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Homeschooling Myth #2: Homeschooling takes place in isolation at home

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The Art of Education

Myth #2: Homeschooling takes place in isolation at home.

When researchers got around to studying homeschooled 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? 3

Yeah. Right.

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, continues to perpetuate this myth each time it is contacted for its side of media stories on home education.

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. 4

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 towards 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.

Just in case you’re still worried, let me reassure you – the family centered educators 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 camp-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 of 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).

Family centered education 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!”

An excerpt from The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self by Linda Dobson (Home Education Press, 1995)

The 15th Anniversary Edition of  The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self will be available in e-book format on July 4th! Please visit Parent at the Helm for more information.

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21 Responses to “Homeschooling Myth #2: Homeschooling takes place in isolation at home”

  1. […] next year with an eye to the future… High School Homeschooling” Linda Dobson presents Homeschooling Myth #2: Homeschooling takes place in isolation at home | PARENT AT THE HELM posted at PARENT AT THE HELM. Float quietly in clear, green water… Jessica Snajder presents No […]

  2. John6:44 says:

    I go to a home school church. I don't home school. I see a few well adjusted home school kids. But we also see home school kids who hate the isolation that you say doens't exists. We are involved with the young people in our church. We have seen serveral older teens cry because of the isolation. One recently was crying to my wife about having no friends, except her older sister. She has no friends. But she sure can play a violin. I know homeschool kids who ace the SAT, but have no non-Christian friends. I see this so frequently that I can't believe you believe that your socialization trips to the Zoo are adequate.

  3. John6:44 says:

    cont…..We have recently seen home school parents in dismay over their older kids walking away from the faith at 18 or 19, right after they leave the house. It's so common I can't believe your arrogant "No Way" ignorance. We surround ourselves with people who think like we do. We perpetuate our own agenda's. That's human nature. Be careful of yourselves. You are doing great harm to homeschool parents by perpetuating the myth of homeschooling. I see dismay in their faces. I also see homeschool parent who are doing it right. But it's less than 50%. If you believe that homeschooling will be the avenue that will "most likely" guarantee your child to be ushered into the kingdom, then you are being deceived. If you are after the smartest kids on town, then home school. If you are after bright shinny objects, then home school. But don't home school if you think it will coddle your kids into the Kingdom. 95% of parents home school because of fear of the public school turning your kids away from the Lord. So they isolate! It's not Biblical! Read John 17.

    • grandma_linda says:

      I have no idea where you are, or in what situation these children exist, or how many home educators you're speaking of, but your findings are sad if true. I've met untold thousands, and assure you 95% of them are not isolating children out of fear of being turned away from the Lord. The parents I've met aren't after bright shiny objects, rather, they are ensuring an education which government schooling increasingly doesn't provide. It sounds as if something different and deeper is at work with the families you observe, and I hope you are able to lead them to help with the true cause of their ills.

  4. Deniz says:

    There are plenty of kids who go to public school who suffer from loneliness and depression. And there are plenty of secular families who homeschool. Sounds like your anecdotes draw from a very limited homeschooling demographic that shouldn’t be used to draw conclusions about the bigger picture. Cheers.

  5. Sally Jo says:

    Something tells me that these kids never went to school.

    My 3rd grade boy is so thankful that he doesn't have to go to school anymore (we took him out in Dec of 1st Grade). He has plenty of friends.

    As far as whether they stay "in the faith" or not, they are individuals who stand or fall before God once they leave their homes.

    Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is OLD, he will not depart from it.

    God allows us all to make our mistakes and find out that He is loving and wise and welcoming to any prodigal.

  6. Melissa says:

    @John6:44 – It sounds like the group of people you refer to may be in some sort of extreme fundamentalist Christian group. I don't believe the homeschooling is the issue here, rather the rules and regulations of the religion they are practicing. I am homeschooling my children, and we are not religious folk at all. I homeschool because I am philosophically opposed to the ideas and principles behind public schooling. I know a number of other homeschool families, and none of them, religious or secular, has ever shown anything but welcoming acceptance of me and my sons. I agree, there is something wrong when children are not allowed to socialize with anyone outside of the faith. If the parents were truly firm in their convictions and confident in the ability of their children, socializing with others outside of church would be a non-issue.

  7. Sally Jo says:

    John 6:44 – you list that verse as your name on this page.
    No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    Note – no (child – homeschooled or not) comes except the Father draws him.

  8. Amy says:

    I don't think Linda's post is in any way about homeschooling being "the avenue that will 'most likely' guarantee your child to be ushered into the kingdom." Religion isn't even mentioned in what she wrote, other than one passing reference to church groups in a long list of various social opportunities. It seems to me that John6:44 is conflating homeschooling with exclusivist/isolationist Christian lifestyles. There are some homeschooling families who choose to isolate their children in order to protect them from worldviews with which they disagree, but most homeschooling families are not isolationist. Many are not even Christian.

  9. Judy Aron says:

    with TV – computers – phones and technology like Skype we are hardly isolated at home. Isolation is a bogus argument.

  10. Tia Austin says:

    There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Just because a family homeschools, doesn't mean they don't make terrible mistakes. Just because a family sends their child to school, doesn't mean they make terrible mistakes. Isolating a child from having outside relationships doesn't make a lot sense, nor does it make a happy, well-adjusted human. However, allowing a child to spend time with unsavory people is not ideal either. Parents must take the time to make sure their children are around all types of people, from different age groups, to different backgrounds, making sure their child is seeing the real world. When a parent is actively involved in their child's life, they can make sure this happens. I think if a homeschool family isn't making sure their child is thriving with other children and making friends, a part of that is simply laziness on the parent's part. They don't want to make the effort to get out and go. Probably a lot of it fear, who knows. I know it isn't right. I know children who go to public/private schools who seem depressed, isolated and not at all happy. I've also met children who have cried from feeling isolated and they were attending public schools and dealing with bullies, peer pressure and lack of quality time with the people they desired to be with. I homeschool my three children. I make sure their world is full of different people, places and love. It takes work. If I didn't make things happen, we would be like those families who feel isolated. Being a good parent isn't easy. It takes a lot of time, effort and hard decisions, but I love it. Homeschooling is, hands down, the best decision we have made for our children. They are thriving, happy, secure, well-adjusted individuals, who love their family and their friends.

  11. Nunya Bidness says:

    Here's a idea, Jon6:44. How about you call up these kids and invite them over? Make friends with them. Obviously they don't mind associating with you or they wouldn't be in your church. Take them bowling or something, instead of railing away somewhere on the internet, and totally missing the point. Open your own eyes a little; your isolationist worldview is showing.

  12. Ann says:

    Like Linda said, I don't know who the people you are involved with are, but they are not typical. Yes, there are some families who isolate their children but this is not the norm. My three children have been home schooled their whole lives and are extremely well adjusted young people involved with the world in ways none of their schooled friends are. Not only do they help decide what they are going to learn,sometimes with guidance from me, they initiate the path of learning they are taking….just as adults do when they want to learn about something. They also communicate with people in ways that I don't see from their schooled friends. They talk to anyone, look them in the eyes and are very good at getting their points across. I get so frustrated and sad when their schooled friends are over. These kids for the most part don't look me in the eye and never give more that a couple word answer…child initiated conversations with these kids never happen as they do with their home schooled friends.
    My kids have many types of friends of different ages. They are involved in many things such as lacrosse, soccer, theatre, singing, dancing, gokart racing, dirt biking, horse back. They have developed great relationships with the adults involved with these activities. I've gotten many compliments from adults as to how well spoken and open my children are with adults. Quite a few have told me that they wish other kids were as able to communicate as mine do.
    My children are also very industrious. My son has lined up work for himself at a local farm and has bought and sold gokarts and dirt bikes. He is an extremely good business minded child who I am sure will excel in his future.
    My oldest daughter has been a mother's helper for three years as well as a dog and horse sitter. She has gotten paid for costuming and choreographing with her theatre group and is helping create costumes as well as stage manage for her dance studio for the 2011 Olympics in London. She has over $5,000 saved up and is paying for half of this trip.
    My children not only get educated in school, they get educated in life….their traditionally schooled friends are not getting this life education.
    As I said in the beginning, not all home schooled kids are well rounded, but even those I know that don't have the opportunities my kids do seem to better equipped than their schooled counterparts.

  13. Nunya Bidness says:

    I think the children that John6:44 are referring to ARE pretty typical for a certain subset of Christians. Anyone who follows Vision Forum, ATI/Gothardism, or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist tenets are likely the kind of homeschooler who keeps their kids at home to adulthood, doesn't allow the girls to get an education beyond what is needed for homemaking, follows a courtship model for marriage, unwavering wifely submission and gives boys and men all the power in families. Some of them even place the father/husband between women and God, taking communion only from husband to wife and children.

    The children who grow up in these homes grow up knowing they have very limited choices. They either toe the line to their predefined gender roles, or they risk losing access to their entire family for simply being unwilling to let their father choose their mate. See for an insiders perspective from one who managed to escape. That is no choice at all. The teens that John6:44 is talking about are extremely lucky to have an opportunity to state their unhappiness in a room full of people. Many are not so fortunate.

    So, even though these people exist, they are still a vast minority of homeschoolers on the whole, this is NOT a homeschooling issue, but one about authoritarianism and extreme religious views.

  14. M0RE0VER says:

    It's heartbreaking to know that there is a sector in which isolation is part of the homeschooling experience, but I certainly don't consider that the norm. I would urge the poster to speak as much as possible, and in a respectful and heartfelt way, to those around him about his reactions to what he's seeing and hearing. I've always felt it was important to encourage new homeschoolers to be aware of the opportunities they have for social connections, and of the importance of providing a social life for their children. I got connected to both a local and statewide network as soon as we began homeschooling – before we started, actually – and my child had an ongoing fun social life with many different kinds of friends, both locally and across the state. In fact, I've never personally met any homeschoolers who have believed that isolation is beneficial. The social part was one of the major advantages for us – there's nothing as lovely as the kind of community homeschoolers can create. I could go on and on, but I'll post four things that can speak much more eloquently about all this:
    1)Homeschooling: the Movie – a multipart video taken at a large homeschooling conference, made up of interviews with parents and some teens
    2)A promo video made by teen homeschoolers for a large state homeschooling conference a couple of years ago – includes lots of scenes of the kids' social activities. Kids (and other family members) make friends here that last long afterward.- one at whch Linda Dobson, author of the article, spoke.
    3)An extensively researched abstract put together by a team of lawyers – Evidence for Homeschooling: Constitutional Analysis in Light of Social Science Research.
    4)An article, Homeschooling: It's a Wonderful Life, which is a chapter from a book called See, I Told Me So, written by 18 parents of grown homeschool grads.

  15. M0RE0VER says:

    I was in a hurry and accidentally left out the web address of the video I mentioned that was made by homeschool teens about the big conference – it's quite wonderful:

  16. Gretchen Herrera says:

    I don't quite understand the "isolation" part. We go to many places and do lots of things. It's amazing how a child learns when it's not rote memory but experience. My children are quite happy.

  17. Homeschoolers are as varied as families are, and as schools are. My son and I would stay home most of the time if we had our choice. My daughter would hardly ever be home if she had her choice. Somehow, in our homeschool we work it out. We spend way more time socializing than we did as a schooling family. And my kids spend way more time out in our community. Yes, there are homeschooling families who shelter their children. And there are schooling families who shelter their children. The schooling method is not the issue.

  18. K says:

    This article is flat out ridiculous! I’m 13 and homeschooled, and I CAN’T TAKE IT!!! I have NO friends, NO time away from my parents, NOTHING BUT ISOLATION! If you think that homeschooled kids aren’t isolated, think again.

    You’re dead wrong.

    • K, I’m sorry this has happened to you, but it doesn’t make me wrong. You see, homeschooling doesn’t have to be that way, and most often ISN’T that way. You sound so sad and unhappy, I hope you’ll speak with your parents or a trusted adult relative or friend, about what’s happening. As a 13 year-old, perhaps you can begin suggesting the things you’d like to do that both further your education and enlarge and enrich your world. If you’d like to share more information, perhaps readers here can help, too. I’m so glad you’re reading here, because I hope it helps you see that homeschooling even under negative situations such as yours is STILL better than what is being done to children in schools everywhere. If you’ll share more info, perhaps readers will have even more ideas for you.

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