Why Homeschooling Isolation Is Such a Silly Myth
BY LINDA DOBSON
When researchers got around to studying homeschooling children (that darn “education phenomenon” just won’t go away!) they proved on paper what home educators already knew in their hearts – homeschooling works. There now exist enough studies to quiet even the most skeptical observer with incontrovertible evidence.
So what’s a giant education institution to do; close its text books, send millions of administrators and teachers home, apologize to the American public for their hundred-plus year scam, and make restitution for the $1 billion spent on education every day?
The establishment settled for criticism of homeschoolers’ socialization, or their perceived lack thereof. (The reality of homeschoolers scoring better than their traditionally schooled counterparts on the Piers-Harris Self Concept Scale which measures such things, as well as subsequent research by University of Florida College of Education doctoral student Larry Shyers showing homeschooled kids behaving “better” in a room with schooled kids doesn’t fit into the logic here, but let’s keep going, anyway.)
The education institution, in the form of individual teachers and administrators, teachers unions and national organizations, continue to perpetuate this myth each time it is contacted for its side of media stories on home education.
Public Schooling Is Much More Isolated than Homeschooling
The truth is when we look at the real meaning of education, public school is an isolating experience. Stuck within the restraints of four walls, scrutinized by authoritative figures every moment, surrounded only by same-age peers likewise confined in an artificially created society, and having every day planned down to the minute by someone else, children in public school are isolated from the one place real learning effectively occurs – the real world.
Sure, family centered learners spend a lot of time at home; there’s a lot to do! If people are looking at this time through their own conditioning, they probably don’t understand that these children fill their days with activities and topics that propel them to the next activity and topic. The critic may see isolation, but any discussion of homeschooling isolation (or socialization) is moot if we remember one important fact about children. They have a wonderful ability to accept as “normal” whatever circumstance exists. A child who has never seen GI Joe or Barbie’s Dream House doesn’t desire to own one. Nor does a child who hasn’t been surrounded by numerous other children feel as if he is missing something. Conflict arises only in the mind of the adult who feels that circumstances should be different.
Whenever I had second thoughts about the socialization my children may have been missing by homeschooling, I’d take them to a G-rated matinee movie. One look around the theater at the running, screaming, popcorn-throwing little socialites was enough to overcome my doubts.
~ Mario Pagnoni in The Complete Home Educator
Socialization is a concept, a generalized idea emphasized way out of proportion to its value as it exists in schools today. Beyond the fact that the artificiality of being surrounded by and interacting solely with others who are the same age is never repeated in the real world, the “world” of public school happens to be the breeding ground of many families’ problems, including alcohol and other drugs, violence, promiscuous sex, competition, and an increasingly negative attitude toward learning in children.
Drawing on their own experience, most adults will tell a youngster who will listen it’s not the quantity of friends you have, it’s the quality of your relationships, usually nurtured and sustained with a few, select friends. What stops us from seeing this truth when it comes to school? Only the hype – and our lifelong conditioning – to the contrary.
Does This Sound Like Homeschooling Isolation?
Just in case you’re still worried, let me reassure you – the homeschooling families I know and read about have, by far, richer, more rewarding social lives than anybody else I know. Homeschool support group families get together for everything from play groups to baseball teams to whale watching to theater productions to cam-outs to roller skating. There’s Scouts, 4-H, church choir and Civil air Patrol. Swim classes, sports teams, lessons in crafts, sign language, martial arts, foreign language, computers, fishing, sewing, woodworking and cooking. Trips to museums, historical sites, planetariums, state capitols, TV stations, nature centers and bagel bakeries. Volunteer work for hospitals, humane societies, fire departments, libraries, soup kitchens, food pantries, nursing homes, museums, political campaigns, science institutes, photographers, veterinarians, computer programmers, churches, artisans, and their own home businesses. And more. Much, much more.
All these activities put children in touch with real people (young, old and in-between) doing real work (hard, soft, interesting) in real settings (indoors, outdoors, cooperatively) in the real world (warts and all).
Homeschooling expands beyond the walls of home into the neighborhood where children and community members willing to share their knowledge and time enter a rewarding, stimulating win-win relationship.
Maybe we shouldn’t tell too many bureaucrats how rich the social lives of homeschoolers really are. They’re liable to pull out their microscopes and look for a new angle to criticize. But if the cry of “isolated” gets to you, go ahead and holler, “No way!”