Are Schools Better than Homeschools for Socializing Children?
by William C. Michael
Schools don’t offer “social activity” for children.
This afternoon a parent wrote a very common question, which I took some time to answer. I believe my response will be helpful to others.
How would you recommend parents give children opportunities to relate to other children while being homeschooled; or alternatively, in your view, is this not a relevant concern?
To be honest, I don’t understand why this question is asked of homeschooling families. A student sent to school is at school for 7 hours, 180 days of the year. So, out of 8,760 hours each year, the child is at school a maximum of 1,260 of them — that’s 14% of the child’s time each year. A school child is home or outside of school for 17 hours for half the year and 24 hours for the other half. So, 86% of the child’s time each year is NOT spent in school. So, we’re asking whether the social benefits of 14% of the child’s time each year is responsible for the development of a healthy social life.
Actually, this becomes even more limited when we consider what goes on during the 7 hours of the school day when the child is in school. While in school, the child is told to pay attention to his teacher, stay in his seat, do his work, be quiet, etc. Children who socialize instead of listening, studying and working are usually penalized for it (I certainly was!). Students interact with other students for group class activities (which are usually dreadful), for a few minutes between classes, at lunch and in gym class. So, over the course of these 7 hours, very little is actually used for socializing. The children are doing what teachers tell them to do, most of which is individual or with a single partner. The best students socialize the least and the most social kids usually don’t accomplish much. Success normally comes down to parental involvement and the parents of the best students are essentially homeschool parents who work with teachers.
Almost ALL of the socializing associated with school life comes from extracurricular activities. My friends in school were kids who I played with in my neighborhood or kids I played sports with outside of school. I wasn’t even in classes with most of my friends because I was in honors classes and they weren’t. The kids I was in class with weren’t my friends (maybe 1 or 2). Worst, most of the bad influences in my life came from these unsupervised extracurricular hours. The socialization isn’t necessarily good socialization, after all.
Do not be led astray: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:33
In modern society, schools take credit for every achievement made by students, yet most of these achievements have nothing to do with the schools. It’s a misrepresentation of what actually goes on. There’s a reason why top schools seek out the best students — because they know they don’t make them. The school with the best sports teams is found in a town with the best youth sports leagues. The school with the best bands and theater programs is in a town where there are great private music teachers and dance schools. The schools do not take kids off the street and turn them into athletes and performers. They take athletes and performers and provide them with a stage — and then they boast of the school’s achievements. These are the kids’ achievements, not the schools’.
If you have a number of children and they are raised well, they will be friends. During their study times, you won’t want your children distracted or talking or playing with others. Homeschooling, in a well-ordered home environment, is better for learning than any school can be — especially with the resources available at home today.
Social relations should be pursued in natural social environments: family activities, church relations, neighborhood friends, recreational activities, etc. If you think of how much is available through these channels, there won’t be enough time in your day for the social activity that’s available — and you’ll find that you can’t give your children all that’s available to them. To suggest that they need any of this from “school” is simply not reasonable. If they go to school looking for social activity, they’re going to do badly in school.
As for extracurricular activities, homeschooled kids have a flexible schedule that allows them to do all kinds of things. They can be on-call to serve at the parish any time your priest needs help. You can schedule play dates or, even better, school activities with other homeschool families and actually develop friendships with like-minded families. Dance classes and martial arts classes are very good — and there’s no limit to how much the kids can participate in them if they’re interested. Organized sports may be good if the parents have experience in them and can help teach and coach the kids, but sports often require too much skill for any significant participation and end up being a waste of time for the kids who aren’t very competitive. Music lessons aren’t “social”, and should be considered private activities.
Best of all, homeschooling is a year-round activity. Every day is a school day and everything the family does can be educational and socially developmental. Kids can travel with their parents, visit relatives, visit historical sites, host guests, go to work with Dad, on and on.
The benefits of homeschooling are innumerable IF HOMESCHOOLING PARENTS DO THEIR JOB.
This leads to the real issue here: Parents who live socially unhealthy lives will raise kids with socially unhealthy lives. Parents who are lazy and see homeschooling as an excuse to do LESS than school children do will create a social environment that is WORSE than the schools are. All education is ultimately influenced by parents. So, we should really not be talking about “homeschooling” in general because there’s no such thing. Great homeschool parents give their children a great homeschool experience. Lazy and irresponsible homeschool parents give their children a terrible homeschool experience. It’s up to you what kind of homeschool parent you’re going to be.
To balance all of this: Your children will be free to leave home at age 18. They will have all of the world they want at that time. The goal of parenting is not to try and give them the world, but to “train them up in the way they should go”. They will very likely rebel in their teens and early adult years as they explore and test their limits — the education and culture they learned as children will balance that foolishness and save them from many troubles. Meditate on the parable of the Prodigal Son because it’s the norm in human life. Make sure your influence is strong.
William C. Michael, HeadmasterClassical Liberal Arts Academymail@classicalliberalarts.com