Homeschooling and Social Engagement
As parents consider the pros and cons of homeschooling their children, perhaps the most debated topic is that of social engagement, and the topic deserves our attention. The conversation is possibly the most polarizing part of making the decision to educate a child at home. Opponents of homeschooling assert that children in a brick-and-mortar school are given the opportunity to socialize with their peers during a crucial time of development in which they learn how to interrelate appropriately with other children their age. While it is true that traditionally schooled children likely do have more interaction with their peers, parents must consider whether this is in their child’s best interest.
Consider Jack, a typical middle school student who attends a public brick-and-mortar school near his home. During some of his most formative years, Jack spends a large part of his waking hours (often 6–8 hours of each weekday) at school with his peers. The majority of his interactions are with his peers and usually those that are of the same age. As a result of being immersed in the culture of today’s school environment, his understanding of the world around him and his place in it is being shaped accordingly. He is learning what behaviors are acceptable, what achievements are noteworthy, and those that are not. Jack learns what things are “true” and the ways in which truth is determined. By observing peer-to-peer interaction and peer-to-adult interaction, Jack learns the “right ways to socialize” with other children and the adults that he encounters. This begs very important questions. Is a brick-and-mortar school the best environment for a child to learn social norms and develop proper social skills? Is school the best place to learn cultural and moral values?
Juxtapose Jack with a homeschooled student, Jill. Jill spends the majority of her time at home with her parent(s) and her siblings. She is observing and learning from them. Jill gains an understanding of value, truth, and reality by interacting with the people around her. Here, at home, she learns the appropriate ways to interact with others, and she develops the social skills that will serve her for the rest of her life.
Which is a more suitable environment for the development of a person? Homeschooling families contend that Jill has a distinct advantage for multiple reasons. Two of those reasons include better opportunities for transferring family values and increased oversight of who is influencing Jill.
Even in a thoroughly blended society, each family carries with it a distinct set of values including its views on truth, morality, education, work, and many other important subjects. There is no one more qualified to transfer these values from one generation to the next than parents. Parents naturally instill their family values in their children through shared experiences and thoughtful guidance. The more time children spend with their parents, the more opportunity there is for this transfer of values.
Additionally, children that spend more time with their parents as opposed to those in a public or private school are less likely to pick up habits or ideas that are contrary to their own family values. In fact, a common reason given for homeschooling is the parents’ perpetual need to correct behaviors or ideas that a child learned from their classmates (Homeschooling in the United States, 2003). In short, homeschooling provides children the opportunity to spend more time with the most influential people in their lives—especially their parents—rather than learning life’s hardest and most confusing lessons from the perspective of other children who are none the wiser.
The extra time spent with their peers begs another question: Who, exactly, does Jack spend his time with at school?
Unfortunately, parents often cannot be sure which children or groups of children are inadvertently shaping their own child’s understanding of life. Knowing and deciding who is influencing their child is of central importance to any parent but difficult to do when they are away from home for a third of their day. However, Jill’s parents have a distinct opportunity to surround Jill with other families and children that reinforce their beliefs and values. Whether this is a specific faith community, athletic team, or other family members, Jill’s parents can rest assured that their child is interacting most frequently with people they can trust and with whom they share values. Opponents of homeschooling contend that such sheltering of children is dangerous to their ability to appropriately interact with the world (Jeub, 2003). Although some may use homeschooling as a way to shut out the world, many utilize homeschooling as a mechanism to more carefully and cautiously guide their children through an increasingly complex and chaotic world.
At Enlightium Academy, parents keep their ability to pass on their values to their children while providing high-quality education. Enlightium also provides students with several opportunities for social interaction with other Christian students, including online Bible Studies, spelling bees, in-person graduation ceremonies, and more! Whatever social outlets are chosen, remember that more important than any concept or course in a child’s education is the transfer of culture from one generation to the next. As parents seek out the best way to do this, homeschooling will continue to offer unique benefits in achieving that goal.
1. Homeschooling in the United States: 2003 - Parents' Reasons for homeschooling. (2003). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/homeschool/parentsreasons.asp
2. Jeub, C. (1994). Why parents choose home schooling. Retrieved from https://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept94/vol52/num01/Why-Parents-Choose-Home-Schooling.aspx