My sister-in-law homeschools her children, and witnessing their experiences has me convinced that homeschooling is the way to go for us, too. Her kids are extremely bright, and they’re thriving and learning at home in a way that I don’t think would be possible for them in a traditional school setting.
When my dad learned that we’re planning to homeschool Poppy and Pete, though, he was concerned. “How will they learn to socialize?” he asked. “They need to have friends!”
I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that, other than to tell him that they will have friends. There are many co-ops and homeschool groups out there, and the kids will have “extracurricular” activities, too, like music lessons and sports. (Poppy loves her Music Together class, and she’s showing a propensity for soccer.)
I’m pretty sure Dad wasn’t convinced.
Fortunately for me, Rachel Gathercole wrote a book that explains precisely what I was trying to say. “The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefit of Homeschooling” argues that homeschooled children are more equipped to socialize than “schooled” children are, because they’re raised in an age-diverse, family-oriented environment.
Many homeschooling parents “want to teach their children what they consider to be healthy social skills,” Gathercole writes, “rather than send them to learn whatever skills they might happen to learn from their peers.” (Exactly!)
Quite a few parents and homeschooled children also contributed their stories and opinions to the book. A few of their comments stood out to me.
At each age there are things [children] can handle with wisdom and things they cannot. Our public schools inundate children with things they are not equipped to handle. … I believe that our country is assuming that children should be rushed to grow up, and it is hurting them. They are toughening up to it but at a personal cost.
– Janice, homeschooling mother of two
I believe the decay of family unity is at the heart of many of the social problems our culture is facing today. … Peer dependence is the natural outcome of public education because a child has a real and intense need for relationship. When that need for relationship cannot be met by an adult (a teacher who is working with many students), then the child will turn to the only other available person, the peer in the classroom. Consequently, a child comes to value the opinions of his school-age peers more than those of his family because his relationships with his peers are stronger than his relationship with his parents. … Strong family relationships and unity are at the heart of healthy communities — the latter cannot exist in the absence of the former.
– Amy, homeschooling mother of three
[Being homeschooled] was a really comfortable situation, and that led to me being really comfortable with who I am and my choices.
– Madeleine, 20-year-old former homeschool student
I believe that my responsibility as a parent is to help Poppy and Pete to become charitable and responsible adults. And I want them to be able to say that they, too, are comfortable with themselves. My own experience in the public schools tells me that a peer group won’t always promote kindness and responsibility. And, as evidenced by John Hughes’ classic films of the ’80s, public school certainly doesn’t foster comfort in one’s own skin.
So there you are, Dad. If you’re still worried that homeschooling will turn the children into weirdos, pick up Gathercole’s book. She’s done a very nice job compiling evidence that homeschooled kids are by and large well adjusted. Once you’ve finished the book, you can work on resigning yourself to the fact that your grandchildren are going to be a little wacky whether they’re homeschooled or not. You’ve met their parents. There’s no way these kids won’t be goofy.