It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."
Many homeschoolers share this sentiment when it comes to public schools, believing that the moral relativism, violence, peer pressure, drugs and promiscuity found inside their gates provide an inadequate setting to properly socialize their children.
Yet 92 percent of superintendents believe that home learners are emotionally unstable, deprived of proper social development and too judgmental of the world around them, according to a California study by researcher Dr. Brian Ray .
What makes homeschool socialization such a hot topic?
With approximately 4 million children currently being homeschooled in the U.S., along with a 15- to 20-percent yearly growth rate, many professional educators and school boards are concerned that this exodus will keep funds from entering the public education system.
Many teachers also believe that successful home instruction by uncredentialed parents undermines their expertise and jeopardizes their jobs.
Questions about inadequate socialization are often brought up as a means to disqualify homeschooling as a viable alternative form of education, but are the arguments valid?
A look at the research on this socialization debate shines further light on the issue.
There's no place like home
Why is there such a dichotomy in the socialization experienced between homeschoolers and conventional students? It all has to do with the learning environment.
The National Home Education Research Institute disclosed that the 36 to 54 hours that students spend in school-related weekly activities make peers and adults outside of the home the primary influences in children's lives - not the parents.
Realizing the harm that this constant exposure can produce, especially if it's not countered by involved parenting, most homeschoolers are well aware of their children's need for close one-to-one contact throughout the education process.
Jesus understood the importance of continual intimate contact with His students, as He ate, slept and fellowshipped with His disciples 24 hours a day. It is unlikely that Jesus would have entrusted their training to strangers.
So how do these different settings affect children? Dr. Thomas Smedley believes that homeschoolers have superior socialization skills, and his research supports this claim. He conducted a study in which he administered the Vineyard Adaptive Behavior Scales test to identify mature and well-adapted behaviors in children. Home learners ranked in the 84th percentile, compared to publicly schooled students, who were drastically lower in the 23rd.
Welcome to the real world
Many school socialization advocates argue that homeschooling precludes children from experiencing real life.
Instead of being locked behind school gates in what some would consider an artificial setting characterized by bells, forced silence and age-segregation, homeschoolers frequently extend their everyday classroom to fire departments, hospitals, museums, repair shops, city halls, national parks, churches and colleges, where real community interaction and contacts are made.
Dismantling the stereotype that home learners spend their days isolated from society at kitchen tables with workbooks in hand, NHERI reports that they actually participate in approximately five different social activities outside the home on a regular basis.
Furthermore, researcher Dr. Linda Montgomery found that 78 percent of high school home learners were employed with paying jobs, while a majority engaged in volunteering and community service.
Research presented at the National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference divulged that homeschool graduates far exceeded their public and private school counterparts in college by ranking the highest in 42 of 63 indicators of collegiate success. They were also ranked as being superior in four out of five achievement categories, including socialization, as they were assessed as being the most charismatic and influential.
Biblical or worldly socialization?
When most home educators and school administrators speak of successful socialization, are they referring to the same thing?
Education researcher Dr. Michael Mitchell found that being popular, aggressively competitive, materialistically driven and self-confident are traits promoted in conventional schools.
His study shows that these campus ideals are discouraged by Christian home educators in favor of building their children's character and dismantling selfish ambitions. Integrity, responsibility, respect for others, trust in God, biblical soundness and an amiable disposition topped the ideal social qualities they desired their youth to embody.
Many Christians who homeschool believe that the greatest socialization their children can have is to be trained to emulate Jesus, who is a servant of man. Home educators examined by Mitchell strive to dismantle any selfish ambitions and self-aggrandizement seen in their children, as opposed to cultivating them.
Getting ahead of one's peers is not consistent with Jesus' urging in Matthew 20:25b-28, which calls for Christians to seek a lowly and servile role to those around them. However, this does not mean that Christians are called to underachieve, as Colossians 3:23 exhorts readers to push for peak performance in every endeavor, but for the glory of God rather than for selfish ambition.
Pride is also promoted in the public schools. It is often repackaged as self-esteem in programs such as "Here's Looking at You, 2000," in which education researcher Dr. Amy Binder reports that students are instructed to believe that they are "the most important person in the world."
Many Christian home educators assert that the kind of pride being taught in the schools is discouraged throughout Scripture by Jesus and Paul, who preach against lifting oneself up or putting oneself first in favor of assuming a lowly position among others, as seen in Luke 14:10-11 and Romans 12:3.
They often contend that traditional students are driven to achieve high marks in order to attain lucrative and prestigious jobs that can lead to lives of self-indulgence, while the Bible calls man not to be overcome by material concerns.
Even though God enjoys prospering His children, He also warns us in 1 Timothy 6:10 that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
The mass socialization conducted within schools has brought about a proliferation of delinquent behavior within this nation's youth, reports education researcher, Dr. Michael Slavinski. He notes that student bodies are increasingly riddled with violence, drugs, promiscuity, emotional disorders, crime, contempt for authority, desperate behavior, illiteracy and peer dependency - just to name a few.
Today, parents are not as surprised to see reports of fifth-graders having sex in class; hear about school shootings; find drugs or condoms in backpacks; receive phone calls from the police and principals; or witness defiant, apathetic and unrecognizable tones in their children's voices.
"Live and let learn," say many parents. Most home educators are fine with this, as long as their children's learning comes from mature, seasoned and embracing adults who have the children's best interests at heart - above political or economic agendas. They believe that such training shouldn't come from peers either, which amounts to the blind leading the blind.
When the Direct Observation Form of the Child Behavior Checklist was administered by education researcher Dr. Larry Shyers to identify 97 problematic behaviors in two groups of children, traditionally schooled students exuded eight times as many antisocial traits than their homeschooled counterparts. This lies in direct contrast to claims by public school advocates that exposure to campus life leads to proper socialization.
Light of the world
Many Christian parents are concerned that homeschooling would not allow their children to fulfill the great commission of sharing the gospel with non-believers. They often site Matthew 5:14-16 about being the light of the world.
Some Christian homeschool parents argue that even though young believers are to reach out to the lost, they are not called to immerse themselves daily in a hostile setting that constantly works to influence them in the ways of the world. They recognize that those with strong Christian upbringings are still vulnerable to the ungodly climate of the schools.
In Proverbs 4:11-15, King Solomon realized the vulnerability of his son, proclaiming his responsibility to train him in godly teachings and keep him from stumbling over the vices of this world.
Just as parents know that children are not prepared for war, many Christians believe that youth are not equipped to fend for themselves in the spiritual warfare taking place within schools.
A nationwide survey conducted by The Barna Group shows that 80 percent of Christian families send their children to public schools where their faith is attacked. Based on the study's findings, it appears that their kids are the ones being "evangelized" by the religion of secular humanism. More than half of their Christian teens believe Jesus actually sinned and only nine percent hold to moral absolutes, while 83 percent of children from committed Christian families attending public schools adopt a Marxist-Socialist worldview, reports the group.
For more statistics on Christians in education, click on The Barna Group.
Consistent with these figures, Christian producer and occult expert Caryl Matrisciana reports that 75 percent of public-schooled American youth brought up in Christian households disown their Christian faith by the first year of college. NHERI finds that this is only true for less than four percent of homeschooled youth.
Most home educators would not trade the blessings that homeschooling brings their families and society for the world.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, The Barna Group, NHERI, Dr. Michael Slavinski, Dr. Brian Ray, Dr. Thomas C. Smedley, Dr. Larry E. Shyers, Dr. Michael Mitchell, Dr. Linda Montgomery, Dr. Rhonda A. Galloway, Dr. Amy Binder