“Socialization is actually meant to prepare children for the real world, which means learning to interact and deal with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds,” says Diane Flynn Keith. “In this case, homeschooling actually does a better job of this because homeschoolers spend more actual time out in society.”
Research supports this. According to Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization by Richard G. Medlin, “Home-schooled children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. They are certainly not isolated; in fact, they associate with–and feel close to–all sorts of people.”
He continues, “Home schooling parents can take much of the credit for this. For, with their children’s long-term social development in mind, they actively encourage their children to take advantage of social opportunities outside the family. Home-schooled children are acquiring the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes they need. They have good self-esteem and are likely to display fewer behavior problems than do other children. They may be more socially mature and have better leadership skills than other children as well. And they appear to be functioning effectively as members of adult society.”
This and other studies support the irony of the socialization issue in Home Education that we have known for years, which is that traditional schools are actually more on a path of de-socialization. In traditional schools students learn to stay in a class to which they’ve been assigned and are grouped according to age and academic level, and generally with students from the same geographic area and socio-economic background.
So in a sense, as I like to say, many people are home educated because of socialization reasons.
Diane Flynn Keith agreed that traditional schools are not conducive to socialization and in fact, that students are actually punished if they try to socialize in the classroom.
She shared this ironic story, “I recall distinctly that my son spent a great deal of time in the classroom in the first grade, with his head down on his desk because he wanted to talk all the time to all his little friends around him and the teacher kept saying ‘We’re not here to socialize, young man.'”
The structure and reality of traditional schools are teaching students to be passive and compliant, which can follow the children throughout life. Children can learn to take abuse, to ignore miserable bosses or abusive spouses later on. In a traditional school someone else usurps authority.
This is where Home Education comes in. Kids in HE develop self-confidence and self-esteem; they learn to deal with difficult people when they are developmentally ready. When they are ready to go out into the world they know they have choices, a foundation developed in homeschooling.
Research conducted by Michael Brady entitled ‘Social Development in Traditionally Schooled and Homeschooled Children, a Case for Increased Parental Monitoring and Decreased Peer Interaction’ endorses this idea. Brady states, “There seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence that children socialized in a peer-dominant environment are at higher risk for developing social maladjustment issues than those that are socialized in a parent monitored environment.”
In other words, socialization in homeschooling works better because children have more opportunities to be socialized through the modeling of good social behaviour by caring adults rather than through peers, who do not know much more than they do. Parents give their kids the skills they need to interact with other people and also have the chance to protect their children.
Home Educated children can participate in these activities because learning is faster in a HE setting, which means that students have more time to socialize. Contrary to popular belief, students are not at home chained to the kitchen table and crying over their worksheets every day, or peering out their work room windows with fear and disdain!
Quite the opposite! Home Education gives children more time to be out in the world, with people of different ages so they can figure out where their place in the world is, what they like/dislike, etc. With the extra time, HE also make an effort to create socialization opportunities for themselves, and to take advantage of those offered in their communities.
Our thanks to Diane Flynn Keith for her help with this article. Diane publishes Homefires – The Journal of Homeschooling, which eventually became an online publication. Diane is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in education outside the traditional classroom walls.