Socialization? Yeah, Homeschooling Does That Too

homeschool_family

There is a case to be made for the socialization of teenagers at a high school.  Okay, so what are the benefits of public or private school socialization? Inside the classroom, there seems to be little socializing advantage.  In fact, when I was in school we were not allowed to talk.  It was discouraged mightily.  Talk was always suspicious.  Except for a few classes where talk was free range. But I can’t recall any single moment at school, especially inside the classroom, where I benefited from another classmate’s input or insights.  Outside the classroom was another matter.  I was into sports–basketball, cross country, and track.  It was here where I had the best interaction, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it benefited me.  It made me aware of the competition, which as a competitive athlete was sort of helpful.  But in English class or Trigonometry class, I was always expected to learn the material on my own.  And I did.  More or less.  But I’ve always heard from proponents of public schools that the socialization is so wonderful.  I have my doubts.  There are bullies all over campus.  That’s not fun.  Can’t think to myself that “Hey, yeah, I’d like to relive the bullying experiences from high school.”  What about learning experiences at school?  Again, I did consult friends on some math problems, but it was usually myself or I got help from my brothers and sisters at home.  Or, guess what, I paid attention to the teacher and I read the examples in the textbook.  How about that! Maybe those who advocate for the socialization in public schools like to point out to the public discourse, where we hear arguments on this or that topic and we get to debate them, offer our opinion, and perhaps some small influence on the topic.  Again, I have my doubts.  There are lots of very bright teenagers at schools, but they have no vested interest in seeing you develop.  To the contrary, they could care less about your future, since they are so plugged into their own lives.  And why wouldn’t they be?  I remember one classmate, Rick Stevens, who was a second or two off of Mark Spitz’s swimming record.  Rick Stevens was a competitive guy . . . in swimming.  I wasn’t a swimmer, so we didn’t have much in common.  And I guess that is the point.  At school you are forced to breathe, eat, and poop with every and any person that you might not have any interest in or respect for or perhaps even fear.  How is this environment, then, so rich that it is affectionately anointed as socialization?

I like what Dr. Gary L. Welton had to say about socialization.  He admits that kids at school have more of their peers as friends as opposed to home-schoolers.  But that home-schoolers have more adult friends, adults who are relatives, friends of the family, or business associates of their parents who are often professionals.  That means that homeschoolers are more easily plugged into Realtors, insurance salesmen, car salesmen, engineers, electricians, or whatever.  This network is sorely lacking from the kids at the public school.  I mean they may have these associations but they don’t get to have a close network of these folks who might be ready to dispense some business goals or career options.  Whereas the kids at school get access to all the fun from their peers at school, homeschoolers might be on a kind of fast track to their goals compared to their public school peers.  Here’s what Welton had to say:

First, home schooling teens socialize more than other teens. Using a standard measurement scale of 21 questions, we measured the extent to which the teens spend time interacting with their family, their friends, and other significant adults. Home school teens indicated significantly more social interaction than other teens. The S-Question assumes that home schooling teens are not engaged in social interaction. This is contrary to what is actually occurring.

It is true, however, that the home schooling teens are not in every category engaged in more social interaction. There is a difference in the target of the interactions. When asked about interaction with their families, home school youth indicated significantly more interaction in comparison to other youth. They indicated significantly more interaction with other significant adults. However, they indicated significantly less interaction with their friends. Home school youth interact more with family and adults, less with friends. The social interaction of home schooling teens is different from that of others.

The teens tell us that home schoolers have more social interaction overall, but less with their peers. We are confident that this reflects genuine differences because we saw the same differences when we asked their parents.

However, all of these observations miss the point. I would argue, in the end, that the goal is not socialization, per se. The larger view would suggest that socialization is one important aspect of our teens’ lives, as they develop character, or positive youth development. For example, socialization in an unhealthy subculture that fosters criminal behavior is not healthy socialization. In order to assess positive youth development, we measured five traits which, as a whole, suggest that a teen is developing character. The five aspects that we measured are contentment, selflessness, forgiveness, resilience, and gratitude. Combined, these provide a reliable measure of positive youth development.

One of the important predictors of positive youth development is religious faith. When we use religiosity, social interaction, and home schooling to predict positive youth development, the home schooling variable drops out of the model. Home schooling youth are high in character development, higher than others. They are high in religiosity, higher than others. Likewise, they are higher in social interaction. Nevertheless, as a predictor of positive youth development, school choice drops out of the model, being overwhelmed by the religiosity variable.

Religious practice creates a community that encourages social interaction and fosters positive youth development, so much so that it overwhelms differences in schooling choice. There is no evidence that home schooling youth are poorly socialized. However, there is evidence that we are asking and addressing the wrong question. Instead, the data suggest that children and teens in our churches and other religious institutions are engaged in more social interaction and are being better socialized.

I like what he says.  And I think he is right.  Homeschooling shows more interest over your child’s future.  Public school doesn’t show much, except perhaps that the parents are a little lazy in educating their kids.  I’d read one time that some parents care more about their plasma screen TV than they do who teaches their kids or what they learn.  Sad if that is the case.

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