurt them. But if we never let them go outside so that they can see they’ll get hit by cars if they cross the street, then when they finally do go outside, they will get hit. Or worse, they will never go outside, and it will become a hereditary, narrowly exposed subculture, another one of the many minorities that the majority may rule, but have the irritation of providing rights.


I hope you ponder this though, I’ve been through homeschooling, private schooling, public schooling, college, and corporate work environment, and my interaction and ability to network, succeed and attain would have been severely stunted had I never learned HOW the world works. It is correct that i would be just as qualified and intelligent, if not more, to obtain my job and gpa, but it isn’t just about how smart you are, in the world. And as sad as it is, It’s true.


I remember feeling this way too. Our family lived down the street from a highschool at one point, and I remember watching out my bedroom window every afternoon as the school kids walked by and wishing I could have the giddy happiness they had. I’d cry at nights listening to the cheering and music at football games, and wished I could go to highschool, but I was always taught how negative it was so I finally gave up hoping.


Now I’m 30 years old, with four years of college and eight years of work between me and my teen self, yet I still feel the effects of the isolation I experienced growing up.

First, I still feel significant social anxiety in even the most non-threatening situations.  I am particularly at a loss in group settings full of new people.  What do I say? When do I say it? Whom do I say it to?  How/when do I end a conversation?  Even in a circle setting, when it’s my turn to say my name, my blood pressure skyrockets.

Second, in the whole world, there is no place and no group of people where I feel like I belong.  It’s like I was raised in a different culture, with the distinct difference that I can never go “home” to it.  I’m permanently a foreigner; interacting in this foreign culture takes a lot of attention and effort.  I’ve tried to catch up on the culture I missed…to watch the movies, to listen to the music, to see pictures of the clothing styles…..but it will never mean to me what it means to you.  People always use cultural references and nostalgia as a way to build community and connections between people; for me, they create distance and remind me how different I am inside.


I know in my case, when I spent some time at a Southern Baptist university, many of the former home school kids used to joke about being “awkward home school kids”, though the isolation didn’t effect them a fraction as much as it did me.


I feel the exact same way when I see my younger sister, who isn’t homeschooled interacting with peers the way I never got to as a homeschooled kid.

Not to mention how left out I feel seeing the kids I graduated with posting photos of events that happened when I was being isolated for 5 years during a very important time (5th to 10th grade). They’re still close to each other and I feel like an outsider. We were friends in elementary school and highschool, but those years mean nothing compared to the years where friendships are made around the early teen years…


You are right, homeschooling does make people different. I was supposedly home schooled but my parents never bought any books. I have forgiven them for that but at the time it was horrendous because I felt very lonely and isolated as a teenager even though I had three siblings. The negative part was going to college with an education that stopped at 6th grade (I went to church school before that) and trying to figure out how normal people live.


Yes, yes, yes. I was homeschooled as well. I thought it was fantastic at the time but now am seriously reconsidering how awesome it was.

Yes, there were benefits:
-Ability to develop self motivation

…but also detriments:
-Difficulty in participating in collaborative projects.


I agree. One of the things that has helped me feel like I fit in more is that I realized there are tons of people around me who also feel like they don’t fit in. The problem, I think, growing up homeschooled propagates is that there really are no other choices for kids. If you’re a misfit, you’ll never really have the chance to change that inside the homeschool environment. At least in school, there’s that possibility that you’ll find a group where you fit or change schools or any number of things that could help. For me, I was trapped. There was no choice available to me. And since the problem was rooted in my parents’ choices, there was also no one I could go to for help out of a bad situation.


An articulate, self-confident child who converses easily with adults is not necessarily well socialised! And the belief that they are will make it all the harder for that child to cope with the problems they face when they do eventually try to participate in a group their own age. When parents constantly dismiss concerns about socialisation, children internalise it as true. Then if they have trouble relating to peers or interacting socially, they may blame themselves: “I know was well socialised, so it must be something inherently wrong with me. I’m unlikeable, I say the wrong things, I’m clumsy…” I felt this way, and many of my homeschooled peers also went through periods of great depression when they began attending university and couldn’t cope socially.


I left her house tear-eyed because I wanted to be the public school girls so bad. I felt the isolation of the nerdy-cultured homeschool girl. And I looked over in the corner at the public school girls sending text messages and laughing and thought, I never got to do that.

When I’m in Asia, and an Asian friend tells a joke, and everyone laughs but me, I don’t feel crazy because maybe I missed a sentence or two because of the foreign language, or maybe its just an inside joke I’ll never understand. I have an excuse for the disconnect. But when I see teens hovered in corners in the states, I cry wishing I could turn back the clock,

thinking, wishfully, that if I could start over and be socialized in a group that my life today would be different.

Libby Anne.

I was totally comfortable around all of the adults at my parents’ evangelical megachurch, but I was profoundly uncomfortable around the (non-homeschool) teens there. I grew up hearing that the whole “being comfortable around adults but not around peers” thing was not a sign of maturity, but that’s nonsense. It’s actually a sign of a problem. When you’re a child, interactions with adults are fairly formalized.


I think what it comes down to is this: I was well socialized in homeschool circles, but not socialized beyond them. I was completely familiar and comfortable with other homeschooled students, but public schooled students were completely foreign and therefore frightening. They were unpredictable because I didn’t know what made them tick. I didn’t know their language, their habits, their customs. To some extent, the reason that I do so much better now is because I have been living among people who were public schooled (i.e. in mainstream society) long enough to learn their customs. It’s like moving to a foreign country: at first everything is completely foreign and often unintelligible, but over time you learn the culture and begin to fit in.

I think about this when I watch my daughter Sally. She never had to learn to navigate mainstream culture – it’s completely natural to her. I think what I feel watching her is often similar to what someone raising children in a foreign country must feel as they watch their children naturally and effortlessly picks up the customs and habits that continue to feel strange and foreign to them. She never had to learn these things the way I’ve had to learn them.

I can’t believe Mrs. Karen got 131 likes! But then again, I can believe it because all current research, funneled by Dr. Brian Ray’s shady research, is devoted to telling homeschool mothers that homeschool socialization problems do not exist. Google “socialization statistics,” and an article about homeschool socialization for the Washington Times, written by the president of HSLDA, pops up as the first article on the page. How is it that major news articles such as Washington Times have managed to overlook the stories of homeschool graduates?

Simple: homeschool leaders lied to us. They had an agenda in mind.

Mrs. Karen and other homeschool moms, there’s another side to homeschool socialization if you care to listen.

19 thoughts on “Mrs. Karen, You are Laughing At Real People

  1. Heather May 17, 2013 / 4:39 pm

    Yes, exactly, Lana. I got to go to public high school so I don’t have the socialization issue as much, but I did and I still have the underlying cultural stuff. There’s still a lot of popular culture I don’t have a reference for. I don’t think it’s a socialization issue but rather a social isolation issue. They should not have done this to us and shame on them for laughing about it. Very very disrespectful and out of touch for them to do that.


    • Lana May 18, 2013 / 1:35 am

      I do think its mostly a social isolation issue but not entirely. Libby Anne talks about all the social opportuniteis she had, but they were just all with other homeschool kids. We had a lot of people over at our house, but they were always younger (and homeschooled), so I rarely socialized with peers. and then many former fundamentalist kids like jonny at Leaving Fundamentalism, talk about the adjustment to learning to work in a group or going to fundamentalist schools but experiencing the same thing when they left home because they never interacted with the real world. So its not all isolation.

      Of course, I don’t think being culturally disconnected is the end of the world. Third culture kids say the same thing, yet they got invaluable experience. But I do think homeschool parents should try to make an effort to socialize their kids with public schoolers. We were friends with neighbors from public school when we were young, but then in the teenage years, it all changed because I could no longer relate to them.


  2. DoaHF May 17, 2013 / 5:26 pm

    I echo all those statements.
    I was homeschooled K-12, some of it in an Asian country where my skin made me stick out obviously. But I was aware of the culture and we were not as sheltered. Moving to the US at 14, my father began to catch up on all the fundamentalism that he missed being overseas.
    Suddenly there were no friends, no churches, no clothing but skirts, etc, etc. I attended a youth group for about a year and besides being “that weird missionary’s kid” I was completely unable to relate to my peers. I would debate theology with the group leaders or parents watching and their kids all treated me like a leper. After that I barely left the house.

    When I “ran away” from the quiverfull patriarchy at age 20 I mercifully found a job and got to know some people. When I felt safe enough to tell them about growing up overseas and being homeschooled they would all say something like: “Ohhhhh, so thats why you are so different!!”

    I still remember the first time I innocently pointed at something using my middle finger. That was fun (not), but no one would tell me what I had done because they didnt want to duplicate it.


    • Lana May 18, 2013 / 1:30 am

      Interesting. I spent three years in Asia, so we have a lot in common. And LOL about the middle finger. That happened to me too. 😛


  3. cindy0803 May 18, 2013 / 4:57 am

    Do you think that anyone can homeschool without causing damage to their children? I have refrained from responding since very early on in following HA because the people here are obviously hurting or have been hurt. I do not mean to be disrespectful. I am genuinely curious. It might be better stated that I am “desperately” curious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nickducote May 18, 2013 / 8:11 am

      I think so. We make it clear in the “About” that we are not anti-homeschooling. I saw plenty of successful homeschooling. I think the key is to emphasize open-mindedness and critical thinking, rather than homeschooling to indoctrinate and isolate.


    • Michelle Foulia May 18, 2013 / 10:36 am

      Cindy don’t be influenced just by what you read on this blog. It is an excellent blog and one that gives us all a view of what happens in some families who home educate but it is not an exclusive result that if you homeschool or unschool you are damaging your kids. NOT SO!!! Millions of kids are now being homeschooled all over the world and they will witness to the joys and benefits of homeschool. But there will always be abuse of any system where evil horrid misdirected persons abuse the privilege of homeschoong to control and damage their precious children. It’s heartbreaking. But abuse happens everywhere including in families whose kids go to public school. Be careful how much you are influenced. This blog is after all for homeschooled people who had damaging experiences like if you were reading a blog for addicts or people suffering from an illness. It’s their stories. We must learn from them how to NOT do homeschooling but it does not mean we must NOT Homeschool. I believe homeschool IS the best education and where I live most of my friends who homeschool are teachers who would not put their own children in those INSTITUTIONS! if you are homeschooling for the right reasons keep going. The very fact that you are questioning yourself tells me you are trying tondo the best for your kids. Read a selection of materials/ blogs and decide for yourself.


      • nickducote May 18, 2013 / 11:04 am

        Where do we ever say that we are anti-homeschool? We are trying to say exactly what you explained – how NOT to homeschool.


    • Meg May 18, 2013 / 2:27 pm

      Yes I do. From reading here and at various other blogs there are several things that stick out as damaging. The main one is isolation from others outside of the group with no interaction with other people with differing views. Along with that is the tendency in some families to not let their children ever be alone with anyone without a parent being present. Not alone with siblings, peers or other adults nor just alone with themselves in their room to think or meditate. I cannot imagine what it would be like to always have to be around a parent without any alone time to just think.

      As a conservative evangelical Christian I find the twisting of scripture in some of these groups to be appalling. Scripture is used as an excuse to abuse, dominate and intimidate women and children. There is no freedom to differ, no freedom to explore or learn about the world God created or the people in it. I always thought that the idea behind homeschooling was to provide a good education, to learn at their own pace, to allow children to be creative, learn how to express themselves and develop their own unique personalities without fear of ridicule. Yet from what I am reading here and elsewhere there are some who use it to teach conformity that squelches creativity and self-expression as well as isolating children from any one not conforming to their own beliefs.

      There are many parents who do use homeschooling as a means of giving their children a well-rounded balanced education, who encourage their children to explore the world and get to know those who are in it, families where it ok to disagree and question, where God is not seen as a harsh judge but as a loving Father who cares for His own. These are the families who produce children who grow up to feel comfortable with their peers and are undamaged.


  4. Heather May 18, 2013 / 8:44 am

    Yeah, I’d agree with what Nick said.


  5. Michelle Foulia May 18, 2013 / 10:26 am

    This made me really sad…
    I am a mum who homeschools in the UK.
    I pulled my eldest from school after 3 years of incessant bullying left him severely damaged and badly ‘socialised’. Me and my husband gave up our succesful business in order to devote ourselves to our family, to be there for our children, to raise them in a loving secure environment, to allow them to learn according to their strengths and passions and learning styles and readiness. We live the flexibility it gives us and we are going travelling. We are Christians but not fundamentalists although I had no idea the term existed until I started reading this blog. I’ve never met people like those many of the bloggers on H A describe! Our homeschooling and church network is so wonderful, people from all ethnic backgrounds ages jobs etc… Our social circle is made up mostly of other faiths/ denominations and non believers. My kids go on sleepovers. They spend days at different friends houses, they enjoy parties, outings and field trips. They enjoy a very positive socialisation and I have seen the benefits of this. My once timid, frightened 8 year old who refused to go anywhere where there were other children, recently organised his own fundraising event and stood up and delivered a presentation! He enjoys sports and clubs and hobbies has so much confidence and is a lovely young man.
    I disagree with so many of the generalisations made here about socialisation. I do not agree that public school offers positive socialisation. I went to public school and have suffered on many levels particularly with anxiety around crowds. If public schools offered positive socialisation we would not have a world so screwed up, such high rates of crime, depression, suicide… It’s not all because of negative socialisation but much of it is. Trashing homeschooling as a negative form of socialisation is wrong. As a parent I am doing everything I can FOR my children to be given life skills, confidence, abilities and socialisation to go out there and be whatever makes them happy. To give them wings to fly. To be world changers not little robots servicing some Government agenda. Don’t tar everyone with the same brush. And don’t trash all research based on other beliefs of those researchers you do not agree with. Oh and no matter what belief/ faith or religion a person belongs to he/ she will raise their children with that ideology not necessarily to damage them. Although I’m so so grieved by some of the awful stories of abuse I have read about here 😦


    • nickducote May 18, 2013 / 11:02 am

      Almost all of our stories are from an American perspective. I don’t know anything about the homeschooling culture in the UK. My cursory look at the UK home education standards on a government site indicate that it is much more regulated than the US. This alone will reduce incidence of child abuse.

      For example, ten states do not even require notification of intent to homeschool (including CA and TX, two of the largest states) and another thirteen require only notification. In the UK, there is notification AND it seems that local school board can send in someone to evaluate your children’s education. It is the unregulated nature of homeschooling in the US that makes abuse so prevalent. Also, remember that the UK has the NHS, while a lot of these QuiverFull kids don’t receive medical attention bc of inadequate coverage.

      On a cultural level, Id also point out that every homeschooler in the South is aware of fundamentalism. Your own lack of exposure to it, especially since you are religious, illustrates that UK homeschooling may be much less fundamentalist.

      All this is to say that our experiences reflect mainstream trends in American homeschooling and American Christianity. Our intended audience is Americans and American law. We’d love to hear from some UK homeschoolers and you are more than welcome to submit your story to help is balance out message with international examples.


      • michelle May 19, 2013 / 4:19 am

        thank you so much for your kind reply. yes I understand all your points and yes it is not like that over here. So different! or at least what I see here. but I’m so sad about what is happening there…it seems home-schooling for some is a way to further control their children as opposed to help their children as is our intention. we love them unconditionally and i think that in itself makes much difference, that they know they are their own unique persons not our property, that we are here to encourage, direct and support so that they can make their own choices, decisions, take their own path.


  6. Meg May 18, 2013 / 2:42 pm

    Several things Karen Starr says are real world don’t really happen in the real world. She seems to forget that we adults are also influenced by our peers. And as adults we exchange the 8hrs a day of school with peers for 8 hrs a day in an office with peers.


  7. LS May 21, 2013 / 11:40 am

    When I was a kid I heard this a lot. Almost verbatim what Karen said there. It is so wrong, and has caused me so many problems in my adult life.

    Damn, now I’m angry.


  8. Jessica May 22, 2013 / 6:44 am

    This made me so sad and at the same time that I am FINALLY not alone. I am just now catching up to the mainstream culture. I understand more and more references from pop culture. It is so true. Just because we can socialize with adults, doesn’t mean we were socialized.

    And what is so frightening is that I was fairly mainstreamed for a homeschooler and didn’t really have a hard time adjusting to college and post-college life. It did help that my parents didn’t control our TV consumption too much and my senior year was basically spent with non-homeschoolers, college students and other mainstreamers.


  9. SPowell May 31, 2013 / 3:45 pm

    I just want to be sure to note that it isn’t always like that in America. I had a very positive homeschooling experience as well as college and now am progressing well in my career. Much of my success is because I was homeschooled and had many unique opportunities. I did attend a Christian University, but that was by my choice and not my parent’s. My brother’s both attended secular state Colleges. One dropped out to join the military where he has been very successful and advanced in rank more quickly than most and the other graduated recently and starts a job with a very large company next week. None of us have abandoned our faith or regretted homeschooling. In college, I had a variety of friends. Christians, atheists, homeschooled, private schoolers, public schoolers, American, Asian, Brazillian, Filipino, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual……However, in college there were many homeschooler cliques. I found myself trying to fit in with them at first because it was the logical thing…right? However, I hated the way they spoke of other peers. I was so pissed one day when one of the “cool homeschoolers” asked me about an international student whom I had been helping with English and then became good friends with. “why do you want to hang out with him?” Why shouldn’t I. These kids talked about reaching out to people and sharing God’s love….were we only suppose to do that to certain people? Later I started dating a man who had been married previously and had two young children….yeah that group didn’t talk to me much at all anymore….Homeschoolers who primarily hang out with other homeschoolers who think and do the same think may not always be socially awkward or be full of anxiety, but being judgemental, and arrogant, and prideful just because you think you know the only right way can be just as damaging.


  10. Abigail June 9, 2013 / 10:15 pm

    Another homeschool grad to add to the list ;). I was brainwashed to parrot the line that homeschoolers being unsocialized is laughable. Now, as an adult, I can say that even though I probably seemed very “normal” on the outside (I don’t look or act sheltered), it took me until I was in my mid 20s to finally feel (on the inside) like I could “normally” socialize with people. And I know it’s because of the lack of socialization from being homeschooled and not some social anxiety disorder or shyness to begin with (I’m quite outgoing). I also wasn’t kept entirely from people or anything – I had friends and attended weekly classes at our homeschool group, along with church activities. It wasn’t enough.


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