Homeschooling 101: Socialization

What about socialization?

“Homeschoolers are just a bit weird.  The one that lives next door to me is odd.  I worry he’s not going to be able to make it in the real world.”

Please stick with me for a minute….thinking back to the good old days when you, the reader, went to high school – was everybody normal?  Can’t think of one single different kid?  Nobody struggled to make friends, relate to other peers, or fit in?  High school was great and fantastic and socially healthy for all involved?  Hmm?

Maybe, the weird homeschooler that lives next door would be that weird public school kid that gets taunted by bullies and whispered about by girls passing by.  Maybe he or she would be the kid eating lunch in the bathroom stall to avoid sitting alone in the corner of the lunchroom.  Maybe, just maybe, he or she is weird no matter where he or she learns.  But either way, I am guessing lunch is a lot more pleasant at his or her own kitchen table, and he or she is probably able to better concentrate on his or her studies since the bullies aren’t in his or her math class.

Now think about our real world.  Is it made up of groups of people all the same age?  At work, do you the reader raise your hand or ask permission to use the restroom?  Do you all go together at certain intervals throughout the day, while one of you monitors the stalls for misbehavior?  Do you eat your lunch in silence at a table full of coworkers, afraid that talking out loud may land you in trouble?  Do you work on your assignments based on a bell?  Do you switch to a new file every fifty five minutes regardless of the progress on the previous file?  Do all of you out there in this real world sit for seven to nine hours in a frenzied schedule of concentration?  See, I am not buying this idea that a public school is true preparation for the real world.  The real world actually looks nothing like public school at all.

But homeschooling, well…..

These students interact with the world around them every day while other students are sitting in classrooms.  Homeschoolers get together for activities and studies and projects all the time.  With over two million students roaming the US during normal school hours, there are no shortage of social opportunities from which to choose.  For example, in my county alone, I can name four different support groups, a teen group, a 4-H chapter with multiple homeschool club offerings, two football teams, a cheerleading squad, a choir, an orchestra, six co-ops, and even a few legal associations, all off the top of my head.  If I were to start a Google search, the opportunities would likely multiply, and this does not even begin to name the activities students seek out on their own, such as club sports, music lessons, and community groups.

More likely than not, homeschoolers have to prioritize their social schedule rather than seek it out.

Homeschooling 101: The Truth in Numbers

Based on information from the U.S. Department of Education, about 2 million students are homeschooled.  If you ask the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), they will tell you the numbers are possibly even higher.  But regardless, homeschooled students make up almost four percent of the current school age population , K – 12th grade.

***Also, let me define “homeschool”.  This is a student that does not attend a brick and mortar school setting and does not depend on any public funds, be it federal, state, or local education funds or any tax payer provided resources.  “Homeschool” does not include online charter students that are still funded by any public money.***

Therefore, there are even more than two million students outside of a traditional school setting that are not attending a private school once online and charter schools become factored.

Now, let’s talk money.  The families that choose to homeschool their children do so out of their own finances, saving the U.S. approximately $16 billion each year.  In fact, in my home state there were 15,826 homeschool students this past school year (2013-14). Let’s assume the state government alone puts in $10,000 per student (it is really a little more, but I rounded down to the nearest thousand); that means that if all the homeschooled students in my state suddenly showed up at the doors of the local public school, it could cost the state tax payers $158,260,000.  That is not figuring in county money, district money, or extra federal funding provided.  Let me be the first to break the news to those not in the know….in my little rural, poor town, even a fraction of that number up there would break the bank.  The schools are poor with what they’ve got, and if we showed up they’d end up destitute.

And yet, despite the state spending thousands and thousands of dollars per student, most homeschooling families do not spend anywhere close to that on educating their children.  Often the families are living on single incomes, expenses are tight, and budgets are a necessity.  The myth that homeschoolers are wealthy and very religious is just that – a myth.  The National Center for Education Statistics, as published at this site, found that while homeschool families are slighty less likely than the average population to be poor, they are more likely to be near poor or middle class.  Homeschool families are no wealthier than the average public school population.   And as for religious, well, while religion is one of the reasons people choose to homeschool, it is not the only one.  If we look at the numbers and see where homeschoolers are located, we notice a higher average of rural students in homeschooling than in public school, as well as more larger families of three or more children in a household.  But even at that, students are coming from all types of environments – city, suburban, rural, single parents, two working parents, large families, small families, etc.  So while religion does play a part in their decision to homeschool in many instances, convenience, flexibility, or poor public educational options are also common reasons as well.

So finally, this begs the question – But can homeschoolers graduate from high school?  Does Mom write up a transcript?  Is their education as thorough as a public education?  In other words, are they getting at a minimum what their public school peers are getting?  And the answer is yes.  Homeschoolers are getting what they need to succeed.  In fact, on average, homeschoolers score higher on standardized tests and go on to be successful college students and/ or involved members of our communities.

While this post highlighted a few basic questions, more information is available for those readers interested in comparison by numbers.  There is a fun chart here.  Also, for even more statistics on homeschooling, please click on the highlighted links in this post above.

Homeschooling 101 will continue in the next post with the question of socialization.