Of course if you talk to others who were homeschooled they and I would agree that there are a number of other things that are disadvantages of homeschooling. But I want to focus on this one thing that has been a huge personal struggle for me and my siblings and unfortunately seems to be a big joke amoungst a lot of homeschool parents.
There is no getting around it. Homeschool is isolating. You have to work very hard to ensure your children interact with a lot of people and learn social skills when they are not attending a school full of students. It is not an easy task. And for a mother who stays home, running a household and attempting to school 5 children as well as provide adequate socialization opportunities for them is at the very least daunting. Add in mental illness, other health problems, and severe relationship dysfunction and you get a guaranteed failure. Homeschooling is not for the faint-of-heart. I would never do it.
My dad and I have talked at length about the problems of socialization in homeschooling. And he now believes it was a huge mistake for our family. It is one of the reasons he eventually decided to send us to a private Christian school (though still extremely small with only about 30-35 students from K-12, we still got to be around other people during the day) and why he later decided to send my little brother to public high school. I can say without a doubt that that was the best decision because my little brother did so well and is much better than I am at socializing.
Unfortunately by the time we started at the private school I was already entering high school. It was too late. My hermit-like tendencies had been ingrained in me by that point and I never learned any social skills. I can imagine it was rather painful for others around me to try to get me to talk or interact like a normal person. We were also very behind for our grade levels and that just added more embarrassment to my growing anxiety.
Going off to a college of 5000 students was like throwing a baby who just learned to swim in the shallow children’s pool into the ocean. I pretty much felt like I was drowning. It hasn’t really gotten any better, although I may be slightly less awkward only because I am now 10 years older. After graduating I was basically thrown into shark infested waters. I had absolutely no idea what the world was like, what I was supposed to do, or how I was supposed to start making a life for myself.
In this age we live in, unless you were fortunate enough to have parents with a healthy marriage and demonstrated healthy relationship skills, children of my generation who were homeschooled and kept from being part of the world are at a great professional disadvantage. Most jobs today really depend a lot on networking. It’s all about who you know. When you don’t ever learn social skills you certainly don’t do any networking. If your only goal is to work in the ministry of church then I suppose that works. But for most people it does not. Most of us have to go be a part of the real world and get a job that involves… *gasp* talking to people.
I feel most of the time that my undergraduate degree was useless. For me college was basically just a much much bigger version of high school. The work load and material was all the same as high school. I was exactly the same little nervous, socially-awkward kid from high school. And not one single person talked to me about career choices or what I might be good at. So I went to college, studied, made somewhat decent grades, graduated, went back home and fell into a deep depression. It was not a good experience. And I did not develop any kind of skills to prepare me to live in the real world.
I have worked in public school and I would not ever deny that there are many many problems with our nations education system. But attending any kind of school starting from a young age is important because there is a natural source of social situations provided for children every day simply because there are so many other people around.
I worked as a teaching assistant in a first grade classroom and there was this one little girl who was painfully shy. I was immediately drawn to her, most likely because I recognized myself in her. In the beginning she would not even say a single word in class to other students or even to answer questions from the teacher. When she arrived in the morning she would literally stand in the corner right outside the classroom door and not come in. When she did finally come in she had a terrified look on her face. And if you pressed her too much to say something she would start crying. But let me tell you the changes in her in just one school year were astounding. At the end of first grade she was much better at socializing than I ever was. She became extremely vocal in both class participation and with peers. It was incredible to see.
And I was quite surprised. Not only was it a good atmosphere for young kids to begin learning social skills, it also was not the horrible, awful place I had always been made to believe it was. Aside from the fact that it was a minimum-wage job, I really loved it there. Just getting to be in an actual school building with lots of students and lots of teachers was kind of exciting for me. I even opened up more and became a little more social myself because it was truly an atmosphere of getting to know people, both little people and big people.
I daily began to realize how much of a difference it would have made in my life to have gone to a real school. I do think that all parents should be deeply invested in their child’s education no matter what type of schooling they have. But a lot of times that just isn’t the case. I had many students with parents who didn’t care much at all and you just knew their home life was not good. The good part about being in a school full of people is just that… other people.
First of all it can be an escape from a home that some kids really don’t want to be in. Secondly, there are many other people, both children and adults with whom you can develop friendships. That is really important for a kid who feels invisible in their home. School can be a refreshing place where you don’t have to think about your parents screaming at each other. It can be a place of comfort for a kid who feels no one cares about his existence. It can also open your eyes to the fact that there are so many different kinds of people in the world. All deserving of consideration, respect, and autonomy. You also learn a lot of other important things for becoming a functioning adult who contributes to society including camaraderie, team-work, finding passion in your work, and learning to deal with people you don’t get along with.
I know these things because I lived it. And when I finally saw the real world, I realized it wasn’t just a place full of hatred, godlessness, and evil. There is so so much more.