31 March 2010

"Aren't You Worried about Their Socialization?"

The academic advantages of homeschooling over institutional schools have, over time, become fairly widely known, leaving the question posed in the headline of this post as the most common objection raised by those who question a parent's decision to homeschool.

I have a couple of entries relative to that question to post today. First, there is
the story of the Massachusetts girl who committed suicide to escape the "bullying" she experienced at her public school. I admit that I had seen the headline days ago, but didn't really read the particulars. After all, it is an undoubtedly tragic incident, yet committing suicide to escape bullying is of course an extreme remedy, and I figured the girl must have been seriously clinically depressed or something of that kind.

However, the behavior the news accounts describe as "bullying" is not the bullying I remember from school. No, this was no simple lunch money extortion, ostracizing or book-kicking. No this bullying includes charges of statutory rape, assault with a dangerous weapon, stalking, and other niceties. From the linked story:

Prosecutors accused two boys of
statutory rape, and three girls of violating Prince’s civil rights and criminal harassment. They declined to provide specifics, but said students targeted Prince in retaliation for briefly dating a male student and continued their harassment weeks after the pair’s relationship ended.

“The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe, designed to humiliate her, and to make it impossible for her to stay at school,’’ Scheibel said. “The bullying, for her, was intolerable.’’

Charged as adults were: Sean Mulveyhill, 17, of South Hadley, with statutory rape, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, and disturbance of a school assembly; Austin Renaud, 18, of Springfield, statutory rape; Kayla Narey, 17, of South Hadley, violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, and disturbance of a school assembly; Ashley Longe, 16, of South Hadley, violation of civil rights with bodily injury resulting.

Flannery Mullins, 16, of South Hadley, and Sharon Chanon Velazquez, 16, of South Hadley, were also charged as adults with violation of civil rights and stalking.

Three juveniles, all females from South Hadley, are also facing charges. Two complaints charge one count each of violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, and disturbance of a school assembly. One complaint charges one count each of violation of civil rights, assault by means of a dangerous weapon (bottle, can, or beverage container), and disturbance of a school assembly.

Ryan McMaken
at the LRC blog has penned a great response to this story, and to the government school socialization generally:

The entire theory behind using schools to socialize children is based on the nonsensical premise that children become socialized by being isolated with large numbers of other children, with a few token adults present. Presumably, the purpose of socialization is to help children one day interact in the larger world. Yet, modern schools are set up in such a way as to be as unlike the larger world as possible. At your job, do you spend your days with dozens of other people who are exactly the same age and who all do the same thing all day? Of course not. Then why teach a child how to function in such an unrealistic environment?

The unfortunate byproduct of all of this is the fact that studies have shown that for many children, their peer groups are more influential to them, and more important for them, than their families. This is a strictly recent and modern development, and is the result of so many parents simply abandoning their prerogatives as parents to the schools.

Ordinary schooling is also a gargantuan waste of time for the most gifted students, since they are constantly held back to the speed of the slowest students. But students learn at different rates and have different talents, so the “slow” students in one subject, might do well the next when different topics and skills are covered. Home schools have the flexibility to address these issues. Public schools simply leave struggling children demoralized and uneducated. Most public schools have some banal motto like “Excellence is for everyone” or something equally illogical. A more appropriate motto for most would be “Sink or Swim!” Indeed, if one wished to devise the most inefficient, most child-unfriendly, most self-esteem-crushing system possible, it’s hard to imagine a system more adept at this than modern public schooling.

I would rather that my child avoid being socialized according to the government method. Thank God I still live in a place where this is possible. How long this will remain the case remains to be seen. Yet for the moment, I can answer the question of whether I'm worried about my children's socialization this way: Yes, absolutely, and it is a huge reason we homeschool.


Badger Catholic said...

Timman, do you have any thoughts on sports and homeschooling? We are considering it, but our state does not allow homeschoolers to play sports at public or private schools(see Tim Tebow). I suppose sports is secondary to the main benefits, but we would like our kids to be able to play.

thetimman said...

It is an issue in Missouri, too. I have to say that I haven't had to cross the Rubicon on that issue, because none of my children (love them as I do) has nearly a Tim Tebow skill set.

There are some schools, public and private, that allow "distance" learning, or schooling at home. It might be possible to balance the pros and cons of such a system with the opportunity to continue in high school sports with the school.

I know that there are homeschool sports opportunities, especially in team sports that don't require a ton of players, but they really aren't the same. If your child is Tim Tebow, you have a choice to make.

Of course, there is nothing to prevent the State HS Athletics group from allowing homeschoolers to play for the public or private school in their area. Perhaps more lobbying is needed by us.

Anonymous said...

One problem that has been unobserved for years in schools is the warehousing of large groups of children together to save money. I recall this started when the boom in science education of the
60s required so much expensive equipment. Small country schools and small parish schools were marked for extinction so that large, inhumane schools could thrive. One set of expensive equipment could be purchased rather than several to cover the various small schools.

Anonymous said...

Another problem with modern schools today is breaking them down into such age-centered modules. The best model was the K-8 building in one school, preferably somewhat small. 8th Graders are very different (and more pleasant) peple when they are the oldest CHILDREN in a grade school rather than the youngest TEENS in a high school setting, and middle schools are just a disaster in principle. There is no possible interaction with the multi-generational world when allthe students inthe building are in such a speilaized age frop. I have a cousin whose kids attend a public school system that has each grade in its own building! What a mess.

Anonymous said...

Finally, I have a beef with departmentalization before high school. This is the system whereby instead of teaching a classroom full of 5th Graders all day, a teacher teaches Math or Reading or History of whatever to all the 5th and 6th (and maybe 7th and 8th) grade classes in a school. This is to increase the "specialization" which we all know is doing great damage to our society. Heck, if a grade school Reading teacher CAN'T handle 6th Grade math, I don't think we can use them in our schools! The sad result is that the child is no longer ushered and supervised through the year by one caring adult teacher who observes his progress, problems, etc., and tries to help, in consort with the parents. Now each kid has so many teachers in a day that some probably don't even know his name. No longer does a child know how to answer the question "What's your teacher's name this year?" No longer is the child pressed to interact with one trusted person beyond his family and peer group as he tries to learn how to live in society.

MrsC said...

Sports have been an important part of our homeschooling experience (in CA) too. But like music (e.g. band or orchestra) and high school level lab sciences, sports may be tricky to procure for our homeschoolers. A good program organized by a homechool dad is California Athletics for Home Schools (www.californiaathletics.com). Perhaps you have something similar. Or check out CYO sports.

Another thing to consider is individual competitive sports, like martial arts, tennis, fencing, archery, swimming, and track. Often these sports have a huge “team” dimension to them, where the team spirit is stronger than in typical team sports.

In addition to physical fitness, sports can have many benefits in a child’s social and mental development. Few homeschoolers have Tim Tebow's skills, but I think Tebow's mom would have encouraged him to participate even if he didn't have those exceptional gifts.

While I’m at it, I’d put in my two-cents for competitive chess. It’s not a physical sport, but has many similar benefits.

hockey mom said...

There is always ice hockey, or roller blade hockey. Most communities offer teams and they are not affiliated with any school, although a few high schools offer hockey.

Our niece played soccer in high school with a competitive team that had nothing to do with schools, but you have to be good to make it.

There is also tennis, or gymnastics and dance.

Anonymous said...

Cherry-picking stories like this one are not really indicative of all public school situations, or even indicative of all public school situations in large metro areas like Boston or STL. Are there disadvantages, even problems with public schools? Of course. Are there advantages? Sure.

I often feel that the debate over home schooling vs. public schooling vs. parochial/private schooling is not a particularly well-debated topic, nor a topic that should really be debated.

As much as I hate to use the phrase "personal choice", it really is a personal choice, with different choices being the right choice for different families, or even for the same family for different kids or even for the same kids at different times.

It would be good for all participants in the debate to realize that their solution might not be right for everyone, and to act, and debate, accordingly.