Socialization and the Home-Educated Child

Home Ed socialization

Image by Amy Palko

Possibly one of the most frequent questions I get asked about my choice to educate my children from home is the socialization question: What about your children’s interaction with others?  Aren’t they deprived of friends and social contact?  Don’t you find that they get lonely?

While I don’t want to appear boastful, my kids are extremely articulate, well-adjusted, and really very sociable indeed. They don’t come across as children who are deprived of social contact whatsoever! Consequently it’s a question that throws me every time, because it’s often asked after the enquirer has met my children, had a conversation with them, and commented on how well- spoken they are.

The assumption is that a child’s socialization occurs entirely within school-hours and that, by removing your child from the system, their socialization will somehow be stunted. Even when presented with evidence of the contrary through conversation with socially competent home-educated children, this perception remains virtually unshakeable…

Defining Healthy Social Behaviour

I think one of the main reasons why the question bemuses me so, is that I maintain a much broader sense of what a child’s socialization should entail.  I am not content with socialization being consigned to interaction with one’s own artificially engineered, age-specific peer-group.  I want my kids to have the opportunity to interact with a significantly wider sample of society.  I want them to feel confident in their social skills to converse with anyone from the age of 3 to 93, and not feel awkward, uncomfortable or somehow less capable of participating.

I have, on occasion encountered the argument that by removing them from the school system I am removing the chance that they will be bullied – and that this is a bad thing!?  From what I understand, there are some that believe that by being bullied at school, the child will learn to cope with that situation and that this, in turn, will leave them better equipped for the adult-world.

I argue, however, that I would much rather instill a sense of self-confidence and strong self-esteem as nurtured through healthy social behaviour, so that should they encounter bullying as adults, they are so secure in their own beliefs, values, opinions that they can stand strong.  I have yet to meet anyone who was glad that they were bullied at school, and felt that it gave them an advantage as they got older.

I certainly wouldn’t discount that some have had that experience, just that I’ve not met anyone who does, and it’s not what I personally want for my children.

A Broader View of Socialization

The truth of it is, is that most of us are all engaged in social interaction on a daily basis, and very few of us live in isolation.  There are infinite ways to connect with each other both in the real world and in the virtual world (and I would argue that in this increasingly technology-focused society, both are equally important), and that there is no reason why a home-educated child should be any less socially aware than a school-educated child.

In fact, as a child of a location independent family, they would find that the sheer variety of interactions with people would far eclipse those available to a child who attended school with the same 25 children day in, day out.  Exposure to different languages, different cultures, different customs is such a gift to give to a child, and should be valued as such, rather than adopting the attitude that they are in some way socially deprived.

I expect that there are many home-educating parents who have positive examples of socialization that have occured outwith the school establishment.  Why not leave a comment sharing yours…

4 Responses to Socialization and the Home-Educated Child

  1. Damon

    December 30, 2009 | 11:42 pm

    While I agree that home-schooling offered by location independent parents could provide opportunities far beyond formal education, and many entrepreneurial parents would provide lessons more conducive to today’s socio-economic landscape, I would offer a few things to consider. These are from observations based on my experience working with home-schooled children.

    Most home-schooled youth I’ve worked with had difficulties adjusting to more structured environments. They could not adjust from a flexible work environment to a more rigid one. Tasks requiring extended amounts of attention and energy were also difficult. (One may argue kids with formal schooling have difficulty being flexible and thinking outside the box).

    I was impressed with the ability of many home-schooled youth to socialize with older adults; however, they appeared to have difficulty relating to same age peers. Home-schooled youth were fearful of attending public/private school.

    Home-schooled youth had an inflated sense of self-esteem and had difficulty understanding criticism or became very demoralized if their performance did not meet expectations, which sometimes was more their parents expectations than there own.

    Again, just observations and I should note these were not children of location independent parents. As with everything, I think balance is key.

  2. soultravelers3

    December 31, 2009 | 9:29 pm

    I so agree with you Amy! So did this recent article in that shows that socialization is NOT a problem for homeschoolers, but an advantage!

    I suppose that is not too surprising as I am a big believer in homeschooling! Our primary purpose in traveling the world is to educate our child & the last 4 years of non-stop international travel has been an outstanding education! Our child has had MORE opportunities to socialize with people of every age from so many countries, in several languages.

    My adult niece is a great example of a homeschooled child, she started college at 15 and graduated very early from the top University in her field of Chemical Engineering, got a job with Bayer before she graduated making over 6 figure income & bought her first home all as a teen! She is happy, active in her church & getting her masters degree in Chemical Engineering at night. She speaks 3 languages and has always done lots of traveling because she was never confined by school schedules and had grandparents on another continent.

    I’m not sure who Damon is or where he gets his information as there is no link.

    I can say that Damon’s experience is very different than mine and the many studies that I have read about homeschooled children like these:

    We have used some schools because using a small local is a great way to immerse in a language, perhaps the best way. I’m glad though that we homeschool all year, the school day is short with lots of holidays and we only use this school for 4 or 5 months as it has some of the negatives of all schools.

    I’m a big fan of John Taylor Gatto (an award winning teacher) & love this article about why schools don’t educate:

    One of the worse things about schools is that they leave no time to develop a sense of self. Schools were made for the industrialization and simply no longer work for what we need in these exponential times of the 21st century.

    In the next decade 60% of schools will be virtual. More jobs will be virtual as well.Flexible out-of-the-box multi-lingual global thinking citizens will do better in our coming world.

    It’s time for more people to educate themselves about how the studies all show the superiority of homescholing for socialization …and many other ways.

  3. Damon

    January 1, 2010 | 9:42 pm

    “I’m not sure who Damon is or where he gets his information…”

    From my experience as a psychologist and 10 years working with youth and their families. It was my sincere attempt to not offend any home-schooling parents, which was why I twice mentioned my information was “observation” only and why I opened with this sentence:

    While I agree that home-schooling offered by location independent parents could provide opportunities far beyond formal education, and many entrepreneurial parents would provide lessons more conducive to today’s socio-economic landscape…

    and closed with this one:

    I should note these were not children of location independent parents.

    It was failure on my part for not clarifying that my experience most likely is not representative of entrepreneurial and location independent parents, such as yourself (your niece is literally a “great example” as well as your own family – based on the bio on your website you’re both exceptional individuals). I would guess that people who visit this site will have high achieving children who are well-rounded, successful, and display a propensity for adapting to different environments. I only wished to share my observations in the manner of devil’s advocate. All information, whether we agree or disagree with it, can only help us become flexible and think out-of-the-box. Also, notice I did not make any comment towards academic achievement.

    Here is a quote from an article (”Claims of Academic Success Rely on Anecdotes, Flawed Data Analysis”) listed on the Arizona State University Education Policy Research Unit website (under Home Schooling: Whose Business is It?):

    Lawrence M. Rudner published the pivotal study of home schooling in 1999. At the time, he was an independent education researcher at the University of Maryland.

    As portrayed by home schoolers, the Rudner report suggested that children educated at home scored, on average, better than 70 percent to 80 percent of public school students and at least a
    grade level ahead.

    To a nonresearcher looking at the report, the study was impressive because of its large sample of 20,000 children and its use of the well-known Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency.

    Today, however, Rudner said his work has been misrepresented. He said home schoolers are drawing incorrect conclusions, and newspaper reporters are quoting each other rather than reading what he wrote.

    “The biggest annoyance was a large number of reporters that had read previous articles and never went to the original source and read the caveats,” said Rudner.

    “This was not a controlled experiment,” and it “does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools, and the results must be interpreted with caution,” he wrote in the first paragraph of his report.

    Rudner said his only conclusion was that if a home- schooling parent “is willing to put the time and energy and effort into it — and you have to be a rare person who is willing to do this — then in all likelihood you’re going to have enormous success. I’ll continue to say that.”

    He added: “I made the case in the paper that if you took the same kids and the same parents and put them in the public schools, these kids would probably do exceptionally well.”


    P.S. I did not include my website, which would have provided further information about myself, in my first post because it is still under construction (and will not appear as it does now), but I have included it here.

  4. soultravelers3

    January 2, 2010 | 9:14 pm

    Thanks Damon, that helps a lot! I was not offended, just not clear about where your experience & perspective was coming from.

    I definitely have a biased opinion about home school from our experiences, my niece and sooooo many home school kids ( some that are now adults).

    I am sure there must be some home school failures some where, but I’ve seen nothing but astounding results.

    There are tons of studies showing the value, but my opinion is based on primarily personal experience from my experience with schools and with homeschooling.

    Some parents fear homeschooling based on myths, so I want them to know how freeing it can be, easy & tremendous value for 21st century global citizens and lets families bond deeply instead of the peer-based problems that school isolation (similar to prisons) create for society.

    Thanks for expressing you views… different strokes for different folks! ;)

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