"I advise no-one to place his child where
the Scriptures do not reign paramount"
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Fourteen-year-old Kayla Freeman has heard it before – that those who learn at home must be social dunces who don’t feel comfortable meeting new people and don’t have any friends.
In her three years as a homeschooled student, however, she’s found the opposite to be true.
She knows more people than she did while in traditional school, and she has discovered better friends in the homeschool community, she said.
"People think homeschoolers are so shut in," Kayla said. "They’re not. ... It’s definitely a stereotype."
Research supports her belief.
Homeschoolers are at least as well-socialized as public school students – most of them better-socialized, according to Susan McDowell, author of "But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question: A Review of the Literature."
McDowell, who received a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Vanderbilt University and has published numerous articles on homeschooling, researched 24 studies on the socialization of homeschoolers.
"It’s a non-issue today," she said. "All the research shows children are doing well."
When McDowell went to publish one of her stories on homeschooling, her publisher required her to find someone who could argue, based on research, that homeschoolers were less-socialized than traditionally schooled students.
To her surprise, she couldn’t find an academic willing to give that perspective. She had to rely on others who presented theories unsupported by research, she said.
Homeschool critics want to have control and power over those taught at home, she said. Others worry public schools lose money because the government bases many of its funding formulas on the number of students in classrooms, she said.
Other researchers, such as Larry Shyers, who earned his doctorate in counseling from the University of Florida, support McDowell’s findings. Shyers’ dissertation, "Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Children," won a national award in excellence in research from the Educational Research Information Clearinghouse in 1992.
He set out to prove that homeschooling was not a good idea from a socialization standpoint. He found the reverse to be true.
Those taught at home were more likely to invite others to play with them, they were not as competitive but more cooperative, and they kept their noise levels lower, his study found. Homeschooled children also played with peers of both genders rather than with those of the same gender, he said.
Area homeschooled parents and students agreed it’s a stereotype that homeschoolers don’t make friends or have sufficient socialization.
If children who learn at home don’t have social interaction with their peers, it’s often because their parents structured their learning that way, they said. The children in one local family, the McRaes, don’t have many friends outside their home because their parents believe children negatively influence one another.
Many other homeschoolers socialize in cooperative classes, on sports teams and on the weekends.
Thirteen-year-old Michael Freeman remembers being in classes with the same group of students through fourth grade. He and his sister Kayla wanted to try homeschooling.
"I was getting tired of those people," Kayla said.
Their mother relented, and they’ve made more and better friends than they had while in traditional school, the siblings said.
"Most homeschooled kids I know are outgoing and friendly," Kayla said. "They are the truest friends I have."
Cliques form less often among homeschoolers, who tend to be more accepting of different types of people, she said.
Kayla constantly meets new people, and she’s not stuck with the same classmates all day long, she said. She and her brother take cooperative classes and play on sports teams made up of homeschoolers.
Regardless of his differences from his traditionally schooled peers, 17-year-old Jake Canter said he doesn’t want to go back.
He feels he’s missed out on the typical high school experience but said it doesn’t bother him much.
"I would say that I’ve missed that, but I think it’s all right, too, because a lot of people get caught up in that," he said. "I’ve really been able to concentrate on academics."
"I sure miss all the dances and going with girls, but I’d rather concentrate on sports and school," he said.
Jake has a tight-knit group of friends through the Boy Scouts, and they hang out like any other group of teenagers, he said.
Like traditionally schooled students, they also have boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s not as much of a focus, though, as it might be in a traditional school setting, homeschoolers said.
Some homeschoolers believe other negative stereotypes persist. For one, some people believe they’re not smart, Jake said.
"We’re smarter than you think," he said. "We’re not backward people."
"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it"
(Proverbs 22:6, NKJV)