Rachel Gathercole's book, “The Well Adjusted Child-The Social Benefits of Homeschooling” sorely needed to be written. As a long time homeschooler, I have talked to countless parents who say that they would like to homeschool their children, but don't due to fear of social isolation. My anecdotes and assurances sometimes tip the scale, but not always. If you or your spouse or extended family happen to be on the fence about homeschooling, please do your child a favor and buy this book. The author builds a brilliant case for the positive social aspects of homeschooling, in a clear and logical manner. I also appreciate the fact that she does not actively bash schools, and appears sensitive to the tough demands that today's institutional teachers face.
Home education is an incredible opportunity for children to learn at their own pace and in their own way. It is well known that homeschooled kids are often winners and finalists in national level competitions, such as the geo bee and spelling bee. Individualized education is quite simply a better fit for many children, and gifted children especially, who may be several different “sizes” at once. Would anyone care to argue that a tailor made suit would not fit better than one purchased off the rack? Sure, there are good schools out there, just as there are some people (both parents and children) who simply would not do well as homeschoolers. But for the great majority, homeschooling can be whatever it needs to be to fit the individual child. I believe that it is well documented that kids can benefit academically from homeschooling. The question then, is how do these home educated kids do with peers, and will they be able to interact well with people as adults?
Ms. Gathercole answers this and puts to rest the image of the awkward and isolated homeschooler. She explains in detail how homeschooling socialization is not merely an adequate replacement for the social lessons of institutional schooling. It may be surprising to many, but homeschooling is often a superior lifestyle for learning positive social interaction. Homeschooling actually allows kids to have more time with friends, less time with bullies and those who don't play nicely with others, and the chance to really get to know people of all ages and from all walks of life. Homeschooled kids are more apt to follow their own hearts and consciences, and less likely to be swayed by negative peer pressure.
Here's an excerpt from page 168, “A great deal of evidence supports the claim that homeschoolers end up very well prepared for the 'real world'. One study of adults who had been homeschooled as children found that none were unemployed, none were on welfare, and the vast majority believed homeschooling had helped them to become independent individuals and to interact with people from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.” Gathercole interviewed homeschooled kids and parents from all over the country and included many of their comments as well. One college student and former homeschooler shares her opinion on the “real world” question, “ It was a really comfortable situation and that led to me being really comfortable with who I am and my choices. And I don't see that necessarily in most other people my age. I think that a lot of that has to do with how our public school system takes personal choice out of most of it. You do things because you have to do them...”
This book is organized into chapters that each tackle a specific question or concern.
1.The Socialization Question
2.What Do Homeschoolers Do?
3.What Is Good Socialization, Anyway?
4.Friends and Peer Contact
5.Independence and Strong Family Relationships
6.Safety, Adversity, and Bullying
7.Freedom and Time to Be a Kid
9.Relationships with Other Adults
10.Diversity and Minority Socialization
11.Preparation for the “Real World”
12.Citizenship and Democracy
13.Teenagers, Identity, and Sense of Self
14.The Homeschooling Parent's Social Life
15.Socialization and Success
Appendix A covers practical matters such as recommended resources and tips. It also has a list of state homeschool organizations and other helpful web sites. Appendix B has an impressive list of famous homeschoolers, including such diverse talents as Frankie Muniz and Yehudi Menuhin, Fred Terman and Sandra Day O'Connor.
What more can I say about this book? If it doesn't ease your fears about the “s” word, I don't know what will. Rachel Gathercole has done an amazing job pulling together studies, real life stories, and heartfelt advice and inspiration that make a most convincing argument for homeschooling.