Warning: Unsocialized Homeschoolers
It still amazes me sometimes that people actually still think that homeschoolers = isolated religious nuts who fear contact with the outside world. I am also somewhat surprised when its reinforced that people really do equate the peer segregated social outline of school with preparation for ‘real’ life, and that they hold the school socialization model up as the ‘standard’ to which all other forms of socialization are held against for measurement and validation. In my opinion, all of those things are false. Lets’ examine them one by one, shall we?
Myth: Homeschoolers are isolated.
FACT: (Obviously, I am not a super-scientific researcher, so I’m just going to tell what I know to be true for my family. I’m sure that others out there have similar stories and I’d love to read them in comments.)
Since we started homeschooling in January, we’ve been much more active in our community than we had been since the boys started going to school. We have always sought opportunities to volunteer or community activities that we could participate in, once they started school our time was severely limited. We really only had time for school and school activities. It was great that the school they went to offered social opportunities for the kids outside of class time in addition to extra curricular academic opportunities, but being involved there meant that we were not able to participate in more diverse, community-based activities.
Now that we’re homeschooling, we’re not limited to the same group of people and that one location all the time. Through our local homeschooling group, we’ve met new people and have been able to travel for educational field trips all across Southeast Texas that we wouldn’t have been able to do had we still been in school. Finding time to stay home has been a constant complaint because we’ve had the opportunity to do so much more since we’re not tied to the school’s schedule. Even though we’re not involved in classes or sports, I’d hardly call us ‘isolated’.
Myth: Homeschoolers do so for religious reasons / do so to limit contact with people who feel or believe differently.
FACT: WikiAnswers has a question: Is socialization a problem for homeschoolers?
Here’s the answer listed there:
Generally speaking, the main point of homeschooling is to regulate/limit a child’s contact with external social influences and information deemed ”undesirable” by parents. It is a form of parental censorship. By limiting a child’s contact with people that have values outside the family’s religion and political views, the parents succeed in conditioning their children in ways they think appropriate.
I was homeschooled while growing up and something that I realize looking back on my childhood is that the majority of the homeschooling families that I knew ONLY socialized with other homeschooling families, that shared similar religious/political values. Do you think that this constitutes proper socialization?
Okay, I just have to get this off my chest: I was also homeschooled and my experience was quite different. If your parents didn’t put much effort into seeing that you grew up to be a well-rounded adult, that’s probably a comment on a much larger problem than just the homeschooling aspect of the equation, and you don’t get to make assumptions about all homeschooling families or their motivations because of it. Additionally, just because you’re in public school does not mean that you’re raised any differently. Parents always have the responsibility to ensure that their children are taught to use the minds they were born with no matter how they’re educated.
Whew! Now that that’s out of the way… if you’ve read my blog before, then you know that the reality of ‘the homeschoolers are religious’ myth is a loud, resounding ‘Not all of them!’ We certainly do not, and the entire community at SecularHomeschool.com will tell you the same thing. Some families are. Many families are. Perhaps even the majority of homeschooling families are – although truthfully, I’m not even sure that I’m convinced that the majority of families homeschool for religious reasons anymore. Almost daily, I talk to someone who is starting to see that the public education system is broken, perhaps beyond repair, who has ideas about possibly homeschooling their kids. While they may eventually gravitate towards a group that shares their religious views, that’s not always the primary reason someone might choose to give homeschooling a shot.
There are several issues with the listed answer to that question. The first word, even, puts a lie to everything that comes after it. I would assert that ‘generally speaking’, the main point of homeschooling is to ensure that your child has an education that will prepare them for life as an adult. For some, that comes from having a child who has fallen through the cracks in the public school system. For others, the public school system is so visibly broken that they never even enroll their child. Others may have a child who is a non-traditional (or non-conformist) learner and find that home education fits his or her needs best, finding that such a child flourishes in an environment where the teacher-to-child-ratio is higher rather than failing in a group environment.
Sure, there is a portion of the homeschooling community who choose to limit their contact and association only to others who share their views, but that’s hardly something that is limited to the religious community, nor is it always necessarily harmful. As a secular homeschooler, I prefer the company of other secular homeschoolers to that of those who are religiously based. As a mother, I prefer to be around parents who practice an attachment parenting style rather than mainstream parenting (and I shun outright Babywise and Pearl parents). As a person, I prefer to be around people who share my interests rather than hose who don’t; I prefer friends who are happily married to those who are single – segregation according to preference or belief is nothing new, it’s not going to go away, nor is it catastrophically damaging to children. I’d rather my kids grow up with parents who believe in something rather than have them floundering for some kind of foundation. Many families feel similarly and many of them choose religion to be that base. I don’t and lots of other families have other things that they feel strongly about and seek validation in that stand from others who feel similarly. It only becomes an issue when you cannot accept and respect your child’s right to believe as he or she sees fit.
As parents, we shape our children’s beliefs every day. You couldn’t avoid doing it if you tried. While some parents go too far with it – instilling (or trying to instill) discrimination, racism, hate of those who look or believe differently, at some point those kids will grow up and be exposed to the outside world. At some point, those kinds of thoughts and the actions that may go along with them become their own. Many, many people who grow up with such things realize that what they were taught was wrong and choose to change and choose not to perpetuate that cycle in their own kids.
Myth: The classroom/school social model is the standard to which all other models must compare.
FACT: Ummm… why? No, really – I want to know why that is considered the gold standard. Before you enter school, and once you’re out of it, you’re never again segregated into groups by age as you are in the classroom. In real life you are surrounded with people of all ages, some older and some younger, who hold different roles. Each of those roles has a place in your life and children learn how they interact to form a family or community.
In the classroom, it’s not maturity or intelligence that dominates – it’s outward appearances. Pretty girls, athletic boys, kids who wear the ‘right’ jeans or sneakers… I think that’s one of the main reasons that or culture is so superficial; why Americans are so obsessed with what celebrities are doing and why we’re all so materialistic. I think it’s safe to assert that the accepted standard of socialization is what’s brought us to the consumerist culture that we’ve become.
The article that brought this issue to my attention (and profound need to comment on) is here, Research on the Socialization of Homeschoolers from the Homeschool Legal defense Association of Canada. My favorite part of the conclusion is this:
Home schooled students do not lag behind conventional students in social development.
A 1992 study compared the behaviors and social development test scores of 70 home schooled students with those of 70 public and private schooled students. The results showed no disparity in social development between the groups. In fact, home schooled children showed fewer behavioral problems, causing the researcher to conclude, “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.”9
9. Shyers, Larry (1992). Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students. Ph.D. dissertation. Univ. of FL.
I have to say that I see that conclusion as logical. Children don’t have the mental or emotional maturity or life-experience to lead other children. Remember Lord of the Flies? The classroom is only different when a teacher is present and paying attention. What strikes me is that those findings are from an eight year old study. If they’ve known that since 1992, are they just hoping things will change? That somehow, children will be better guides for other children if they just let this model continue? As my friends are familiar with me saying… How’s that workin’ for ya?
In my humble opinion, socialization is always going to be the responsibility of the parents, no matter what educational model you pursue. Homeschooling doesn’t limit your socialization opportunities; it broadens them. Some parents will find that mandate to be more challenging because they have to work a little harder to make it happen. It means that we have to be friendly and outgoing and meet people so that our kids can see how it’s done. It means that we need to be involved in community projects that open the doors to communication with the people in the smaller communities within our cities or towns. It also means that as our kids grown up, we have to step back and trust that we’ve done our job well – that our kids can use the tools we’ve taught them to make good decisions for themselves. And as long as you haven’t raised a clubber-of-baby-seals, then I think you can safely pat yourself on the back for a job well done.