The standard first question you're asked when you say that you homeschool is, "What about socialization?" Of course. By "socialization" they really are kindly and quite concernedly wondering if your kids will turn out weird and how they'll function in the world after being isolated from other kids.
This is a very exciting topic to cover. Get comfortable.
Let's talk about "weird." I'm sure that we all know some families that might be considered "weird". It occurred to me when we were first looking into homeschooling and Bobby and I both could think of a few "odd" families that homeschooled that, when I took a second to think beyond homeschooling, there were also "odd" or "weird" families that sent their children to public school. But why don't we naturally look at public schooled families that way too, in all fairness??
Here comes my weird parents in, weird children out theory.
As I've observed and I'm sure you've observed, if the parents are "weird" then the kids will be "weird". And I don't mean that in an unkind way.
Think off the top of your head of an unusual family you know of. Are the parents a bit odd? The likely answer is yes. So why do their kids tend to be "weird"? Because they are their parents' children. It doesn't matter if they go to school or homeschool. Blame genetics or family dynamics or whatever you'd like. The reality is that children tend to take their personality, behavior, and "weirdness" (or lack thereof) cues from the family they are raised in.
I know plenty of odd families (once again, judging based on what society has labeled as "different") that do things their own unique way and also send their kids to public school. Why are homeschooled kids easy to point out? There are fewer of them (their every move is noticed and judged), they are doing something non-mainstream (they standout), and so, you put 1 + 1 together and, Voila!, it must be because they're homeschooled.
I think it actually comes down to "coolness". If a homeschooled child has never heard of Justin Bieber or isn't up on the popular jeans to wear, it is easier to think that child (and family) is so far away from what's going on in contemporary pop culture. But really, that family, whether homeschooled or public schooled, would care as much or as less as they do about pop culture.
Your family with its interests, hobbies, activities, and core personality will look the same whether translated into a homeschooling life or public schooled life.
Now let's separate the nature of the family you may be thinking of and just look at the child.
How many children do you know of that are chatterboxes, that can't sit still, that can't seem to find a friend, that have friends wherever they go, are insecure in public settings, love being around people, have outbursts, have separation anxiety, like to be alone, like to be with others, care about dressing in style, don't know what is in fashion, like reading, don't like reading, and on and on.... All children are unique, whether public schooled or homeschooled. And you would find both homeschooled and public schooled children falling into these categories.
Often, I think people misjudge a child's personality (if they're too outgoing, too shy, too friendly, or not friendly enough) as being a result of being homeschooled. It happens all the time. Whatever the child is doing or not doing, it can easily be blamed on their being homeschooled. Of course, since public schooling is considered the "gold standard" of socialization, public school rarely gets the blame for producing a "weird" child or a child that doesn't do things like everyone else. (I actually consider that a positive.)
Sadly, I know of too many adults--that I love dearly--that have fought for decades to remove the damage done to them "socially" in public schools. The public school environment damaged their confidence, self-worth, hope in themselves, and trust in others and the world. If only these adults had another option years ago when life at school, day in and day out, was so painful.
If the public school experience is considered the "gold standard" for socialization, then the following statistics may cause some alarm.
- One in four kids in the U.S. are bullied on a regular basis. (source)
- Verbal bullying--the most common type with about 77 percent of all students being bullied verbally--can also include spreading rumors, yelling obscenities or other derogatory terms based on an individual's race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Out of the 77 percent of those bullied, 14 percent have a severe or bad reaction to the abuse.
- They may experience poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety about going to school and even suicidal thoughts (bullycide) as a result of being bullied by their peers.
- Almost half of all students fear harassment or bullying in the bathroom at school. As a result of this fear and anxiety of being bullied, many students will make excuses or find ways around going to school.
- School bullying statistics also reveal that teens ages 12-17 believe they have seen violence increase at their schools. In fact, these numbers also show that most violent altercations between students are more likely to occur on school grounds than on the way to school for many teens. (source here and above)
- In 2011, 20% of high schoolers were bullied at school. (source)
- Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying (source)
- 33% of high schoolers reported being involved in a physical fight in the last year.
- Youth and school violence can lead to depression, alcohol and drug use, suicide, anxiety, and fear.
- In 2010 there were more than 800,000 nonfatal school victimizations of children and teens ages 12 to 18.
- In recent years, assault by weapon, cases of intimidation and bullying, and alcohol possession have all more than doubled on school properties. (source here and above)
These are staggering statistics, I know. And no, we didn't choose to homeschool just to avoid these awful stats (although it is a huge bonus). The point is that although it is certainly possible to raise well-adjusted children that avoid all of the ills associated with public school that I've catalogued above, as parents, you are fighting an uphill battle. As discussed above, the family environment plays a big part in how children will "turn out", so the effects of public school on socialization need to be viewed in the context of the family in which the child is raised. On the subject of socialization specifically, I am suggesting that public schooling may offer a net negative effect rather than a positive one.“As a writer, politician, scientist, and businessman, [Ben] Franklin had few equals among the educated of his day—though he left school at ten. (...) Boys like Andrew Carnegie who begged his mother not to send him to school and was well on his way to immortality and fortune at the age of thirteen, would be referred today for psychological counseling; Thomas Edison would find himself in Special Ed until his peculiar genius had been sufficiently tamed.” ― John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling
The homeschooling movement is growing exponentially. Of the 1.7 million homeschoolers in America, 91% say they chose that path because of the environment of public school; 77% say it is to provide moral instruction; and 74% say it is because of dissatisfaction of academic instruction in school.
If you are concerned your homeschooled child (or grandchild) won't be "socialized", "normal", or fit in the real world, read these statistics and insights:
- Thomas Smedley (of Radford University) 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. 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. (source)
- Several studies have been done to measure homeschoolers’ “self-concept,” which is the key objective indicator for establishing a child’s self-esteem. A child’s degree of self-esteem is one of the best measurements of his ability to successfully interact on a social level. One such study was conducted by John Wesley Taylor, using the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale to evaluate 224 home-schooled children. They study found that 50 percent of the children scored above the 90th percentile, and only 10.3 percent scored below the national average.3
- In another 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.”8
- Dr. Brian Ray reviewed the results of four studies on the socialization of homeschoolers on aspects of the social activities and emotional characteristics of home-schooled children. They found that these children are actively involved in many activities outside the home with peers, different-aged children, and adults. The data from their research suggests that homeschoolers are not being socially isolated, nor are they emotionally maladjusted.9
- 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.”10
- When measured against the average Canadians ages 15 to 34 years old, home-educated Canadian adults ages 15 to 34 were more socially engaged (69 percent participated in organized activities at least once per week, compared with 48 percent of the comparable population). Average income for home-schoolers also was higher, but perhaps more significantly, while 11 percent of Canadians ages 15 to 34 rely on welfare, there were no cases of government support as the primary source of income for home-schoolers. Home-schoolers also were happier; 67.3 percent described themselves as very happy, compared with 43.8 percent of the comparable population. Almost all of the home-schoolers — 96 percent — thought home-schooling had prepared them well for life. (source)
“Do we really need school? I don't mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary? And if so, for what? Don't hide behind reading, writing, and arithmetic as a rationale, because 2 million happy homeschoolers have surely put that banal justification to rest.”
John Taylor Gatto
The word socialization is subjective. It often means how "cool" a child is and this is determined in large part by the family, their environment, and their family culture. Socialization needs to be viewed in context. When we look closely at public school and see some of the social problems that it produces, then we can begin to make a more honest comparison.
From observing many families and children over the years, I've come to the conclusion that it is possible to raise well adjusted, well socialized children whether a family chooses to homeschool or send their child to public school. The difference, as I see it with public schooling, is raising a well adjusted, confident child is an uphill battle that you as a family have to counteract through the environment and values you create in your home.
While homeschooling is no walk in the park, the socialization issue is really a non-issue.
More on that tomorrow.
Some important questions answered tomorrow in part II:
What does a 'well socialized' child look like?
How will they get along in the world?
And how can I trust that my children will turn out?
"We are shut up in school and college recitation rooms for ten to fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing. We cannot use our hands, or our legs, or our eyes, or our arms. We do not know an edible root in the woods. We cannot tell our course by the stars, nor the hour of day by the sun. It is well if we can swim and skate. We are afraid of a horse or a cow, of a dog, of a cat, of a spider. Far better was the Roman rule to teach a boy nothing that he could not learn standing." Ralph Waldo Emerson
the sleepy time gal