My wife and I started teaching our kids at home in 1980. At that time, we didn’t know of anybody else in the country who was doing so. I thought perhaps I had invented a new institution: home education. But within a year or two I began to hear about a few other families who were doing the same thing in other places across the country. Another bubble burst.
As the phenomenon grew and became a movement, people noticed. Questions came, some from detractors and some from parents intrigued with the idea and wondering whether they should try home schooling for their family.
The first question involved legality. Will I go to jail if I try this? The second concerned teaching qualifications. Will I be able to do this right? The third became something of a mantra for critics: What about socialization?
The first two questions were long ago laid to rest by empirical means. Laws were changed or clarified across the country in the 1980’s and 90’s. Test scores, scholarships and earned degrees put to rest the concern about the ability of parents to teach. But, “What about socialization?” is still going strong. We’ve all heard it.
Still, things are different in some ways. Most people know kids who are being home schooled and don’t seem to be social degenerates. So there’s not as much concern on the part of the general public. The other thing that has changed is that the question seldom comes from the parents themselves, but mostly from their detractors.
In the early days, many parents seemed concerned that they might warp their children socially. But a year or two ago I asked a question to a convention audience that made me realize we’ve come a long way. The topic for the talk was socialization. As an introduction, I asked the moms and dads for a show of hands. “First, how many of you are here because you’re honestly concerned that home education might not be good for your kids’ social development?” Three hands went up. “Now, how many of you are here because you’re looking for ammunition to answer your parents or in-laws or church friends who worry about it?” The remaining eighty hands went up. No, most home schoolers aren’t worrying about social development nowadays.
Why not? Because we now have a track record in that, too. Home school kids have done quite well in relationships of all kinds. They do as well as anybody (usually better) in getting along with their parents and siblings. They relate to the neighbors just fine. They go to church and talk to other kids just like…well, like other kids. The most notable difference about home schooled kids in church is that they are far more comfortable talking with the adults there than other children are.
Add to all that, the fact that an awful lot of home schooled kids are now adults. They have worked at jobs, started businesses, won elective office, played on sports teams and joined the military. They have excelled at such demanding contests as debate and moot court competition in college. Thousands of them are now enjoying their own marriages and families. My eldest son got elected county chairman of our political party at the age of nineteen. Later, he and his friends helped an eighteen-year-old get elected chairman in a nearby county. By anybody’s definition, that’s not just involvement, but leadership. Just how much more social can a person get?
So let’s put to bed the concern that not going to school deprives kids of the ability to learn to get along with people. A more useful question would be, how did home school graduates get so socially skillful?
In a word, they did it by living life.
Don’t listen to the nonsense that going to school exposes children to the “real world.” I can’t think of an environment less “real” than being locked up in with people of your own age all day long and doing exactly what everybody else does in exactly the same way, working away to produce no product or service, but only to be evaluated on how you did the work. I can’t see an employer paying anybody for that. As for the age segregation being preparation for the real world, my daughter has an answer. She says, “Oh, sure. I shop at the thirty-to-forty-year old grocery store every week!”
I think sarcasm is her spiritual gift.
Real preparation for adult relationships comes in doing the things that adults do every day. Navigating the challenging waters of family connections, buying and selling the things we use, learning to work with teammates at work and play, learning wisdom from older people and sensitivity from those younger. All these social skills are available in our homes, churches and communities. School keeps kids out of the real world.
Instead of the artificial world of grades, tests, speaking only with permission, working for no real goal and being locked away from the old and young—the real life of a real community—home education sets kids free to explore the world in which they will be living as adults.
While other kids are learning the social “skills” of flirting, bullying and competing for meaningless marks and numbers, home schooled kids are busy elsewhere. They are reading real books, interviewing World War II veterans, serving as volunteers in worthy projects, going on missions trips, starting businesses and getting to know their neighbors. They’re working in political campaigns, planting gardens, making meals for the new mother at church. They’re doing real things that real people do. They’re building real social skills in real relationships. The kind of relationships, after all, that you’re trying to prepare them for.
Live a real life and take your kids along for the ride. That’s growing up social.
Rick Boyer wears many hats. Parents know him as a speaker/author who tackles the challenges of parenting head-on. He offers practical, effective solutions based on Scripture and over 40 years of parenting experience. He and his wife, Marilyn are the authors of many popular books on parenting as well as the Bible-based Character Concepts curriculum.
To homeschooled kids, Rick is “Uncle Rick,” a dynamic storyteller who brings Scripture and history to colorful life and turns them into delightful and life-changing character lessons. Check out his audio recordings at www.UncleRickAudios.com