Home Schoolers’ Socialization Investigated
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sims of Piedmont, Alabama, have been contacted by the local department of human resources (DHR) concerning a report that they are emotionally abusing their children by home schooling them. The complaint, which was apparently made by a neighbor, alleged that the children were being isolated from other children their age and, therefore, were being deprived of needed socialization.
Mr. and Mrs. Sims are a typical home-schooling family, although they live in a country setting where neighbors with school-age children are not in close proximity. In response to the DHR inquiry, Mr. and Mrs. Sims provided statements from several sources describing the various social interactions of their children. Statements were submitted from other members of a play group started by Mrs. Sims, the dance instructor for one of their children, friends, and members of their church. One of the statements described the Sims’ children as “outgoing, happy, and enjoying a secure, healthy family environment.”
The DHR officials expressed their wish for independent interviews with the Sims’ children, but Mr. and Mrs. Sims objected to this procedure on the basis that any such interrogation by state investigators would be unnecessarily traumatic and not in the best interests of the children's emotional well being.
HSLDA attorney J. Michael Smith has communicated with DHR officials on behalf of the family, citing the case of Roe v. Conn 417 F.Supp. 769 (1976), a federal district court case from Alabama in which the court said “that the constitution recognizes as fundamental the right of family integrity.” “Family integrity” in the context of this case means the right of the family not to be separated or pitted one against another. DHR’s request to interview the children apart from the parents is viewed by the parents as a violation of their family integrity, a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment liberty clause and the Ninth Amendment privacy provision.
Apart from the legal issues, state officials do not yet recognize the advantages of parent-child socialization as opposed to socialization which takes place in an age-segregated classroom. However, recent studies indicate not only favorable comparisons in self-concept or assertiveness but also that youngsters who were taught at home by their parents have consistently fewer behavioral problems.