Homeschooling, also known as home education refers to teaching of children at home as opposed to the formal classroom setting in private or public schools (Blumenfeld, 1999). The education is usually offered by parents, close family members, or tutors. In a majority of countries, this type of education is legalized, and it has provided parents who cannot afford private school, or whose children stay far away from a public school, with an opportunity to educate and raise their children in their own way. Some parents are also dissatisfied with education in public and private schools and feel that they can provide a better education to their children at home, while others cite instilling moral values and religious education in their children as the motivation behind their decision to homeschool their children (Blumenfeld, 1999). Much debate has been going on in relation to the socialization problems associated with homeschooling. While parents and other advocates of homeschooling maintain that children who are homeschooled develop socially just like their counterparts in public/private schools, those opposed to the idea argue that home setting does not provide children with the opportunity to interact with other peers other than their siblings, and this has a negative impact on the development of their social skills. This paper discusses the social problems of homeschooling.
Acquiring social skills at an early age is vital for the proper development of all children. Social skills enable children to get along well with their peers as well as other people in the society. That is why homeschooling has been strongly criticized for its failure to create an atmosphere that encourages socialization among children i.e. it restricts the social interaction of children, thus hindering their growth and development (Blumenfeld, 1999). It is important to take note of the fact that proper socialization is acquired through daily interactions and entails not only interaction with peers, but also acquaintance with various cultures, showing respect for other people and their properties, being well-mannered, as well as being able to make friends and resolve disputes (Blumenfeld, 1999). When parents remove their children from the normal classroom setting, which according to them is a bad influence to their children socially, they fail to realize that the social development of their children becomes exclusively their responsibility. Such parents maintain that their children develop social skills through interaction with neighbors, as well as trips to the shopping mall, church, parks, and supermarkets among others, but they do not recognize the fact that these ways alone do not sufficiently provide the opportunities for a child to learn proper social skills. According to Ishizuka (2000), every child needs to learn how to relate with their peers and form friendships, but homeschooling does not provide this opportunity due to its cocooned environment that limits the child’s interaction within the house with his/her siblings. This, consequently, limits their viewpoint and knowledge.
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Another issue to note with regard to socialization is the fact that homeschooling exposes children to few people in comparison to the classroom environment where there are numerous and diverse students to interact with. Some parents prefer educating their children at home because of the fear that children will be mistreated at school. However, they do not realize that classroom education not only hardens the child to enable them to cope with future difficulties but also provides an opportunity for him to interact with numerous children from different backgrounds, with different interests and points of view. Whether they like it or not, a public or private school environment compels children to tolerate and accept other children with their diversities, which is vital for their future survival in the society. The practical world is characterized by diversity in all aspects of life such as religion, culture, race, and language among others (Ishizuka, 2000). Since the homeschool setting secludes children from the rest of the world, they do not get the opportunity to learn to embrace and appreciate diversity, and this may make it difficult for them to mix freely with different people in the society in future (Ishizuka, 2000).
In addition, it is important to note that in a public school environment, children are involved in group work or discussions. At times, they dislike some of the group members, but they have no other choice, but to tolerate them. This not only enables them to develop tolerance, but they also learn to work in a group; skills which are necessary for everyday survival both in the life of and adult and a child. Besides, they also learn how to listen to other people’s point of view, which helps to broaden their standpoint (Books & LLC, 2010). On the other hand, consider a single child who is homeschooled by his parent. He does everything alone with no criticism or motivation from peers and, with time, starts believing that his way is the right way of doing things. Such children grow up to be very inflexible in the way they reason, thinking that they are always right (Cooper, 2005). This can become a serious social issue later in their life when they try imposing their opinions on people. In the current world where there is freedom of expression and speech, no one would want to keep close friends with people who always want things to be done their way without questioning. As a result, such people might end up being deserted by their friends, leaving them very lonely.
Another social problem associated with homeschooling is the lack of organized sport-based activities. Since the homeschooling environment restricts a child to socializing with only a small number of children, it makes it difficult for the parents to organize sporting activities for the child (Cooper, 2005). Note that it is possible for homeschooled children to join homeschooling group (s) to participate in sports, but it is not comparable to the traditional school setting. This is because it requires additional work to arrange sporting activities of homeschooling groups, making it impossible for the children to engage in sports on a daily basis like their peers do in public schools (Cooper, 2005). In addition, lack of organization is also associated with homeschooling. It is a fact that children can be very messy sometimes and having them at home throughout the day can create additional untidiness from the combination of learning materials and food. In case where the parent is disorganized, it will not only hinder the proper learning of the child, but he or she might also grow up a disorganized person (Cooper, 2005).
The soaring cost of homeschooling in comparison to education in public schools is another social problem (Books & LLC, 2010). Parents who homeschool their children are required to purchase all the learning materials required by the child on their own – from computers, books, biro pens, and playing equipments to taking the child for field trips. This can be very expensive, especially when the parent is not financially well-off. Homeschooling also limits the social life of the teacher (parent or tutor). This type of education necessitates that a parent spends a lot of time teaching the child every day while also devoting evening time to preparing the following day’s activities, which range from reading educational materials to organizing social activities. The normal parenting role when added to the tons of schoolwork for the child leaves the parent with little or no time for socialization (Books & LLC, 2010). As a result, the parent of a homeschooled child is socially separated from the rest of the world due to his or her busy schedule. It becomes very tricky for the parent with no social life to be able to effectively impart social skills on their children, and this is the reason why those opposing this kind of education system argue that it turns children into social misfits, since they are cocooned in an environment with few people to interact with, and no one to teach them how to socialize properly (Ishizuka, 2000).
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It is also important to note that since homeschooled children are only used to their teachers/parents, siblings, relatives and friends i.e. they are barred from the outside world, adjusting to the external environment may be a bit difficult for them when they grow up. For instance, a child who is homeschooled its entire primary education may find it hard to cope with the large number of students in the secondary school. Since they are not used to strangers, they may exhibit shyness and lack of self-confidence to the point that they cannot look in the eyes of strangers while talking to them (Books & LLC, 2010). In addition, such children are not used to group work, as well as being challenged. This might prove a disadvantage to them when they join public institutions where, at times, they are required to work in groups and give their opinions. Because they are already shy, it may be difficult for them to express themselves and if they do, they might not want to be challenged, because they grew up thinking that their opinions are always right.
Consider what would become of a single child who was homeschooled by his parent all his primary and secondary life when he joins the university? Since such a child is not used to any other adult other than his parent, it may be difficult for him to adjust to the lecturers, which might affect his performance negatively. In addition, such a child is so spoilt that if he does not get everything he wants, he might die (Books & LLC, 2010). This might prove disastrous later in his married life when things do not turn out as he expected. In conclusion, parents have the right to ensure that their children get the best education by either enrolling them in public or private schools or choosing to homeschool them. It is, however, important to take into consideration the pros and cons of each system prior to deciding, which education system is best for their children. According to Ray (2005), parents who decide to homeschool their children should create adequate time to impart proper social skills in their children lest they become social misfits in the future.