When people talk about and debate the issue of homeschooling socialization, they are discussing whether children are acquiring the proper social skills in a home educational environment as opposed to the traditional classroom. Some critics will say that a homeschooling environment where social interaction is limited, is detrimental to a child's growth and development. But sociological and scientific studies have proven this perception to be wrong.
Learning to interact and communicate well with others is the definition of social skills. We need good social skills for all of the important relationships in our lives; career opportunities, healthy marriages, good parent/child rapport, etc. The question here is whether a child's ability to acquire social skills depends on an abundance of peer interactions such as children experience in public schools, or whether they are improved more rapidly in a healthy home education environment. In part the answer to this question lies in where the child will develop the healthiest measure of self-esteem, as this factor greatly influences the level of confidence and others-centeredness with which they relate.
Rather than discuss opinions at this point, we will instead cite some of the research so our readers can judge for themselves according to the evidence.
1. Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development, has done extensive research on homeschooling and socialization. "The idea that children need to be around many other youngsters in order to be 'socialized,'" Dr. Moore writes, "is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today." Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and overexcited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral problems develop. After analyzing over 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by parents -- not other children.
2. Dr. Thomas Smedley believes that homeschoolers have superior socialization skills, and his research supports this claim. He conducted a study in which he administered the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales test to identify mature and well-adapted behaviors in children. This test evaluates communication skills, socialization, and daily living skills. Smedley found that the home-schooled children were more mature according to the scores of the Vineland scales, scoring in the 84th percentile, while the public school children scored in the 23rd and 27th percentile.
3. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle research facility, published an extensive report on homeschooling in 2000 written by Senior Fellow Dr. Patricia Lines. She describes several controlled studies comparing the social skills of homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers. The homeschoolers scored as "well adjusted." In one study, trained counselors viewed videotapes of mixed groups of homeschooled and schooled children at play. The counselors didn't know the school status of each child. The results? The homeschooled kids demonstrated fewer behavioral problems. Dr. Lines' conclusion? "There is no basis to question the social development of homeschooled children."
4. Here is an excellent link for several different studies of Canadian research on the socialization of homeschoolers: http://www.redshift.com/~bonajo/socialresearch.htm.
5. Gary Knowles, University of Michigan Assistant Professor of Education, released a study done at the University of Michigan which found that teaching children at home will not make them social misfits. Knowles surveyed 53 adults who were taught at home because of ideology or geographical isolation. He found that two thirds were married, which is the norm for adults their age. None were unemployed or on welfare. He found more than three fourths felt that being taught at home had helped them to interact with people from different levels of society. He found more than 40% attended college and 15% of those had completed a graduate degree. Nearly two thirds were self-employed. He stated, "That so many of those surveyed were self-employed supports the contention that homeschooling tends to enhance a person's self-reliance and independence." Ninety-six percent of them said that they would want to be taught at home again. He stated, "Many mentioned a strong relationship engendered with their parents while others talked about self-directed curriculum and individualized pace that a flexible program of homeschooling permitted." (From University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, study of home school adults by Assistant Professor of Education, J.Gary Knowles, Associated Press article entitled, "University Study Says Home-Taught Children Won't Become Social Misfits," appearing in the "Grand Haven Tribune" 9 March 1993.)
6. Susan McDowell, author of "But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question: A Review of the Literature,” has researched 24 clinical studies on the socialization of homeschoolers, according to Bristol Herald Courier. "It’s a non-issue today," said McDowell, who earned her Ph.D. in educational leadership from Vanderbilt University. She said the research showed homeschooled children to be doing well.
7. Dr. Larry Shyers Ph.D. received his degree at the University of Florida in part by conducting research on the "Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students". Shyers looked at how homeschooled children related with other children. Shyers found no significant difference between his two groups in scores on the Children's Assertive Behavior Scale. But in direct observation by trained observers, he found that home-schooled children had significantly fewer problem behaviors (as measured by the Child Observation Checklist's Direct Observation Form), than traditionally schooled children. This was observed while children played in mixed groups from both kinds of schooling background. This observational study was reported in some detail in the 1992 Associated Press article. Shyers conclusion was that contact with adults, rather than contact with other children, is most important in developing social skills in children.
Those are just a few of the studies done on homeschooling socialization. Socialization which occurs when 15 to 30 kids of the same age are placed in a classroom together week after week, is not of a healthy nature. Many children who are put into the very competitive school environments often end up lacking the confidence to hold a conversation. How many public schooled children do you know who show genuine interest in conversation and interaction with people of various age groups, especially their elders? Conversely you will often find such to be the case with homeschoolers.
Peer pressure is enormous in the traditional classroom. This results in rivalry, ridicule, and competition. Kids feel like they need to look and sound and be like everyone else, at the risk of forgetting their own values or perhaps never discovering who they really are. Does this environment foster healthy socialization skills?
Many homeschoolers are often found enjoying social experiences such as museums, parks, church and educational activities. They travel, participate in Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H, and sports. They take art, dance, drama, and music classes, just to name a few. Children who learn at home are more aware of their purpose in life and ask intelligent questions and make accurate observations. As you can see there is much evidence to support the positive results of homeschooling socialization.