While reading about homeschooling, the first concern or question that is always raised by people (and addressed in these books) is about socialization. How will a child learn to interact with people if they stay home all day?
Aside from the usual argument that "homeschooling" is a misleading term, that much of homeschooling actually takes place outside the home (visiting museums, visiting family and friends, music lessons and sport games and church and homeschooling groups and...) my viewpoint on socialization has evolved simply from my personal observations.
First of all, who decided that school is a natural place to socialize? I do not choose my friends now based on the fact they were born in the same year as I. In fact, I do not have one single friend with whom I interact on a regular basis who was born in the same year as I. Not one. I have friends who are older and friends who are younger, friends who are my age but have pre-teens, friends who are my age who have no children, friends who are younger but have children the same age as mine. The terms "age" and "stage" are two very different terms, and I think that "stage" has a lot more bearing on friendship than age. But I also have many friends who are both different ages and stages then I; my friendship with these people is just as deep and important.
Second, who decided that school is a humane place to socialize? Have we all somehow mentally blocked what the social scene of school really was? I think this is likely, since for nearly everyone it can be quite traumatic. Blocking it out is probably the only way to get passed it. No matter how well you were raised, no matter how nice you were taught to be, there were cool kids and geeks, and then the rest of us who floated in between. We all desperately wanted to be cool and desperately feared being a geek. Something just beyond our comprehension seemed to place us in a social spot, and if we were unhappy there we did everything we could to either change it or deal with it. I know there were people I was mean to in an attempt to "socialize" at school. I know there are people teased to the point of suicide. I know there are kids who are bullied, or are the bullies. There are kids who try to be someone they aren't because who they'd like to be would be rejected. School socialization makes you do things you hate, be someone you don't like, and impose the system on those unfortunate to be beneath you on the social ladder. I vividly remember grades 6, 7 and 8 being the worst years of my life. I felt marginalized by the school for the class I was in, and marginalized by the kids in my class, simply because the others were more forceful and successful in climbing to the apex of the social mountain. I had only one other friend in the school; if she was away I ate lunch by myself and wandered the school grounds at lunch time, desperately wishing I could just go home instead of enduring the humiliation of having no friends.
My third observation is much more positive and is directly related to my children, specifically Colin. Colin plays very naturally with children both older and younger than he. When we are at the Early Years Centre, he is one of the oldest there. He is very caring and attentive, showing younger children the ropes, including them in play, leading and teaching them. At the park he is generally one of the youngest. He loves to play with children 10, 11, 12 years old. "Do you want to play with me?" he invites, always expecting a positive response, and confused and despondent if he receives a negative one. He enjoys the challenge of older children, their greater developed abilities on the equipment, the way he is pushed to run faster to keep up. Colin does not see age (or even size) as an inhibitor to friendship. Funny enough, when he is in a setting with children who are is age, the play is stilted, or often doesn't happen at all. It's as though he's not quite sure what to do, how to play. I think he instinctly sees the value of being a leader/teacher (to younger children) or a follower/learner (to older children). Beyond play with other kids, both my older boys love some of my adult friends. I have one friend specifically, who although she has children the same ages as my boys, she is the one they want to visit and play and talk with. They are so excited when we "go to Kathy's house," and rarely want to wander off with the other kids, preferring Kathy's infectious laugh and sincere attention. Other times, when I say to them Braydon or Timmy or Felix are coming over to play, they quickly ask if Emily or Rebecca or Mrs. Campbell (their mothers) are coming also. They do not separate between young friends and grownup friends, but enjoy the company of all.
The more I ponder on the ideas of socialization, the more I realize this would actually be a very strong argument in favour of homeschooling rather than against it. In fact, in light of reason number two above, I would be much more likely to pull my kids from public school to homeschool them due to bad social experiences in school! But no matter the schooling situation they find themselves in, I would always want to help them build and nurture friendships with people of all ages. I think it is inarguable that maximum personal growth would occur when you have opportunities to lead those younger than you and learn from those older than you. Anything else (ie: exclusively socializing with those of your exact age and stage) would result in societal stagnation.