Welcome back to “Debunking Those Pesky Homeschool Myths.” If you missed the previous post, you can view it by clicking on the Homeschool Myths page for a full listing.
On a typical school day in the United States, 75 million children will spend a majority of their day exclusively in the company of their age-mates. However, nearly 3.2 million children will have a far different structure to their day. For these homeschooled children, their homes and families are the center of their life and learning.
Who are these homeschoolers and why do they homeschool? Are they religious zealots? Are their children anti-social or under-educated? Myths and misunderstanding about homeschooling still abound.
“Parents who care enough to teach their children the lessons and formulas that the school is neglecting will also take the initiative to socialize their children.” – Dain Fitzgerald
Myth #2: Homeschooled Children Are Not Socialized
Ah, the great social question. Within moments of sharing that your child is homeschooled, you will often get the question, “Well, how do you know if she/he is properly socialized?”
I am amazed that this question has been asked, several times, by individuals as my friendly, outgoing daughter is currently running and playing with other children, or has just finished interacting (with ease) with the questioning adult.
At times, surprised there is even a concern, I simply point to her and ask in return, “Really? As you can see, socialization really isn’t a problem for her!”
Not everyone has such an outgoing child, so it follows that we should address this pesky homeschool myth head on today.
Spending Each Day with Age-Mates Provides a Skewed World View
What exactly is ‘socializing’ about being forced to spend an entire day with other children who are the exact same age? Parents and teachers are instead providing a skewed and unrealistic world view.
I would go so far as to suggest that parents and teachers are forcing children to endure a completely inaccurate experience that limits their abilities to make friends and learn from others who are even just a few years different in age from them. Why would we want to limit our children like that?
Where else besides school will children ever spend their days with their age mates in the real world? When was the last time an adult spent his entire day working side-by-side with his age-mates?
Homeschool Can Provide MORE Social Exposure Not LESS
Homeschoolers are often provided with more opportunity to socialize than traditional schoolchildren and they usually have a broad variety of age groups to engage with.
No longer limited to day in, day out contact with their specific age-mates, these children develop relationships and friendships with a range of different age levels and backgrounds. For those who wish for their children to have more exposure to other children, there are secular and non-secular homeschool groups that conduct regular events and meetings.
In the local L.E.A.R.N. meetings on Wednesdays, which I will write in detail about in a later post, there are children from birth to late teens running about and interacting. And while children will tend to seek out approximate age-mates, there is a teen hang-out room there for example, it is not as strictly observed as a typical school would be. You will never hear the chant, “Seniors rule!” at L.E.A.R.N. or the expected response of “Next year!” from a group of younger kids.
Hmmm…this may be partially because many of those teens are already attending local community college classes.
Homeschool Flexibility Gives Time for Volunteer Work and Community Activities
According to a study conducted for Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) by Dr. Brian D. Ray in 2003, “Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. Seventy-one percent participate in an ongoing community service activity…compared to 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages.”
With less time spent in school (where there are constant interruptions by other students, behavior problems, or even the teachers themselves) there is more time for activities outside of the home – martial arts classes, community service programs, and volunteer opportunities abound. These classes and activities encourage homeschool children to connect with the world around them and participate actively in it.
Yes, many high schools have begun to incorporate some level of volunteer work into their graduation requirements, but it is on a very limited scale, just a couple of hours in many cases, whereas a homeschooler is not limited to the teenage years or to just a couple of hours of volunteer work.
Through their activities they are also exposed to a vast array of ages, background and culture – this is central to their full development as individuals.
Homeschool Provides a Nurturing Environment Where Self-Esteem Flourishes
To date, every homeschool child I have met, talked to, or interviewed, have uniformly shown the same qualities: good self-esteem, talkative and friendly, and knowledgeable.
At a recent L.E.A.R.N. meeting, Emily came racing over to me. “Mama, that girl! See that girl? The one with the pretty hair!” I looked over and took in a girl with tight-braided blue,pink and purple hair, a backpack slung over her shoulder.
I nodded, “Yes Emily, I see her.”
“Mama, she has a pet! It’s in her backpack!”
We watched as someone approached and she dug out her pet hedgehog to be petted. On Emily’s request we walked over and Emily was able to pet the hedgehog as well. The girl smiled and talked with Emily, as an equal, not as a teen dealing with a preschooler.
This trait is common in the homeschool interactions I have witnessed to date. Age, it seems, is not as much of an issue as it can be among school children. One neighborhood playmate of my four year old’s, a seven year old boy who is in public school, pulls the ‘age card’ quite a bit. Apparently, for Emily, it has gotten rather old. She seeks out the children next door, ages ten and twelve, or goes to the house next door to us to play with the 2 1/2 year old instead.
Wikipedia defines socialization as a “term used by sociologists…politicians and educationalists to refer to the process of inheriting norms, customs and ideologies. It may provide the individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society; a society itself is formed through a plurality of shared norms, customs, values, traditions, social roles, symbols and languages. Socialization is thus ‘the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained’.”
Children who are homeschooled accomplish this with what appears to be a quiet ease, naturally, and not artificially.
Stay tuned for next week’s Homeschool Myth #3 – Homeschoolers Won’t Be Able to Attend College or Hold Down a Job