“Homeschooling will certainly produce some socially awkward adults, but the odds are good they would have been just as quirky had they spent twelve years raising their hand for permission to go to the bathroom.”
By now, the socialization question has been killed, gutted, boiled, flayed alive and set to roast in coals several times over.
On innumerable occasions, researchers have tested this question statistically, only to find homeschoolers are better at socialising than schoolchildren.
Even the wider public still view homeschooling negatively, the general view towards homeschooling has improved. This is largely due to the flood of pro-homeschooling studies and literature on socialisation and other successful homeschooling prospects.
One reason homeschoolers are so well socialized is because many Christian homeschool parents are acutely aware of the socialization question .
In fact, negative views on homeschooling socialisation have stopped many parents from homeschooling earlier than they otherwise would have.
92% of school superintendents believe homeschoolers are unsocialized, emotionally unstable, and too judgmental.
“My kids were much better at getting along with people of all ages when they were homeschooled and were able to be cheerful and outgoing in public and get along with their peers and friends. They learnt to interact with the world in a much more real way than being expected only to know how to communicate with other kids their age.”
- Jenny, homeschool mother.
C.S. Lewis said something that rings true perhaps most of all for homeschoolers:
"There are people who are generic. They make generic responses and they expect generic answers. They live inside a box and they think people who don't fit into their box are weird. But I'll tell you what, generic people are the weird people. They are like genetically-manipulated plants growing inside a laboratory, like indistinguishable faces, like droids. Like ignorance."
The following is a generalization of my observations of Christian homeschoolers and the observations of homeschooling researchers. Are Christian homeschoolers socialised per the above Dictionary.com definition of socialisation?
This article will argue they are generally well socialised.
The Christian homeschooler develops a great personal identity when they sit, talk and walk with their godly parents constantly.
When parents teach children to put their eyes on Jesus, Christian homeschoolers find their personal identity in Christ Jesus.
Godliness is trained using the Bible, which provides objective truth or norms (something public schools only dream about as they teach subjective morals through 'values clarification').
[As a generalisation,] the Christian homeschoolers values are taken from the Bible. Their behavior is modeled off Christ and their parent’s Christian example.
They learn social skills from the Bible as well as their parent’s godly examples and society at large. Their social position is that of a servant, and a brother or sister in Christ.
It appears Christian homeschoolers are well socialised according to the Dictionary’s definition of socialisation.
But, do public school children stack up well to the Dictionary’s definition?
School Only About Socialisation
Does Socialization Require Work?
Those who deliberately isolate their children appear to make up only a small minority of homeschooling parents. These parents deliberately isolate their children from other families, often, because they fear all outside influence on themselves and their children.
When homeschooling parents deliberately isolate their children, despite having appropriate socialisation opportunities, homeschooling can be a nightmare for children. This nightmare is recounted in numerous anti-homeschooling blogs. These blogs show Christians and non-Christian parents are equally involved in homeschooling isolation.
A small minority of Christian homeschooling parents make the mistake of thinking other people, even Christians, equal bad influences. These parents forget members of the Christian body, such as their own homeschooling children, die if cut off from the Christian body.
Previously isolated homeschoolers sometimes become rebellious, and resent their parents for isolating them too much (there are websites dedicated to this issue including CRHE and Homeschooling's Invisible Children). Some of these homeschoolers suffer and go astray when ‘released’ into the real world as they are not used to, and cannot deal with, pressures in the real world. Perhaps this is akin to the Amish practice of rumspringa where Amish parents release their teenagers into the world, saying, ‘Choose between us or them.’
Although I have plenty of admiration for the Amish, isolation for long periods is unscriptural. Isolationists give only two choices for people, both unbiblical. Firstly, they say we must be in the world and of the world (i.e. non-Christians). Secondly, they say we must be out of the world and not of the world. But this goes against Jesus commands to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15).
The Amish Rumspringa
Socialization is a great reason to participate in homeschooling groups. Studies show most homeschoolers socialise in an average of five different social settings regularly, such as their church, bible study, hobby clubs and sports teams.
Constant socialization among homeschoolers was noticed by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, who said, ‘Home educated [children] are doing well. They’re typically above average, on measures of social, emotional and psychological development.’
Greg Cizek, associate professor of educational research at the University of North Carolina, also said, ‘If anything, research shows that because [homeschooling] parents are so sensitive to the charge, they expose [their children] to many activities.’
Large Homeschooling Families
Are Homeschoolers Socialised?
My own experience is that homeschooled children are friendly, open and generally easy to talk to. They are as reserved or as outgoing as anyone else, have a boatload of friends or a few close buddies. They may get up early, sleep until noon, dress as they please. They can be wonderfully average or amazingly bright and some struggle with conventional learning tasks, but excel in more unconventional areas. The hidden truth is simple: homeschoolers are not all that different from everyone else.
- Lisa Rivero in The Homeschooling Option.
An Australian homeschooling researcher with Monash University, Glenda Jackson, found homeschoolers are generally well-adjusted and have high self-esteems. Although some ex-school children missed their peers, they can see the benefits of homeschooling outweigh school because homeschooling allows students to learn at their pace and doesn’t isolate students when they’re ideologically different.
This non-judgmental environment has positive effects on children, according to homeschooling expert, Steven Kelley. Kelley points to several studies that find the psychological self-concept of homeschoolers is higher than that of public school children.
A high self-concept was attributed to higher levels of love, support, involvement, independence, responsibility and higher levels of self-worth at home. Other elements affecting psychological self-concept were reduced anxiety levels and more contact with parental love.
When Kelley looked at homeschoolers academic self-concept, he reported the following:
[Homeschoolers] academic self-concept, at the 72nd percentile, was above the national [American] average and was positively related to achievement. They have above average self-esteem, in multiple studies. They are not isolated but active, contributing members of society, even in childhood. Ninety-eight percent are involved in weekly church meetings and other activities that require interfacing with various ages and settings.
‘There seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence children socialised in a peer-dominant environment are at higher risk for developing social maladjustment issues than those that are socialised in a parent monitored environment.’
Homeschoolers may be seen as socially awkward when they are young because they don’t have school’s brand of ‘social glue’. But, if homeschoolers awkward around others (and many are not) it’s sometimes because they’re unsure how to act around immature school children.
Because homeschoolers are more mature than school children, a fact backed up in numerous studies , they may struggle to relate to others who they think should be more mature. Homeschooling parents, Steven and Barbara, noticed their homeschoolers struggled to relate to other school children in their youth group because of the maturity gap,
Our kids found it difficult to relate to school children because of their different maturity level. The comment they had when they came back from youth group was, ‘The kids talk about rubbish all the time.’ The school children’s excitement for the day was what our kids thought was rubbish.
Conversation topics homeschoolers prefer are often more mature as homeschoolers are given more responsibility and freedom at home compared to their peers in school, who are raised in a heavy rule-based institution that allows them less freedom. This increased freedom at home causes asynchronous maturity development between homeschoolers and school children.
Homeschoolers have more freedom at home as the rules are relaxed and children are given more freedom to be children. Many are given adult responsibilities at young ages as they step up to the challenge.
This increased maturity is reflected in researchers’ conclusions, some commenting homeschoolers were able to ‘converse with adults with more ease and poise’ than their public school peers. Homeschoolers happily speak with more ease and poise because they don’t fear adults as authority figures. Their authority figures were always their loving parents, teachers and often their best friends; if your best friend is your teacher and authority figure, education is less stressful.
“In her collection of essays, The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, atheist and capitalist Ayn Rand accused John Dewey's philosophy of stressing irrational, collectivist behavior. Feminist writer Patricia Sexton described public education as an overwhelmingly effeminate environment. By rewarding feminine behavior, such as sitting still and passively listening, Sexton said in her book The Feminized Male, the existing structure of education produced "the impotent female" and "the feminized male" -- timid, passive, uncreative, unfeeling.”