If there is a list somewhere of successful 'social experiments,' homeschooling deserves a place near the top. Perhaps we'll find it there one day. Time will tell.
Although research has clearly proven that socialization is a non-issue, the question "How on earth will children be socialized if they are not in school?" has plagued homeschooling parents until... well, until, sadly enough, children began shooting each other and their teachers in schools a couple of years ago. Since then, no one really talks seriously about homeschooled children missing out on some kind of socialization that can only happen while confined in school all day.
Research and Reflections
There are so many wonderful aspects of the socialization produced by homeschooling that it's worth taking a look at. Perhaps, in light of recent school tragedies, we can read decades-old research with renewed interest. Perhaps we're actually ready to listen and to learn...
Dr. Raymond S. Moore and his wife, Dorothy, have long championed for the release of young children from the institutional environment. They wrote, almost 25 years ago, in their landmark book, Better Late Than Early:
"In principle, a young child, given reasonable freedom and personal guidance, develops better outside the classroom than within it. This is particularly true of the first 8 years or so. M.W. Sullivan, one of the earliest educational programmers, was asked how a child could develop socially out of school and how he would ever learn to get along with other kids. He, in turn, asked for proof that the school does a better socializing job than the home."
Turning to the events of the last two years, the school shootings, we can consider the words of one of America's most famous teachers, best-selling author/educator, John Taylor Gatto, as he recounts, in his latest book The Underground History of American Education, A Schoolteacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling:
"You aren't compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them in school. They are terrified with good cause; about 33 are murdered there every year. (From 1992 through 1999, 262 children were murdered in school.) "
"Your great, great grandmother didn't have to surrender her children. What happened? Exactly what John Dewey heralded at the onset of the twentieth century has indeed happened, our once highly individualized nation has evolved into a centrally managed village, an agora made up of huge special interests which regard individual voices as irrelevant. The masquerade is managed by having collective agencies speak through particular human beings. Dewey said this would mark a great advance in human affairs, but the net effect is to reduce men and women to the status of functions in whatever sub-system they are placed. Public opinion is turned on and off in laboratory fashion. All of this in the name of social efficiency, one of the two main goals of forced schooling."
What Is Socialization?
Socialization is not 'done' by confining children within four walls, making them sit still, shut up, stand in line, ask questions only at appropriate times, obey mindlessly and respond appropriately to the harsh noise of bells and the shriek of playground monitors' whistles. School-type socialization is a dynamic that clearly is designed to bring people under the control of authority and to obedience to group standards, norms and peer pressure.
True socialization enables the powers of emotional, spiritual and intellectual development to grow together at a gentle pace just as the individual grows physically and mentally. As pointed out over the decades by human development experts, the act of truly 'socializing' a person includes vital components, none of which is provided well or consistently by the forced school environment:
Children need the freedom to explore real living - their own backyard, neighborhood and community.
Children need a close, intimate relationship with an adult and caring role models to learn and to understand the positive attributes of giving, sharing, helping, loving - they need their parents and family.
Children need a consistent, secure, predictable environment and protection from negative influences - their own home is best, especially for young children (under age 8.)
Children need the freedom to choose, explore, create, play, express themselves and be alone - time to grow.
Socialization, Homeschooling Style
Free from the stranglehold of classroom conformity, a homeschooled child can choose his own friends, and learn to deal with people he might not necessarily like, in a safe environment, on his own terms. Homeschooled children tend to make friends naturally, with all kinds of people of different ages and backgrounds. Their social environment is multi-dimensional, extending their daily experiences far beyond four walls. Under the guidance of those who love them most and know them best, homeschooled children have significant control over their lives, their learning and their social environment. They have time to discover things for themselves and to move through life at the pace of their own mental, emotional and physical development, in ways the narrow limits of the classroom could never offer.
Homeschooling liberates, it rebuilds, and in time it heals. Children who are never confined to an institution, or spend little time there unless by choice, thrive socially, because homeschooling helps create and encourage the environment for children to reclaim the essential ingredients for healthy living and positive psycho/social development. For many homeschooling families, wanting their children to adopt family values and to learn these values from consistent role models who live out their belief system, is one of the most vital factors in the decision to homeschool.
As an 'unschooled' student wrote: "At the age of eighteen and as one who has never gone to school, I realize that somewhere during the past five to six years I've come to think of myself not as a homeschooler or as an unschooler but simply as who I am, Christine McKee, citizen and community member. My life, except for the few times my parents doubted their own belief in unschooling, has essentially been mine to structure and live as I have chosen...."
(The Teenage Liberation Handbook - How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education, Second Edition, Lowry House Publishers, 1998, by Grace Llewellyn)
Modern homeschooling has become an accepted alternative to institutionalized schooling. Families have reclaimed their children and their children have reclaimed their lives, working together to strengthen the family unit - the backbone of society. Parents and children can focus on the social essentials of individualism, intellectual ideals, communication, and the nurturing of values that form the foundation of healthy emotional, psychological and spiritual development.