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Social outcomes of home education

One of my blog posts caused some discussion about the social outcomes of children educated at home. Is a home education sufficient for learning to navigate social relationships? The quality of home education varies dramatically, as do parents' reasons for choosing this option. Click over to Dr Massey's recent research in NZ to read about his findings on parents' reasons. The diversity within home education makes it difficult to generalise. However, I am grateful to my friend Christina Baehr for compiling some research that has been done on homeschooling and socialisation. I have italicised references in the hope that this will make it easier to navigate. I'll hand over to Christina now . . .

Sociologists/anthropologists use the term socialisation to refer to a defined, observable process whereby humans absorb the norms, customs, symbols, attitudes, social roles and languages of their culture. I would suggest that a really helpful investigation of socialisation should begin with a proper understanding of what is meant by the term. There is so much which could be said on the topic, but I'll confine myself to a few observations.

People make the mistake of saying they want their children to be socialised. What they don't realise is that socialisation happens. Whatever you do, it happens. This isn't a normative term. The real issue here is to what extent the child's socialisation is *positive*. So we are talking about positive socialisation versus negative socialisation.

Apart from personal anecdotes based on limited exposure to individual families or ideologies which disqualify or exalt the social contribution of home-educated persons a priori, how can we judge the positive or negative quality of socialisation absorbed by the average homeschooler? I went online and looked up some research on the subject, which I'll share here.

In a study using the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale to evaluate 224 home-schooled children, the researcher found that 50 percent of the children scored above the 90th percentile, and only 10.3 percent scored below the national average.    

- Taylor, John (1986). Self-Concept in Home Schooling Children. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International.

Thomas Smedley prepared a master's thesis for Radford University of Virginia on "The Socialization of Homeschool Children", using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales to evaluate the social maturity of twenty home-schooled children and thirteen demographically matched public school children. The communication skills, socialization, and daily living skills were evaluated.

These scores were combined into the "Adoptive Behavior Composite" which reflects the general maturity of each subject. Smedley had this information processed using the statistical program for the social sciences and the results demonstrated that the home-schooled children were better socialized and more mature than the children in the public school. The home-schooled children scored in the 84th percentile while the matched sample of public school children only scored in the 27th percentile.

Smedley said: "In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily, into conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children vertically, toward responsibility, service, and adulthood".

-Thomas C. Smedley, M.S., "Socialization of Home Schooled Children: A Communication Approach," thesis submitted and approved for Master of Science in Corporate and Professional Communication, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, May 1992. 

This study done by Occupational Therapists researched the social activities and emotional characteristics of home-schooled children. They stated: "Results of the study indicate that home schooled children scored above average in relation to overall social skills while public schooled children scored average." The homeschooled children scored above the public schooled children on every indicator.

- Socialization Skills in Home Schooled Children Versus Conventionally Schooled Children; Lindsey D. Koehler, Trent J. Langness, Sarah S. Pietig, Nicole L. Stoffel, Jamie L. Wyttenbach; Faculty Sponsor: Deborah Dougherty-Harris, Department of Clinical Science, Occupational Therapy Program, University of Wisconsin La Crosse. 

Psychotherapist Dr. Larry Shyers compared behaviors and social development test scores of two groups of seventy children ages eight to ten. One group was being educated at home while the other group attended public and private schools. He found that the home-schooled children did not lag behind children attending public or private schools in social development. Dr. Shyers further discovered that the home-schooled children had consistently fewer behavioral problems.

- Dr. Larry Shyers, "Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students," unpublished doctoral dissertation at University of Florida's College of Education, 1992. Dr. Shyers is a psychotherapist who is the Chairman of the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling. 

This researcher reported that "the investigator was not prepared for the level of commitment exhibited by the parents in getting the child to various activities…It appeared that these students are involved in more social activities, whether by design or being with the parent in various situations, than the average middle school-aged child."

- from "Socialization Practices of Christian Home School Educators in the State of Virginia," a study of ten Virginia home school families, performed by Dr. Kathie Carwile, appeared in the Home School Researcher, Vol. 7, No. 1, December 1991. 

Dr. Brian Ray reviewed the results of four other studies on the socialization of homeschoolers and found: "Rakestraw, Reynolds, Schemmer, and Wartes have each studied aspects of the social activities and emotional characteristics of home-schooled children. They found that these children are actively involved in many activities outside the home with peers, different-aged children, and adults. The data from their research suggests that homeschoolers are not being socially isolated, nor are they emotionally maladjusted."

- Dr. Brian Ray, "Review of Home Education Research," The Teaching Home, August/September 1989, 49. See Rakestraw, "An Analysis of Home Schooling for Elementary School-Age Children in Alabama," doctoral dissertation, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, 1987; Reynolds, "How Home School Families Operate on a Day-to-Day Basis: Three Case Studies," unpublished doctoral dissertation, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 1985; and Schemmer, "Case Studies of Four Families Engaged in Home Education,"unpublished doctoral dissertation, Ball State University, Muncie, IN, 1985. 

Me again! Social outcomes for home educators may be different from students in school, but that does not make them inferior. I was very interested in Thomas Smedley's comment that homeschoolers are socialised toward adulthood. I love that! Training for adulthood is exactly the aim we have for our children. I have closed comments on this post, but don't hesitate to contact me ( if you want to discuss this topic or provide further research. I would like to see more recent research, but was unable to find any.   

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