Friday, February 13, 2009

Homeschooling and socialization revisited

OK, so now that I have your attention, please listen carefully. The first concern almost everyone has when you mention homeschooling is socialization. It's one of my big concern too: that's why I chose to homeschool!! What?

Read this great article by Gordon Neufeld, author of Hold on to your kids, to understand my point of view (I know it's a bit long and it's in English, but please read it and stop being concerned for socialization in homeschooled kids!).

Gordon Neufeld - Thoughts on Homeschooled Children

The prevailing assumption is that the greatest drawback to homeschooling is the loss of social interaction with peers. Times have changed however, making peer interaction more of a problem than an asset. Instead or peer interaction facilitating the process of socialization, it is now more likely to lead to the premature replacement of adults by peers in the life of a child. Such children become peer-oriented rather than adult-oriented and are more
difficult to parent and teach. Furthermore, peer-oriented children fail to mature psychologically and their integration into adult society is compromised.

Because of escalating peer orientation it is now the school that has become risky business. What was once the most powerful argument against homeschooling is now its most persuasive defense. Contrary to prevailing concerns, homeschooled children are showing evidence of being more mature psychologically, more socially adept, and more academically prepared for university. They have become the favored applicants of a number of major universities. If current trends in society continue, homeschooling may very well become a necessary antidote to escalating peer orientation. We may need to reclaim our children not only to preserve or recover the context in which to teach and parent them, but also for the sake of society at large and the transmission of culture.

The developmental needs of children were never paramount in the arguments that led to the inception of compulsory education. Indeed, there was little that was even understood or known about child development at that time. It should not be surprising therefore to find that developmental science does not support school as the best context for children to learn, to mature, or to become socialized. Although the school has become a central institution in our society, it is not without risks to emotional health and development.

There are a number of sound arguments that make homeschooling a child's best bet. The cultivation and preservation of the child-parent attachment is at the fore of these arguments. The attachment patterns of children are shifting, largely due to the loss of culture and the institutionalization of education. This is sabotaging the context necessary for healthy development as well as eroding the natural power required for parents to do their job. Attachment is also the primary context and motivation for learning. When children are more attached to their peers than their parents and their teachers then peers become their true teachers. Attachment is also the primary mechanism of cultural transmission. We cannot inculcate our children with our values and beliefs if we are not the ones they get their bearings from or take their cues from.

Another strong argument for homeschooling is the emotional health of the child. Developmental science is now putting emotion at the core of learning and behavior, including the development of the brain and the mind. Children need to have soft hearts, capable of being easily touched and moved by that which should affect them. When children are not in right relationship with their parents or are prematurely subjected to the wounding ways of peer interaction, the resulting flight from vulnerability desensitizes them. They lose their
feelings, at least the more vulnerable ones. Homeschoolers, because of their strong relationships to those responsible for them are much more likely to have soft hearts and therefore much more likely to realize their full potential as human beings. Research bears this out.

Yet another case for homeschooling is the individuation argument. The primary purpose of development is for children to become their own persons capable of functioning apart from attachments, knowing their own minds and having their own goals. It is no secret that unsupervised peer interaction crushes individuality and undermines the emergence of true selfhood. As Jean Jacque Rousseau said over 200 years ago, individuation is not only the prerequisite to true community but requires a long gestation time in the context of loving
relationship with a parent. Personhood must be homegrown. The womb of individuation is warm and caring attachments to loving parents. If we desire our children to realize their true potential as human beings, we must hold on to them until they can hold on to themselves.

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