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One ``problem'' which bothers people who are unfamiliar with the idea of home schooling is socialization: ``How can the children be socialized at home?'' they worry.

Experience and studies1show that home schooled children are generally better socialized than the children who have been consigned to the public warehouse schools. This is surprising, and sometimes unbelievable, to the inexperienced worriers. Their difficulty is that they have reasoned from a false premise: they began by assuming that ``socialization'' is what happens in the schools. This is exactly the opposite of the facts. Socialization is what happens in society. When we play, talk, work and live with other people, people of all ages, sorts and conditions, we are socialized by the experience. Very little of this happens in the warehouse schools.

What is socialization?

All animals need to be socialized. Puppies and kittens which grow up without any human contact are likely to bite and scratch as adults. Human children need socialization, too. Without it, they may well do far worse than bite and scratch as they grow. Socialization requires that the young creature become accustomed to being around humans, learn to trust humans, and learn how to behave around them. All of this requires that they learn to suppress some of their instinctive behaviors. Children are born knowing how to be children: that's instinctive. Socialization is how children replace many of their instincts with learned behaviors, and learn to be responsible adults.

Socialization, for puppies or children, amounts to nothing more than being in the society of adult humans. Socialization is what happens in everyday life, and anything which takes children out of everyday life is impeding their socialization. ``Socialization'' is one of the primary reasons that I would never consign children to a public warehouse school. Socialization is exposing children to society; school, where children are confined in an artificial environment, allowed to interact only with others their own age, is about as far from normal society as you can get.

School and Socializing

Home schooled children are participants in real life: they spend time with their mother, with their siblings, with their father, with their parent's and siblings' friends. They learn to play nicely with younger children, they learn to spend time talking to adults, and they spend a lot of time under the supervision of their parents, who know them well, and have the authority to discipline them. Home schooled children have time to get to know their parents (and vise-versa), and to have long discussions with them. Home schooled children form close bonds with responsible adults, and are mentored by them.

In contrast, consider the children who are consigned to one of the public schools, to be stored there during working hours until their parents can send them off to college or work. They spend the day locked up with twenty or thirty other children of the same age. The children in these public warehouses have little contact with adults. They have a teacher who has little authority to discipline them, and who unavoidably ( and sometimes intentionally)undermines the parent's authority. They see their parents for a few minutes in the morning, and for a few hours in the evening. Watching TV, soccer and homework take up most of the after school time, and the children rarely get a chance to have a leisurely talk with their parents. The parents have no idea what happens to their children during the day, and the children eventually become uncomfortable talking to these strangers who maintain their home.

The warehoused children look down on the younger kids, from whom they are segregated. They look up, with a bit of fear and envy, to the older kids, from whom they are segregated. They form attachments to the only people available to them: the children in their class. At an age when they should be bonding with their parents and other responsible adults in their family, they are instead forming similar bonds with children their own age. Children are mentored by other children! It's no wonder that these children find adolescence difficult.

The children in the warehouse schools have to build their own society, and they build it with little adult input. ``Lord of the Flies'' is a story of a British school translated to the jungle, and with the adult supervision completely removed. The society the children build in American warehouse schools is a tame version of that one. It's like that one, because it is built by the children, and tame, because there is _some_ adult supervision.

These children model themselves after the only available models: their fellow children. Rather than learning adult behavior from adults, they learn how to influence or impress others of their same age and level of immaturity. One byproduct of this is an anti-intellectual atmosphere in the public schools. The children who devote the most time to learning have little time to devote to maintaining a following, while the children who have no interest in learning have nothing else to do but try to win the popularity contest. A cheap, easy way to enhance their popularity is by picking on the children who are trying to learn.

Another consequence of the warehouse school environment is that the children consigned there don't know how to be alone. Most of them are uncomfortable alone; they can't amuse themselves. Boredom is learned, and children learn it at school. The non-stop busy-ness of the warehouse schools leaves no time for reflection, and no time to learn to think for one's self. Becoming educated requires spending time alone: time alone with the thoughts of others in the form of books, time alone with your own thoughts, and time alone writing out your own thoughts. By their very nature, the warehouse schools must forbid children this vital time alone. This talk of education isn't off-topic: I'm writing about socialization, and education is a part of that. The sort of training that schools provide isn't education, and while it may be very valuable, it is no substitute for this education, which the warehouse schools cannot provide.

Most home-schooled children learn to educate and amuse themselves. Though there may be a few exceptions, I suspect that most home schooling parents are too busy themselves to provide the non-stop busy-ness and diversion that the warehouse schools find necessary to keep the little savages under control. Furthermore, the parents can use effective methods of discipline, the methods that work for their child, so they don't have to resort to trying to keep order through providing constant entertainment.

Few of the warehoused children can interact comfortably with adults. This is one of the most important characteristics that home schooling builds: home schooled children learn how adults behave. Warehoused children get to see their teachers trying to manipulate them to maintain order, and their parents pressuring them to do their homework and eat their vegetables. The only other adult role models they see are in sitcoms and horror shows on TV, and they typically spend more time with them than with their parents. Home schooled children, even if they watch TV, will spend more time with real adults in real, unstructured settings, and spend more time conversing with adults.

Too few of the warehoused children can read, and none read literature, or are able to discuss literature with adults. There is a reason that the training of future leaders has included the study of literature for as long as there has been writing. There is a reason that it's not encouraged in the warehouse schools today, too: it leads one to ask questions, and that might be disruptive. Just as bad, it takes lots of time: the teacher would have to focus on one child for a significant fraction of the school day. That's simply too inefficient to contemplate, however much it might benefit the child. This sort of education is vital to developing the ability to think for one's self, the ability to think critically, and the ability to lead. Most of this nation's leaders don't send their own children to the public schools.

I find the warehoused children to be ``wise in their own eyes'': they have a totally unjustified faith in their own wisdom. Home-schooled children spend enough time with adults to know that adults know more than they do. Most of them (not all, unfortunately) are more willing to consider the advice of adults. Some adults are foolish enough to take this wisdom as a sign of immaturity!

God, Socialization and Schooling

Christian writers have done an excellent job of showing how removing God from the schools has damaged our society, and I won�t repeat here what they�ve said. I will point out that good relationships with our fellow men depend on first having a good relationship with God. Christians are called on to love one another, and to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). When we take God out of the schools, we take away their ability to teach that there is absolute truth, and absolute right and wrong. We also take away their ability to give an absolute standard for proper behavior towards others.

Parochial warehouse schools don�t suffer the same degree of discipline problems that the public warehouse schools do, and standardized tests show they do a far better job of training their students. One reason for this may be that they have more effective tools for discipline available to them than do the public warehouse schools. A more important reason is that the parochial schools have not been nearly so thorough in getting God out of their curriculum as the public schools have been.

My Experience

Of the Alaska Centralized Correspondence Study (that's what became today�s Alyeska Central School) high school students I knew, those who went to college with me did well. Not only were they academically well prepared, but emotionally, they were far better able to adapt to being treated as adults than most of the kids who'd attended big-city high schools. Furthermore, although most had grown up in isolated areas, they seemed to adapt to life in the city far better then the kids who'd grown up in the villages and attended schools there. Most of the few who didn't go to college seem to have made good lives for themselves, too.

The home-schoolers I went to college with were better prepared for life as adults, because they had seen it modeled, and had been able to learn how to be adult by good example. Remember, children are born knowing how to be children; that's what comes naturally. It's being adult that we all have to learn, and we must learn it neither too quickly nor too slowly. Our children can't learn to be adults by hanging about with a gang of children their own age.

I work, one evening each week, with a group of third to fifth grade children at our church. They are a mix of church member's children and others, and a mix of home schooled and others. What I see there bears out what I am saying here. The home schooled children stand out, if they do stand out, for being able, confident, self directed, and able to mingle with adults.

My assertion that home-schoolers are better socialized, better educated and better prepared for life is based on my own experience in going to work, college and graduate school after being home schooled, and on the experiences of other home schooled persons who did it at the same time I did. It's also based on seeing my home-schooled children and the home-schooled children of others, and comparing them to children who aren't home schooled. Finally, it's based on the fact that most of the great men and women in history, ancient and modern, were home schooled.

Segregation and Socialization

For many years, segregation has been associated with race, and today we understand that racial segregation is clearly wrong. The public schools segregate us by age, and today age segregation is still commonly accepted.

Throughout history, most societies have had the generations living and working together from birth to death. The few exceptions have been clearly pathological cases such as Sparta. Even Sparta arranged for adults to mentor its young. Today we have segregated by age for about three generations, and we are beginning to see dangerous pathologies in our society. We are seeing lack of self control, evidenced by ``road rage'', we are seeing epidemic gang violence among teens and younger children, we are seeing warehoused children shooting up the warehouses which are supposed to be socializing them, and on and on. These problems have shown up first among the children of the poor and the minorities, who apparently have weaker families, but they are plainly afflicting the well-off majority. I think that there is enough to link our age-segregation to these problems that we can assert that in this case, correlation does imply causation.

Getting it Backwards

Throughout history, we have segregated people by sex, if at all, while the generations lived, worked and played together. Today, public schools have it exactly backwards: they segregate by age while mixing the sexes. There has recently been renewed interest in sex-segregated public warehouse schooling, because it produces unambiguously better results for both sexes, but especially for boys. There has even been talk of amending Title 10 (Federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded schools) to allow this. Let's hope that folks will also see the folly of age segregation, and put a stop to the warehouse schooling which requires it.


To conclude, if anyone really thinks that warehouse schooling provides good socialization, consider that the murderers at Columbine High school had been ``socialized'' in warehouse schools. They had learned to hate, had learned violence, and had _not_ learned any reason _not_ to do what they did, nor any other way to deal with their problems. Is the environment that allowed them to develop this way really the optimal environment to socialize your children?


1 See: Larry Shyers, "Comparison of Social Adjustment between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students'' (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, 1992). His finding is that when home schooled and warehoused children were observed playing together, the home schooled children showed significantly fewer ``problem'' behaviors. Back

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