Socialization and the Homeschooled Student
A common definition of socialization is the ability to adapt to the needs of any given group, to follow the rules of society, and live harmoniously in the particular society in which we live. Because children schooled at home have the opportunity to interact with a greater representation of the society on a daily basis, they are generally more likely to be socialized to a greater variety of social situations. Brian Ray of the national home Education Research Institute reports that the typical homeschooled child is involved in 5.2 social activities outside the home each week. These activities include afternoon and weekend programs with conventionally schooled kids, such as ballet classes, Little League teams, scout troops, church groups, and neighborhood play. They also include midday field trips and cooperative learning programs organized by groups of home schooling families (1999).
They interact with their family for long periods of time during the day, and are generally with a family member during these social activities. It is within the family and with parental input and guidance that much of true socialization and modeling of socially acceptable behavior occurs. In my clinical practice with homeschooling families, I have rarely encountered a family where the children were not actively involved in a variety of social activities. Families have many options for activities that suit both the child's interest and temperament as well as what works best for their particular family.
Homeschooled students have the opportunity to engage in activities with a wide age and ability range. They are not segregated with age mates in a setting that is quite different from any other environment they will encounter in life. "There is no conclusive research suggesting that time with same-aged peers is preferable to time with individuals of varying ages. Limited testing of a self-selected group of homeschooled children suggests above average social and psychological development. Pat Lines, a homeschooling researcher, notes that "Éat the very least, anyone who has observed homeschoolers will notice a high level of sharing, networking, collaboration, and cooperative learning"(Dobson, ed., 1998, p.96). I agree with Pat Lines. What I most often hear from new homeschooling families who have had a chance to observe veteran homeschooled children is how impressed they are with the level of cooperative play and learning, the way older children look after and include younger children, and the ease with which children mix with varied age groups. This fluidity of social interaction allows children to play and learn in a group that matches his or her developmental level, while at the same time fosters a learning environment that truly supports healthy social interaction. Barbara Bliss in her research project, "Home Education: A Look at Current Practices" (1989) contends "that it is in the formal educational system's setting that children first experience negative socialization, conformity, and peer pressure". According to Bliss "This is a setting of large groups, segmented by age, with a variation of authority figuresÉ the individual, with his/her developmental needs becomes overpowered by the expectations and demand of others-equal in age and equally developmentally needy" (1989). Studies have shown that children learn to socialize in a positive way by spending time with people who love them and have a compelling interest in helping them learn to be a part of society. They learn this art of being social by being with people of all ages and by following the models of the adults around them in a healthy way. They learn by being with friends, siblings, shopkeepers and neighbors, learning what does and what doesn't work. It has become "common knowledge" that children learn to socialize by only being with children of their own age in a highly structured, institutional setting, with punishment and shame as the motivating force for behavior. The truth is, children want desperately to belong to the world of adults, to become competent, contributing members of society. This happens when a child is allowed to be part of the world, not apart from it.
In a study conducted by Lee Stough (1992) comparison was made of 30 homeschooling families and 32 conventionally schooling 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" (Stough, 1992). The researcher found no difference in the self-concept of children in the two groups. Stough maintains:
insofar as self concept is a reflector of socialization, it would appear that few home-schooled 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 (1992).
This echoes the findings of John Wesley Taylor of Andrews University (1987). Using one of the best validated self-concept scales available, Taylor's random sampling of homeschooled children (45,000) found that half of these children scored at or about the 91st percentile-47% higher than the average, than conventionally schooled children. He concludes, "Since self concept is considered to be a basic dynamic of positive sociability, this answers the often heard skepticism suggesting that homeschoolers are inferior in socialization" (Taylor, 1987).
In another study Dr. Delahooke (1986) of the California School of Professional Psychology, using a standard personality measure, compared two groups of children: a homeschool group and a matched private school group. Dr. Delahoooke determined that "the private school subjects appeared to be more influenced by or concerned with peers than the home educated group" (Williams).
These studies help to dispel the concerns expressed by teachers, administrators, and legislators about socialization and homeschooling. "The results suggest that home schooling improves a child's self-concept and helps children develop the ability to withstand peer pressure. Both of these outcomes are indications of positive socialization experiences." (Williams, 2002)
In my observations, both informally and in my practice, children who have been primarily homeschooled, especially through middle school, emerge with a strong sense of self, an inner direction, and feelings of self-worth. Although they have established friendships, they are not easily influenced by peers, and can clearly make choices that might go against the group.
Reprinted with the permission of the HomeSchool Association of California. © 2007–2008 by HomeSchool Association of California. All rights reserved.
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