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Quality of learning concerns
A common concern voiced about home-educated children is they lack the social interaction with peers that a school environment provides. Many home-education families address these concerns by joining numerous organizations, including home-education cooperatives, independent study programs and specialized enrichment groups for physical education, art, music, and debate. Most are also active in community groups. Home-educated children generally socialize with other children the same way that school children do: outside of school, via personal visits and through sports teams, clubs, and religious groups.
Most home education proponents have argued that their alternative actually enhances the student's social development. They argue that the school years are the only time in a person's life that he or she will be artificially segregated into chronologically-determined groups. These advocates assert that home-educated children have a more normal interaction with persons across the age spectrum. This, in turn, results in more influence on the child from adults, and less from other children, leading to more mature young citizens.
Opponents of home education offer criticisms concerning socialization, pointing out that not all home-education families participate sufficiently in community activities. Some of the concerns offered include:
- Interaction with different social groups is essential to learning to live in society; a common criticism is that home-schoolers' "interaction" is solely with other home-schooled children from like-minded families.
- Schools are a unique environment that provide students with necessary social networking skills that help them succeed in the workplace and in the politics of business. Real life includes school as well.
- Home-educated children tend to live in an insulated world where they aren't exposed to a variety of ideas, which can impede personal growth and independence later in life.
- If children are insulated from unpleasant social situations, then they will be left unprepared when they are inevitably left to make their own way in the world. Children should be allowed to live and learn from their mistakes rather than sheltered from reality.
Some people oppose home education because they fear that children will be exposed to an extremely narrow set of view-points and will lack the broad range of experiences gained through interaction in a larger group setting.
The academic effectiveness of home education is largely a settled issue. Numerous studies have confirmed the academic integrity of home education programs, demonstrating that on average, home-educated students outperform their publicly-run school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points across all subjects. Moreover, the performance gaps between minorities and gender that plague publicly-run schools are virtually non-existent amongst home-educated students.
Some critics argue that while home-educated students generally do extremely well on standardized tests, such students are a self-selected group whose parents care strongly about their education and would also do well in a conventional school environment.
Some opponents argue that parents with little training in education are less effective in teaching. However, some studies do indicate that parental income and education level affect home-educated student performance on standardized tests very little.
Home-educated student curricula often include many subjects not included in traditional curricula. Some colleges find this an advantage in creating a more academically diverse student body, and proponents argue this creates a more well-rounded and self-sufficient adult. Increasingly, colleges are recruiting home-educated students; many colleges accept equivalency diplomas as well as parent statements and portfolios of student work as admission criteria; others also require SATs or other standardized tests. Some opponents argue that home education curricula often exclude critical subjects and isolate the student from the rest of society, or presents them with ideological world views, especially religious ones.
In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) conducted a survey of over 7,300 U.S. adults who had been home-educated (over 5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:
- Home-educated graduates are active and involved in their communities. 71% participate in an ongoing community service activity, like coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared with 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.
- Home-educated graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers. For example, 76% of surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared with only 29% of the relevant U.S. population. The numbers of home-educated graduates who vote are even greater in older age groups, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared with a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace.
- Of those adults who were home-educated, 58.9% report that they are "very happy" with life (compared with 27.6% for the general U.S. population). Moreover, 73.2% of homeschooled adults find life "exciting", compared with 47.3% of the general population.
The Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), a U.S. government agency, has published multiple articles on home education. Here are excerpts from one which examined several studies on home-educated children socialization:
- According to the findings, children who were educated 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, and 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 children." 
Proponents argue further that the social environment of traditional schools:
- strongly inhibits individuality and creativity,
- follows the standards set by the slowest students,
- involves bullying, recreational drug use, early sexuality, defiance, criminality, materialism, and eating disorders.
and that socialization in the wider community:
- leads them to see adults, rather than peers, as role models,
- better prepares them for real life,
- encourages them to be more involved in youth, church, and sports organizations,
- helps them develop an independent understanding of themselves and their role in the world, with the freedom to reject or approve conventional values without the risk of ridicule,
- teaches children to deal with a variety of situations and people,
- still provides for interaction with conventionally-educated children after school hours in their neighbourhood and in other after-school activities.
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