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Social Goals of Homeschoolers

Four common social goals of homeschoolers can be detected within the homeschool movement.

Independence

The sociological model that is usually taught as the norm for western civilization is that children start out very dependent on their parents. As they get older and go to school, their dependency changes from their parents and family to their peers.

This model can be diagramed as follows:

Dependent on parents > Dependent on peers



The social goals of homeschoolers, however, differ significantly from this model. The goal of most homeschool parents is to raise children who are independent.

This model can be diagramed as this:

Dependent on parents > Independent



Most homeschool families take this second model for granted. Doesn't it seem obvious that parents want their children to grow up to be independent adults? Doesn't everyone recognize the negative impact of youth being emotionally dependent on other youth for their identity?

In spite of how non-controversial this goal may seem, it is indeed quite controversial. There are numerous social, political, and theological implications to the stated goal of raising one's child to be independent. Most homeschool families will experience this shortly after they begin to homeschool when they find themselves debating neighbors and co-workers on the social disadvantages of homeschooling.

Indeed, the primary objection raised repeatedly against homeschooling is the concern regarding social disadvantages. While it may be a shock to most homeschoolers who intuitively believe that their goal of raising a socially independent child is an ADVANTAGE, it really can be stated that there is a social DISADVANTAGE to being independent.

How?

Socialization is the process whereby the individuals in a society pass their culture to other individuals. Most of this happens between the stages of infancy and adult. In the modern school, this happens through the process of being accepted as "cool" or rejected as "un-cool." The peer pressure to belong is strong, and many fear the ostracization and outcast status if they do not conform to the group image.

Consider the stereo-type of homeschool students. They are often portrayed as brainy, overly academic nerds. Geeks. They are not appropriately socialized into the mainstream culture because they are not using the same social mirror to shape their behavior. Therefore, they are uncool. (Pssst: They are WIERD.)

While debating the subject, homeschoolers often cite high academic achievement and multiple social activities as a defense against the charge of inadequate socialization. Mute point. They are still uncool.

What's worse, is that a high percentage of them are so emotionally independent they DON'T CARE. Think about it. What social implications might there be to an adult who didn't fear ostracization by the in-crowd as a teenager?

Evaluate Cultural Influences

Most students who go to college take a course in sociology, anthropology, or other social science where cultures are studied. It is always easier, however, to study other cultures than one's own. The second the social goal of homeschool parents is to evaluate the cultural influences within one's own society.

Sociologists have used the term ethnocentric to describe the view that one's own culture is normal and all others are deviations from the norm. It has been criticised - correctly - that the very term "ethnocentric" is itself ethnocentric. The term insinuates that one's ethnic group is the very central aspect of one's culture.

It can be seen in countries of diverse populations, like the USA, that this is not always the case. Yes, different ethnic groups often have different cultures - but not always.

There are people of different ethnic groups who share the same culture (for instance, multi-racial adoptions; or immigrants who reject their homeland to embrace the new host culture.) One can find even more examples of people of the same ethnic group who belong to different cultures. (This often happens when one family member joins a different group because of a change in belief and lifestyles.)

Cultures and sub-cultures are too complex, particularly in the mobile modern world, to be completely dominated by ethnic group alone.

However the concept of ethnocentrism, or evaluating all other cultures based on one's own, continues. In the common language, we often refer to this as being "narrow-minded." Of course, no one wants to be narrow-minded. It should be recognized, however, that most individuals and most cultures have naturally assumed that they are "normal" or "right." It is very common human behavior.

The tendency to view other cultures as inferior gives rise to the common, ethnocentric rejection of homeschoolers. They are different. They raise their kids differently. Something is wrong with them, or will be when the kid grows up, no doubt.

The very arguments against homeschoolers that are debated in congressional halls and spread across the internet are entirely ethnocentric.
  • Adults: "Homeschool children will not be adequately socialized if they do not get the kind of education I got."
  • Teens: "Homeschoolers are all wierd."

  • Fact: All children are socialized into their host culture. Socialization is inherent to humanity.
  • Fact: Modern schools are fairly new. Our ancestors were socialized without them.

Homeschoolers have formed a distinct sub-culture in the United States and other regions where they exist. There certainly is diversity within this sub-culture. For instance, a ten year old homeschooled Amish boy in Lancaster, Pennsylvania certainly has numerous differences from a ten year old homeschooled boy living in an inner-city apartment in Detroit, Michigan. However, those two boys would have more cultural connection than virtually any other Amish and inner-city child.

I know this as a fact. I have seen them playing together at homeschool conventions.

Homeschoolers do share cultural distinctions unique to them which form a separate sub-culture within the larger culture. As was stated, there is diversity within this sub-culture; but it still exists. And as members of a sub-culture, homeschool families accept and reject some of the cultural norms of the larger society.

This brings us to the second of the social goals of homeschoolers: evaluate cultural influences.

As a distinct sub-cultural group, homeschoolers often deviate from some of the norms of the larger society. How they educate their children is the obvious one. However, a common thread within the homeschool movement is to teach children to evaluate the influences around them. This commonly includes entertainment, diet, use of money, manners, etc.

From details regarding how one dresses to overarching subjects such as philosophy, theology, and politics; homeschool parents daily address cultural issues. Some of it may be very intentional and planned, such as daily Bible study. Other may be included without as much comment, such as using only homemade soap or baking bread from scratch. Most homeschoolers don't insist that their children grow up to make all their own soap. But they do want them to think about why they chose the soap they use.

Can homeschoolers become ethnocentric?

Many are.

"Stubborn and opinionated," is the characterization I often hear non-homeschoolers describe their homeschool neighbors and relatives. Perhaps a salmon swimming upstream would also be stubborn and opinionated.

Homeschoolers, like most of humanity, tend to be ethnocentric - and think what they do is normal and right. They also happen to be very deliberate in deciding what aspects of society they accept or reject; and try to teach their children to do the same.

Will homeschooled students be less socialized than others and more ethnocentric?

Not likely. On a weekly basis the children are challenged by others regarding their education. They have to bear the burden of proof to demonstrate they are normal and can function. Unlike others their age, they have to explain why they do what they do.

In addition, they are taught daily by their parents to think pro-actively about the soap they use, the role of government, their choice of toys, philosophy of finance, where their bread comes from, etc. Homeschool students actually have more experience evaluating their own culture and sub-culture than most others.

High Standards

The third of the social goals of homeschoolers is to promote high standards. Most homeschool parents desire their children to surpass average and strive for excellence. They have goals for high standards in
  • Academics
  • Character
  • Citizenship
  • Morality
  • Community Service
It should be noted, that most schools would also like to excel in academics and other areas. However, they seldom have the ability to give the focused attention to each student.

In fact, most public and private schools will ascertain that parental involvement is the primary ingredient to high performing students. There are exceptions, of course, with some students attaining high achievement without parental involvement and some students with involved parents whose performance does not excel. However, it has long been recognized that parental involvement is one of the most important factors for high achievers. The schools provide the curriculum, the parents the motivation.

In reality, the curriculum is the easier of the two to provide.

Freedom

One of the other social goals of homeschoolers is freedom. How is this different from the first goal stated above - independence?

While independence refers to the goal of raising self-reliant adults, freedom is a commodity that parents want for their families now. Perhaps more than all the other goals, this one is the most controversial.

As a citizen of a free country, I have certain rights. If I do not like my job, I can quit it. If I don't like my neighborhood, I can move. If people in my social gatherings are rejecting to me, I can change that as well. I can choose my church, chose my job, chose who I associate with.

That is, if I am eighteen or older. Otherwise, the government assigns you your schedule, your peers, what activities you partake in, etc. Students basically have greater restrictions to their freedom than someone on parole.

In contrast, homeschool children have more freedom in their choice of schedules, peers to associate with, curriculum to study, and multiple other details of their lives.

Some people have been concerned that homeschool parents are too controlling. In the situations where parents are too domineering, the children will still outgrow the control of their parents. However, when governments are too controlling, the citizens do not outgrow that domination.

All of my children are expected to make the decision regarding their education when they become teenagers. They have multiple choices: including homeschool, on-line school, public schools, and private schools. People have argued with me that there is no way a young person can make that kind of a choice. But, in fact, they each can and do make those choices; and they know their own goals.

It is a fallacy, on the other hand, to think neither students nor parents are capable of handling the freedom of making such decisions. One of the social goals of homeschoolers is to maintain the freedom of a free citizenry to make one's own choices.


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