When I first started homeschooling, I spent a lot of time convincing people that my children were no different from theirs, the only thing that was different was how and where they went to school. This rose from my need to convince myself of the normalcy of our decision in an area where homeschooling was not normal at all. (We lived in a "very good" school attendance area; an area into which people purposefully moved in order for their children to attend the elementary school. Our decision to homeschool was either baffling or infuriating to most of those around us.) I was not as good then as I am now at not caring about what other people thought, so I made efforts to convince myself and others that we weren't freaks.
I did such a good job that I had myself pretty convinced, but various events this past summer have caused me to rethink my position. In watching M. and her friends prepare to go off to college, I'm realizing the untruth of the "just the same" argument. If you are new to homeschooling or are just starting out with your young children, pay attention. The children who grow up in your household will be different after graduation from their traditionally schooled peers. Now, the adults are all nodding their heads, saying, "Yes! I don't want to my child to fall into the peer culture. That's a good thing." I won't argue with you about it, but we need to prepare our children to be different.
M. and many of her homeschooled peers have expressed wonderment at the over-the-top excitement of their fellow in-coming freshman (thanks to facebook) over the start of school. These homeschooled girls are looking forward to classes and starting a new adventure, but what it missing is the feeling that their lives are about to begin. They are beginning to realize that they don't understand their peers and are not sure if they want to. (I'm not reading into the situation, M. has expressed this directly.) I don't think any of them will have difficulty with college or even with living on campus. They will find their niches and I think their lack of need to recreate themselves will be attractive to others. But on some level these young ladies have been thrown by their differences. One of the more telling examples was when M. came back from an orientation day and when I asked if she met and talked with anyone, she said she chatted with a few people but had a nice conversation with someone's mother.
That whole socialization question? We can still answer yes, our children are socialized and socialized quite well thank you, but they are socialized to the adult world. When confronted with their peers' culture, they are strangers in a strange land. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but we need to face up to the fact that as a result of our decision to homeschool our children, our children will be different. We (and they) may be pleased with this different-ness, but it is our children who will need to live with it. I wouldn't go back and do anything differently, and I don't think my older children would want me to (they read this blog and I'm sure I will hear otherwise if I'm mistaken.), but we need to stop being disingenuous with regard to how homeschooling will affect our children. We are not just choosing a different educational path, but purposefully choosing a completely different life.