Homeschooling and Socialization
August 27, 2021 (836 words)
For many years I partnered with my soon-to-be-ex-wife – who by the way just happens to turn 60 years old today – to raise four children. She did most of the work, of course. Our kids have each emerged into adulthood (ages 21 through 30) as reasonably decent human beings. They are responsible individuals and more often than not manage to be considerate of others. Best of all, none of the four have done any significant jail time, at least not yet.
But neither are any of them what might be called a social butterfly. While they are each bright and funny and can hold their own in conversation, they seem to be content keeping their own company, most of the time.
Since they were home-schooled throughout elementary school, and to varying degrees during their high school years, the casual observer is likely to chalk up my kids’ innate solitary streak to the so-called ‘lack of socialization’ all such ‘deprived’ children are believed to suffer from. As if every graduate of a public or private school is a bon vivant, life-of-the-party type, with a wide circle of close friends.
But we all know that is simply not the case. The socialization available in a formal classroom setting does not guarantee your student will blossom into a bubbly game-show host. There are all different kinds of kids, with all different temperaments, and each child needs to find his or her own way in this world. Hopefully that journey includes the loving support of parents and teachers, siblings and friends.
Yes, that’s right, even home-schooled kids almost always have more than their parent (or parents) as a teacher during the course of their elementary and high school years. And every home-schooled kid has more than their immediate family members to act as friends.
The image of a few siblings trapped at the dining room table for twelve years, grappling with a range of challenging subjects with only their beleaguered mother for a guide, is not an accurate representation of the home-school experience. At least not of any home-school family I was familiar with, back in the day.
The moms in our little circle of friends got very creative at pooling resources with each other to form mini educational co-ops. Subjects would be taught by a mom with a particular expertise, or sometimes an outside instructor was brought in to handle a certain subject. Many moms chose to enroll one or more of their children in a public or private school for a grade here, or a grade there, to make sure a subject was adequately covered.
And every home-school family I ever heard of took their kids on numerous field trips to parks and museums and such. Along with enrolling their children in a wide range of after-school activities like community sports teams, community music and arts groups, summer camps, etc.
Socialization can be broadly defined as the ability to interact with the outside world. Parents who choose to home-school believe their children are actually better prepared for this, since the kids are called on to do so from an earlier age. They get to interact with not only their peer group and teachers, but also with a variety of other adults in the ‘real’ world.
And then there is the matter of ‘negative’ socialization. Teasing, bullying, gossip, immoral discussions, and general peer pressure may be a part of life, and an argument can be made that the sooner a child learns to deal with such negative influences, the better. Parents who choose to home-school seek to foster the development of their child’s character in a supportive environment, before having to contend with life’s less-than-pleasant realities.
Beyond the ongoing debate over socialization, there is the even more important matter of what curriculum is being taught. In my experience this is the main reason most parents choose to home school. They want to see their child receive a solid grounding in the classic liberal arts tradition: reading and writing, history and literature. Educational fads tend to come and go, and children instructed according to those fads can be left without the ability to form coherent thoughts or express themselves clearly.
At least that’s what most parents who choose to home-school think.
This is not to say a public or private school is incapable of providing such a solid foundation. It all comes down to the individual instructor. A good teacher is worth his or her (usually her, at least in the early years) weight in gold. It should also be noted just how frequently that special teacher finds herself working at odds with her school’s administration.
Usually that’s because the gifted teacher has developed instincts and knows what works in the classroom, while the administration is pre-occupied with implementing the latest educational fad, dreamed up by a committee of overseers who think they know better.
In far too many cases the committees and overseers have lost touch with the student body they are charged with educating.
Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
August 27, 2021