Overall, I would say this book does a good job of refuting, point-by-point, the most common misconceptions about the lack of socialization of homeschooled children. Although I had a few problems with it (quite a bit of repetition and somewhat outdated statistics), the book presented a fairly comprehensive argument that homeschooling does, in fact, provide children many benefits where socialization is concerned.
First of all, even die-hard supporters of public school education can't deny the negative socialization ever present in schools these days. As a Social Worker, I worked in elementary schools before I had kids. I decided to homeschool my future children at that point based on what I witnessed. I specifically recall listening to the conversation of 2nd graders in line for lunch, discussing what their favorite part of the movie Scream was. Um, no thanks for my 7 year old child feeling like the odd man out and like I'm somehow overprotective, mean, etc. for being one of the few parents who won't allow horror movies...you know, at SEVEN! Also, I witnessed children who were made to be silent as stones the whole way to, through, and from lunch. Not a word. When they were finished eating, they lay their heads on the table and if they were good little boys and girls, they were rewarded with a single M&M or Skittle. Of course, they could lose this reward for uttering even a word after it was granted. Shocking, I know, but I am not making this up. I witnessed it with my very own eyes--another experience I wouldn't describe as teaching proper socialization skills. These are just a couple of specific examples but there are many, many more. I could go on ad nauseam, but you get the point and, if you've had kids in school, you've heard many more examples. I've met so many teachers who choose to teach their kids at home, or would if they thought they could afford the loss of income. That says so much to me. The point is that people who oppose homeschooling on the basis of socialization need to understand that the grass is NOT greener on the other side. It's just different grass altogether--the normal grass, if you will.
So, that's what it's all about. It's not about fears that kids won't be properly socialized. It's about them not being normally socialized. In this book, the author quotes many parents (one of my favorite aspects of the book) discussing the differences between the normal socialization of children and their adaptations in public schools versus the freedom of socialization in homeschooling. There is a lovely discussion about the different perceptions the two groups of children have of the term "cool." I think you can guess the gist of the difference just based on what you know of peer pressure in schools and freakishly expensive designer clothes and gadgets.
Whenever there is a discussion of socialization of homeschoolers, someone invariably points out the homeschooler they know who has zero social skills and seems completely dysfunctional when trying to interact in a social setting. Yep, that happens, but also in public school. The valedictorian of my class was a girl who said about 3 words her entire time in high school. She was ridiculed too. Perhaps she would have had some solace if she had been able to learn at home. The fact is that shy is shy wherever a child learns. She was socialized normally (public school K-12) and still came out practically completely socially dysfunctional. So, really, I'm not interested in hearing that as a criticism of homeschooling. Yes, there are homeschoolers who are not properly socialized. Just recently, someone posted on a homeschool board I read that her 11 year old daughter had never had a birthday party and did anyone have a child that age who might be able to attend. Frankly, it broke my heart to think about a girl so friendless that her mother had to see if strangers could attend her birthday party. Furthermore, it is a fear of mine that I'm using to ensure that I'm proactive about pursuing opportunities (park days, library story time, homeschooling co-ops, etc.) for my kids to create and maintain friendships.
I am the mother of three young children. I have intended to homeschool since before their birth, as stated. Despite that fact, the one thing that has made me a bit queasy is to worry about where they will make friends. Whether in school or homeschooled, kids need friends. I'm grateful my kids will have each other as "classmates" and, to be sure, my kids are each others' best friends--and I strongly believe that homeschooling will help keep their sibling bond strong. Still, I think kids need friends.
Even as a prospective homeschooler, when you ask current homeschoolers about socialization you get one of two reactions, laughter or defensiveness. Then, with either, you end up getting an explanation of the many opportunities for socialization in the homeschooling community. The bottom line is that unless you have a neighborhood booming with kiddo friendships and activity, it's the parents' job to connect their kids to other kids. In the book, the author points out the many and varied ways this can happen. The most common are church and homeschool support groups, secular or religious.
I do think this is a great resource. Whether you're contemplating homeschooling but are holding back because of socialization or whether you are committed but have family and friends who are doubtful, this book can shed some light on the truths of the homeschooled child's social life.