What About Socialization?

One of the most persistent criticisms about homeschooling is it’s seemingly limited way of providing socialization opportunities for children. Many consider this as a myth however, as there are a lot of researches suggesting that homeschooled children are more socially adjusted and engaged than those who came from traditional schools. Many school socialization advocates argue that homeschooling precludes children from experiencing real life.

For instance, public school children are confined to a classroom for at least 180 days each year with little opportunity to be exposed to the workplace or to go on field trips. The children are trapped with a group of children their own age with little chance to relate to children of other ages or adults. They learn in a vacuum where there are no absolute standards. They are given little to no responsibility, and everything is provided for them. The opportunity to pursue their interests and to apply their unique talents is stifled. Actions by public students rarely have consequences, as discipline is lax and passing from grade to grade is automatic. The students are not really prepared to operate in the home (family) or the workplace, which comprise a major part of the “real world” after graduation.

Homeschoolers, on the other hand, do not have the above problems. They are completely prepared for the “real world” of the workplace and the home. They relate regularly with adults and follow their examples rather than the examples of foolish peers. They learn based on “hands on” experiences and early apprenticeship training. In fact, the only “socialization” or aspect of the “real world” which they miss out on by not attending the public school is unhealthy peer pressure, crime, and immorality. Of course, the average homeschooler wisely learns about these things from afar instead of being personally involved in crime or immorality or perhaps from being a victim.

Practically, homeschoolers generally overcome the potential for “isolation” through heavy involvement in church youth groups, music and art lessons, sports participation, singing groups, activities with neighborhood children, academic contests (spelling bees, orations, creative and research papers), and regular involvement in field trips. In fact, one researcher stated, “The investigator was not prepared for the level of commitment exhibited by the parents in getting the child to various activities…It appeared that these students are involved in more social activities, whether by design or being with the parent in various situations, than the average middle school-aged child.”

Instead of being locked behind school gates in what some would consider an artificial setting characterized by bells, forced silence and age-segregation, homeschool children frequently extend their everyday classroom to the grocery store, travelling, fire departments, hospitals, museums, repair shops, city halls, national parks, churches and colleges, where real community interaction and contacts are made.

Dismantling the stereotype that home learners spend their days isolated from society at kitchen tables with workbooks in hand, NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute) reports that they actually participate in approximately five different social activities outside the home on a regular basis. Research presented at the National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference divulged that homeschool graduates far exceeded their public and private school counterparts in college by ranking the highest in 42 of 63 indicators of collegiate success. They were also ranked as being superior in four out of five achievement categories, including socialization, as they were assessed as being the most charismatic and influential.

Behavioral Studies on Homeschooled vs. Public School-Educated Children
Thomas Smedley prepared a master’s thesis for Radford University of Virginia on “The Socialization of Homeschool Children.”  Smedley used the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales to evaluate the social maturity of twenty home-schooled children and thirteen demographically matched public school children. The communication skills, socialization, and daily living skills were evaluated. These scores were combined into the “Adoptive Behavior Composite” which reflects the general maturity of each subject.

Smedley had this information processed using the statistical program for the social sciences and the results demonstrated that the home-schooled children were better socialized and more mature than the children in the public school. The home-schooled children scored in the 84th percentile while the matched sample of public school children only scored in the 27th percentile.

Smedley further found that:

In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily, into
conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children
vertically, toward responsibility, service, and adulthood, with an eye on eternity.

In another 1992 study, Dr. Larry Shyers compared behaviors and social development test scores of two groups of seventy children ages eight to ten. One group was being educated at home while the other group attended public and private schools. He found that the home-schooled children did not lag behind children attending public or private schools in social development.

Dr. Shyers further discovered that the home-schooled children had consistently fewer behavioral problems. The study indicated that home-schooled children behave better because they tend to imitate their parents while conventionally-schooled children model themselves after their peers. Shyers states, “The results seem to show that a child’s social development depends more on adult contact and less on contact with other children as previously thought.”

The Homeschooler In Adulthood
J. Gary Knowles, University of Michigan Assistant Professor of Education, released a study done at the University of Michigan which found that teaching children at home will not make them social misfits. Knowles surveyed 53 adults who were taught at home because of ideology or geographical isolation. He found that two thirds were married, which is the norm for adults their age. None were unemployed or on welfare. He found more than three fourths felt that being taught at home had helped them to interact with people from different levels of society. He found more than 40% attended college and 15% of those had completed a graduate degree. Nearly two thirds were self-employed. He stated, “That so many of those surveyed were self-employed supports the contention that homeschooling tends to enhance a person’s self-reliance and independence.” Ninety-six percent of them said that they would want to be taught at home again. He stated, “Many mentioned a strong relationship engendered with their parents while others talked about self-directed curriculum and individualized pace that a flexible program of homeschooling permitted.”

As mentioned earlier, the greatest benefit from homeschool socialization is that the child can be protected from the negative socialization of the public schools associated with peer pressure, such as rebellious attitudes, immaturity, immorality, drugs, and violent behavior.

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