ERIC Identifier: ED372460
Publication Date: 1994-00-00
Author: Aiex, Nola Kortner
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Home Schooling and Socialization of Children. ERIC Digest.
Home schooling is defined by Preiss (1989) as "the educational alternative in
which parents/guardians assume the primary responsibility for the education of
their children." This Digest will offer some background information on home
schooling and discuss conflicting viewpoints culled from research on the
socialization of home-schooled children.
RAPIDLY ESCALATING NUMBERS
While a Department of Education
study in 1990-91 concluded that between 250,000 and 300,000 school-age children
were being educated at home, "USA Today" recently cited the Home School Legal
Defense Association figures for 1994 as between 750,000 and 1 million--up from
only 15,000 in the early '80s (Thomas, 1994). What is the reason for this
Mayberry (1991) pinpoints the gradual development of the modern state and
public education as arenas which attempt to legitimate themselves by embodying
the ideologies of many different public segments. She argues that by considering
other agencies of socialization (in this case, the church or the family) as
arenas which embody ideologies in contradiction to those transmitted by state
institutions, the "context surrounding parental choice to home educate gains
clearer focus." She stresses that "...the decision to home school (or seek other
forms of privatized education) represents a political response by people who
perceive a threat in the current organization and content of public education."
Thus, the home schooling movement is directly linked to the State's struggle to
balance contradictory imperatives (Mayberry, 1991).
BACKGROUND AND PROFESSIONAL RESOURCES
background on home schooling in America, both Bliss (1989) and Aiex (1994)
provide enlightening information. Preiss (1989) offers a concise treatment of
the legal aspects of home schooling.
With the tremendous growth in numbers of the home schooled, there has been a
corresponding growth in the market for home schooling information--indeed, there
are now myriad newsletters and books aimed at parents who home school, as well
as at least one scholarly newsletter, "Home School Researcher." According to
Preiss (1989), "In 1987, in one home-schooling catalog alone, over 300 suppliers
of home-schooling materials are listed." With the explosion in home schooling
during the past few years, one can only imagine how large the network of
professional suppliers of materials is by now.
The granddaddy of all the providers of courses for home study is the
venerable Calvert School of Baltimore, which, for many years, was almost the
only institution which offered correspondence courses below college level. It
was founded in 1906 and has enrolled, through the years, upwards of 360,000
students in its home instruction courses. It has, of course, been joined by
other entities in the past decade.
WHY PARENTS HOME SCHOOL
Parents home school for a wide
variety of reasons--for example, many parents still live in areas where schools
are not readily available (a number of rural areas and some parts of Alaska come
to mind), and many parents are anxious about the physical well being of their
children in an increasingly more violent school setting. Still others simply
feel that they can give their children a better education at home. According to
Mayberry (1991), however, two groups of parents home school primarily for
ideological reasons: (1) deeply religious parents, and (2) "New Age" parents.
Mayberry surveyed 1600 Oregon families who home schooled, receiving a 35%
response rate to her questions. Their responses led her to conclude that the two
groups cited perceived home schooling as an activity that provided them a way to
reproduce their "way-of-life" by controlling the content of their children's
education. She reports: "...the meanings and values embodied in public education
were not the ones that these parents wanted articulated to their children" (Mayberry, 1991).
SOCIALIZATION OF CHILDREN
Does the research show any
clear-cut advantages or disadvantages to home schooling, in relation to the
social and emotional development of children schooled at home? Does the
home-schooled youngster do as well in measures of interpersonal skills and
communication skills as the conventionally schooled child?
The stereotypical home-schooled child is often portrayed as being shy,
passive, and lethargic because of his/her isolation from the normal
socialization found in formal schooling. Critics further allege that the
self-concept of the home-schooled child suffers from lack of exposure to a more
conventional environment (Stough, 1992).
Another socialization-related accusation faced by home educators is that of
overprotecting their children from the real world. If this is true, however, at
least one researcher (Bliss, 1989) does not consider this to be a serious
problem. She argues that "Protection during early, developmental years for
purposes of nurturing and growth is evident in many arenas: plant, animal, and
aquatic. Why should it be considered wrong or bad in the most vital arena, human
Stough (1992),looking particularly at socialization, compared 30
home-schooling families and 32 conventionally schooling families, families with
children 7-14 years of age. According to the findings, children who were
schooled at home "gained the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed
to function in society...at a rate similar to that of conventionally schooled
children." The researcher found no difference in the self concept of children in
the two groups. Stough maintains that "insofar as self concept is a reflector of
socialization, it would appear that few home-schooled children are socially
deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some
home-schooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled
This echoes the findings of Taylor (1987). Using one of the best validated
self-concept scales available, Taylor's random sampling of home-schooled
children (45,000) found that half of these children scored at or above the 91st
percentile--47% higher than the average, conventionally schooled child. He
concludes: "Since self concept is considered to be a basic dynamic of positive
sociability, this answers the often heard skepticism suggesting that home
schoolers are inferior in socialization" (Taylor, 1987).
From the findings of these two studies, it would appear that the concerns
expressed by teachers, administrators, and legislators about socialization and
home schooling might be unfounded. Indeed, Bliss (1989) contends that it is in
the formal educational system's setting that children first experience negative
socialization, conformity, and peer pressure. According to her, "This is a
setting of large groups, segmented by age, with a variation of authority
figures...the individual, with his/her developmental needs, becomes overpowered
by the expectations and demand of others--equal in age and equally
Webb (1989), one of the few researchers who has examined aspects of the adult
lives of wholly or partly home-educated people, found that all who had attempted
higher education were successful and that their socialization was often better
than that of their schooled peers.
MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED
At this point, more research on
home schooling is necessary--what we have is inconclusive about many of its
aspects. Although more and deeper studies are certainly called for, the
population to be studied is not readily accessible to researchers. And the types
of research that can be done are still limited to case studies of families or to
surveys of self- reports by participants.
Notably, the success or failure of the home schooling experience depends
inevitably on the success or failure of the family's interpersonal
relationships. Home schooling is a complex issue and represents a tremendous
commitment on the part of the parents--in most cases, the father must function
as the sole breadwinner, and the mother must spend most of her time instructing
For now, we will let Preiss (1989) have the last word. She says: "Because
home schooling contains so many diverse and changing factors, each family
situation is unique. Yet there exists within the home-schooling community a
sense of unity which transcends ideological, political, and religious concerns.
That unity lies in the parents' commitment to the education of their children,
whose welfare is their primary concern."
Aiex, Patrick K. (1994). Home Schooling,
Socialization, and Creativity in Children. [ED 367 040]
Bliss, Barbara A. (1989). Home Education: a Look at Current Practices.
Research Project, Michigan State University. [ED304 233]
Mayberry, Maralee (1991). Conflict and Social Determinism: The
Reprivatization of Education. Paper presented at the American Educational
Research Association Meeting (Chicago). [ED 330 107]
Preiss, Jane S. (1989). Home Schooling: What's That? Paper presented at the
Mid-South Educational Research Association Meeting (Little Rock). [ED 314 856]
Stough, Lee (1992). Social and Emotional Status of Home Schooled Children and
Conventionally Schooled Children in West Virginia. M.S. Thesis, University of
West Virginia. [ED 353 079]
Taylor, John Wesley (1987). Self-Concept in Home Schooling Children (Doctoral
Dissertation, Andrews University, 1986). Dissertation Abstracts International,
Thomas, Karen (1994). "Learning at Home: Education outside School Gains
Respect." USA Today, April 6, 1994, 5D.
Webb, Julie (1989). "The Outcomes of Home-Based Education: Employment and
Other Issues." Educational Review, 41(2), 121-33. [EJ 393 193]