I've posted before on homeschool socialization, so I'm not going to rehash it all. You can read it here: http://beccajones.blogspot.com/2010/09/socialization-and-homeschool.html. I still think one of the main reasons we homeschool is when I look at groups of public school children and then look at groups of homeschooled children in similar settings (school playgrounds, social groups, club settings, libraries, etc), I far and away want my children to be like the homeschoolers and am consistently horrified and disgusted by how even the "good" public school children behave.
What I've been thinking about is how the socialization is taught in public schools. Yes, public schooled children are better chameleons. They are better at blending in with their peers.
Because they are mercilessly bullied and mocked if they don't.
Sure public schools teach conformity. Separate from the debate about whether that is desirable, you really have to consider whether the WAY conformity is taught in schools is appropriate.
Personally, I don't think it is EVER okay to emotionally abuse another person, even if it is "for their benefit."
I remember being a kid and learning to match my socks to my dress because pink and pink aren't the same and don't always match. How did I learn to wear matching clothes? My friends made fun of my clothing because my socks were a different shade of pink than my dress. Did it help me blend in better? Sure. Why? Because I was terrified of facing that kind of pain again.
I hear parents tell their kids all the time, "If you pick your nose, your friends will make fun of you." "If you wear mismatched socks, your friends will make fun of you." "If you talk so loud, people won't like you."
What are we teaching our kids? Not to keep their hands away from their faces. Not to wear asthetically pleasing and comely clothing. Not to talk quietly. We're teaching them to fear what other people think of them.
And then we spend a lot of time trying to teach them not to give in to peer pressure, to be courageous in the face of rejection when we choose not to do drugs, to choose the right despite what our peers think. But we are sending mixed messages, telling them it is vitally important to care what people think and putting them in a situation where they find out--painfully--that it matters, and then telling them that they should always follow their hearts and ignore the naysayers and critics. Well, which is it?
I, personally, found it more compelling to teach the kids to think independently, to make choices based on something other than social acceptability, to not care so much what other people think. We DO discuss that in order to have any kind of influence or opportunity in the world, we have to behave and dress in a way that leads us to be listened to and taken seriously. It's not that I want to raise Bohemian poets who can't interact with the world at all. It's just that I don't think kids are well served by being tortured into compliance with whatever social fad is reigning supreme at the time. And I think proper socialization--the kind that produces socially skilled, socially effective adults who can interact with the world, keep jobs, communicate, be responsible citizens and good parents--is best taught intentionally, by adults, and without humiliation being the major tool to force social conformity.
Being properly socialized is NOT the same thing as being trained to blend in and fear what other people think. I want courageous, thoughtful, intelligent, polite children who can interact with friends and solve problems and hold jobs and have successful marriages. Not clones.
So thus we homeschool.