The Washington Times
June 10, 1997

Socialization skills when the classroom is at home

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
June 10, 1997

Anyone who has been home schooling longer than two weeks has been asked the question, “How will your child learn to interact with other children if he is surrounded by adults?”

This was the first question I asked when I first heard of home schooling in 1982.

Home schooling certainly does not eliminate a child’s ability to learn these social skills. Home schooling just allows your child to learn them in a way that doesn’t interfere with academics or hinder your family’s values.

Actually, home schooling can be a plus and not a minus for the student. Consider this for a moment, do you really want your chidl to be doing his algebra assignment while talking to his girlfriend on the telephone? Probably not.

Common sense tells you that some separation of school and friends is a good idea.

Much of what goes on in public schools is an inappropriate mix of socialization and academics. Children whisper, slip notes to each other, gaze longingly at their latest flame, or do any number of socially oriented activities while the teacher is trying his or her best to impart today’s lessons.

And then there are some aspects of society that you may want to shield your children from and that are plainly wrong in any setting. Drugs, alcohol and premarital sex are all a part of the social scene in schools that home schoolers miss during their academic day (and to a great extent, in life altogether, in my experience).

In home schooling, you can hone your child’s social skill by teaching him how to interact at the right time and with the right people. Home schoolers are often active young people in community sports, scouting, church activities, 4-H, political volunteering, community service and more.

When it is time to do academics, home school students often approach it with vigor—and they are likely to apply the same energy with social contacts and service.

On a more technical level, sociologists say schools are generally the way we teach the next generation the rules of society.

Do we really want 6-year-olds responsible for teaching each other about society’s values? Isn’t it better for our children to learn the rules from you and other responsible adults?

Children are constantly absorbing information as their minds keep growing. If they spend the majority of their time with other 6-year-olds, they get their fundamental values from their peers. If they spend that time with their parents and family, then parents are the source of that child’s values and can answer any questions or fears that arise.

(If you doubt this, project ahead until age 14 or so. How many 14-year-olds are more influenced by their peers than their parents? I rest my case.)

I knew home schooling worked really well when I saw my eldest daughter, Christy, at age 14 sitting at a lunch in Paris between a priest from Portugal and a barrister from London. She was carrying on an animated conversation, demonstrating her ability to get along with others from other ages and other cultures.

Isn’t that the real test of your child’s social skills—the ability to get along with others and not just his immediate peers?

These schools are contrary to the way the rest of the life works. Where else in society do people go around in packs of age-segregated herds?

And just in case you wonder whether Christy can get along with people her own age, she was elected student body vice president of her college.

Over the years, I have developed the ultimate test for those concerned about socializing their children. Take 25 6-year-olds and one adult to a birthday party at McDonald’s. Use a private side party room. Start a stop watch. See how long it takes the group to deteriorate socially and turn the party into a negative experience. It will be less than the 6-hour period that is the typical school day.

If you home school, your children will not be social misfits. After 3:30 in the afternoon, your family will be like all others. After 15 years with my own family, let me assure you that your kids will turn out fine.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 1997 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at