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Socialization in Homeschooling

Updated October 4, 2021
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This article answers the common concern that homeschooling does not provides adequate socialization for children. The article will demonstrate that Homeschool is superior to traditional public-school socialization because it involves vertical socialization, reduced exposure to bullying, and allows for real world socialization situations.

Contrary to common concerns, homeschooling provides adequate socialization for children because it involves vertical socialization, reduced exposure to bullying, and allows for real world socialization situations. When, as a parent or guardian, you choose a less traditional method to educate your children many concerns are raised. Sometimes these concerns are expressed by the parents or guardians during the decision process or by well-meaning friends, family or anyone that learns of the decision to Homeschool. I will use the term “Traditionalists” to distinguish those that have concerns and will use the term “Homeschoolers” for those on the other side of the debate. The two most common concerns are Curriculum and Socialization.

The curriculum options vary greatly from Online schools, where the student is essentially taught like a traditional school by a teacher over the internet or “School at home” using strict curriculum guides and traditional school schedules all the way to “unschooling” which can be described as “Anti-school” where the child has complete control of what subjects they learn and schedule that is employed or child led learning which allows parents to gear activities toward a student’s likes and allows for non-standard timelines on basic subjects.

To begin we must define what socialization means for school age children. In the article “Factors Affecting Socialization of Children” by Carolyn R. Tomlin (2008), she states that “Socialization is an important process in child development. Stated simply, it is the process whereby individuals, especially children, become functioning members of a particular group and take on the values, behaviors, and beliefs of the group’s other members”. The key to this definition and how an individual perceives how any school choice meets or exceeds the satisfaction of the definition all comes down to two words; “particular group” Traditionalist tend to define this group as peers where homeschoolers seem to take a broader sense and consider society in general as the group. This difference could be the cause of the concern.

Another definition of Socialization comes from an article written by former teacher Laurel Niedospial (2018) who stated “Socialization requires that children consistently work with people they’re not used to working with. It’s about discussing things with people who have a different opinion and challenging preconceived notions. It’s about having to do a group project with people who don’t necessarily work the same way as you do, to collaborate on ideas and grow as a thinker.” She goes on to say that “This is something that homeschool programs, unless they mimic a traditional school setting, cannot do.” Using the same definitions of “group” as explained earlier, traditional schools only expose children to peers and teachers, while Homeschool exposes kids to a much larger portion of the world. Children in both settings can learn these skills, but one allows for the group pool members to be far more diverse.

When it comes to school socialization there are essentially two models. Traditional schooling is based on the Horizontal Socialization model where students are expected to interact with students that are the same age. A student’s school years are essentially the only time this model comes into play. Homeschool tends to utilize the vertical socialization model which is a model that more represents the real world. For example; Homeschooled kids are exposed to a wide range of people of varying age groups. Homeschooled students have plenty of opportunities to interact with children of the same age, utilizing sports teams, scouting, music or art lessons, dance or gymnastics classes or any multitude of extra-curricular activities.

Homeschooled students also get to break out of their grade-specific group and spend time with kids of all ages. Field trips and co-ops often have them in the company of a wide range of children, not only diverse in age, but often of differing socio-economic levels, as well as children with developmental issues. This means they gain experience from watching how older children behave and they learn patience and maturity when mentoring the younger children. Even exposure to differently abled students allows them a chance to come to terms with that reality. This learning environment mimics the old, one-room schoolhouse, which promotes enthusiasm, creativity, and collaboration.(Abacus Educational Journal, 2008)

Children are natural imitators and a great deal of their character development comes from the individuals that are modeling the behavior. The opportunities for traditionally schooled children to interact with a myriad of adults can be limited to just a few times in a school year. Homeschooled students do not have the same constraints and may well interact with multiple adults in a single day. It can be a good experience for kids to learn to negotiate the social environment of a school classroom and imitate other children, but it’s also incredibly important that they learn from socially mature adults. It has been noted that children best learn socialization from their parents. (Tomlin) While much can be said for a healthy student/teacher relationship, unfortunately with standardized testing requirements, class sizes and general la ze faire attitude by parents and students alike, many teachers no longer have the time to truly foster those relationships.

Not all socialization in schools is positive. In today’s society, bullies are still a reality of life. Bullies today have become much more vindictive and crueler both in person and over the internet via cyber-bullying. At some point, a student needs to learn to stand up to them. For most people that time was in grade school. For many, learning to deal with bullies is a formative experience and a helpful life lesson to absorb. For others, though, bullying is disastrous. It isolates them from their peers, stunts their social development, and leaves lasting emotional scars. Unless exposed through a club or activity, homeschooled children don’t have to waste energy and tears on being bullied. Everyone at some point needs to learn to deal with unpleasant people, but for that experience to become a positive opportunity for character-building, a child must be developmentally ready.

Homeschool delays exposure to bullies and allows children emotionally prepare. There is also the exposure to other less than desirable aspects of socializing, like gangs, profanity, and other mature content. Kids are subjected to a lot of this information before they are mature enough to handle being exposed to it. Laura Brodie Ph.D. (2010) states ‘Homeschooling is often accused of being a way for parents to shelter children from the problems of the world.” Suggesting children need the socialization found in traditional schools is highly suspect, since the social life in public schools is artificial and sometimes unhealthy. Comment by Amanda Sperry: For each point to be considered fully developed, you’ll need at least two paragraphs. Add one more paragraph to this section on bullying and include one more source.

Cyberbullying is a growing concern for all parents. Parents of public schooled children do their best to monitor their student’s online activity, and Homeschooling parents tend to be more “dialed in” to their children’s online presence. Cyberbullying can still occur. Just like traditional bullying scenarios, homeschooled children are exposed to less opportunities for a bully to target them. Stopbullying.gov mentions that many states fail to include cyberbullying it their anti-bullying laws and policies, therefore schools do not know their role in helping to combat this growing issue. (Stopbullying.gov)

Homeschool children have greater opportunity to socialize in the real world. For example; if a group of Homeschooled students were to start a craft business, they would have to not only prepare product to be sold by researching techniques, purchase materials, and dedicate time to work. They would also deal with all sorts of different people, including suppliers and adult customers. Classrooms, on the other hand, are a controlled environment. There are tons of great teachers out there, but they don’t have the same opportunities as homeschoolers do to break out of the classroom or curriculum and jump into real-life situations as part of the learning process. Comment by Amanda Sperry: Be sure you have two paragraphs and two sources used to prove this point as well.

Homeschooled children tend to be taken with a parent on errands. This gives homeschooled children a front row seat to watching adults interact with each other. As some children get older, they are often expected to order their own meals at a restaurant or interact with professionals such as doctors or sales people. Homeschool children view these interactions on a regular basis and are often given a chance to interact sooner rather than later. This gives them great experience for when they are older and out on their own and asked to have these interactions on a regular basis for themselves.

To summarize Chris Klicka (2007), Senior Counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, Homeschoolers are completely prepared for the real world. They regularly interact with adults and follow the examples those adults set rather than the examples of students of the same age that may be just as lost as the rest of their peers. Some would say, the only aspects of the socialization homeschooled students miss out on by not attending public school is unhealthy peer pressure, crime, and immorality.

To address the question of the socialization of homeschooled children from a research perspective, the Home School Legal Defense Association commissioned a study in 2003 titled “Homeschooling Grows Up,” conducted by Mr. Ray, to discover how home-schoolers were faring as adults. The news was not surprising for homeschooling parents. In all areas of life, from gaining employment, to being satisfied with their home-schooling, to participating in community activities, to voting, home-schoolers were more active and involved than their public-school counterparts. (Klicka, 2007)

As a Homeschooling parent of five children myself, I can speak to the day-to-day activities my own children undertake. It is typical for my children to accompany one or both parents on errands allowing them a chance to see first hand how adults interact, these trips allow them a chance to interact with adults as well. They are encouraged to order for themselves at restaurants, and to interact with cashiers and clerks all while supervised by a parent. They take classes for dance and karate giving them a chance to interact with children of similar ages. And they interact with their siblings, giving them exposure to children that are of varying ages. All of these interactions allow them to observe and often demonstrate levels of socialization they would not experience in a traditional school.

As proven in this paper, contrary to common concerns, homeschooling provides adequate socialization for children because it involves vertical socialization, reduced exposure to bullying, and allows for real world socialization situations. As we have seen, Homeschooled students interact with individuals across many different groups. Homeschooling allows some control over when a student is exposed to negative aspects of socialization. And finally, because Homeschooled students are locked into a classroom or curriculum there is are opportunity for socialization in real world scenarios. I would further state that not only is the lack of socialization for homeschooled children a myth, but it is far superior to traditional schools for socialization.

References

  1. Abacus Education Journal, Advantages of the one-room schoolhouse approach to teaching, http://www.abacus-es.com/journal/education-theory/advantages-of-the-one-room-schoolhouse-approach-to-teaching/
  2. Bailey, N. 2015, September 2. Student Socialization in Public Schools. https://nancyebailey.com/2015/09/02/student-socialization-in-public-schools/
  3. Brodie Ph.D., L., 2010, May, 3. Homeschooling to Escape Bullies: What’s Wrong with That? https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/love-in-time-homeschooling/201005/homeschooling-escape-bullies-whats-wrong
  4. Klicka,C. 2007, March Socialization: Homeschoolers Are in the Real World https://hslda.org/content/docs/nche/000000/00000068.asp
  5. Niedospial, L 2018, May 12. What Homeschooling Gets Wrong About Socialization, According to a Former Teacher. https://www.popsugar.com/moms/How-Homeschooling-Doesnt-Help-Socialization-44028681
  6. Tomlin, C. R., Factors Affecting Socialization of Children, http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=553
  7. Trunk, P. 2012, December 18. It’s a myth that school is good for socialization. http://education.penelopetrunk.com/2012/12/18/its-a-myth-that-school-is-good-for-socialization/
  8. The Washington Times, 2009, December 13. HOME-SCHOOLING: Socialization not a problem. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/13/home-schooling-socialization-not-problem/
  9. Stopbullying.gov What Is Cyberbullying
  10. https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html
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