School Socialisation or Socialists in Training? Home Education an Alternative View of Socialisation.
by Martin Forte
In 14 years of homeschooling, I've heard that word more than any other term relating to schooling children. It is truly amazing how concern about socialization seems to have been inserted at the front of every non- homeschooler's mind in America. That fact alone is indicative of the intellectual depths to which we have sunk. When the first question to arise regarding an educational choice has nothing whatever to do with the acquisition of knowledge, what does that say about our attitude as a people toward learning? At the very least it indicates a deep misunderstanding of what education is while it says all too much about what schooling is.
John Taylor Gatto has said that education and schooling can never be the same. Modern schooling was invented to socialize, that is make children into good socialists. Actually, that goal has been largely accomplished by our present system of government schools. In that sense, homeschoolers, of whatever political stripe, are unlikely to "properly socialize" their children simply by virtue of the fact that they have chosen to opt out of our socialist school system. Good socialists fall in line with the party and do what they are told. Homeschoolers, by definition, are free-market individualists in the educational arena if not elsewhere.
However, those who ask how our children will be properly "socialized" never mean it in a political sense. Almost no one even knows that the term was popularized by John Dewey, a prominent socialist school "reformer." No, people who ask about "socialization," are concerned that our children will be isolated from society and never learn to "get along" with children of their own age. We know what they are asking, take it as a criticism or a challenge, and reply that our children get out a lot, have many friends and are very well adjusted. While this is certainly true in the vast majority of cases, and while it is important for us to dispel this "isolationist" myth that is so worrisome to the unenlightened, there are other important myths regarding "socialization" to be dispelled.
Myth #1: Children learn to get along with people in school.
Fact: The opposite is true. Visit any school playground for a half hour if you doubt it. On the contrary, homeschool children get along well with children of all ages and often feel comfortable conversing with adults. There is no place in adult society where people are segregated by age to within one year plus or minus. Adults would think it absurd to be told they could only work and socialize with people of their exact age. Yet, we have grown accustomed to segregating children and pretending that this is an appropriate venue in which they can learn to get along with other children and people in general.
Thus, children learn to trust and imitate their thoroughly untrustworthy, immature, and foolish peers over their parents, which brings us to.
Myth #2: Children learn to behave around other people in school.
Fact: Children trade barbarities in school. Research has established that when children spend more time with peers than with adults, they adopt the value system of the children rather than of the adults in their lives. In a school setting, the adult child ratio is at least 1:20 and often as much as 1:35. There is simply no contest. Left with a bare minimum of positive adult input during the day, children in school mimic whatever comes in front of their faces the most often. Add to this the negative societal input of a latch- key generation (TV, radio, movies, inappropriate reading materials, etc.) and you have a formula for disaster. With all the negative roll models in the world today (often disguised to appear very attractive) it takes almost Herculean effort to raise a civilized child in a school setting today.
At home, however, with a warm, responsive adult in charge, children learn the values and behavior modeled and taught by the parent or guardian. Negative input from outside sources such as television can be kept at a minimum. Playmates can be monitored and interaction with at least one adult can be maximized. Children love adult attention so it is not difficult for a homeschool parent to be his or her child's major role model.
Myth #3: Lots of age-mates are desirable and even mandatory for a healthy childhood and good education.
Fact: The Smithsonian Institute studied what geniuses had in common and came up with an interesting formula. It was found that geniuses had three things in common:
1. A warm, responsive parent.
2. Late school entry.
3. Relative isolation from children outside the family.
In light of all of the above, homeschoolers have little reason to worry about "socializing" their children. In fact, many of us prefer not to "socialize" our children at all. Instead, we prefer to "civilize" them as Cindy Moi of California Homeschool Network likes to say. Our children go with us, share our lives and learn to behave in a civilized manner in the real world. They see how adults live and work. Often, they are allowed to do real work themselves. They learn to do the things that are necessary for survival and success in the adult world. The schools try to compensate for this lack by offering courses in Home Economics, Life Skills, Child Development, etc. but the result is a generation that has no real practice or skill in caring for children, working in a real job, or managing life in general. In reality, this segregation only serves to teach children that the only acceptable playmates are those of the same age and further undermine the family by training children to be peer-dependent.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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