Yesterday I tweeted Marc Cardaronella about my formula for producing non-awkward homeschoolers and it's slightly more than 140 characters so it ends up here. I should clarify that I have tremendous respect for parents and think they have the hardest job in the world. I don't believe there's a definitive answer for where or how to school your children, as long as it's not in the Hitler Youth. I truly think that the only universal method of parenting is frequenting the sacraments and eating together as a family as often as possible.
However, as a product of homeschooling, I am quick to both defend my upbringing and harshly criticize the lifestyle when I think it's going awry because it gives everyone a bad rep (example: raising kids in tents with nothing but a bible as a text book). My parents didn't originally homeschool for religious reasons (I was struggling in school and was too shy to speak up to get help. If you can believe that. The quiet thing was a short-lived phase) but then we were learning so much as a family from Seton- the curriculum we used- that they just never stopped.
Now, I could go on and on about how brainy my siblings are (I was never "that kid" at the National Spelling Bee or editing Encyclopedias, but I do credit the attention I finally received at the kitchen table with giving me the skills to balance my check book and write a thesis statement) but what I think is a real success is general social awareness.
A lot of people are quick to defend the social awkwardness of some homeschoolers with, "if they're awkward at home they'd probably be awkward at school too". Maybe. However, my friends and I did an informal survey among our college classmates and discovered that of all who had been homeschooled-- the ones who appeared the most "normal" were the ones who.... (drum roll)... got their driver's license at the same time as their traditionally-schooled peers.
Laugh all you want, but this has turned into an extensive study by my friends who asked every homeschool alumni they've encountered since this theory was devised on a train to Venice in 2002. We've developed some theories on this. First of all, it is an expression of why you are homeschooled in the first place. Homeschooling is an opportunity to engage the world and culture through the family-- not be sheltered from it. For example, as kids we used to talk openly about current events at the dinner table, my parents listening to us as we shared our thoughts and solutions about the problems of the world. No topic was taboo. This is engaging the world-- but through the family. We were also active in our parish, community service and pro-life activities. All of this allowed us to encounter lots of different people and understand that was how the world was. "Sheltering" would be refusing to acknowledge the challenges of the world or interact with anyone different so that students are completely unprepared when they encounter it, brute force, when they leave the nest.
Allowing kids to get their driver's licenses gives them a common milestone with their peers (they have so few others-- no lockers, pep rallies or freshman hazing) and gives them a little bit of independence to begin exploring the world on their own. It involves taking a test from someone who isn't related to them and answering to authority that isn't their parents-- and important step.
I have other theories about how homeschoolers can be well-socialized, but my friends and I have determined that the drivers license is the first way. Even if you're rolling in a 13 passenger van, it's your first taste of freedom and gives you an experience to share with your peers.