What’s been said?
On 15 April 2019 an article entitled Homeschooled children are far more socially engaged than you might think was published on The Conversation website. It was also picked up the following day by science, research and technology news website Phys.org.
Undertaking a survey of home educators, the article’s authors set out to capture “data on various aspects of the homeschooling experience, including socialisation”; it is the findings on socialisation that they examine here.
The article initially highlights the common misconceptions that “homeschooled children miss out on socialising with others and are sheltered from the normal pressures of life” and that “many question how parents can cultivate important aspects of social development such as resilience and effective interpersonal skills in their children if they are not being exposed to peers in a typical school setting.”
The authors continue, “homeschooling families don’t conform to social norms by virtue of not attending formalised schooling” and also note that “when people deviate from mainstream expectations, it can provoke strong opinions from other members of society.” Indeed, one of the papers linked in the Conversation article also notes that “there is a striking irony surrounding homeschooling – perfect strangers seem far more worried about homeschooled children’s social development than their own parents are.” Research quoted in that same link, however, later concludes “that although homeschooling parents are not worried about their children’s social development, they do care about it. In fact, they are strongly committed to providing positive socialization experiences for their children.”
The article’s authors then explain their survey and their conclusion that, despite the concerns raised by many people, “homeschooled children have ample opportunities for engagement and socialisation. This includes being involved in various learning and other community groups, and participating in homeschooling co-ops” and “our survey and interviews demonstrated homeschooled children were active members of their community, and were far more socially engaged than public misconceptions suggest.” The article then lists a number of social activities undertaken by the children surveyed, including a variety of sports clubs, foreign language classes, drama groups and choirs.
Why does it matter?
It is rare to find a home educating parent who has not been asked the question, “What about socialisation?” so it is therefore encouraging to read such a positive report on home education and socialisation. It is especially refreshing following the negative press reports surrounding home education over the past few months.
Although this item relates to home educating families in Australia, the principles are identical to those in the UK. There is a common belief that “important aspects of social development such as resilience and effective interpersonal skills” will not be developed unless a child is “exposed to peers in a typical school setting.” This however has not been borne out as shown in the research quoted, “Compared to children attending conventional schools, research also suggests homeschooled children often have higher quality friendships and better relationships with their parents and other adults.”
That the article was published on The Conversation website lends some weight to the debate as the site routinely draws its articles from the academic and research community, with its editors working with university and research institute experts.
What can I do?
Save a copy of the article to show family and friends; if they raise the issue of socialisation, articles like this can be helpful, especially if they are drawn from the academic research community.
You can also refer to the research in conversations with those you meet who ask how your child is socialised, in addition to explaining your own experience of HE and socialisation.
Post Script: Shortly after this Byte was written, an announcement promoting a concert by folk band Cup O’Joe was published. Interestingly it provides some up to date UK evidence for the research findings detailed above. The background information about the Northern Irish siblings who make up the band will be of interest to readers: “….after playing as a family band with their parents for several years. The benefits of being self-taught and home-schooled gave (Cup O’Joe) plenty of time to have a go at trying out different instruments.” Given their “eclectic and enthusiastic performances” and the fact they were 2015 BBC Young Folk Award Finalists, Cup O’Joe’s members have clearly had no problem developing “effective interpersonal skills”!