Homeschooling and Socialization
I hear it all the time. The first thing people ask me when I tell them I homeschool my kids is, “Well, what about social interaction?” There is clearly a perception that homeschooled kids are ill adjusted compared to their publicly schooled counterparts. Frankly, anybody who suggests that my kids are socially awkward, or will become socially awkward, doesn’t know them and doesn’t know me. There is no question in my mind that I’m doing the right thing by them, both educationally and socially. I set off a few days ago looking for some supporting research for what I already know is true. It’s good for this article that there happens to be research disproving the socialization argument against homeschooling.
“Stough (1992), looking particularly at socialization, compared 30 homeschooling families and 32 conventionally schooling families, families with children 7-14 years of age. According to the findings, children who were schooled at home “gained the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to function in society… at a rate similar to that of conventionally schooled children.” The researcher found no difference in the self concept of children in the two groups. Stough maintains that “insofar as self concept is a reflector of socialization, it would appear that few homeschooled children are socially deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some home-schooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled children.” – Lee Stough, University of West Virginia M.S. Thesis
But, wait. There is more. The following is an excerpt from a document on education policy from the Frasier Institute and written by Patrick Basham, John Merrifield, and Claudia R. Hepburn. I could not find the original dissertation by Larry Shyers (PhD Dissertation. University of Florida ). It’s referenced in the bibliography of this document (here is the link) for anybody who wants to go crazy and look it up.
“In 1992, Prof. Larry Shyers assessed whether or not homeschooled children suffer from retarded social development. His research observed children in free play and group interaction activities. Shyers found that public school children had significantly more problem behaviors than did the homeschooled. Possibly this is because the primary models of behavior for the homeschooled are their parents, rather than their peers. Syers also concluded that there was no significant difference between homeschooled a non-homeschooled children in terms of either self-concept development or assertiveness.” (Shyers, 1992)
But, to be fair, I also looked up contradicting evidence. I couldn’t find any. It turns out, apparently, that the common misconception of socialization problems among home schoolers is completely fabricated and kept alive by rumor. I honestly could not find anything other than opinion statements that supported the idea that socialization is a problem for homeschoolers. There is no disputing the facts that homeschooled kids perform better on standardized tests (SAT and ACT for one) than do their public school counterparts. People, when presented with defeat, often resort to outright lies. I’m not mincing words. People who suggest that homeschooled kids are inferior due to socialization are doing it without supporting evidence. I even had a snotty little 16 year old tell me two days ago that I was a bad parent because I homeschooled, and that I was preparing my kids for social failure by doing so. First off, 16 year olds don’t typically have kids. Where did this kid get the idea he could teach me anything at all about parenting. For god’s sake! He’s still being parented himself. Secondly, if he’s going to have that kind of confidence he’d better have some evidence. Of course he didn’t. His evidence was, “Every homeschooled kid I’ve known has been a little different.” I guess that passes as evidence to a 16 year old. I chalked his disrespect up to poor parenting. If he is his own idea of socialized then I’m happy I’m upsetting him — anything different than that has got to be better (I would link to his blog, but I don’t want to give him traffic).
The Real World
The real world is everything around us. Alice in Wonderland is not the real world. Homeschoolers are living in the real world as much as anybody. I hear it suggested occasionally that kids who learn at home are somehow not living in the real world. As far as I can tell, they are perfectly real. Let’s put it another way. From my perspective, everything I do builds me into who I am. My experiences are nothing similar to to say a Mongolian who grew up as a nomad and a hunter. Aren’t we both living in the real world? “But,” you may say, “The Mongolian kid doesn’t have to get along in our society. I’m sure he’d be completely lost in the United States.” To that I point to the fact that there are currently upwards of 1.5 million homeschooling kids in the United States. There are people who are being, and have been, homeschooled all over the place, kids and adults, people working with us and doing the same recreational activities. I don’t see scarlet H‘s on their clothes or sirens on their heads to indicate who these people are. Obviously, they have blended in. The real world argument doesn’t fly. I might turn that around and suggest kids in public school are at a disadvantage because they are confined between the walls of a protective institution all day, and thus they will be ill-prepared to face real challenges once they are released — much like a long stay prisoner being released to the sunlight (reference Shawshank Redemption).
I’ve mentioned before about all the places we go and things we see in past articles. We don’t stay in the house knitting all day. We go on long vacations to see the United States. We spend regular days shopping or about town interacting with a diverse bunch of people (we do live in Boulder after all). My kids are enrolled in Gymnastics at our community center, and Judo at a martial arts studio. They go swimming at the public pool during the summer, and they’ll take skiing lessons when the snow starts falling. Yesterday we went to the Children’s Museum, last week we went to the aquarium, and next week we’re going to Yellowstone National Park. Yeah, we don’t get out enough, that’s it.
This article, I can tell, is somewhat scattered. Unlike much of my other writing, I wrote this in response to being repeatedly poked and harassed by people who waste my time with uneducated accusations. Innocent questions are fine, but when they are tinged with assumptions, I get my dander up. Our daily activities and our lives are just as much real as anyone’s. My boys are not socially awkward. If anything they are exceptionally polite when they need to be and assertive when the situation warrants. People who know my kids know what I say is true. It’s only the people who don’t know them who seem to have a problem with what I’m doing. That is telling.