How do homeschooled children develop social skills?

Ross Hall, Homeschooling dad (believe me, a rarity)

And now for something completely different …

The real question is … How do children who attend school develop social skills?

Before answering this question, it may be worth a detour into the world of Alfie Kohn and John Taylor Gatto (both well worth reading if you are considering homeschooling). Alfie Kohn is a renowned advocate of progressive education, and questions many of the assumptions inherent in today’s schools (such as standardized tests, memorization of facts, and homework). John Taylor Gatto speaks more to the factory setting of schools (even comparing them to prisons), and questions the fundamental approach to education used in most US schools.

One of the topics that emerges from these discussions is the wisdom of forcing a group of 20–30 children, of similar ages, to spend hours each day with each other, under the supervision of a few (authoritarian) adults. Given that, for most of the history of humans, children have learned within the larger community (and not artificially isolated with a large group of their peers), then how do we expect these children to learn social skills?

In fact, it could even be posited that many of the aberrant behaviors so often noted in schoolchildren are a direct result of being isolated (most of the time) from the larger community.

So, what about homeschooled children?

One of the things to understand is that there are a huge variety of experiences with homeschooled families, so every anecdotal story will be different. In our case, our (10 year-old) daughter does spend a lot of time reading, watching videos, and playing games on her computer (uh,oh … stereotypical behavior!). However, she also accompanies my wife (a realtor) when she meets with clients; spends time with her grandmother; has playdates with her (non-homeschooled) friends; and hangs out with her friends when we play at our gym. Interestingly, she is also getting more involved with virtual friendships – last night, she and 10 others were collaborating on a project while on a Skype call.

I am also aware of many homeschool groups in our area that get together for activities (such as hanging out at the mall, or meeting in local parks).

The majority of research suggests that, not only are homeschooled children well-adjusted and scoring well on measures of social adaptation … but they often score higher on these tests.

Of course, in the final analysis, each homeschooled child’s social skills are very dependent upon the parent’s and family situation. But after all, that is the point – the decision to homeschool is a decision about choice.