October 22, 2021

Home Education and Socialisation

Home Education and Socialisation
by Craig S. Smith

Without a doubt this is the one question, reservation and objection that is raised most often. It is ususlly the one raised first. It is often the one most hotly debated. And common experience among home educators is that socialisation, rather than academic achievement, is the issue over which friends, relatives and educational authorities show the most concern.

What is it, how and where does it take place?

“The earlier you institutionalise your children,
the earlier they will institutionalise you.”

–Developmental Psychologist Dr. Raymond Moore

Popular opinion assumes that children need long periods of interaction with a large group of age-segregated peers to acquire social skills. Now assuming that most of the time spent in the classroom is not spent in interacting but in paying attention to the teacher and doing the assigned work, where does most of the interaction take place? During lunch and break times, and before and after school. And who is supervising this interaction on the playground, on the school bus and on the streets to ensure that the right kind of socialisation is taking place? It is not the teachers but the children themselves. In the typical public school setting, children are being left to socialise themselves as best they can.

This fits in with today’s prevailing philosophy which holds that children are inherently good or perhaps neutral, like blank cassette tapes, and that left to themselves, they will inevitably develop and adapt toward the highest good attainable by the group as a whole. (Although it is unpopular to say so, when this is translated into practical reality it means conformity to the lowest common denominator.) This inevitable “upward” development and adaptation is an idea developed from the theories of evolution.

Unfortunately it was developed in the absense of a) other tenents of evolutionary thought, b) common experience and c) traditional Christian/Western wisdom, all of which contradict this foundational premise upon which our modern ideas of child socialisation are based.

Let us examine these three contradictions to the prevailing thoughts on socialisation:

a) Another tenent of evolution is the survival of the fittest. This is the law of the jungle, eat or be eaten, brute force prevails, might makes right. This is the tendency of children’s behaviour on the playground unless there are sufficient adults present to prevent it.

Even though children are infinitely varied, the socialisation at school causes them to conform to the codes dictated by their particular class or group. We have all witnessed the same phenomenon: There are the few at the top who are setting the pace and the codes, there are the vast numbers in the middle who quietly conform and try to keep out of harm’s way, and there are those at the bottom of the pecking order who are ostracised, victimised, bullied, teased, etc., because they do not conform in their dress, their size, their looks, their speech, their behaviour or whatever.

b) Common experience tells us this profound truth: Monkey see, monkey do. Children emulate the behaviour of those around them. If they spend most time around their friends, they copy them. If it is with the Ninja Turtles on TV, they will copy them. If they spend most time around their parents, they will emulate them.

Most parents know only too well the immediate results of this “copy cat” form of socialisation. After lengthy play with their friends, children can be “hyper” and disrespectful and try out the unacceptable speech or actions they have just picked up from their peers. How true is the ancient proverb which says, “He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (1)

c) Christian wisdom says that children are not basically good or neutral but are fallen, that is, they possess an inherent tendency toward foolishness which manifests itself in temper tantrums, disobedience, disrespect, dishonesty, destructiveness, etc. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” In other words, children do not need other children to teach them how to be children. Instead they need loving, responsive adults committed to teaching them, training them, giving them the discipline and setting them the right example in the social graces.

Children do not of themselves learn the social arts of respect, honesty, patience, gentleness, kindness, faithfullness, manners, or self control; they must have consciencious adults to model, discipline, teach and train them to internalise these behaviour traits as habits.

Origins of Modern Socialisation Theories
Critics of home education claim that such children will not be the same as their conventionally schooled friends and will not fit into the peer group. The origins of this concern are somewhat sinister.

First there was Horace Mann, an early leader in the public school movement. He favoured the Prussian patterns of state education because, as he put it, it was devised “more for the purpose of modifying the sentiments and opinions of the rising generation according to a certain government standard than as a mere means of diffusing elementary knowledge.”

Then there was John Dewey, the father of progressive education. He saw truth not in absolutes, but in terms of universal ideas developed and agreed to by a group. A “thesis” or proposed truism would emerge from the group. It would at some stage meet with an opposing idea, an “antithesis.” Debate and conflict would ensue until a compromise or “synthesis” was reached. This synthesis then became the thesis and the whole process would be repeated.

Truth to Dewey was derived by a distillation process within the group. To educators like him, the interaction of children with others in order to help distill these universal ideas of truth is education.

Both Horace Mann and John Dewey believed that this type of education needed to be led by an elite, those educators who had been instrumental in the formation of public education policy, who could gently lead others through this “distillation” process. To have children who did not or would not fit in with the group would be to hamper the distillation of truth, as directed by this elite.

We find, then, that this concern over home educated children not being socialised is actually a political concern that they will not be as easily manipulated by the elite as those who do fit into this all-important group.(2)

Group Socialisation
The following comments are by Dr. James C. Dobson who is Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Southern California School of Medicine; President of Focus on the Family Magazine and “Focus on the Family” radio programmes which are heard daily on 1400 radio facilities around the world; and author of best-seller, Dare to Discipline.

“I have been increasingly concerned during the past 10 years about the damage done to our children by one another. The epidemic of inferiority and inadequacy seen during the teen years is rooted in the ridicule, rejection, and social competition experienced by vulnerable young children. They are simply not ready to handle the threats to the self-concept that are common in any elementary school setting.

“I have seen kids dismantle one another, while parents and teachers passively stood by and observed the “socialisation” process. I’ve then watched the recipients of this pressure begin to develop defense mechanisms and coping strategies that should never be necessary in a young child.

“Dozens of investigations have demonstrated, (at least to my satisfaction), the error of the notion that children must be exposed to other children in order to be properly socialised. I just don’t believe it. In fact, the opposite is true. They need the security and love of parental protection and guidance until their self-concepts are more stabilised and established.

“In summary, I believe the home school is the wave of the future. In addition, it provides a third alternative to a humanistic public school and an expensive or non-existent Christian school.(3)

Socialisation and the Occurance of Genius
In 1960 Harold G. McCurdy examined “The childhood pattern of genius” in a study supported by the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C. In summary, McCurdy wrote:

“The typical developmental pattern includes as important aspects:

a) a high degree of attention focused upon the child by parents and other adults, expressed in intensive educational measures and, usually, abundant love;

b) isolation from other children, especially outside the family; and

c) a rich efflorescence of fantasy as a reaction to the preceeding conditions.

“It might be remarked that the mass education of our public school system is, in its way, a vast experiment on the effect of reducing all three factors to a minimum; accordingly, it should tend to suppress the occurance of genius.”(4)

Socialisation Statistics
Another answer to those critics who argue that home educated students are deprived socially is provided by Dr. John Wesley Taylor V. He used the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale, one of the best self-concept instruments available for measuring socialisation, to evaluate 224 home schooling participants aged 9 through 18. Over half scored in the top 10% of the scale. 77.7% ranked in the top 25% of the scale. Only 10.3% scored below the norm.

Home schooled children score signifigantly higher than their conventionally schooled peers in this measurement of socialisation.(5)

Character Development
Dr. Raymond Moore, Developmental psychologist and early childhood educational specialist from the Moore Foundation of Camas, Washington, has developed a three point recipe for sound character development:

1) An academic regimen which takes into consideration the individual child’s readiness to learn as effected by the child’s physical, emotional and intellectual maturity levels; his aptitudes, special gifts and abilities, learnig style, etc.

2) An element of work in the daily programme which may range from simple routine chores to a regular income-generating cottage industry.

3) Service to others such as active membership in voluntary service organisations and visiting, baking, running errands for shut-ins, the infirm or hospitalised.

Dr. Moore maintains that the time and logistics of public schools and the need to integrate all three points into a unified lifestyle or “family corporation” indicates home-based education as the ideal setting for sound, all-round character development.(6)

Some critics of home education paint charicatures of what they say the home-educated brand of socialisation will produce: introverted whimps and social incompetents. If we ignore for a moment the other factors involved in character development such as family background and support, it must be pointed out that these charicatures are already known in society and that they are products of the public schools. So too in fact are other social blights such as irresponsible hooligans, unmotivated slobs, gang members, vandals, and all the other social misfits who have graduated from the public schools’ socialisation programme to subsequently be sent to our country’s prisons, fill them to overflowing, and are now spilling back into society producing ever increasing crime rates.

If we now return to what are probably the major factors in character development, namely family background and support, and assert that increased hooliganism and crime is a result of disintegrating families, then we also have to assert that the schools are not able to correct this trend. Home-based education, however, is an ideal situation for correcting this downward trend as families are of necessity drawn together to strive in unison toward the goal of educating and training each other for the whole of life.

Negative Peer Pressure
Cornell University’s Urie Bronfenfrenner points out the negative socialising effects of the peer group. The knuckling under of children to their agemates in habits, manners, finger signs, obscenities, rivalry and ridicule almost certainly infects all children who spend more of their waking days with their peers than their parents, as is usually the case with conventionally schooled children.

They will become dependent upon their age-segregated peer group, and tend to be alienated from adults and others not in their age group. He says that this robs children of 1) self worth, 2) optimism, 3) respect for parents and 4) even trust in their peers.

Furthermore, this does not happen because peers are so attractive, but because the children perceive they are to some degree rejected by their parents.(7)

Early Childhood Schooling
Martin Engle, who then headed the National Early Childhood Demonstration Centre, vowed that parents who insist on early schooling, for all its claimed advantages to their children, are either deceived or deceiving their children; and that in fact, the children feel rejected.(8)

He is supported by the late John Bowlby, London psychiatrist who headed the World Health Organisation early childhood programme. This rejection, suggests Dr. Bowlby, often amounts to a serious form of child abuse. We are depriving them of the security they need when we institutionalise them before they are ready. (Dr. Moore adds that the earlier you institutionalise your children, the earlier they will institutionalise you.) Says Dr. Bowlby, “…mothers who care for their children well are providing an irreplaceable service and one that society should hold in highest regard and be thankful for.”(9)

Boys and Girls Mature at Different Rates
The negative socialsing effects of age-segregating youngsters into classes, putting all boys and girls of the same age into the same class, is especially damaging to the boys. We require boys to enter school at the same age as girls although we know that boys trail girls in mental and emotional maturity by about a year at school’s start. Boys tend to be more likely than girls to fail, become delinquent or aqutely hyperactive.

Michigan State University family ecologist Anne Soderman says, “Our failure to apply in the classroom what we have learned through research is evident in the secondary schools–boys outnumber girls 13 to 1 in remedial classes and by as much as 8 to 1 in classes for the emotionally impaired.”(10)

Basically, the socialisation argument against home education is one big myth. What statistics are available indicate that socialisation at home is in fact signifigantly superior to that proffered in public schools (Dr. John Taylor’s use of Piers-Harris scale.) And the results of the schools’ socialisation efforts observable in society today are bemoaned by just about everybody involved.

(1) Proverbs 13:20

(2) Theresa Rodman. The Teaching Home, Portland, Oregon: Vol. II, No. 4, Aug/Sep 1984.

(3) Abstracted from a personal letter to a professional collegue who had questioned Dr. Dobson’s stance on homeschooling, quoted in The Teaching Home , Portland, Oregon: Vol. I, No. 2, June 1983.

(4) Quoted in Doctoral thesis of Brian D. Ray, President, National Home Education Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, 29 July 1986.

(5) John Wesley Taylor V. “Self Concept in Home Schooling Children”, Doctoral dissertation, Andrews University, Michigan, May 1986.

(6) Raymond S. Moore. “The Educated Beautiful”, Kappa Delta Pi RECORD, summer 1987.

(7) Urie Bronfenbrenner. Two Worlds of Childhood: U.S. and U.S.S.R., New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1970.

(8) Martin Engle. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Golden Hair: Some Thoughts on early Childhood Education.” Unpublished manuscript, National Demonstration Center in Early Childhood Education, U.S. Office of Education, Washington, D.C.

(9) John Bowlby. Maternal Care and Mental Health , Geneva World Health Organisation, 1952.

(10) Ann Soderman. Article in Education Week, 14 March 1984.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Home Education?

What Are Some of the Benefits of Home Education?

by Christine Ward, Northland, New Zealand

If I had to sum it up, I’d say that four things in particular come to mind:
1) Home education builds strong families.
2) It allows the freedom to pursue interests and passions for life.
3) Home education embraces the whole of life — children learn to live in the real world.
4) Home education provides the best context in which to maintain and transfer the faith to the next generation.
Some may argue that the above can be achieved even if children are sent to school. I agree, but to a lesser extent than those schooled at home.

Building Strong Families
Perhaps more than anything else in the world today children need the security of strong families. They need the security of knowing there is someone there who has walked the path before them; someone they can trust to give considered advice and instruction when it is most needed. Home education provides the context in which parents can best gain an intimate working knowledge of each family member. This enables them to respond appropriately to any physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual challenge that may arise. It allows for a very personalised approach to dealing promptly with life issues. This in turn enhances the security felt by the child.
The development of trust and security over time has long-term implications. Of all the home educated young adults I know, it is most often the family to whom they turn in times of trouble. Home is not a place where problems are placed in the too-hard basket! It’s a place where issues are sorted through; painful though it may be at times.

Freedom to Pursue Interests & Passions
I recall reading somewhere that homeschooling provides the opportunity to raise children who are seldom at a loss for what to do with time. Our experience has borne this out. In all the years we have been learning together at home, I have seldom heard our children tell us they are bored. Their interests have been many and varied. In particular our daughter Natalie had a passion for art. Because of a heavy work schedule, she gets little time to paint today. No doubt when she’s an old thing like me, she’ll pick up a brush again! At a very early age our son Ryan developed a passion for reading and writing. He would read anything he could lay his hands on irrespective of the subject matter. As he grew older, we’d often catch him reading or writing into the wee hours of the morning. Diaries, poetry, short stories, letters to friends, letters to members of Parliament, you name it. To Ryan this was not school work, it was a hobby. His love of reading and writing continues today. Allison has a passion for the outdoors and more particularly horses. She has a cute little miniature pony named Pearl, who has a habit of chasing the sheep around and around the paddock. We catch glimpses of her through the kitchen window and laugh at her naughty tricks. Allison’s greatest love is her horse, Tammy. They know one another inside out!

Home Education Embraces the Whole of Life
Life skills develop naturally as we interact with our environment and one another. For best results you can’t compete with home education. One’s involvement and knowledge is as expansive as life itself. Here are a few glimpses into life as we’ve lived it, with that wonderful spontaneity that only homeschooling can give.
From little things — like making a big pot of soup for lunch on a cold winter’s day, then sitting by a big open fire to enjoy it. To bigger things — like renovating our eighty-year-old house and painting it pretty colours. To pursuing dreams — my husband and son have always had a love of classic cars, and when the opportunity arose to travel to America to find one to restore, they seized the moment, setting off across the United States in search of Dad’s dream car (a ’69 Mustang). The vehicle has since been shipped to NZ and lovingly restored. It now holds pride of place in our garage. To more serious things — like welcoming new arrivals into the family — to participating in the daily care of elderly grandparents. This is what you call real life.

An Environment for Maintaining and Transferring the Faith to the Next Generation
As Christians we are commanded to walk with God through life. This does not mean for one or two hours a day. It means all day, every day throughout life. If we are sincere in this effort our children witness a process in action that they would not see if they were attending a state school seven hours a day. It is here, in our homes, that we have our greatest opportunity to influence; to pass the faith to the next generation by example. Our behaviour should reflect a Biblical blueprint for life, rather than the “do as I say, and not as I do” approach, though the latter will inevitably occur from time to time.
The transference of the Faith requires not only godly role models, but a sound Scriptural knowledge. We have sought to impart this in a number of different ways. By familiarisation with the Bible, by instruction in confessions of the Faith of Church catechisms, by developing a Biblical world view, and finally by introducing them to Church History.
Our children, like most other Reformed Presbyterian youth, have been instructed in the Heidelberg Catechism. This has given them a good overall knowledge of the basic teaching of Scripture. The catechism does not replace the Bible, but helps one more accurately understand the incredible breadth and depth of Scripture’s application to every area of our private, social and national lives. It provides them with an anchor for life.
Developing a comprehensive Biblical world view has also been a priority. Much has been learned simply through day-to-day conversation — looking at what is happening in the world and discussion the worldviews which dominate. We have numerous books which have assisted in this development. Some of the most valuable have been:
1) The God & Government series by Gary DeMar (3 volumes).
2) The Biblical Blueprint series by Gary North (10 volumes).
3) Biblical Solutions to Contemporary Problems by Rus Walton.
4) Understanding the Times by David Noebel.
A Biblical world view is important. It equips people with the necessary knowledge to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
We did not concentrate on Church History a great deal, though friends have recently stressed the importance of this to us. It allows children to see God’s sovereignty over history, and to feel a part of a much greater plan. The book, The Story of Christianity, by Tim Dowley, was recommended to us. It provides a richly illustrated presentation of the heritage of the Christian faith.

A Few Closing Comments
On the whole, home educating our family has been a positive and enriching venture. It has been a grand exercise in building our faith. Like men of old we have learned to live a day at a time, walking through life with a deepening awareness and dependence on God. We have learned not to expect instant results and that those things worth having are worth waiting for. We have laboured quietly believing that all this hard work will one day reap dividends. Finally, we have enjoyed growing together in the faith. Life for us has been a journey of discovery, a drama to which we awake each day. And as with any good story, it’s had its share of trials and tribulations. We have learned to face and embrace life, to live it as faithfully as we are able. As our children embark upon their own personal journeys, it is our hope that they will remain faithful in their generation.

“Home schooling” or “Home education”?

“Home schooling” or “Home education”?

Posted in Over a Cuppa

The term “home schooling” will virtually always conjure up an image of children at the kitchen table or at desks awkwardly arranged around the living room with Mum-turned-teacher standing in front lecturing from a book or trying to illustrate something on a jury-rigged white board-on-easel arrangement. In other words, a home school is just conventional schooling taking place in the home. This is how we started out nine years ago. At their desks with assignments before them and me prowling behind them, my children’s attention span would hover around the 12 minute mark. One day it was more like a 4 to 5 minute attention span, and I got so frustrated with it all, that I just flopped on the sofa, told the kids to come sit on my knee and I’d read some history to them. An hour and a half later I was running out of breath and suffering a parched tongue when it dawned on me that the once fidgety brats were quiet and attentive angels. When I would stop reading they would call for more. I wondered….

For several months we were driving up and down the country with our business, dragging the entire family along every time. At 3am barrelling down the Desert Road, the children couldn’t sleep, so asked for a story. I began to tell about the drive I had done through another desert years ago in Afghanistan and from there talked about the Russian invasion and from there into an outline of Communist political history all perfectly designed to cause 9 and 10 year olds to drop off pretty quickly. But after a good hour of that, when I paused for breath, they chorused as one for me not to stop just as it was getting interesting , but to tell them more.

Many little events like these caused me to come to the conclusion that “home schooling” is the wrong word. We should be talking about “home education” since we are educating our children in everything we do, 24 hours a day, not just schooling them for a set period five days a week.

The old saying that much more is “caught” than is actually “taught” is so true as your children are able to observe you for so many hours and in so many situations.

But there is something special about a parent speaking with his or her children. They’ve known that voice since before they were born. It is a voice so intimately connected with comfort and security and all things good, they just naturally love to hear it. This is a special bond that we parents as educators should exploit to the max: Read the children’s text books with them.. ..go over their assignments with them a little more than you need to….do the work with them whenever you can so that you are doing it together rather than you making them do it on their own….make the learning situation less formal by lying on the sofa or sitting outside or being a bit unorthodox. One whole year our main teaching method was for all of us to sit around the table and I would read and explain the subject matter to three different age groups (7, 10 & 11) with a fourth listening in while they drew and painted and played with toys. The subject we spent longest on was atomic structure and basic chemistry. To this day we all remember that period as the most enjoyable.. . .and they can all still remember the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.

Having said that, my four have also always enjoyed having their own desk and private space and set times and set assigmnents. … as long as they clearly understood what was expected and could see that they could manage it. There is a certain amount of basic skills that must be imparted, and the practice that goes with it needs set times: things like learning to read, handwriting and composition skills and basic maths computations. But for the rest you can capitalise on those “teachable moments” when they ask a question about something out of the blue, or you are so excited about a subject they are quite happy to listen to you go on and on way over time, or you are watching the cat have her kittens, or there is a particularly brilliant sunset, or one of them asks you to show how the ironing is done. One of the great advantages of home education is being flexible to exploit–or even to engineer–those “teachable moments”.

From Keystone Magazine
March 1995 , Vol. 1 No. 1
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig


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