The Socialization Myth

I’m not ordinarily a huge fan of CBN. While, as a Christian, I support some of their viewpoints, sometimes they’re just too sensationalist for my tastes.  That said, I couldn’t help smiling my way through this article that was shared with me today:

Socialization: Homeschooling vs. Schools

The results the researchers found absolutely mirror our real-life experiences. Naturally, you can’t say that ALL homeschooled kids are exemplary citizens, or that ALL traditionally-schooled kids exhibit anti-social behaviors. I know of one homeschooled kid, that at age nine, threw rage-filled tantrums to rival any 2-year-old. I know of another whose mother keeps him so sheltered that he is clueless on how to behave when he’s around other children, thankfully, that is the only homeschooled child I’ve encountered who is that way. And I can give you the names of at least five good friends whose kids are absolutely delightful to be around even though they attend regular schools.

But generally speaking, this article is spot-on. I continue to be blown away by how mature, considerate, friendly and kind my kids’ homeschooled friends are. Seeing this difference played a huge part in our decision to start homeschooling nearly 3 years ago.

I also taught art for a year at a local private school, and then taught art to our homeschooling group last year until my pregnancy forced me to give it up. From a teacher’s perspective, the differences in the schooled vs. homeschooled students were astounding.

While each class at school had a few well-behaved kids, for the most part, the entire time I had them was a lesson for ME in classroom management. Every class had the class clown, the bully, the shy ones that got picked on, the studious ones, the slackers who stared at the wall instead of working. Most classes had groups of the above, and keeping them separated enough so that something got accomplished each week was a job in and of itself.

One of my most basic rules as an art teacher was also one of the hardest to implement in the school setting: We don’t touch another person’s artwork and we don’t criticize what another artist is creating. So many of the kids were just plain mean, and so competitive and sneaky about cutting each other down. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to console some poor first grader because she was devastated over mean girls picking on the content of her work.

The first class or two of the day was filled with tired kids who didn’t get enough sleep the night before, kids needing bathroom breaks because they hadn’t had time to go yet, hungry kids who said they hadn’t had breakfast, kids with awful morning breath and uncombed hair that you could tell were rushed out the door that morning.

Afternoon classes were also filled with tired kids, particularly in the younger grades when some probably could’ve used a nap but of course, didn’t get one. They were often crankier in the afternoons, just waiting for that last bell to ring, and antsy from a lack of physical activity throughout the day.

We were set up in a corner of the gym, where lunch was also served. It was interesting to observe the dynamics of the children at lunch, too. That might be the topic of another blog.

One thing I did learn was that teachers who can handle that all day, every day, deserve so much more respect and honor than our culture typically gives them. It is HARD work and something I never desired to do again.

But I loved the process of teaching art, and missed how rewarding it was to discover hidden talent and nurture creativity in little kids. So when our homeschooling group needed an art teacher, I decided to give it a go.

The only real problem I had with the homeschooled students was teaching them to wait their turn to talk and raise their hands to ask questions. Many of the kids had never been in a classroom setting and simply didn’t know how it worked. And I did have a chatterbug in each of my groups, who had to be sent out to sit with their mothers for not listening and being quiet during worktime.

Overall, though, I was beyond impressed with these children. I rarely had to tell them to keep their hands to themselves, or to not speak negatively about another student’s work. And the oddest, most wonderful thing of all was how helpful these kids were. They just openly shared supplies with each other, helped younger kids who might’ve needed assistance with their scissors, etc. They were respectful to me, friendly and happy.

Maybe it was the overall feeling of happiness that was the greatest difference of all. I never had to deal with a homeschooled student who was exhausted, hungry or angry. They came ready to work and happy to do so.  They didn’t need to trash-talk each other to feel good about themselves and their work, and they exuded a genuine self-confidence that I only rarely saw in a school setting. They didn’t pick on anyone, or form cliques. Only rarely did I have to nag anyone to clean up. It was a completely different, completely positive environment where the kids enjoyed being together and I enjoyed being with them.

And I couldn’t help thinking about how lucky those homeschooled kids were; and what a gift their parents were giving them. Sure, some kids thrive in traditional schools. But an alarming number do not. I just wish that more parents would consider homeschooling as a viable, healthy alternative, instead of dismissing it as I did for so many years. It really is just so good for kids, and good for our nation’s future.

5 replies on “The Socialization Myth”

  1. Very good, Kari! I agree with you – I’ve met lots of home schooled kids – yours included – that are so much more easy to deal with. No way would I agree to work with traditionally taught kids these days. I’ve found them to be very rude and disruptive etc… The ones I’ve had dealings with who are home schooled are much better behaved and a joy to be around.

  2. I would never stereotype homeschool kids anymore than I would public school kids. I know many kids from both groups and find some of each type. I’ve seen homeschool kids who don’t know how to add or substract and public school kids the same. I’ve seen bad behavior in both. I guess alot depends on the quality of the schools and teachers. To lump all public school kids into poorly behaved, unrested, unkempt and mean is as unfair as to say all homeschooled kids are undereducated, undersocialized bunch of lazy hillbillies.
    Great kids come from great parents who are involved and supportive of their kids and can come from either public or homeschooled. I know you homeschoolers are fighting a negative stereotype but we all know that there are good apples and bad apples in every group. The majority of kids from public school come out of it educated, socialized, and ready for the world as do homeschooled kids.
    I’m glad that there is the choice to homeschool and I’m glad that many people take that option. I’m sad to see the need for either group to justify or protect their choice. Reminds me of the working mom vs the stay at home mom debate and no one wins in that one either.

    1. Thanks for the input, Doris and Diane.

      Diane, I agree that no one wins by stereotyping anyone, and I tried to cover that by mentioning initially that we can’t say that ALL of any one group is good or bad. The rest of the piece, I was honestly sharing my observations as a teacher in both settings. Maybe that particular school bred a certain kind of kid? But I stand by what I said about how shocked I was at the differences I observed between the two groups.

      There were some good, honest, sweet-natured, highly motivated children in the school setting–they were the only reason I could bear doing that as long as I did. I know that your kids are caring, high-achieving children and I apologize if what I said offended you in any way.

      It has felt that lately, the Internet has been inundated with negative stories against homeschooling and homeschooled kids. So, even though the linked story is a couple of years old, it was refreshing to finally be sent a link to something that contained real research to back up what we homeschoolers have felt and observed for a while now. It is sad that we still feel we have to defend our choices; however I suppose that’s just part of being a member of any minority group, and we who teach our kids at home are still very much a minority…and perhaps, because of that, more sensitive to how we are stereotyped.

  3. As a Mom who has been both routes, PS for 5 years with our oldest, and 1 year of homeschooling, I wish had homeschooled from the start.

    I was very involved at the girls’ school, in the classroom, as a class mom, on committees etc. But even with all that I am just finding out about some of the undercurrent that goes on in PS. And, as the kids get older, it seems the meaner they get.

    I agree with you Kari, and Diane as well, that you can’t lump everyone in either schooling genre as good or bad. But, even before we began homeschooling it was distinctly noticeable how well behaved and well mannered the homeschool kids we knew were.

    In working weekly in A’s Kindergarten class, it was really apparent the variance in behavior and involvement from the parents – not at school. but at home. Having helped in a homeschooling class for both girls’ age groups, the classes were much easier to control.

    Again, class size has an influence, as well as the teacher and the expectations put on the kids. I am just thankful that we have chosen homeschooling.

    There are good kids and bad kids everywhere. But with people like Joyce Behar proclaiming homeschoolers are demented, we tend to get touchy. 🙂

  4. Interesting post — I’ve send homeschooled kids who were very anti-social and I’ve seen kids who ended up stars of public school sports teams (THAT certainly depends on the public district policy! And that’s been a hot topic where I live, upon occasion.) It’s just not that easy to generalize, at least in my own opinion. I will say, however, that any student, no matter where he/she attends, does better in a calm and nurturing environment. Wolf Pack Classroom Management Plan was written by a teacher for teachers and home school parents. It assures there are no cliques and no children left on the sidelines — being part of the “pack” is a greatway to include every child all the time. Of course, that’s important for all kids, but it’s especially important for those who feel isolated from their peers, for whatever reason.

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