Speaking of Socialization…

(Also posted over at The Homeschool Apologist.  Head over there for more homeschooling posts by Arby and me!)

Over the years, I have engaged in many conversations with people who are, at best, skeptical of homeschooling and homeschoolers. Their logic is often flawed, based on a lack of information as well as a lack of…well…rational thinking.

Well, in a conversation several years ago, I found rational thinking in a very unexpected place. I was attending a homeschool convention in Wichita, Kansas, and was checking into my hotel. The desk clerk was a very pleasant, but very “interesting” looking young man. Behind the blue hair, body piercings, and tattoos, he was a VERY personable, very engaging kid.

As he checked me in, he asked a question he probably asked many times every day.

What brings you to Wichita?

I replied that I had come to attend a homeschool convention.

Oh, do you homeschool?”

“Yes, I’ve homeschooled my children for the last 16 years”.

Wow, that’s cool. I’ve heard of that. Don’t you worry about how your kids will get socialization?

Honestly, it kind of cracked me up to hear that question from this particular young man, but I stifled a smile and began to give my standard answer.

Well, I…

He never gave me a chance to respond.

Wait, forget I asked that.” He grinned. “I’m the most socially maladjusted person I know, and I went to public school, so I guess it’s kind of a dumb question isn’t it?

I think maybe I’ll go get a tattoo.

A View from Inside: A Homeschooled Teacher in a Public School Classroom


I remember it well.  The years have not diminished the memory of the night I decided to homeschool.  I was a recently certified teacher with a brand new husband and a teaching job in a suburban elementary school.


That night I finished reading Child Abuse in the Classroom by Phyllis Schlafly.  In her book, Ms. Schlafly highlighted the alarming trend of secular ideology and practice—tolerance, relativism, values clarification—being shoved down the throats of unsuspecting school children (without parental knowledge or approval) during the late 70’s and early 80’s.  (Bill Muehlenberg of CultureWatch  has done an outstanding review of Child Abuse in the Classroom here.) The things I read about the agenda of secular education fueled my growing concerns about a profession that I had worked hard to prepare for.  In a moment of clarity, all that I had learned, observed, and experienced during my years of preparation for the teaching profession suddenly seemed to collide with everything I believed to be true.  Ironically, the revelation did nothing to diminish my desire to teach.  Rather, in that moment, I knew that my own children would never step foot in a public school.  And they haven’t…until now.


After 13 years of home education and 3 years in university classrooms as an education major, Darcy, my oldest, is now spending every day as a student teacher in a public school classroom.  And not surprisingly, she’s beginning to experience the same conflict of ideology that I experienced almost 25 years ago.  Like me, it has resulted in a strengthened desire to make a difference in the lives of the children she teaches.  But ultimately she has also concluded that when she has children, they will never step foot in a public school classroom.  So what has this homeschooler turned public school teacher learned about public education during her time in the classroom?

  • Public schools don’t really do a great job of socializing children.  Put a perfectly polite, obedient child in classroom full of chatty, disobedient, and disrespectful children and watch the socialization process begin to work its magic.  In just a few weeks, in terms of behavior, the “good” child has been socialized to “fit in” with his peers.  Ironically, it doesn’t usually work the other way around.

  • During a seven-hour school day, an inordinate number of hours are typically spent in classroom management, behavior management, and various other non-academic time-stealers, leaving a limited amount of time free for actual academics.

  • A teacher’s time is often taken up with administrative duties—required activities that can greatly diminish the time available for actual teaching and preparation for teaching.  These duties can leave teachers feeling drained and frustrated…before they ever teach a single lesson!

  • The most successful students in public school are actually homeschooled students.  HUH? That’s right…parental involvement in the life of a student is the single most important factor in creating success in the classroom.  Any teacher will tell you that successful kids excel to the degree that they do because the home environment reinforces and expands on what is being accomplished in school, and in many cases, compensates for a less-than-optimal school experience (though teachers might not tell you that part.)

  • Highly successful students are the exception in public schools.  The status quo (or below) is the norm.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that when skeptics criticize homeschooling, they often do so by raising this argument:


Children belong in government regulated schools where trained professionals are committed to, and equipped to provide for, the success of every child.  Parents are not qualified to teach their own children and by choosing to homeschool, they put their children at risk of failing academically. 
Increasingly, a cry is being heard calling for government regulation of homeschools.  That wouldn’t be quite so ridiculous if public schools were consistently successful at educating the children they are already responsible for.  But national statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Education  suggest otherwise.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the area of math, national test results (2007) reveal that 62% of 4th grade students are at or below Basic level of achievement.   In the area of reading, results reveal that 68% of 4th graders are at or below Basic achievement.  In math and reading, 69% and 70% of eighth graders were at or below basic, respectively.  And what exactly do those numbers mean?  By definition, basic achievement denotes “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade assessed.”   Listen to that again…basic achievement denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficiency at the grade level assessed.   That means that approximately 2/3 of all 4th and 8th grade students in U.S. public schools have only partially mastered the fundamental skills necessary for academic proficiency!  And this is a national average.  The achievement statistics for some states and urban districts are absolutely abysmal!


At the heart of the matter is this: statistics suggest that government-run schools staffed by qualified teachers are failing to provide the majority of their students with a basic level of proficiency in required knowledge and skills.  Successful students are NOT the norm in our nation’s schools.  It is absolutely appalling that anyone associated with the state-run education community should dare to suggest that a system that is failing so many children should attempt to provide oversight for anyone. Public schools really should rescue the kids trapped in their own burning building before they come looking for the little fires that might be burning in ours. 

Homecoming: A First for this Homeschool Family

My youngest daughter, a senior in highschool, went to Homecoming on Saturday night with a large group of kids from our youth group. (Nina is the one in dark red.) I guess the pictures below help answer a critically important question homeschoolers must answer regarding socialization and the homeschooled child. 


"But if you homeschool, won’t your kids miss out on homecoming?"

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You can see Nina is a miserably lonely homeschooled  girl with absolutely nothing to do on a Saturday night!  Maybe I should send her to school!

Should "Normal" REALLY be the Goal?

Thanks to several posts on Dana’s blog, I’m back on the issue of socialization. Again.

I’ve been giving this some thought lately in response to an article which was posted by a youth pastor from Nebraska. In his post, the Serial Youth Pastor cites lack of social skills in homeschoolers he has known as one of his arguments against homeschooling:

"Social skills usually aren’t great – again this is the norm and NOT the exception. I have witnessed this more times than I can count."

And in an article entited Homeschooling Researched, Katie Kriss writes:

"How can a parent make such a crucial decision without their child’s consent to remove them from a world that is considered to be the ‘norm’..."

How many times have you heard someone say,

"Well, I met this homeschool family, and frankly, they just weren’t normal"?

When a youth pastor says that the majority of homeschooled teens he knows lack social skills, I wonder exactly what he means by that.  I wonder by what standard he has measured these kids and found them lacking? Is it a fair measure? And more importantly, is it a right measure?

In a reply to one of his commenters, the Serial Youth Pastor gives an indication of exactly how he measures the social skills of the kids in his youth group. He says, "I do think the ones that have better social skills do blend in."  Blend in?  With whom?

Think about the social climate of the youth culture around us.  Have you sat in the food court in a shopping mall and watched teens lately?  Have you watched kids at a schoolbus stop? I’ve had the "privilege" of working as a substitute teacher in our local public school.  It is abundantly clear that the way for a child to "blend in" in this setting is to be disrespectful, rude, and disinterested. Is this behavior normal?  Well–yes–it is normal.  In today’s youth culture, it is normal. And it’s disturbing. 

And here’s my point.

Kids who are not fully immersed in this culture WILL be different. They will NOT blend in. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I’m not concerned that people continue to raise the socialization question. I AM concerned that these people insist that the social culture of today’s youth is the standard by which all children should be measured.

Youth culture in our country is in serious trouble.

We need a lot more kids who are not "normal".

Give Me a Break!!

I’ve been desribed as a defender of homeschooling.  The description makes me proud.  I love defending what I believe in.

But, you may have noticed that my posts haven’t been particularly defensive of late.  Until this. This woman just REALLY got me mad.

When I stumbled on “Why I Would Never Homeschool My Children”, I read it knowing from the title that I would probably get mad.  I never expected to be this mad!!  After reading her out-of-touch diatribe against homeschooling, I couldn’t help myself.  I started typing a response.  She’ll probably never read it, but it felt good just writing it!

So go take a look at this woman’s ridiculous arguments, then come back and tell me what YOU think!

Here’s what I would say to her if I had the opportunity:

Your arguments, largely based on your personal opinion, simply do not hold water.

I’ve homeschooled for 17 years. I am also a teacher. But what qualifies me to teach my children is not that I am a teacher, but that I am a mom. Trust me, having been both a public school teacher AND a homeschooler, I know this to be true. No matter how good the training and the education of the teacher, no one knows your children better than you do. In order to effectively teach every student in her classroom, a teacher must be able to discern the personality, learning style, family dynamics, emotional needs, psychiatric diagnoses and quirks of every single child in her classroom. In one year’s time, that is simply not possible. For this reason, children—many children—slip through the academic cracks in school classrooms every year. It simply cannot be avoided in a classroom where one teacher is responsible for the academic welfare of 20-30 children—many of whom have varying degrees of special needs.

As a teacher, I know that the bulk of a teacher’s day is spent managing the classroom, not teaching children. Educators estimate that during the average 7 hour schoolday, less than 2 hours are spent in actually teaching/learning activities. Again…been there, done that.

Now…on to the ever popular socialization question! The truth is, the social environment that exists in the average classroom, and that you speak so highly of, is not a healthy one. The social environment present in the school environment places value on the popular, the strong, and the likeable. MANY children who do not fit that bill become, at best, invisible to their peers. At worst, these children become victims of the cruelty of their peers. I do not deny that socialization is an important part of childhood. But just like I wouldn’t entrust a child who is just learning to ride a bike with the task of teaching my child to ride a bike, I also won’t entrust the task of socializing my child to a classroom full of children who are equally uncivilized unsocialized. Can you say, “Blind leading the blind?” On this I could say MUCH more…but for the sake of time, I’ll move on.

Another reason you would never homeschool your children is that you think that homeschoolers live in boxes where diversity does not exist. First of all, the truth is MANY children in this country are educated in schools where there is very little diversity–culturally, economically, or otherwise. In fact, in terms of age, the school classroom is about the least diverse environment you will ever find. Would you call spending all day, every day in the company of children one’s own age an experience in diversity? Where in life will that ever happen again? I would contend that the average homeschooler experiences at least as much diversity as the average publicly schooled child—and in many cases—more. It is not uncommon to hear of homeschool families engaging in cross-cultural missions trips, working in community soup kitchens, volunteering in nursing homes, etc. Most homeschool parents regularly seek out experiences that will prepare their children for life in our world.

You based most of your arguments on your own personal opinions and on a few observations that you have made of homeschoolers that you know (or at least have seen). But for every homeschooled child you observed practicing bad behavior, I will show you at least one publicly educated child practicing the exact same behavior. Are there biased, bigoted homeschool families?  Yes.  Are there biased, bigoted public school families? Again, yes. If you aren’t going to blame a public school child’s behavior on their public school experience, then please don’t blame a homeschooled child’s behavior on the homeschool experience.


And give me a break with the “I have seen a home schooled child get, shall we say in a snit, at an athletic event when they were not allowed to be first up to bat.” Do you actually expect your readers to believe that you have witnessed that behavior only in homeschooled children? And this one “At home, that child was first up for everything and had no concept that there were other children at that game who deserved equal consideration.” You’ve got to be kidding me! Most homeschool families have multiple children. How can any one of those children be first up for everything? They live with other children every day who deserve, and demand, equal consideration. And homeschool moms certainly don’t have the time, or energy, to make any one of her children feel like the center of her universe 24/7!

So before waxing eloquent about why you wouldn’t homeschool, I would suggest that you do a bit more research and a lot more observation.


Sweeping generalizations just don’t cut it in this argument!

Defending Homeschooling

I’m trying to become a better homeschool apologist. 

I’ve believed in homeschooling since before I had children.  I’ve practiced homeschooling for 17 years.  It’s about time I begin to truly defend homeschooling.

For years I have allowed public opinion and my own fear of being offensive to temper my defense of this institution in which I have placed complete confidence for my children’s future.  When questioned, I have uttered half-hearted answers such as,

  • "Well, homeschooling is a great option, but it’s not for everyone."
  • "I’m a teacher, so homeschooling is the perfect opportunity for me…I can be a teacher and stay at home with my children."
  • "I don’t live in a great school district and I can’t afford private school, so homeschooling is really my only option."
  • "What have I done about socialization?  Well, my children go to Sunday School, Awana, baseball, dance class, library story time, YMCA gym class and homeschool field trips.


Recently, I began to listen–really listen–to my answers and what they communicate.

Here’s what I heard myself saying….

  • "For some people, school is really a much better option.  Homeschooling doesn’t work well for everyone."

  • "The only reason that I’m qualified to teach my children at home is that I am a certified teacher."

  • "People in good school districts should really just leave their children in school."

  • "Socialization is an important aspect of the school experience that I MUST work hard to replace with lots of busy activities."

I have done myself and other homeschoolers a huge disservice to allow this fladeral to make its way from my double-speaking mouth!  I’ll give myself credit for one thing.  I’m a nice person.  I try not to knowingly offend people.  But in this case, being nice has backfired on me.  In trying to be nice, I’ve undersold something that I have staked my children’s future on…and in the process given the impression that I think that homeschooling is just another option.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So, here’s the truth as I see it:

  • School is NEVER a better option.  For some, school may be the ONLY option, but that doesn’t make it a better option.  While schools don’t fail every child, school puts all children at risk spiritually, academically, emotionally and socially. Why would anyone knowingly expose their children to those risks when there are better options available?
  • Despite what the NEA (and Elizabeth Edwards) will tell you, a child’s parent is almost always (and unfortunately, I feel the need to qualify that statement to some degree) better qualified to teach his or her children than a certified teacher.  A parent knows and understands a child’s academic and emotional needs and is better suited to meet those needs than anyone. 

  • Even in "good" schools, children are at risk.  The honest truth is that school, even at its best, can NOT compete with homeschooling in terms of producing a well-rounded, well-adjusted, well-educated child.

  • The socialization that children are exposed to in school is negative.  Period.  When children socialize one another, very little good can come from it.  Socialization is NOT about keeping my children busy running from activity to activity.  Socialization is the process of preparing a child to become a mature, productive member of society.  This happens better at home than anywhere.  Studies increasingly show that homeschooled children ARE better socialized than children schooled in public schools.

So, I have recently begun to work at being a better defender of homeschooling as a schooling option.  I’ve begun (slowly) to speak the truth to people in answer to their questions.  Guess what?  People don’t like hearing the truth.  I think I know why. 

The truth offends.  In this case the truth calls into question the schooling choices that a person has made.  The truth also demands a response.  When I share the truth with people, they are forced to face some difficult questions regarding their academic options and choices.  They are forced to consider making some personal sacrifices for the good of their children.  And they don’t like it. 

Tough.

Rational Thinking in an Unexpected Place

Over the years, I have suffered through many conversations with people who are, at best, skeptical, of homeschooling and homeschoolers.  Their logic is often flawed, based on a lack of information and a lack of, well, rational thinking.  As I mentioned awhile back in "Oh, Really", I have tried hard in many of these conversations to answer without offending.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize that I was worrying about offending people who weren’t worried about offending me!! 

Well, in a conversation not long ago, I found rational thinking in a very unexpected place.  I was attending a homeschool convention in Wichita, Kansas, and was checking into my hotel.  The desk clerk was a very pleasant, very….let’s see, how to be nice here….unusual looking young man.  Let’s just say he was really into weird hair styles, tattoos, and body piercings.  But he was a VERY personable, very engaging kid. 

As he checked me in, he asked a question he probably asked many times every day. 

"What are you doing in Wichita?

I replied that I had come to attend a homeschool convention. 

"Oh, do you homeschool?"

"Yes, I’ve homeschooled my children for the last 16 years".

"Wow, that’s cool.  I’ve heard of that.  Don’t you worry about how your kids will get socialization?"

Honestly, it kind of cracked me up to hear that question from this particular young man, but I stiffled a smile and began to give my standard answer.

"Well, I…"

But he cut in before I had a chance to finish. 

"Wait, forget I asked that."  He grinned.  "I’m the most socially maladjusted person I know, and I went to public school, so I guess it’s kind of a dumb question isn’t it?"

I think maybe I’ll go get a tattoo.

Why Not School??

Several months ago, while engaged in a conversation with a fellow homeschooler, I made a rather extreme statement.  That statement has since been challenged, so I’ve been giving some major thought to formulating a response.

My Statement: 

"I will NEVER send my children to public school."

The Question:

"Why would you say something so extreme?"

A while back I posted The Top 10 Reasons Why I Homeschool.  While these were all very REAL reasons, many of them were also somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and therefore, do not fully explain what has motivated me from the very beginning to homeschool my children.  The very simple truth is this: 

I teach my children at home because I will never put them in public school.

I acknowledge that this position is extreme.  Homeschoolers keep their kids at home for a multitude of reasons.  Many of these are more proactive than defensive.  While I agree with many of these reasons, for me they are all secondary.  My main reason IS defensive.  I don’t want my kids in public school!  I am a certified teacher and my arguments against public schools are based on experience and observations from more than 20 years of association with and involvement in public schools.  I began to recognize many of these issues early on in my teaching career…some even before I graduated from college!  The problems I began to observe more than 20 years ago have only gotten worse in the years since.  Interestingly enough, my daughter, now training to become a teacher herself, is making many of the same observations now that she is spending time in public school classrooms. 

  1. Schools are institutions designed to educate the masses.  They are not designed to meet either the emotional or academic needs of the individual.  As such, they will most effectively reach "the average" student, often missing the needs of the lowest and highest performing children.
  2. Schools are places where values such as tolerance, acceptance, self-esteem, diversity, and relativism are often esteemed more highly than academic excellence.  Ironically, the tolerance so tenaciously preached, is often not objectively practiced by its most vocal proponents. 
  3. Schools are places where a dangerous brand of socialization is valued.  This brand of socialization insists that children are capable of preparing each other to be meaningful, productive members of society.  This brand of socialization argues that being bullied, osticized, laughed at, or worse is a necessary part of the socialization process…"how else will your children learn to deal with people who don’t like them??"  This brand of socialization favors the popular, the attractive, and the likeable, creating a social hierarchy which diminishes the value of others.  Ironically, in a place intended for learning, this brand of socialization often values academic mediocrity over academic excellence.  In other words, in school it’s often considered "not cool" to be smart.
  4. Schools are places where government bureaucracy and union mentality prevent good teachers from being rewarded for being good teachers…and there are MANY outstanding teachers trying to do their best for the children they teach.  This same system keeps bad teachers from being penalized for being bad teachers and may even prevent dangerous teachers from being removed from the classroom.  In addition, schools are places where parents have little or no say in who teaches their children.  The NEA (and the politicians who they control) stubbornly refuse to allow a system of school choice intended to create competition which would inevitably result in improvements to our schools and a better education for all our children.
  5. Schools are places where curriculum rich in revisionist history, environmental indoctrination and liberalism is often taught by teachers who share a similar agenda.  Current teaching methods may stress "self-esteem" more than academic excellence.  In much of today’s curriculum, activities which require critical thinking are largely non-existent.
  6. Schools are places where creativity and independent learning are stifled in exchange for "teaching-to-the-test".  Performance is judged by standardization rather than by the presence of inquisitiveness, curiosity and wonder.

I could go on and on, but I hope I’ve made my point.


It was 1985.  I was a newly married college graduate, recently certified and looking for a teaching job.  I was reading a book (Child Abuse in the Classroom by Phyllis Schlafly) which presented evidence of many of the issues which I have just addressed.  I looked at my husband of just a few months and said, "I will never send my children to public school." 


And I haven’t.

What About Anti-socialization?

an·ti·so·cial       (ân’tç-sô’shəl, ân’tî-)  Pronunciation Key 
adj.  

  1. Shunning the society of others; not sociable.
  2. Hostile to or disruptive of the established social order; marked by or engaging in behavior that violates accepted mores
  3. Antagonistic toward or disrespectful of others; rude.

My 18-year old daughter had an interesting thought. People always ask homeschoolers about socialization. 

 

"What do you do about socialization?"

 

Well, after taking a look at the dictionary definition for "antisocial", she has the following suggestion.  Instead of attempting to give an answer to the question above, maybe we should simply ASK this one.

 

"What do YOU do about anti-socialization."

You HOMESCHOOL? I could NEVER do that!"

Top 10 Reasons NOT to Homeshool

(…and a rational response)

“My kids would drive me crazy.”

What would drive me crazy is NEVER being able to spend time with my children, since after being at school ALL day, they still have 2 hours of homework to do!

“We live in a GREAT school district.”

Unfortunately, even GREAT school districts operate under the illusion that all children can learn in a classroom with 20-30 other children, taught by a single teacher who will not begin to fully understand your child’s academic needs until well into the school year.

“I’m terrible in Algebra.”

By the time you’re done homeschooling, you’ll be BETTER in Algebra…and Chemistry….and Physics….and History.  And if not, there’s always help available!

“We can’t afford to homeschool.”

Yes, homeschooling can require sacrifice, but in financial terms, sending a child to public school can actually cost as much or more than homeschooling!  And money isn’t everything!  In academic, social and emotional terms, what is the potential cost of NOT homeschooling?  Is it a price you’re willing to pay?

“My child is too social, he’ll be bored at home.”

If your child is bored unless he’s socializing, then the worst possible place for him is in a school classroom!!

“We would get too much flack from our relatives.”

Arm yourself with statistics that expose the shortcomings of public education and the strengths of schooling at home…that’ll get them thinking!

“I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Help is available!  Find a local homeschool group and learn from those who are already doing it!

“I’m not patient enough to teach my own children!”

Since trials generally result in the development of patience, I can assure you that by the time you finish homeschooling, you’ll be the most patient mom on your block!

“But I’m not a teacher, how will I know what to do?”

Even without a teaching certificate, as a parent, you are infinitely more prepared to meet your child’s academic needs than a teacher who is responsible for the academic growth of an entire classroom of children.

“My child won’t learn how to get along in the real world.”

If you want your child to learn to get along in the real world, the best place for him would be a social environment which provides positive experiences such as acceptance, security, cooperation and mutual respect.  Where would you be more likely to find these….a public school classroom or at home?