28 November 2000
The Socialization of Children: Home Schooling Over Public Schooling
Every parent who makes a decision to home school can be assured that they are going to hear the dreaded "S" word. What about socialization? Often that's the extent of the question without any major elaboration. It seems to me that there are 3 basic implications in the question: Socialization is necessary. Socialization is good. And finally, to be properly socialized, children must spend large amounts of time with their peers. This paper will go into detail to consider the question of whether home schooling or public schooling provides the most positive socialization for children, and the least negative socialization. This is the primary concern of those who question the soundness of home schooling. Before dealing with these assumptions however, let's first consider one important question: What is socialization? I looked it up in Webster s Collegiate Dictionary
1. To place under group or government control; especially, to regulate according to socialist principles.
2. To convert from an antisocial to a social attitude; make friendly, cooperative, or sociable.
3. To convert or adapt to the needs of a social group.
4. To take part in social activities. (1995)
The dictionary gives us clear and rigid definitions of socializing yet because of that rigid-ness, it loses some ability to be practically applied to our changing society. Socialization can and has been interpreted in many ways. Educators, sociologists, psychologists, and other social scientists have offered various interpretations of what socialization is. Chafetz describes socialization as the process by which an individual becomes a creature of society. The process whereby the individual is converted into the person is the view taken by Hargreaves & Colley. Zigler & Child define socialization as the whole process by which an individual develops through transaction with other people, his specific patterns of socially relevant behavior and experiences. All of these interpretations are accurate and represent a different aspect of socialization. It is a process that is present in all people s lives. It is the development of the person (Worth, 1997).
Now that socialization has been defined we must examine what exactly is positive and negative socialization, and which method of education provides the proper amounts of each. According to Fred Worth, positive socialization is: learning how to get along with people, learning how to treat people with respect, and finally learning to conform to standards of good behavior. Negative socialization includes: developing peer dependence, weakening of character (i.e. drug abuse, alcohol abuse, tobacco use, profanity, promiscuous sex), and the developing of cliques (Worth, 1997). Worth is agreeing with our definition of socialization in that it is necessary but by separating socialization into two categories, positive and negative, he is saying that not all of it is needed. Yes, children do need positive socialization, however, they do not need negative socialization.
To establish whether home or public education provides the best socialization let us examine whether these positive and negative traits described are more likely to be instilled in a government public school environment or in a home school environment.
Learning how to get along with people. This insinuates learning how to get along with a variety of people of diverse backgrounds in diverse situations. The artificial, age-segregated government school classroom does not afford any such opportunity. All that children learn there is how to interact with the same 25 or so children of the same age, with one adult thrown in as a balance. In a home school, in addition to the classroom learning, children will often accompany their parents during errands and chores during the day. They will encounter people at the grocery store, hardware store, post office and all of the other settings that they will encounter throughout life. They will see people of all ages and all backgrounds. They will see them in all kinds of situations. Clearly, if you want a child who will grow up knowing how to interrelate with a wide range of people then home schooling is the best choice. Home school wins.
Learning how to treat people with respect. I attended government school. I do not recall my interaction with my peers as a positive force in learning to treat people with respect. I recall slower students being called "retard." I recall people with acne being viciously ridiculed. I recall children from poor families being ridiculed for not having the best clothes. I recall smart children being ridiculed for being smart. I recall children being beaten up for no reason. I may be missing something but that doesn't seem to me a good way of teaching children to treat people with respect. When children are the primary source of socialization then childish values will be transmitted. Mature adults are necessary to teach the proper values. A government schoolteacher with a classroom of 25 or more children cannot overcome and counteract all of the negative behavior of the students. A home-educated child is in constant with an adult who can give careful attention to the behavior of the child, reinforcing the good and correcting the bad. Home school wins again.
Learning to conform to standards of good behavior. What standards of behavior are learned through with children? Good ones or bad? Watch a group of children. Does the behavior of the crowd get more greatly influenced by the example of the good child or the badly behaved child? Crowds tend to follow the lowest example. This is why so many churches see their youth begin to rebel and walk away as they reach their teens. The positive training that took place in the home and church during the formative years gets worn away by constant exposure to the negative behavior of government school classmates. Jonathan Lindvall deals with this very well. He points out that in scripture we are told that foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. (Proverbs 22:15) So when a child gets his main interaction from other children then he grows up as a companion of fools. Those who get their main interaction from fools grow up to be fools. Home school wins again.
Developing peer dependence. We all naturally want the approval of those around us. Children who are in government school are around other children most of the time. Therefore they look to other children for their main source of approval. In order to gain the approval of a group, it is necessary to conform to the behaviors and norms of that group. Thus, government school children, by the very nature of the design of government school, will grow up dependent on their peers for approval. It doesn't really matter that they are eventually told to "resist peer pressure." That would be like putting a child in a room filled with candy and letting them eat all they want. Then a few years later you start telling them not to eat it. The habits are developed and will not easily be changed. In home education, the primary source of approval is the family. The family values and behavior are transmitted. Those values are dictated and patterned by the parents. Home school wins.
Drug abuse. Alcohol abuse. Tobacco use. Profanity. Promiscuous sex. Other anti-social behavior. The standards of the group become the standards of the individuals in the group. If a child is constantly in a place where these behaviors are exhibited then the child is likely to participate in them or at least view them as acceptable even though they are not. How many of us have heard "good" kids use bad language? If they hear it enough they become accustomed to it. It they become accustomed to it they become accepting of it. If they become accepting of it they start using it. In a home where those behaviors are not accepted or exhibited then the children are much less likely to accept or exhibit those behaviors. Home school wins again.
Cliques. There is nothing wrong with having a close group of friends. However, there is something badly wrong when the attitude becomes that of a clique. That attitude is "If you're not one of us you are nobody." All of us who attended government schools remember cliques. Some of us were in them. Some of us were not. In neither case does the child benefit. The government schools, with the patterns of behavior discussed above, are a fertile breeding ground for cliques. Home school wins again.
This analysis show that a home-educated child clearly has overwhelming benefits over the publicly educated child as far as their personal socialization. Home schooling boasts much more positive socialization and far less negative socialization than government schooling. However this investigation is purely subjective and further study and research can and should be done to accurately determine whether or not a child s socialization needs are met better by public or home learning. For example, there exist various sociological tests to determine the social maturity of a child, such as the Adaptive Behavior Composite acquired using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. This composite includes social skills, communication skills, and daily living skills, and is an indicator of the overall development of the subject. Its process primarily utilizes a survey method of research. Since the Vineland is a robust and well-tested diagnostic tool, it proves very adequate for gathering information on sociological standing. In hundreds of studies, this test has established its reliability and validity in measuring the communication domain, the daily living skills domain, and the socialization domain. These are combined into an "adaptive behavior composite," which is the primary unit of measurement in this study. These scores compare the competence and maturity of the subjects to the nationwide means for their ages (Smedley, 1992)
The Vineland questionnaire divides each page into several columns. Numbered sentences occupy the largest part of the page. To the left of the sentences are the appropriate age ranges for the behavior being discussed. To the right of the sentences are three colored columns, with boxes for the numeric answers. The boxes are filled in with a 2 when the behavior has been mastered "Yes, usually." 1 applies when the behavior happens "Sometimes or partially." 0 applies when the behavior happens "No, never." N stands for "No opportunity," and DK for "Don't know." N is sometimes scorable, if explicitly described as such in the question (Balla, 1984).
The selection of subjects to take the survey would include evenly selected students (from the same demographic area to eliminate non-related environmental effects on results) that have received education for a reasonable amount of time (at least 4 years) from either the home or the government. The results of the home-schooled would then be compared to the results of the government-schooled to determine the more socially mature children. If the composite showed higher numbers for the home-schooled it would further prove the idea of home education being superior to public education (Smedley, 1992).
Another possible method of research would be to observe the social behaviorisms of children in a social environment. Of course the observe must be unbeknownst to the children. By monitoring the manners of home schooled and publicly schooled children one could form relationships between the actions of the kids to their education type. The observer would have to examine which child exhibited which kind of behavior (i.e. mature interaction, immature interaction, anti-social behavior). If a common thread existed between the conduct of the children and the type of education they are receiving, an accurate comparison can be drawn. This comparison can then be reliably used in determining which style of education results in the most positive socialization.
The sociological perspectives that best describe the argument of home-schooling versus public-schooling are the Looking Glass Self , Generalized Other , and Symbolic Interaction theories. Charles H. Cooley (1909) and George Herbert Mead (1934) proposed the Looking Glass Self and Generalized Other theories which both contributed to the Symbolic Interaction theory substantially. The premise underlying symbolic interaction theory is that individuals develop personality through interaction with others and by using meaningful symbols to help define themselves (Cooley, 1909). The idea of the looking glass self is that children determine who they are based on how they imagine others see them and their positive or negative reactions to those imaginings (Cooley, 1909). Akin to the ideas of Cooley are those of Mead regarding the generalized other . Mead suggests that socialization occurs through a maturational process. Through interaction with others, individuals pass through three stages of social and personality development. As children move through these stages, they go from being the center of the universe toward understanding others' rights and expectations. The three stages that Mead refers to are:
1. Egocentric stage (birth to two years) - Child is unaware of any other personality and behaves as though he or she is the center of the universe.
2. Play stage (two to seven years) - Child moves through rapid emulation of roles he or she perceives. Through the practice of pretending to be others (cowboy, nurse, doctor, super hero, etc.), the child begins to understand the concept of 'others'.
3. Game stage (seven years and up) - The maturing individual perceives others' expectations, and self's rights, gradually acquiring the ability to take the role of the generalized other, which is simply an amalgamation of all the socially approved values and behaviors necessary for optimal social adaptation and interaction (Mead, 1934).
The acquisition of the generalized other role is due to the uniquely human ability to use symbols (e.g., language, signs, signals, facial expressions), and to abstractly understand the inner self, or the "I". When children interact with a parent, friend, teacher, they use imagination to put themselves in the other's role. In doing so, children initially learn to view themselves from the point of view of a particular person. Eventually, as children come to understand how social relationships operate, they begin to see themselves from the standpoint of the generalized other, and understand the expectations that society has of them. The process of the interaction defines who they are, both to others and to themselves (Mead, 1934).
Symbolic interactionists view children as active participants in the socialization process. In human interaction, children construct their actions by fitting them to those of the other person. It is necessary for children to use imagination in order to take the other person's point of view. Through role-playing, children learn the give and take, compromise, adjustment, and reciprocity that help lead to a sense of self. As children understand the role of language - that words stand for things, that actions and objects exist and have meaning because they can be described through the use of words - they recognize the importance that symbols have in allowing individuals to act in distinctively human ways (Holt, 1983).
As children move through the stages that Mead describes (egocentric, play, game), they come to understand that symbols have specific functions for the individual. The functions of symbols have been described as follows: - Symbols allow people to name, categorize and remember objects encountered in the world. - Symbols improve the ability to perceive the environment. - Symbols improve the ability to think. - Symbols increase the ability to solve problems. - Symbols allow imagination to be exercised. - Symbols help us to understand abstractions. - Symbols allow people to be active rather than passive (Holt, 1983).
The mechanism for learning is those interactions children engage in as they develop a sense of how society works and come to understand their place in it. Viewing oneself through the eyes of significant others and being able to understand and take on the role of others is Mead's view of the socialization of children. The use of commonly understood symbols gives the child a sense of belonging within society. Society is, in fact, the collective shared meaning of the rules by which we interact (1934).
The question now is which style of education, home-schooling or public-schooling, gives children the best experiences with socialization? Which method helps children develop that sense of How society works? the best? The method of examining both positive and negative socialization is one way to determine the best choice for your child. The testing using the Vineland questionnaire is also a valid way of considering your choice. Simple observation of differently educated children will in addition prove to be an effective means to resolve the problem of which education to choose. Additional research may be done for further investigating of the proper choice by analyzing the ideas of the looking glass self , generalized other , and symbolic interaction theories. Through my study of positive and negative socialization and which educational method provides the optimum combination, I have deduced that home schooling provides the best opportunity for proper socialization of children. It outweighs public education in every respect and clearly is the prime choice for schooling a child.
Balla, David A. et al. (1984) Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service, Inc.
Cooley, Charles H. (1909). The Looking Glass Self. Unknown publisher.
Holt, John. (1983). How Children Learn. New York: Dell Publishing.
Mead, George Herbert (1934). The Generalized Other. Unknown publisher.
Smedley, Thomas C. (1992). Socialization of Home School Children-A Communication Approach. Available at: http://members.aol.com/tomsmedley/smedleys.htm#abs.
Webster s Collegiate Dictionary (1995). 10th ed. Springfield, Massachusetts. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.
Worth, Fred (1997). Socialization Issues. Available at: http://www.hsu.edu/faculty/worthf/social.html.