Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Another myth in British home education; there is no evidence to show that socialisation is a problem for home educated children
The question of socialisation always rears its head in any discussion between home educators and those who send their children to school. It is often asserted by home educators that there is no reason to think that their children are any less socialised than those at school, but this is not really true.
There is a bit of a difficulty when discussing socialisation of children. Parents naturally tend to think that their own kids are well adjusted and sociable. They typically think this, even if their offspring are lonely psychopaths about to carry out a massacre at the local high school. Needless to say, if anybody asks me about my own child, I will claim that she is clever, popular and well balanced. There is no reason to suppose that this is true; it is just what parents think about their own kids. We must take home educating parents statements about sociability with a grain of salt. There is anecdotal evidence on the other side, of course. Many teachers and lecturers say that the home educated children they come into contact with are strange and do not fit in. We must treat these suggestions too with some scepticism , because teachers are not unbiased; many of them disapprove of home education and may not like the confident air that some home educated children have. Is there any objective evidence to which we can turn? Fortunately, there is; although it is not conclusive.
I am not a great fan of Paula Rothermel’s work, but she did carry out some tests on the social skills of home educated children. The results were surprising and not generally known among home educating parents. Bearing in mind that the samples were small and must be treated with caution, what was discovered? Rothermel used two different Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires and these gave differing results. One showed that the home educated children had social skills as good as those of children at school; the other diagnosed many problems with the home educated children. What sort of problems? Perhaps we should let Rothermel’s words speak for themselves. She found that, ‘ Theft amongst the home-educated boys was substantially higher than for the schoolchildren’ She also discovered that, ‘the home-educated children here emerged as mostly 'Abnormal' in terms of their 'Prosocial Behaviour'.’ and also, ‘Socially, the SDQ found 61% of the home-educated children to exhibit 'abnormal' social behaviour,’.
These are quite disturbing findings, but they are not the only conclusion that Rothermel reached. Home educated girls in particular seemed prone to difficulties in socialisation. For example:
‘the home-educated sample demonstrated more signs of aggressive behaviours than the schoolchildren from the Rutter et al study, particularly for home-educated girls where aggressiveness was at 22.7% as opposed to 5.3% for Rutter's girls’
‘A comparison with the home-educated sample's data and that provided by Ekblad (1990) relating to previous studies, revealed that the home-educated children were more aggressive than the norm and that the girls' levels of anxiety was higher than those found in other studies.’
None of this is of course conclusive and I have mentioned elsewhere my reservations about both the size of the samples used and the methods for selecting them. Never the less, it remains the fact that in the only professional evaluation of the socialisation of home educated children in this country, serious problems were found. As I said earlier, one test found these problems and the other did not, which means that the question remains open. It is however not reasonable to claim, as many home educators do, that there is no reason to think that the socialisation of home educated children is any worse than that of those at school. There is reason to think this so, but the evidence is not conclusive.