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Social Disadvantages of Homeschooling

Are there any social disadvantages of homeschooling?

The most common argument against homeschooling is the fear that homeschool children will not be adequately socialized. The advantages and disadvantages will actually be unique to each child. It will depend on the personality of the student, the opportunities available and pursued, and the social experience he or she would otherwise encounter in the local public school.

The chart above compares social advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling with advantages and disadvantages of schools.

Primarily, the social disadvantages of homeschooling are comprised of the public school advantages they miss. Homeschooling, by itself, produces no distinct disadvantages. To consider what social advantages and disadvantages your students might have, lets look at three social classes of homeschool students.

Three Social Groups of Homeschool Students

1. Socially Isolated Homeschoolers

Socially isolated students have minimal contact with other children. Most home education critics seem to consider all homeschoolers in this group. This is not the case. However, let's examine this issue from the perspective of those students who do have minimal opportunities to interact with others: either by their own choice or lack of opportunity.

These students will miss all of the social advantages and disadvantages listed above for public schools. Whether this is good or bad depends on the school experience they otherwise would have had. We know that school has been a positive experience for some students and a negative one for others. The isolated student will miss both advantages and disadvantages.

The next argument of critics is that these students will not be able to fit into society. This, of course, is incorrect. Many people have grown up in isolated rural areas and later moved to another area and fit in. Immigrants from refugee camps have come to this country, and within a few years their children are wearing designer jeans and eating pizza with their friends.

This is not an argument in favor of isolating your students, but it does demonstrate that humans are social creatures and will adapt to new environments.

Most homeschoolers, however, are NOT isolated and do not experience the perceived social disadvantages of homeschooling that are used to influence others against home education.

2. Socially Active Homeschoolers

Socially active homeschoolers are not isolated, but take part in social activities within their communities. Their social interactions will provide them with the same social advantages listed above for public school students, either partially or completely.

For some students, this happens naturally. As an example, consider a sport-loving student who counts the months by the sport they are playing: baseball season, soccer season, etc. Their team sports likely meet their social needs and their personal interest needs.

On the other hand, if our sportsman has siblings who love to play the harp and read classical literature, they might have a harder time meeting their social needs and personal interest needs simultaneously. However, I have found that homeschoolers of all interests find organized groups they enjoy.

The social skills pyramid describes how to provide enough activities to meet a student's social goals.

3. Socially privileged homeschoolers

Socially privileged homeschoolers do more than achieve equivalent social skills as public school students; they also have opportunities not available to students in a traditional classroom.

Some of the opportunities pursued by homeschoolers have included:
  • frequent travel
  • operating their own business
  • learning a trade
  • building a log cabin
  • acquiring survival and self-sufficiency skills
  • attending college early
Originally, homeschooling was for the socially advantaged children of weathly families. Frequently, they hired tutors or a governess to instruct the students; but some parents did the teaching themselves. Even after public schools were started to educate the masses, socially privileged families continued private instruction. Not until recently did anyone consider that this would be a social DISadvantage.

Socially privileged homeschooling continues. In fact, one of the advantages of homeschooling is the level of freedom and responsibility it offers. Those who maximize this opportunity will be socially privileged and not disadvantaged.

We cannot put all of homeschoolers in one group. Of course, we also cannot put all of public schoolers in one group either since these students also differ in what opportunities they pursue. Therefore, it is beneficial to consider the listed social disadvantages of homeschooling (or advantages of public schooling) to ensure each of your students has the ability to obtain desired social experiences.

For each of the points discussed, there are suggested tips to overcome any possible social disadvantages of homeschooling your student might face.

Perceived Social Disadvantages of Homeschooling

Less Opportunity to Interact with Children Their Own Age

Let's face it, being closed in a classroom for 30+ hours a week certainly requires more face to face interaction with other children. Once a student enters middle school and begins to change classes, the number of peers encountered is increased.

An implication of this argument that is not always stated is that the greater the number of peers in one's environment, the more positive social experience. It then follows that not only are homeschool children at a social disadvantage, but students in small rural schools have a greater social disadvantage than those in larger urban schools.

In some cases, this is true. Larger high schools often offer a larger number of electives and a larger variety of extra-curricular activities.

However, one would be hard pressed to prove that students who graduate from small schools have greater social disadvantages than their city cousins. The opposite is more likely to be true.

However, children do have a need and desire for friends their own age. When there is a larger pool of children to pick from, there may be a greater chance for a child to find several friends. It does not always follow that every child will find friends because he or she is in a large school.

Tip to overcome possible social disadvantages of homeschooling:
Ensure that your homeschool student has a number of friends and also has opportunities to interact with them. Provide regular opportunities to meet new people.

Participation in Group Projects

The value of group projects lies in brainstorming together, negotiating tasks, working together, and developing leadership roles. Whether it is putting together a skit or developing a powerpoint, classroom instruction often includes group projects. The number and variety of projects depends largely on the teaching style of the instructor.

Most extra curricular activities include group projects, so this disadvantage is easily overcome. In fact, families that use unit studies often have far more group projects than their neighbors in a traditional classroom. Multiple opportunities exist to provide this experience.

Tip to overcome possible disadvantages of homeschooling:
Enroll in at least one organized group each year. Groups like 4-H and Boyscouts provide a variety of group activities.

Having only one teacher leads to a narrow world view

The real problem here is not that the homeschooler is exposed to a narrower world view, but the possibility that it is not the same world view as the person making the argument.

There are a number of different world views and different philosophies. Whether students have one teacher or hundreds of them, they eventually decide which world view to embrace.

With a larger number of teachers, apparently it is believed that there will be a wider number of world views, and the student will have a better chance of picking his or her own view. This may be true in some schools; but it is often the opposite. I know numerous public school teachers who have a world view that differs from the "politically correct view," but they are curtailed in their liberty to express their philosophy. "Academic freedom" is often a one-way street.

This argument against homeschooling is a disguised admission that undermining parental world views (ie the narrow world view) is often a goal of the public school system.

This argument also overlooks the fact that most homeschool students are well-read. Again, blanket statements are inaccurate and it cannot be maintained that ALL homeschool students are well-read.

However, few people would dispute the fact that the average homeschool student has read a far greater number of classic, political, and philosophical books than their than public school counterparts. Such students have a greater advantage when it comes to evaluating world views than those who have been educated by a larger number of instructors through a series of textbooks.

Evolution is one of the most common topics used to support this argument by critics. The concern is that many homeschooled children will be victimized by their parents' creationist perspective and not have a chance to learn REAL science.

It can be demonstrated, however, that homeschool students are much more likely to read books and articles on both sides of this debate. Most homeschool families have books which contain evolution in their house, even if they themselves espouse a creationist viewpoint. Students from these households are far more likely to be able to list evidence for AND against both perspectives.

On the other hand, any teacher or school board member who even suggests discussing both sides of this debate, quickly finds out how open-minded their colleagues are.

Tip to overcome possible social disadvantages of homeschooling: Read, read, read.

It is not a coincidence that the invention of the printing press preceeded the Renaissance and Reformation.

P.S. To any unconvinced critics: Please check the home libraries of homeschool families and compare it to the bookshelves of the same number of other families.

Variety of teaching methods

There can be some advantages of having different instructors. Some are more detailed oriented, some provide more hands-on learning, some are very philosophical.

Tip to overcome disadvantages of homeschooling: Encourage activities led by different adults. This can include clubs, music, sports, co-ops, Sunday School and many other types of groups. Also ensure a wide range of books read.

Maintaining a strict schedule

A public school student has to be seated in the classroom by a precise time, or else there are consequences for being tardy. Many students who ride the bus have had the experience of being 30 seconds too late as they see the familiar yellow vehicle turn the corner at the end of their street.

Homework needs to be completed not only by a certain date, but by the beginning of a certain class period. These scheduling details provide a sense of discipline for the student.

It is possible for homeschool students to become lazy in any or all of these areas. Sleeping in, dawdling over their assignments, waiting until the last minute can become bad habits.

Tips to overcome possible social disadvantages: Use the same technique used by classroom teachers - through externally imposed restrictions. Low grades, additional homework, restriction on free time activities can be applied to students who develop laziness and bad habits.

Being part of a larger community

Some public school students have expressed appreciation for the ability to be in the center of their community. Through public school attendance they meet most of their age mates in their town or community; they have multiple opportunities for school plays, school newspapers, school sports, etc.

Some homeschool students have registered for individual classes, sports, or other groups at their schools. The ability to do so depends on the willingness of the local school system to allow homeschoolers to participate. When it is not available, parents have often found private schools willing to allow homeschoolers to take part in selected classes or groups for a fee.

Not all students, of course, desire this participation. By and large, schools do not have the reputation among students as being a place they love to go to. However, the opportunity to do so is available to most students who do desire it.

Tips to overcoming disadvantages of homeschooling: Consider if participation in a school-based activity would appeal to and benefit your homeschooler.

Navigating large school buildings

This does not seem like a good reason to require 13 years of classroom instruction, but it does make its way into the lists of disadvantages for homeschoolers.

Tips to overcome possible social disadvantages of homeschooling: Have your child navigate their way by reading signage when in public. This includes hospitals, college campuses, apartment buildings, government offices, airports, etc. Yes, it is faster for you to do it yourself, but hang back and let them do it.

You might even consider taking field trips specifically for the purpose of learning navigation skills in a variety of institutions.

Whether the perceived social disadvantages of homeschooling apply to your student or not depends on several factors. Since your son or daughter is naturally a social creature, it is not difficult to meet their social needs. Consider their desire for interaction and their general interests. Taking the cues from each student, instead of a generic school schedule, will benefit them the most.

Other Social Skills Pages

What are the advantages?Social Advantages of Homeschooling

Help! My child is too shyThe shy homeschool child

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