The Washington Times
December 14, 2009

Washington Times Op-ed—Socialization not a Problem

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

One of the most persistent criticisms of homeschooling is the accusation that homeschoolers will not be able to fully participate in society because they lack “socialization.” It’s a challenge that reaches right to the heart of homeschooling, because if a child isn’t properly socialized, how will that child be able to contribute to society?

Since the re-emergence of the homeschool movement in the late 1970s, critics of homeschooling have perpetuated two myths. The first concerns the ability of parents to adequately teach their own children at home; the second is whether homeschooled children will be well-adjusted socially.

Proving academic success is relatively straightforward. Today, it is accepted that homeschoolers, on average, outperform their public school peers. The most recent study, “Homeschool Progress Report 2009,” conducted by Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, surveyed more than 11,000 homeschooled students. It showed that the average homeschooler scored 37 percentile points higher on standardized achievement tests than the public school average.

The second myth, however, is more difficult to address because children who were homeschooled in appreciable numbers in the late 1980s and early 1990s are only now coming of age and in a position to demonstrate they can succeed as adults.

Homeschool families across the nation knew criticisms about adequate socialization were ill-founded—they had the evidence right in their own homes. In part to address this question from a research perspective, the Home School Legal Defense Association commissioned a study in 2003 titled “Homeschooling Grows Up,” conducted by Mr. Ray, to discover how homeschoolers were faring as adults. The news was good for homeschooling. In all areas of life, from gaining employment, to being satisfied with their homeschooling, to participating in community activities, to voting, homeschoolers were more active and involved than their public school counterparts.

Until recently, “Homeschooling Grows Up” was the only study that addressed the socialization of home-schooled adults. Now we have a new longitudinal study titled “Fifteen Years Later: Home-Educated Canadian Adults” from the Canadian Centre for Home Education. This study surveyed homeschooled students whose parents participated in a comprehensive study on home education in 1994. The study compared homeschoolers who are now adults with their peers. The results are astounding.

When measured against the average Canadians ages 15 to 34 years old, home-educated Canadian adults ages 15 to 34 were more socially engaged (69 percent participated in organized activities at least once per week, compared with 48 percent of the comparable population). Average income for homeschoolers also was higher, but perhaps more significantly, while 11 percent of Canadians ages 15 to 34 rely on welfare, there were no cases of government support as the primary source of income for homeschoolers. Homeschoolers also were happier; 67.3 percent described themselves as very happy, compared with 43.8 percent of the comparable population. Almost all of the homeschoolers—96 percent—thought homeschooling had prepared them well for life.

This new study should cause many critics to rethink their position on the issue of socialization. Not only are homeschoolers actively engaged in civic life, they also are succeeding in all walks of life. Many critics believed, and some parents feared, that homeschoolers would not be able to compete in the job market. But the new study shows homeschoolers are found in a wide variety of professions. Being homeschooled has not closed doors on career choices.

The results are a great encouragement to all homeschooling families and to parents thinking about homeschooling. Homeschoolers, typically identified as being high academic achievers, also can make the grade in society.

Both “Homeschooling Grows Up” and “Fifteen Years Later” amply demonstrate homeschool graduates are active, involved, productive citizens. Homeschool families are leading the way in Canadian and American education, and this new study clearly demonstrates homeschool parents are on the right path.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to media@hslda.org.

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