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By David W. Kirkpatrick (May 22, 2008)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us
One objection to homeschooling is that the students don't get the chance to socialize with others. There are several things wrong with that view.
For one, it isn't really an argument and is usually presented as a dogmatic statement with the implication that it is to be taken at face value. Not only is specific evidence lacking, there isn't even a pretense in that regard.
The major problem is that this view suggests that the only, or at least principal, place for youngsters to be socialized is in a formal school. That, of course, is incorrect. Most people throughout history, and even today, have limited or nonexistent formal schooling but they are still socialized.
More to the point, even public school students spend most of their time outside of the classroom. Even the establishment likes to point this out when they are making excuses for their failure to educate millions of students. They sometimes point out that students spend less than one-eighth of a calendar year's 8,760 hours in school.
Overlooked are opportunities for homeschooled student to participate in their church, the local "Y", with friends and neighbors, and even with students who attend conventional schools.
This was made clear years ago when the Pennsylvania legislature held hearings on homeschool provisions in the state's law. Perhaps the most impressive was testimony by students themselves who not only made effective formal presentations which they had prepared, but handled themselves superbly in question-and-answer time. They described the many ways they socialize with others.
As the movement has grown, from as few as 10,000 students in 1980 to as many as 2,000,000 today, so have the availabilities of interaction between homeschoolers themselves. Homeschooled students participate in local, regional and state events, including high school graduation ceremonies.
Those who emphasize socialization within the public school framework further imply, but never state, that such influences are unfailingly positive. In fact, for millions of students, socialization experiences in public schools are predominantly negative, sometimes heartbreakingly so.
As has been noted elsewhere in these commentaries it was reported in 2000 that 78% of high school students said they are not involved and school means nothing to them." The next year Teacher Magazine cited a survey asking students what they like most about school. The most common response was "nothing."
Then there are the studies of major incidents of school violence in recent years. In virtually every case the alleged perpetrators were loners who felt they had been bullied and harassed to the breaking point. They could hardly have had similar experiences with home schooling.
Largely unrecognized are studies that show youngsters who spend more time with their peers are more likely to develop peer standards than adult ones, and the earlier they begin peer-dominated experiences the more dysfunctional their values and attitudes may be.
Surveys of public school students, especially at the secondary level where they are more mature in their judgments, consistently report they find school "boring," the most common single descriptive word according to some reports, or otherwise unsatisfactory. And this is in addition to the millions who find it so lacking that they drop out.
With traditional schools, it has been noted more than once that 30% of students drop out, and it is possibly more since dropout figures are questionable and may underestimate the true extent of the problem. In not only some individual schools, but even in some entire urban districts, more than 50% of the students fail to graduate.
In large schools, some of which at the secondary level have 3,000, 4,000 or more students, the opportunity for students to participate in extracurricular activities, or even to shine academically, are severely limited. Whether a high school has 500 or 5,000 students, only so many can be on the football team, only one can be class president, only one can be valedictorian, and on and on. And few get one-on-one attention.
None of which is true for homeschoolers.
This is not to say that everyone should homeschool their children; that is a serious commitment not to be taken lightly. But those who wish to do so should be supported not criticized.
The record of results is on their side.
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"Why is it that millions of children who are pushouts or dropouts amount to business as usual in the public schools, while one family educating a child at home becomes a major threat to universal public education and the survival of democracy? --p. 88, Stephen Arons, "Compelling Belief, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1983
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Copyright 2008 David W. Kirkpatrick
108 Highland Court,
Douglassville, Pennsylvania 19518-9240
Phone: (610) 689-0633