Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Hippie Method: A Homeschooling Stereotype Challenged

You want to know what my biggest pet peeve is? The one that gets my underwear in a bunch  guaranteed, every time?

That would be when someone asks a home schooling parent if their kids are going to be socially deprived because they are home schooled. 
socializing away

Yes, this is generally the first question that anyone asks a home will your kids be socialized? Or as one person put it, "doesn't your kid need socialism?"

That really, really, bugs me.

This is not the same question home school parents ask themselves. The question that is first and foremost in our minds is whether or not we are capable of educating our kids. Can I give my child a good education? Or are they going to grow up dumb as doorknobs?

Since this is the most common question asked home schoolers I wonder...

Why the stereotype? and

When did the basis of school choice become more about socialization than education?

Because no public or private school parent asks themselves "will this school be best for my child's social life?" No. Academic prowess, athletic programs, teacher reputations, and location often factor in. Not social life. Well, unless you are in a much higher socioeconomic bracket than me. Then connections are a consideration.

So why is this such a big deal when discussing home schooling? Why is it the first objection?

my social butterfly
The Stereotype Justified and Debunked

Granted, way back in the 80s when my parents started home schooling, there was a whole bunch of weird home schoolers. They home-churched, home-birthed, home-businessed, home-gardened, home-healed and home-schooled. They were practically a commune unto themselves. And they often didn't get out much. The stereotype was justly earned.

But home education has evolved in the past 15-20 years. Normal people home school. Cool people home school. In fact, in 2007, 2.9% of all school age children were home schooled. (source) Homeschooling is now done by many different strata of society.

And it has been proven that home schoolers are actually not socially deprived. Or anymore socially deprived than students who go to school. As a matter of fact, they may actually be less socially deprived.

In a studied John Taylor conducted, he found, using the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale,(link) "while half of the conventionally schooled children scored at or below the 50th percentile (in self-concept), only 10.3% of the home-schooling children did so." He further stated that "the self-concept of home-schooling children is significantly higher (and very much so statistically) than that of children attending the conventional school. This has implications in the areas of academic achievement and socialization, to mention only two. These areas have been found to parallel self-concept. Regarding socialization, Taylor's results would mean that very few home-schooling children are socially deprived. He states that critics who speak out against homeschooling on the basis of social deprivation are actually addressing an area which favors home schoolers. (Self-Concept in home-schooling children, John Wesley Taylor V, Ph.D., Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI)

And, that is my rebuff to the socially deprived stereotype. It just isn't valid.

Which is not to say that there aren't home schooled kids who are quiet. Who maybe even don't fit in. Or who can't hold a look me in the eye conversation. But, that can also be said of kids who go to public school. Certain personalities are not restricted to certain schooling options. After all, 30% of this world claims to be introverted. (And I think the percentage goes up to about 90% when you are discussing bloggers. But that may be another post for another day.) There are introverts and extroverts in every group of people. In every family.

my quietest child
Is socialization more important than education?
But, the deeper question here, that really concerns me, is when did school become more about socialization than education? If this is such a big downside of home schooling.

As I have been stewing on this subject for the past couple of weeks, I have done some minor Wikipedia digging on the history of education.

Education started in time immemorial as a way to teach reading and writing. So that life knowledge, skills and cultural tradition could be remembered and passed on. Formal schooling as we know it, had it roots in the 11th century AD.

Most of the original schools of that time were started for the purpose of training the clergy. The emphasis was on the quadrivium consisting of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. These followed the preparatory work of the trivium made up of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In turn, the quadrivium was considered preparatory work for the serious study of philosophy and theology.

In the 17th and 18th centuries you see a surge throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States, of the model we would call "modern education." Instead of just the rich and famous receiving an education via private tutors, more and more schools were progressively opened for all classes of people.

After the American Revolution, an emphasis was put on education, especially in the northern states, which rapidly established public schools. By the year 1870, all states had free elementary schools. In 1918, every state required students to complete elementary school.

my loud and proud child

Again, when did the emphasis switch from education to socialization? I think you will find that a lot of the responsibility for this lies in the lap of John Dewey, the Father of Modern Education. (source)

He was the leading educational theorist of the era. Dewey was a leading proponent of Progressive Education and wrote many books and articles to promote the central role of democracy in education. He saw schools not only as a place to gain content knowledge, but also as a place to learn how to live. The purpose of education was not so much the acquisition of a predetermined set of skills, but rather the realization of the student's full potential and the ability to use those skills for the greater good. Dewey notes that, "to prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities." Dewey insisted that education and schooling are instrumental in creating social change and reform. He notes that "education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction."

Interestingly enough, no matter how old you think this earth is, the concept of school being the source of socialization and not just education is a very young idea. Like only 100 years old. 

Regardless, I think we would all agree that the primary purpose of school is education. We want our kids to learn.

Also, none of us, whether home schoolers or public schoolers, want to raise social misfits. Why would any of us have that goal for our kids? We all want our children to grow up into responsible citizens who are friendly and interact well with other people and are all-around well-adjusted.

he tends to rather weird behavior on occasion, but I think he is mostly okay
Do Unto Others
I am willing to give anyone and everyone the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this annoying question. I am sure that when people ask if my children are being socialized, they really and truly are just making conversation.

And, I'm okay with that. But, if you really want to make conversation with a home school parent why not ask some of these questions?

-What curriculum are you using? What do you like about it?

-Are you involved in a local home school group?

-What strengths and weaknesses do you see in your child? How are you able to focus on these as you home school?

-What do you find most challenging about home schooling? What do you find most rewarding?

I am betting that if the shoe were on the other foot, you would enjoy someone asking you similar questions about your child's education. And these would certainly start some conversation.

Home School Art Day-28 students plus some small fry
And, in a round about way, you'd still get your socialization question answered. Win-win.