Homeschool and social awkwardness

LH asks a serious question about socialization and homeschool:

My observations are this. Academically, homeschoolers are just pure genius. But the world does not work based on your grade point average. In the business world, it all also depends on who you know and how well you get along with people. And I’ve noticed that homeschooled adults–people in their twenties and thirties–often seem to struggle with the rest of the working world.

Now, I am asking for opinions on these observations. I’m not drawing a line in the sand, making any declarations against homeschooling, or anything like that. I’m looking for other people’s observations and testimonies that might prove hopeful.

I think it is a genuine issue.  I have observed the phenomenon on numerous occasions myself.  For example, at my eldest son’s first soccer practice with a new team, all of the other players sat down and listened to the coach when he started addressing them.  My son continued to stand, bouncing a ball, and was observably paying no attention to the coach.

Now, obviously I explained that his behavior was unacceptable after the practice and likely to lead to a lack of playing time.  But the fact that I had to explain this to him, when he had been playing soccer for years, was indicative of what can either be seen as a feature or a bug.  That is to say, he simply does not appear to feel any peer pressure.  The fact that everyone else is doing X not only does not instill in him any need to do X, he doesn’t appear to assign any significance to it whatsoever.

This isn’t necessarily the result of homeschooling, of course.  I am a socio-sexual Sigma and a lone wolf.  Spacebunny is also, by female standards, a lone wolf.  Both of us were public-schooled.  So, it should not be at all surprising that our son would tend to be highly independent regardless of how he was schooled, and yet, there is still a material difference between his perception of the significance of the behavior of others to him, and ours.

On the other hand, once a parent is aware of this lack of awareness, it is quite easily dealt with.  The incident at practice was two years ago.  It has not happened since; once the team begins to line up in front of the coach, he recognizes the signal and not infrequently is among the first to sit down and pay attention.  However, it appears to remain a conscious behavior and not an unconscious one.  I happen to think this will serve him well in time, as unlike the others, he has the option to go along with the crowd or not, as he consciously chooses.  Independence and auto-conformity are mutually exclusive; the parent who fears the occasional social awkwardness later in life would do well to consider what sort of problems are more likely to occur with an auto-conforming child.

However, the most significant testimony I have ever heard concerning socialization and homeschool was from the children’s pediatrician, who is a doctor of no little international repute.  We were the only homeschooling family in his practice at the start and he initially harbored some reservations about it.  However, after ten years, he mentioned that he was now fully supportive of it, in part because he had observed that our children were not only advanced intellectually, they were also the happiest children in his practice.

I think one should step back and consider what the working world presently is before concluding that those who struggle with it are somehow deficient.  What is natural or normal about spending 8-10 hours per day in a small grey cubicle, living like a rat in a cage and shuffling virtual papers while attempting to avoid conflict with various unproductive individuals of varying degrees of medication and reflexive hostility?  Considering how much the average worker has to modify his normal behavior just to avoid getting in trouble with HR these days, can one reasonably conclude that it is the homeschooled individual and not the increasingly outdated working world that is the problem?

The experts tell us that to succeed in the working world of tomorrow, it will be increasingly necessary to be independent, free of reliance upon the corporate patterns of the past, flexible, and agile.  To me, it sounds as if much of the “awkwardness” of the homeschooled individual in the eyes of the more conventionally schooled is akin to the strangeness of the mammal when viewed from the perspective of the dinosaur.

My suspicion is that the socially awkward homeschooler primarily represents a failure of the homeschooling parent to address socio-sexual issues with the child, and is little different from the tendency of most conventionally schooled men to be sexually awkward due to the maleducations they receive on the topic.  The fact that the homeschooled child is likely to automatically receive less socio-sexual education than the crude mindless one received by the conventionally schooled child does not mean that he is necessarily uneducable in the subject.