In the previous Article we talked about the increasing trend of ‘manufacturing graduates’, the decreasing trend of parent-child quality interaction, how our society is always promoting fish to climb trees, and the lack of attention given to the ‘tarbiyah’ of the child. Moving on from these intrapersonal aspects, we’ll now discuss some ‘interpersonal’ ones – the social implications, and concerns regarding homeschooling.
One of the most widespread myths about homeschooling revolves around social interactions, relations, and influence. To understand this phenomenon we need to distinguish the two major subdivisions, namely, personality and environment, or most commonly referred to as Nature and Nurture.
Personality refers to the internal traits of the child; Do they like being around a lot of people or not? Are they too quiet or loud? Outspoken or shy? Calm or hyper? This part of the social aspect depends solely upon their respective natures, and is not affected by whether they are being educated at a public/private school, or at home. A child’s basic personality is going to be the same regardless of where he/she is educated!
Next, the environment: this deals mostly with whom and what the child is surrounded with, whom they are set to idealize, and how their activities are planned and monitored. This is where the ‘myth’ part comes in. It has been believed since ages that homeschooled children grow up to be ‘asocial’ – “avoid social interaction, are inconsiderate of or hostile to others”, whereas research, as will be discussed later, has proved out to give contradicting results.
Michael H. Romanowski, PhD. in the field of Education, believes that people need to get the real idea of homeschooling into their minds. Homeschooling doesn’t mean that the child is locked away in their rooms from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., in fact, homeschoolers get to spend more time out outside of homes than the average school student. Homeschooled kids are able to join clubs, sports programs, or just go out and make friends without any time restrictions, except for the ones their parents uphold. They also get enough exposure to be able to interact with a variety of age groups, not just their age fellows.
Homeschoolers’ parents in reality make lots of effort to give their children active social experiences. For example, when learning about animals, they take them to zoos, museums for history, and lots of other trips! There they are made to interact with people of different ages/backgrounds since the parents plan activities like distributing goodies to random people, offering services to the needy or old, interviewing people as a weekly or monthly task etc. The child can be motivated to carry a journal to note all different stories, daily routines – all the exciting and boring bits! This helps develop the child’s communication skills as well.
Another related idea to be borne in mind is that age is no pivotal factor to be considered when we think about friendship, rather complimentary personality and interests are what count most for such relations. With homeschooling, the parent is allowed to create a social circle for the child, filtering all the unnecessary influential learning (e.g. from peers who give bad influences), and letting all the good ones come though, customized according to what they want them to learn and prioritize.
Research shows that homeschooled children actually have a higher probability to carry themselves in a more genuine and mannered way than others, because they have been chaperoned by their parents in their interactions, and all negative habits that might be learned from the interactions are blocked out. They are corrected and reinforced in a suitable manner (depending on culture/household rules/religion) that inculcates a civic and moral sense in them, accordingly.
Transitioning these research-based ideas into practical solutions, let first discuss what basically the function of a friend is. A friend should be one who brings out the best in the other. Now, where and how do we find such friends for our children? Cousins, neighborhood friends, other children receiving homeschooling, sports clubs, debating and oral communication classes, and religious gatherings, are all examples of how to expose your child to different groups of people. Apart from regular meetings and practice part of the club curriculum, gatherings or trips with the groups can be planned, to develop social skills, confidence, and tolerance in the child. Depending on where you reside, you can find other homeschoolers in your area, ask around in person or via the Internet, the local masjid, or the library!
Find out about the sports programs available through your local parks/recreation department. Team sports give kids the opportunity to meet peers with common interests. Visiting local nursing homes, old age homes, orphanages, shelters, etc. with your children is also very effective. Giving selflessly to one’s community sets a good example and develops true socialization skills.
It should however be rested in mind, friendships take time to nourish, and depending upon the nature of the child, if he/she is facing difficulty adjusting, we are responsible for helping through. Although the “Comparison Trap” – comparing the social progress of your child to another not being homeschooled, is one of the biggest obstacles for parents. This should be avoided in light of the research quoted as follows:
In July 2000, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank, published an extensive report on homeschooling written by Dr. Patricia Lines. She describes several controlled studies comparing the social skills of homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers.
The homeschoolers scored as “well adjusted.” In one study, trained counselors viewed videotapes of mixed groups of homeschooled and schooled children at play. The counselors didn’t know the school status of each child. The results? The homeschooled kids demonstrated fewer behavioral problems. Dr. Lines’ conclusion? “There is no basis to question the social development of homeschooled children.”
Lastly, we’ll discuss some disadvantages of studying in a classroom setting where, according to Dr. Raymond Moore, classrooms are, as opposed to popular belief, actually lowering the child’s adjustment skills in the community. He says, “The idea that children need to be around many other youngsters in order to be ‘socialized, is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today.” After analyzing over 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that children are best socialized by parents, not other children.
“Public school children have, as their main role models, peers, while homeschool students have as their role models, adults,” he explains.
Through this we realize that conformity and peer pressure have more considerable effects than we ought to attribute to them. Children feel the need to appear and act like everyone else, at the risk of forgetting or never discovering who they really are, and what roots they belong to. This results in competition (the unhealthy kind), grouping, criticism, and last but not the least: bullying.
Alternatively, the result of homeschooling is an independent thinker with an analytical approach to whatever information is presented, not manipulated by the surroundings. Again, not to say that those who attend public/private schools have zero evaluation skills, but the chances for the development of strong reasoning skills are higher for the homeschooled.
Converging all the arguments, we can agree that socialization, like learning and life, takes place every day. How you interact with your kids and how they watch you interact with the outside world teaches them all the social skills they need to know. Thus, the decision of homeschooling our children requires a very well thought out plan, and needs a lot of attention, consideration and research! Parents need to invest a lot of time in their children’s lives, so that they may reap 100% benefits from their hard work.
Important Note: Please contact us at Ummah Homeschooling either on Facebook or on our email address to setup sessions for your young ones on socialization! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jazakumullahu Khayr – May Allah Almighty reward you for the time and effort of reading this article, and help you in your endeavors!