The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents

Socialization of Homeschooled Children

Homeschoolers often refer to “socialization” as the “S” word — it’s a common concern among those who are unfamiliar with the realities of life as a homelearner, and thus the question, “But what about socialization?” has become infamous.

The question sometimes takes other forms:

  • “Are home educated children adequately socialized?”
  • “Aren’t homeschoolers too isolated from their peers to have a normal social development?”
  • “How will home schooled children learn to get along in the ‘real world’ if they miss out on the socialization of school?”
  • “How will they learn social skills?”
  • “Aren’t they lonely? How can they make friends?”

All of these questions boil down to wondering, “Is socialization a problem for homeschoolers?” — to which the short answer is, “No.”

On the contrary, many homeschooling families choose to homeschool for the very reason that it allows them to guide their children’s socialization in positive directions and avoid the negative socialization of the school environment (bullying, peer pressure, herding, anonymity, mindless conformity, etc.).

Homeschooled children live their lives in the naturally social environment of family and community. Research studies confirm what homeschooling families observe first-hand: that homeschooled children develop good social skills through the role modeling of their parents and other adults in the community and through smaller groups of children in the context of the gathering of several families in support group outings and play groups.

The topic of socialization comes up every now and then on the OFTP email lists when a new homeschooling parent asks for advice on how to respond to the “socialization” questions and comments they receive from their friends and family and even from strangers at the grocery store. “Socialization” also comes up in interviews with the media, is discussed in books on homeschooling, and is the topic of research of a few studies on home education.

Below, you will find a list of some of our own webpages that will help you explore the issue of socialization in homeschooling, as well as links to other websites where the issue is addressed.

OFTP web pages on socialization in homeschooling

So — What About Socialization?
A collection of our members’ thoughts, shared on the email list on the subject of “socialization,” was published in the June 1998 issue of the OFTP newsletter, Home Rules.

Social Behaviors: Public vs. Home Educated Children
An overview of the issues and research comparing the social development of homeschooled children to that of their public-schooled peers. Included in the information package OFTP delivered to social workers at the annual convention of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) in the year 2000.

[A summary of the research paper entitled] Homeschooling and the Redefinition of Citizenship
This is a summary, written by Wanetta Vader and published in the June 2000 issue of Home Rules, of the research paper by Bruce Arai on Homeschooling and the Redefinition of Citizenship. Prof. Arai’s paper was published at the Education Policy Analysis Archives which is a peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal published at Arizona State University.

Research studies on the social development of homeschooled children

Brady, MichaelSocial Development in Traditionally Schooled and Homeschooled Children, a Case for Increased Parental Monitoring and Decreased Peer Interaction. Brady came to the following conclusion: “There seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence that children socialized in a peer-dominant environment are at higher risk for developing social maladjustment issues than those that are socialized in a parent monitored environment.”

Shyers, Larry EdwardComparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students. Ph.D. thesis, University of Florida, 1992. The whole 299-page thesis is available from University Microfilms International, 1 (800) 521-3042, order number DA9304052. An abstract of the thesis appears in Dissertation Abstracts International at page 4215A of volume 53, number 12 of the humanities/social sciences series.

Taylor, John WesleySelf-Concept in Home-Schooling Children. Thesis, 1986. Available from University Microfilms International, 1 (800) 521-3042, order number DA8624219.

Ray, BrianHome Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits. For years critics and the curious have been asking about the homeschooled: But how will they do in the “real world” of adulthood? As a corollary, they have also asked: What about socialization? This study takes a look at the lives of over 7,000 adults from across the United States who were home educated during their elementary and secondary school years. The study was commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in 2003 and was carried out by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI).

Arai, BruceHomeschooling and the Redefinition of Citizenship. In this research paper, published at the Education Policy Analysis Archives (a peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal published at Arizona State University), Professor Bruce Arai focuses on the area of citizenship: can people be good citizens without going to school? His paper shows that homeschoolers have a different but equally valid understanding of citizenship.

Articles and essays on socialization and homeschooling

Socialization: A Great Reason Not to Go to School
Article by Karl M. Bunday (Learn in Freedom website) summarizing the research of Larry Shyers, with a passing reference to John Taylor’s study and a brief discussion of the concept of “optimism” as more helpful than that of “self-esteem,” as per Professor Martin E.P. Seligman’s book The Optimistic Child.

Socialization: The “S” Word
Responses to common socialization questions, compiled by Ann Zeise on the A to Z Home’s Cool website.

Homeschoolers and Socialization
Article by Dan Hammes published on the Homeschool Central website.

Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts
Article by Isabel Shaw published on the Family Education website. (Unfortunately — and ironically — Ms. Shaw doesn’t have all of her facts quite straight: she cites Dr. Raymond Moore as being the author of The Hurried Child, whereas it was actually written by David Elkind.)

What About Socialization
Article by Rebecca Kochenderfer, published on the website. Based on an interview with Diane Flynn Keith, which you can hear by clicking on the audio link (1 hour long).

Mr. Pointy Nose
Fictional home visit inspection of a homeschooling family, written by Tammy D. Drennan (of the North Georgia Home Education Association), in which the inspector asks, “How do you ever expect your children to fit into the world if you don’t institutionalize them, and you encourage them to develop advanced vocabularies and you teach them self-sufficiency. This does not coincide with the new way — they must follow the new standards,” and the mother replies, “I appreciate your apparent concern, kind sir, but you see, I am not raising children to follow standards — I am raising them to set standards.”

Articles and essays on socialization issues in school

The following articles and essays are not about homeschooling but, by addressing the socialization issues of the school environment, provide a point of reference for comparison.

Why Nerds Are Unpopular
An article excerpted from Hackers & Painters, a book of essays on computers by Paul Graham. “The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about. Their attention is drawn to books or the natural world, not fashions and parties.”