Everyone seems to know some guy who turned out weird and socailly awkward because they were homeschooled. If you haven’t met him, you may have a picture of what that weirdo must be like: super weird! That anecdotal/imaginary weird person is argument #1 against homeschool.
If you found this page because you’re considering using this argument to talk someone out of their terrible decision to homeschool, this article will help you understand why you are being a ridiculous idiot jerkface.
Problem #1: confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is tricky because you see what you expect to see, and the counterexamples are hidden by their nature. Non-weird people don’t stand out, so you don’t wonder “why is she like that?” and then:
* You meet non-weird people all the time who were homeschooled. You don’t realize it because it doesn’t come up.
* A lot of socially odd people went to public or private school. Their weirdness isn’t considered reflections of public schooling because that’s the normal school setting.
Problem #2: Sample bias
* I meet a bummer number of parents who felt that public school was failing to protect their child from bullying. This means that a lot of kids end up being schooled at home because of social issues. Not the other way around. It’s like stopping by a car wash, seeing all the dirty cars pulling in and concluding that car washes produce dirty cars.
A kid who is bullied to the point that his parents pull him out of school will be out of step with his social peers (cause or effect of bullying and class ostracization?). So does this kid grow up with some social issues? Possibly so. But there’s no way of knowing whether that person would have been normal if they’d gone straight through public school. Maybe the stress of not fitting in would’ve made the person completely neurotic instead of slightly odd. As my mother in law says, “You cain’t never know.”
* Oddball genetics. Homeschool kids probably do grow up to be a little out of step with people who share a common experience. But again, maybe parents who want to homeschool are strange people who would manage to raise strange people even if homeschooling were illegal. In other words, my poor kids were doomed to be weirdos from the start. There’s no school in the world that would make Graham’s brain work like everyone else’s. The kid is strange, and if I didn’t want him to be that way I shouldn’t have married an art major.
Problem 3: What the heck IS socialization?
What do people mean by this incredibly important thing, socialization? The ability to make friends? To be comfotable with yourself in different situations? To follow rules and play along with authority?
And once we nail doen what it IS, iIs there any unbiased support for the argument that homeschool by itself permanently damages people’s social skills?
Problem 4: Stress and humiliation should not be in the Pro column for public school
One of my least favorite common arguments for public school goes like this: The REAL world is stressful and full of assholes so you need to prepare your kids by making sure they are stressed out and have to deal with assholes day after day.
No one ever says “kids need to go to school because school is a positive structured nurturing environment where kids learn how to have healthy relationships and strong sense of inner strength and integrity” or even “kids need to go to school because they learn so much better in a collaborative group” or anything else positive. Even though I KNOW there are positive things about schools, that’s not what people talk about. Instead they talk about school like it’s a rite of passage, a 13-year-long hazing ritual and we all have to go through it because *we all* have to go through it.
It’s always TRW, The Real World (not affiliated with MTV). In THE REAL WORLD things are like this or that. Teacher’s a jerk? Well in the real world you’ll have bosses you don’t like, so better learn to deal with it now. Homework is so boring you want to die every day? Well in the real world you’ll have to sign papers at the bank once in awhile! Better get used to it, kid.
But wait. The whole point of childhood is that it isn’t TRW. I mean in the real world you don’t live with your parents. In the real world people judge you if you have more than a few stuffed animals on your bed. In the real world you won’t have a carseat or shoes that light up when you walk. Is childhood really a microcosmic version of adult life? Or is it a distinct, different thing unto itself?
And seriously. If the ONLY reason you think I should send my children to school is so they can experience the common stress of being harassed or picked on, well I don’t know what to say to that. I think it would be better if we could produce a better real world that’s not full of bullies and jerks.
Besides, do those experiences at a young age really help people get used to dealing with Real world equivalents? Humans are resilient, but there’s no question that early, constant stress changes people. Is that change good or bad? Or neutral? Does stress in early childhood make it easier or harder to deal with stress later in life? Are we talking about major impacts or minor? As I’ve said before, the teachers aren’t equipped to steer
Problem #5: Stereotypes are dumb
When we first told my husband’s parents about homeschooling, they were upset. The only example they knew personally was a very religious family who created their own church in their house. People think of those parents who deprive their kids of all social stuff because their parents shut them in the basement and only read the Bible etc. Homeschooling is changing a lot. When we hear bitter anecdotes from people who are now in their 20s, they were homeschooled in a completely different context. It was more radical, less common, and much more difficult.
Parents now have a lot more resources for academics and social interaction, and the whole experience is a lot more common. Even over the last five years we’ve noticed more people answer with “Oh neat! I know someone who does that and they have so much fun!”