Homeschooling is a term used to define an educational approach through which children are taken through the education process in a home rather than a school setup. This type of schooling can involve part or all of a child’s education and is characterized by extensive parental participation. A few decades ago, this form of schooling had not been legalized in the USA but after much pushing especially by Christian parents to be allowed to practice homeschooling, the approach has now been legalized in all the US states.
The number of home educators has grown large to include those parents who believe that homeschooling is better than classroom-based schooling in terms of imparting good family, social and educational traits upon their children. However, homeschooling approaches are as varied as those who practice them and different parents have equally different reasons for homeschooling their children. The curricula and laws defining homeschooling also vary in various states. But despite the recent popularity of this form of education, a lot of people continue to question its effectiveness, especially in terms of instilling social skills in homeschooled children (Vahid, A. & Vahid F. 2007, p.8-9, 12).
Children who are educated at home are few in comparison to school-going children and are also sheltered from real-world encounters. Much of their everyday life is spent in the environment of the home and while some of them may never have attended formal schools, others are withdrawn from the school environment for various reasons. It is the latter who are likely to suffer from social distress.
A home school environment does not cater for interaction between various cultures, social backgrounds, worldviews, and ability levels as provided for in the school-based system. Such an environment is essential if a child is to develop adequate social skills for problem-solving later in their lives. Homeschooling also limits the extent of discussions, competition, and sharing of ideas because home scholars generally tend to interact with those of the same kind, and until recently, such interaction was limited because of the low number of home scholars (Thomas, 1998, p.112-113; Helton & Smith, 2004, p.104).
School-based learning takes place under very diverse communities that integrate into the school system under a learning environment. Home-based schooling on the other hand is primarily confined to living premises and homeschooled children, therefore, experience limited socialization because most of their time is spent in the company of adults rather than those of the same age group. Such children are also isolated from other ethnic and social groups and any interaction outside the home tends to be with those of the same social backgrounds and under limited numbers. These children may have problems dealing with their peers and with a diversity of culture while out socializing on their own.
Many people think that the mass school system provides children with a variety of experiences that are important in their later lives. Homeschooled children may become socially isolated especially if it becomes the duty of the parent to decide whom their child interacts with although they consider the daily family life as an adequate ground to socialize. Critics argue that although homeschooled children are involved in various other activities beyond learning, such exposure is not exhaustive. Teamwork which often takes place among peers is a very essential aspect of development and is quite useful later in a child’s life (Tinglof 2000, p.142 – 143; Lee, 2006, p.247).
Many opponents of homeschooling also argue that parents who educate their children at home use this method of education as a way of isolating their children from others and accuse them of over controlling the socialization of their children and their lives in general. Home educators are domineering and do not give their children adequate opportunities to freely interact and pick out their social acquaintances depending on their desires. Such parents desire to impact their values upon their children and are in control of the type of extra-curricula activities their children are involved in.
This becomes problematic when the children get out into the wider world because their parents are their role models and everything is measured from that angle. Homeschooled children also depend upon best-friend interactions rather than peer friendship for social support and well-being because of the type of social context that their education is based on. But the functions and features of high-quality best friendships cannot substitute peer interaction. Homeschooled children are therefore more prone to peer support breakdowns especially late in their childhood or the early adolescence stage. These children tend to be very dependent upon how far they succeed in maintaining their best friendships. In the absence of such quality friendship, home-schooled children are prone to suffer from psychological distress (Valid. A, & Valid F, 2007, p.21; Ravis and Zakriski, 2005).
Homeschooled children are isolated from social issues such as smoking, drugs and alcohol, teenage sex, or peer pressure, which are prevalent in classroom-based schools. Many people have argued that children can deal with such issues as they get more mature in age, especially if through parenting, such children have been provided with adequate opportunities to decide what is best for them and deal with the consequences. But if such children are not exposed to the harsh realities of life, they may not be able to resist such habits when confronted with them or even be able to avoid those people that are involved in the habits. Modern home educators may therefore not be trying to protect their children but rather to exert control over their socialization in a way that would prove harmful later in life (Valid A. & Valid F, 2007, p.22-25).
Proponents of homeschooling however argue that the claim that homeschooled children have less interaction with others is a misconception, usually based upon the assumption that homeschooling denies children the opportunity to socialize. Socializing is not limited to the school environment and several other activities such as family gatherings, summer or winter camps, volunteer activities, vocational jobs, neighborhood interactions, sports and dance teams; as well as religious organizations are very rich grounds for developing social skills necessary for the interaction. When exposed to various social activities, such children get a conducive environment for adequate peer socialization. Many home educators also get together into groups through which they create several organized activities for their children.
Modern-day home educators are now involved in a lot of activities that bring them together on regular basis to try and make up for the lack of social interaction that their children miss from failing to attend formal schools. Homeschooled children are certainly advantaged in that they are socially exposed to more socially enriching events or experiences than their school-going counterparts. Homeschooling also consumes less time as compared to school-based learning and such children, therefore, have ample time to be involved in other activities (Valid A. & Valid F, 2007, p.17-21; Thomas, 1998, p.113, 115).
Unlike school-based learning where children are segregated into age groups and adult interaction is minimal, home-based schooling offers children an environment in which their minds can expand through precise and dedicated learning. In the home-schooled atmosphere, children are exposed to different social aspects that form part of the wider world. This is because parents take their children along when visiting with other adults and friends and the children learn how to interact with people of different social backgrounds and in very diverse situations.
Homeschooled children, therefore, display more confidence than school-educated children when dealing with multi-age situations. Research has proved that such children have better attitudes towards their parents or teachers, themselves, as well as towards inter-personal relationships (Weight 2006; Reavis & Zakriski 2005; Helton & Smith, 2004, p.103).
Home scholars are more exposed to an adult environment that makes them get well prepared for the home and workplace environment. They are taught through early apprenticeship and most of their learning is based on the experiences of the tutor(s). These children portray a higher level of social maturity because of extensive exposure to adult life and tend to imitate their parents, a factor that makes them experience fewer behavioral problems.
A home-schooled child only misses out on real-world issues by escaping peer pressure which can otherwise be very misleading. An average home scholar generally escapes the influence of immoral behavior and crime from peers with the home environment shielding them from unpleasant acts like bullying, violence, teasing, and another type of harassment that is common in the school system. Home scholars are generally also not raised in isolation because of social activities cover-up for potential isolation. Overall, they have good academic performance and are also emotionally and socially well developed (Klicka, 2007; Lee, 2006, p. 247).
Although modern home educators have been accused of isolating their children from real-world experiences, such criticism is weak because classroom-based schooling also takes place within an environment that is quite different from real-world experiences. Class-room-based education takes place within the same age groups and the children have little control over the learning process. Home educators also argue that school-based learning exposes children to negative social aspects such as peer pressure, bullying as well as exposure to drugs or substance abuse. Adult interaction in the classroom is also limited to the teachers.
Homeschooled children on the other hand spend ample time in the company of a wider range of age groups and their activities also take place in environments with larger variations. There is also little evidence that home-schooled children are unable to adapt if taken back to school or have problems adjusting to the workforce (Weight 2006; Thomas, 1998, p. 112).
Considering the growing popularity of home-based education, the decision to home school children remains a difficult encounter for most parents. But whatever the circumstances, the decisions made should put into consideration the child’s willingness to learn at home. This is because a willing student makes every aspect of the process, be it learning or socializing; a manageable experience. Technology has also made learning at home more interesting with the introduction of the computer, internet, and email. Such a forum has also opened up home scholars to a new model of online learning that improves on home-based learning and exposed them to online socializing.
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