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PRO: Parents see many benefits, including how students relate to others

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS - JLPREYSS@VICAD.COM
Sept. 11, 2011 at 4:11 a.m.

Loria Rose, 16, studies with her mother, Leah, at home. Loria studies a mixture of novels that are taught in public school, like the novels of Jane Austen, in addtion to textbooks that promote creationism instead of evolution.

How does home-schooling affect socialization?

When comparing home education with traditional public or private school environments, one primary criticism asks, "What about socialization?"

Advocates of the about 1.5 million to 2.1 million students who are home-schooled every year say students have access to as many, or more opportunities, to socialize with peers and adults through extracurricular activities, church, jobs, frequent field trips with family and friends, and through developing relationships with other home-school families.

Those who argue for traditional learning environments say they help develop peer-on-peer problem-solving skills that students will need and to a diverse audience of culture, language, and thought.

Little research supports that home learners will become socially stunted, proponents say.

In fact, a National Home Education Research Institute study, authored by Richard G. Medlin, about the social skills of home schoolers found home learners consistently scored higher than public school students in social development, especially girls and older children. The students were scored in cooperation, assertiveness, empathy and self-control.

Victoria resident Valerie Mass, 46, said she was forced to home school her children out of necessity, but continues to support the format for its rich educational opportunities. She said her children never experienced social issues.

"For the most part, people are supportive of home school, but usually their biggest concern is socialization. They think you stay at home with your kids 24/7, but that's not true," Mass said.

"They had plenty of social interaction through church and other activities. And my relationships with my kids are strong. I'm very close with them because we've learned to work together."

When asked whether she felt as if her children missed out on high school milestones like prom, Mass said she did not.

"Not really, but I was never big into them myself," she said.

Another advocate of home school, Henry Hartman, said he saw his nephew's social skills shift when he left public school and started a home learning program.

"My nephew and all the other home-schooled kids I knew were aware if they finished their studies by 1:30 p.m., they could play all afternoon, and that included hunting and fishing," Hartman said. "When he went back into public school, he had behavior troubles again."

Hartman acknowledged some home learners may miss out on some common school staples, but said nowadays home-school organizations offer activities like team sports, home-school prom and graduation.

Mass said the best part about home school is that socializing her children can be deliberate.

"The biggest pro is that you can choose who your child socializes with," she said.

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