This is a paper I wrote in tandem with a classmate. We had to do a research paper and an oral presentation. I suggested this topic, as I am passionate about it. I felt it was a good time to share this as I just read an opinion-based blog, trying to pass itself off as factual. While the practice of homeschooling isn’t always the preferred educational model, it’s a viable one for a growing population of parents. This paper has some technical terms, but I believe my point will be conveyed easily. Considering how horrendous the public educational sector has gotten, I can only see home school numbers increasing; substantially!
Education has been at the forefront of discussions lately. Whether someone is discussing a new school year, government standards for testing, school shootings and safety, or are deciding to home school; there’s always a difference of opinion. This paper will focus on the topic of home schooling and the on-going debate regarding socialization. Homeschooled children are not at a disadvantage in regards to social development compared to publically educated children.
There are a lot of misconceptions about home schooling. By 1989, “home schooling had already been given a certain kind of meaning by the popular media: home schoolers were quixotic idealists, bucking a great big system, engaged in an activity of questionable benefit to their children, a homespun anomaly in an increasingly rationalized world” (Stevens 17). While the media may paint a volatile picture of parents rebuking the public education system, look at why some parents choose to take on the arduous task of educating their children.
One of the first lessons home schoolers teach the careful observer is that in fact home schooling is a collective project. Home schoolers have always worked together to surmount the multiple challenges that come with doing things unconventionally (Stevens 4). Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, “humans are social being, they learn from observing others, even without personally receiving any reinforcement” (Berger 22). Where does it say children must learn from other children? “In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily, into conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children vertically, toward responsibility, service and adulthood, with an eye on eternity” (Klicka..The Socialization of Homeschool n.p.).
Every so often, the government will get involved and change what they think should be the norm for students to be tested on. Yet, standardized tests do not accurately assess skill or achievement levels. For instance, “in the cities of Brazil…street children sell fruit, candy and other products to earn their living…However, most young peddlers are adept at pricing their wares, making change and giving discounts for large quantities – a set of operations that must be recalibrated almost every day” (Berger 241). It wouldn’t come as much surprise that these unschooled children would do poorly on a standardized test, yet know a real life skill that students are taught. In the end, does it matter how the child acquires the skill as long as the skill is acquired?
“Vygotsky asserted that educators need to consider the thought processes of the child and design their teaching accordingly” (Berger 241). In a public school setting, it is not always possible to create individualized lesson plans for the majority of students. Yet, home schooling parents do this by scaffolding, “support that is tailored to a learner’s needs and abilities and aimed at helping the learner master the next task in a given learning process” (Berger 174) They prepare lessons and skill building based on their child’s capabilities.
With the introduction of Common Core Standards, on top of the existing issues of over-crowded classes, limited resources, budget cut-backs, school shootings and reduced staff in the public education system, parents are taking back the primary role in their children’s education. If during a social outing, with other children, should issues arise, the kids can attempt to resolve the problem. With parental monitoring, “parents on-going awareness of what their children are doing, where, and with whom” (Berger 356), they will assist in resolving their children’s conflicts should adult intervention be required. It then becomes a learning objective unlike being sent to the principal’s office, where he decides the outcome based on hearsay.
The primary argument people have with keeping their children home, and not in an environment with other children their age, learning and interacting together will have an effect on their socialization skills in life. To quote Samantha Lebeda responding to her relatives, “Go to your local middle school, junior high, or high school, walk down the hallways, and tell me which behavior you see that you think our son should emulate” (Lebeda 99). There are things like bullying, “repeated systematic efforts to inflict harm through physical, verbal, or social attack on a weaker person” (Berger 294) and negative influences such as sex and drug abuse, “the ingestion of a drug to the extent it impairs the users biological or psychological well-being (Berger 392).
Vygotsky’s apprentice in thinking, “whose intellectual growth is stimulated and directed by mentors who are usually older and more skilled members of society” (Berger 173). If children’s behavior is based on social learning, “learn via observing others” (Berger 132), would it not be prudent for them to model adult behavior instead of succumbing to negative peer pressure, “encouragement to conform to one’s friends in behavior, dress and attitude” (Berger 357)? According to Dr. Larry Shyers, “A child’s social development depends more on adult contact and less on contact with other children as previously thought” (Klicka n.p.).
Most believe that social development is mainly accomplished when children or adolescents attend public school. Reason being, these learning institutions have an over-abundance of other children and adolescents of the same cohort, “a group defined by its members’ shared age, which means that they travel through life together” (Berger 9). It’s here that they are able to experience dealing with peers or others outside the comforts of their nuclear family, “a family consisting of a father, mother, and their biological children under 18” (Berger 282). They come into contact with experiences that could be either more positive or negative depending on the situation, but in whichever case they are developing the necessary social skills that they will take into adulthood.
Public school children also have more access to extra-curricular activities that encourage peer bonding such as sports, clubs, and fun activities such as rallies or dances. They are also able to join the organization of these events; encouraging involvement with their peers who may have different ideas and opinions contrary to their own. All this plays a huge role in helping children to build their self-esteem, “a person’s evaluation of his or her own worth (Berger 198) and a positive self-concept, “a person’s understanding of who he or she is” (Berger 198). On the other hand, a home schooled child, build self-esteem by taking pride in completed work and understanding of learned concepts without undo peer influence.
“Many educators, child development specialists, and social scientists claim that home schooling deprives the child of the ability to develop socialization skills” (Lebeda 101). It is through social comparison, “judging themselves on the basis of what they see in other people” (Berger 274) that it can be argued, that one would need to develop these skills. In order for the 4th stage of Erickson’s psychosocial crisis, industry versus inferiority “children try to master the skills that their culture values…as competent or incompetent, productive or failing, winners or losers” (Berger 273). Based on this, social cognition, “the ability to understand social interactions, including the causes and consequences of human behavior” (Berger 293) could only be achieved in a public school setting.
While educating children in a public school setting it’s still the primary social development option. “Adolescence is defined in humans as the period of psychological and social transition between childhood and adulthood” (Burnett, Blakemore 51). It cannot be denied that parents who choose to homeschool, may still provide adequate socialization experiences through private organized sports, volunteering, church groups and community-based projects. As long as parents are diligent in allowing access to a variety of social activities, the debate regarding enough socialization for home schoolers is a non-issue.
It’s estimated that there are over two million K-12 children currently being homeschooled. Those numbers increase annually. “Homeschoolers typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on academic-achievement tests” (Miller n.p.). If academics play an important role, then home schooling surpasses institutional learning. “Home schooling is one of the most formidable educational causes of its time” (Stevens 11). While its origins may not have been the social norm or preferred education option, it cannot be denied, home schooling has dug in its heels and is here to stay.
Berger, Kathleen Stassen. Invitation to the Life Span. 1st ed. New York: Worth, 2010. Print.
Stevens, Mitchell. Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. Princeton University Press, 2003. Web.
Klicka, Chris. “Socialization: Homeschoolers Are in the Real World” n.p. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
Burnett, Stephanie, Blakemore, Sarah-Jane. “The Development of Adolescent Social Cognition”. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1167 (2009): 51-56. Web. Full Text. 19 Nov. 2014.
Lebeda, Samantha. “Homeschooling: Depriving Children of Social Development?” Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 16.1 (2007): 99-104 Web. Full Text. 19 Nov. 2014.
Miller, Lisa. “Homeschooling, City Style: Why More and More City Parents are Teaching Their Kids Themselves”. New York Magazine Oct. 2012. Web.