Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts
The DebateI've heard it a hundred times. If you're thinking about homeschooling, it probably troubles you. "What about socialization?" is the major homeschooling question people have about a homeschooling lifestyle.
Professional educators, who don't fully understand the many styles of homeschooling, often raise this issue. They believe school is the only place children learn socialization skills. But it's just not true!
The socialization myth was born out of a misconception of what it's like to homeschool. Many educators and critics of homeschooling still believe homeschoolers hit the books at 9 a.m., work all day at their kitchen table till 3:00 p.m. or later, and spend their day isolated and alone. This, of course, is ridiculous!
The homeschoolers I know are out and about every day, enjoying museums, beaches, parks, and shows without the crowds. They travel often. The kids participate in Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H, and sports. They take art, dance, drama, language, and music classes, to name a few.
Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development, has done extensive research on homeschooling and socialization. His book, The Hurried Child, should be in every homeschooler's library. "The idea that children need to be around many other youngsters in order to be 'socialized,'" Dr. Moore writes, "is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today."
Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and overexcited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral problems develop. After analyzing over 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by parents -- not other children.
What kind of socialization occurs when 20 or 30 kids of the same age are placed in a classroom together day after day? Peer pressure is enormous. Kids feel like they need to look and sound and be like everyone else, at the risk of forgetting or never discovering who they really are. This results in rivalry, ridicule, and competition - hardly the environment for healthy socialization.
A homeschooler who interacts with parents and siblings more than with peers displays self-confidence, self-respect, and self-worth. She knows she's a part of a family unit that needs, wants, and depends on her. The result is an independent thinker who isn't influenced by peers and is self-directed in her actions and thoughts.
Do tests bear this out? You bet!
In July 2000, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank, published an extensive report on homeschooling written by Senior Fellow Dr. Patricia Lines. She describes several controlled studies comparing the social skills of homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers.
The homeschoolers scored as "well adjusted." In one study, trained counselors viewed videotapes of mixed groups of homeschooled and schooled children at play. The counselors didn't know the school status of each child. The results? The homeschooled kids demonstrated fewer behavioral problems. Dr. Lines' conclusion? "There is no basis to question the social development of homeschooled children."
Homeschooling parents know kids need blocks of quiet time alone. Time to dream and grow and find out what it is they love to do. This is something few children enjoy today. They are never alone at school, and their after-school lives are packed full of activities, as well.
If you are considering homeschooling and are still concerned about socialization, I suggest the following:
1. Find other homeschoolers in your area and strike up friendships. This can be done via the Internet, your place of worship, a food co-op, or library. Put up notices on safe billboards in your community.
2. Join a group like 4-H. 4-H is a youth development organization. Your child can choose one of their many clubs, based on his or her interests (rocketry, crafts, environment, animals, dance, and many more). All are welcome, and it's free.
3. When you meet families out with kids during school hours, ask them if they homeschool. I know of many friendships that started that way!
4. Find out about the sports programs available through your local parks and recreation department. Team sports give kids the opportunity to meet peers with common interests.
5. Volunteer your services. Visit local nursing homes, shelters, etc. One young homeschooler regularly visited a nursing home with her mom and gave elderly women manicures. Giving unselfishly to one's community sets a good example and develops true socialization skills.
Socialization, like learning and life, takes place every day. How you interact with your kids -- and how they watch you interact with the outside world -- teaches them all the social skills they'll need to know. Stop worrying about socialization. It's a "problem" that never existed!