The changing face of homeschooled students

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Woodrow Wilson, Clara Barton and Thomas Alva Edison have more in common than being exceptional leaders and progressive thinkers that enacted social change. Each of them was also homeschooled.
 
But sometime between the rise of these historic figures and the late 20th century, homeschooled students became saddled with a stereotype. Instead of being seen as high achievers, homeschooled children developed the unfair and unfounded stigma of being socially stunted outcasts.
 
“The stereotype of homeschooled kids being socially awkward and unable to make decisions on their own is just that: a stereotype far from reality,” Brian Ray, founder and President of the National Home Education Research Institute, told The Ithacan newspaper at New York's Ithaca College in 2012.
 
And the misconceptions about homeschooling can even be transferred to parents who teach the children, according to Kristen Chase, a popular blogger for a number of websites, including thepioneerwoman.com.
 
In a blog about homeschool stereotypes, Chase wrote that people's perceptions about homeschooling are formed by their own experiences, but also by the media and public outlets that might perpetuate a stereotype. She states that "the homeschool mom isn’t always hunkered down in her house all day, making volcanoes from her myriad craft supplies while her children recite the dictionary."
 
"Apparently people have certain images in their mind about what homeschool kids are supposed to look like or act like as well," Chase added.
 
Another erroneous thought is that homeschooling parents, particularly mothers, are tied to their home and children, and unable to have their own careers because of the time they put into educating their sons and daughters. In a piece about breaking down stereotypes that she wrote for simplehomeschool.net, writer Misha Thompson said the myth of the stay-at-home parent is also being busted by active parents who happen to homeschool.
 
"I have seen moms who juggle full time careers and trade off with dads," she writes. "I have seen both parents who get their kids up early enough to homeschool them before they go to work and I have seen parents discover their careers though homeschooling."
 
Still, it is probably harder for some homeschooled students to disregard demeaning stereotypes, especially those pre-adolescent and junior high school kids in their formative years who might be more vulnerable to taunts and teasing by their peers. The good news for them is that most homeschool experts say the stigma surrounding homeschooled students is becoming less prevalent and various studies and statistics show that they are able to mix socially with people of various age groups, not just their peers. Plus, they are usually independent thinkers who are less likely to be influenced by peer pressure, some studies show.
 
For example, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank, published an extensive report on homeschooling in 2000 written by senior fellow Dr. Patricia Lines. In it, Dr. Lines compared the social skills of homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers based on several controlled studies.
 
The homeschoolers scored as "well adjusted" and demonstrated fewer behavioral problems when observed by trained counselors. Dr. Lines concluded that: "There is no basis to question the social development of homeschooled children."
 
Despite lack of evidence that homeschooling deprives a child of conventional socialization, there are many things a parent can do to ensure that their child interacts with peers and other children of their own age.
 
Writer Isabel Shaw outlined a number of ideas in an article she wrote for familyeducation.com. Shaw's five suggestions for homeschooling parents:
 
1. Find other homeschoolers in your area and strike up friendships.
2. Join a group like 4-H, a youth development organization.
3. When you meet families out with kids during school hours, ask them if they homeschool.
4. Find out about the sports programs available through your local parks and recreation department.
5. Volunteer your time, along with your child, for various community services at places such as nursing homes, shelters, etc.
 
In fact, studies also show that homeschooled students are very involved in their communities when they reach adulthood.  In 2003, the Home School Legal Defense Association commissioned a research survey of more than 7,300 adults who had been homeschooled. Among the results found by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, who also spoke to The Ithacan for its article: The vast majority of homeschooled adults were involved in an ongoing community service, were members of an organization and were actively engaged citizens politically, compared to average adults in the United States.
 
For additional results about homeschooling and socialization read the HSLDA report Homeschooling Grows Up.
 
 
Written by Brian Bixler
Brian Bixler has worked for nearly 30 years as a journalist, editor, critic and public relations professional, writing articles on various topics including arts education and special features on general education. He is currently a freelance writing and public relations consultant for a variety of clients, including Magellan Montessori.

 

This article was originally posted on the Magellan Montessori Blog, January 23, 2013.

 

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