The Question of Socialization

socializationThe Question of Socialization


Since numerous studies have shown conclusively that home-educated children score, on average, at the 80th or higher percentile on standardized achievement tests, as compared to the public school system average of the 50th percentile, arguments that home-education does not provide a sufficient academic education have largely died away. Many people opposed to homeschooling now argue, instead, that home educated children suffer from poor “socialization.”


Socialization has been defined in various ways. One definition refers to personal skills/qualities including personal security, academic competence, family acceptance, and peer popularity. Paul Kitchen of Andrews University used the Self Esteem Index to compare homeschooled and conventionally schooled children in these areas. Homeschooled children scored better than their public school counterparts in all aspects except peer popularity, in which public school children scored slightly higher. However, it may be argued that peer popularity may not be a “positive” attribute, at least as it develops in the public school system, as we shall see in a moment.


Another definition of socialization is “diversity of people and ideas.” It is argued that homeschooled children are kept within narrow confines of culture and values related to those of their parents. It is even said that participation in groups like Guides and Scouts, church groups, and sports teams is “limiting” in these ways. However, home schoolers point out that, despite the best of intentions, public schools often do not effectively teach integration, tolerance and diversity, because children generally divide themselves into cliques along lines of race, culture, and social and economic standing. The pressure from peers to “belong” actually pushes children into conformity, and into opposition against those who are “different” from their particular group. School reward systems (marks, academic or sports awards, honor societies, etc) reinforce this lack of diversity.


A third definition of socialization is the ability to get along, understand and cooperate with others. Unfortunately, in public schools, such socialization may be highly competitive, intimidating, and even violent. Rather than forming meaningful relationships, “a negative, me-first sociability results from excessive peer group associations and reduced meaningful contacts at home” (Focus on the Family). Home schoolers point out that in the real world, relating to others requires the ability to get along with all kinds of people of all ages. It is not natural to put a child in an age-segregated situation. Children need to spend time with all kinds of people of all ages to develop good social skills. The question has been asked, how does a 5 year old child learn good manners, social behavior, and sound values from other 5 year olds? Homeschooled children spend their time at home with the full range of family ages, plus they are very frequently involved in community service activities and work activities, as well as extracurriculars, homeschool group activities, sports teams, and organizations in which they interact with a broader range of ages and kinds of people than children in age-segregated classrooms. This kind of varied socialization helps a child become more poised that children restricted to same-age socialization experiences.


Other measures of socialization are self-concept, assertiveness, and behavior in social situations. In his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Larry Shyers studied 8 to 10 year old children at play. The trained counsellors who observed the children and measured these aspects by widely accepted social development tests, were not told which children were homeschooled, and which were public-schooled. The study found that while there were no significant differences in self-concept or assertiveness, homeschooled children had consistently fewer behavioral problems.


The Teaching Home Magazine points out that “Young children are more likely to be influenced by the majority than to be an influence on them. Children who receive their education outside the home are prone to accept their peers’ and teachers’ values over those of their parents. Some advantages of freedom from peer pressure can be self-confidence, independent thinking, the ability to relate to people of all ages, and better family relations.”


Finally, if it is true that family groups are the basic building block of our society, then it would seem likely that children who spend a great deal of time in family interaction are more likely to become useful adult members of that society in aspects of socialization than children who are separated from their families for long periods of time in their formative childhood years.


From this discussion, it would appear that the “socialization” argument against homeschooling is no more valid that the “academic” argument against homeschooling has proved to be.


Date: 1998


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