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# Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mrs. dotNetTemplar and I have decided to homeschool our children, and it is always interesting to see the various reactions you get.  Some folks think it's grand and say they wish they could.  Probably the majority just kind of stare at you blankly like you were just speaking in tonuges or kind of pat you on the head knowingly.  But the stock question, the one that you get more than any other, is "what about socialization?"

I'm not sure why or how this became common wisdom about homeschooling.  As far as I know, there haven't been any studies conducted to show that homeschoolers are socially stunted or inept.  Rather, there has been signficant research that indicates quite the opposite.  All you need to do is Google it to see more realistic information about the topic; I thought this article summed it up nicely.  Excepting those who have a vested interested in public (or private) schooling, the consensus among those informed is that homeschooling can actually be better than the alternative for socialization.

Here's a nice little snippet that I ran across today in a newsletter, The Liberator Online, I occasionally read (no, I'm not a libertarian).  The source they got it from is the New Oxford Review, which was quoting the Kolbe Little Home Journal, Fall 2005. 

When my wife and I mention we are strongly considering homeschooling our children, we are without fail asked, 'But what about socialization?' Fortunately, we found a way our kids can receive the same socialization that government schools provide.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie and take his lunch money. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease our children for not being in the 'in' crowd, taking special care to poke fun at any physical abnormalities. Fridays will be 'Fad and Peer Pressure Day.' We will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, the most expensive clothes, and the loudest, fastest, and most dangerous car.

Every day, my wife and I will adhere to a routine of cursing and swearing in the hall and mentioning our weekend exploits with alcohol and immorality.

...And we have asked (our kids) to report us to the authorities in the event we mention faith, religion, or try to bring up morals and values.

It's funny (and sad) because it is true.  The socialization one gets in public (or private for that matter) schooling is just not natural.  Where else in life are we surrounded by only peers of our own age?  In pretty much every other social environment I've been in outside of school, my peers are made up of people older and younger than me.  The grouping of kids by age, while expedient for group education, is certainly not the ideal model for socialization. 

It seems that homeschooling actually bears out to provide better-adjusted children who turn into better-adjusted adults.  When you add that to the many other benefits of homeschooling, one wonders why more people don't do it.  Well, actually, one doesn't.  It isn't the easiest path; in fact, compared to just dropping your kids off at school every day, it's significantly harder. 

Naturally, I realize that not everyone can for very good reasons (and not just, say, because it is hard).  Thankfully, my family is blessed to be in a position to homeschool, so that's what we're going to do.  I know it's not going to be a bed of roses, but at least we don't have to worry about the kids being socialized and well-adjusted; that's just a red herring that has somehow become common wisdom.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:55:57 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
Thursday, April 27, 2006 11:16:47 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Excellent post - well reasoned, etc.

Many people up in my neck of the woods home school (and we may eventually switch to it as well), but still have their kids enrolled in things like Orchestra and sports at the local schools which works out fairly well in terms of allowing them access to more 'socialization'. (Though I like your thoughts on the abnormality imposed by school....)

And check out this excellent opininon on the whole high-school system:
http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html
Thursday, April 27, 2006 1:54:48 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Hey Ambrose, first time post to your blog for me.

I congratulate you guys on the decision to home school. I think at one point in time all parents have thought about this. I do have to say it sounds a lot like you are trying to defend your position by pointing out the bad in public/private schooling. This should definitely be no ground for making a decision for your child. I found a few things I would like to counter in your arguments against public/private schooling.

1) Social behavior studies – Given that less than 3% of school age children are home-schooled this would be a very hard comparison. This also does not separate those attending private versus those in public. Also for those who recognize their shortcomings, a decision for having others teach their children may in fact be the better decision.
2) Natural social behavior – Every situation must be taken in context. At the time that people are school age, I think there is no better time to be grouped with peers of your own age. Outside of school, most sports are grouped this way; this being one example. Also in our private school, there are several classes that are made up of different grades in order to provide this level of older/younger interaction.
3) Home schooling bears better-adjusted children – Every person is different, and every parent must make the best decision for his/her child. We actually chose different schools for each of our kids because we believed each would benefit from a different environment. Some actually see that they cannot possibly provide the level of education that they would receive in a school where teachers must become subject matter experts.
4) Just dropping kids off at school – In our school there is a high level of parent participation. My wife has actually gone to the school at different times in the same day for different activities.

There are also several benefits in choosing public/private school. If a teacher is in fact not providing a child with the best education, parents can discuss with each other and approach the school administration for the best course of action. (Somehow I don’t think you can fire yourself and/or your wife). I think there is common belief that the choice for public/private schooling is one made out of convenience and/or laziness, when in fact we made this choice for many reasons. I think public/private schooling typically provides a more diverse level of social interaction, whereas home schooling (from my perspective) typically provides a more consistent level. In any case we as parents must go through this decision making process with as much education and communication as possible, and ultimately make the best decision for our children.
Thursday, April 27, 2006 9:57:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Hi Mike, thanks for the comments and link.

Hi Scott,

I think you're reading more into this post than is there. It is simply a short diatribe to say that I think the socialization issue is a red herring. I didn't really dig into what is good or bad much about any kind of schooling; at most, I referenced some links so that folks could read up and come to their own conclusions if they haven't already.

If I were going to argue, I have plenty of what I'd consider to be positives that only homeschooling can provide. (Maybe I'll blog about those some time.) And I'd certainly grant that quality of education, including socialization, in any kind of formal school environment will vary greatly depending on many factors. That, in fact, is one reason I'd lean in favor of homeschooling; even at many private schools, the quality of teachers varies greatly. Personally, I attended both private and public schooling growing up, and I can attest that there were good teachers at the public schools and good ones at the private school (and there were not so good ones at each as well).

Similarly, on the socialization side of things, I'd say at best you're getting pot luck. Surely, there are greatly varying degrees among the general atmospheres of schools, and certainly, if you can afford to choose schools with better environments, that's better than not doing so. But you still don't have the same level of control. You never know what your kid will pick up from other kids, their teachers, or what have you, and while, as you say, some schools respond to complaints, at that point, the damage has already been done. As I see it, when it comes to being able to fully control the environment for your children, homeschool wins hands down.

I will also grant that the social (and academic for that matter) outcome of homeschoolers may in fact be self selecting in that typically only educated parents in stable families will likely choose homeschooling. The point of bringing up the studies is not to say that homeschooling is a sure bet for having well-educated, well-adjusted kids but to counter the naysayers who imply that homeschoolers are somehow inherently deprived from good education and socialization.

We'll just have to disagree on the normalcy of grouping children by grade. Even in earlier public schooling in the US (and even in many places in the world today from what I've gleaned), children were all together and interacted regularly. I think that relating to people who are different from you (in age, mental capacity, social capacity, social standing, etc.) is a very important social skill because it is something you will need to use all throughout your life.

The way our school (and sport) system is organized, while expedient, is very lacking in that regard. And it is a relatively novel invention in human history, from what I can tell. Yes, there do seem to be natural divisions between children (esp. prepubescent ones) and adults, but the grouping by age/grade is, IMO, artificial and unhealthy. In fact, I'd argue that it is precisely this kind of grouping that keeps children from growing up, even into adulthood. Without regular socialization with adults, how will kids learn to become adults?

I also said that many parents have "very good reasons" to not homeschool, and I'd shuffle your own into that category. You've clearly seriously considered it and chosen the path for your children that you think is best. I'm not wanting to second guess that. This post was not meant to demean parents who thoughtfully choose what they think is best in that regard.

For better or worse, choosing to homeschool places one in a defensive position ipso facto since it is not the "normal" way--you're always having to defend your choice. Maybe that's why I come across as defensive in this post, because I am. But honestly, the main reason I decided to blog was that I found the anecdote amusing and wanted to share.
Saturday, January 10, 2009 12:13:08 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
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