The Washington Times
August 4, 1998

Students’ social skills are not undeveloped

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
August 4, 1998

Parents considering home schooling their children usually face four questions when deciding whether to become home educators.

1. Do home schooled children miss out on learning social skills?

Anyone who has been home schooling longer than two weeks has been asked this question dozens of times. It was the first question I asked when I first heard of home schooling in 1982.

Do you want your child to be doing his algebra assignment while talking to his girlfriend on the telephone? Probably not. Common sense tells you that some separation of academics and socializing is a good idea.

In home schooling, a good amount of socializing is done at the right time and with the right people. Home schooled youngsters are active in community sports, scouting, church activities, 4-H, political volunteering, community service and more. When it is time for academics, home schooled students approach their studies with vigor. The same vigor is present in social contact and service.

On a more technical level, socializing is understood properly by professional sociologists as the method by which we teach the next generation the rules of society. Do we really want 6-year-olds responsible for teaching social skills to each other? Isn’t it better for our children to learn the rules of society and the values that make society work from responsible adults?

If you home school, your children will not be social misfits. After 15 years of home schooling with my own family, let me assure you that your children will turn out fine.

2. Where do I get curriculum information?

There are three basic sources for curriculum information: 1) home school conventions, 2) home school magazines, 3) state and local home school groups.

The Home School Legal Defense Association can provide potential home school educators with the names and phone numbers of local support groups in their area. Our phone number is 540-338-5600.

3. Can home schoolers get into college?

Home schoolers have been accepted to virtually every college or university in the nation. Some colleges have very aggressive recruiting policies that seek home schoolers as a result of good experiences with prior students.

For example, staff from Geneva College in Pennsylvania and Belhaven College in Mississippi are actively recruiting home schoolers by going to home school conferences and book fairs to talk to parents and students about admissions.

A letter sent in 1990 to home school leaders in Massachusetts from George A. Schiller Jr., director of admissions at Boston University, is another example of the recognition institutions of higher learning are showing home schoolers’ academic achievements.

“Boston University welcomes applications from home schooled students,” the letter states. “We believe students educated at home possess the passion for knowledge, the independence and the self-reliance that enable them to excel in our intellectually challenging programs of study.”

However, there is a bit more rigor required than for a traditional high school graduate. In addition to the standard achievement tests (SAT or ACT) required of all students, home schoolers will be expected to provide good written documentation of the kind of course work they have done in the high school years and an explanation for the grades that have been assigned.

If a student has very high SAT scores, a parent’s statement that the applicant has been an “A” student will be received fairly readily.

Many home schooled students take a course or two at a local junior college during their high school years. If a student does will in such courses, a four-year college or university probably will accept at face value a parent’s assessment that the student has done well in home-based courses as well.

4. Can I give my child what he or she needs in the challenging high school courses?

First, consider a class that you could teach if you simply had a bit of a refresher. That was the way I was with teaching algebra to my two oldest daughters. I nearly panicked when on the first day of the school year I opened the algebra book into the middle and saw quadratic equations. I had no memory of how to do quadratic equations. But I was more than capable of teaching the first several lessons and began to remember the subject as I went through it with my daughters.

By the time we got to quadratic equations, I had relearned what I needed to know to impart the material in their lessons each morning.

There is a second kind of subject—one that the parent has never learned. For this kind of subject, which is almost exclusively a high school phenomenon, enrollment at a friendly private school or a junior college for a single class or hiring a tutor have been the standard response for most families.

High-tech alternatives are on the way and will make most other choices for specialized classes obsolete. Such is the case with a constitutional law course I teach over the Internet for high school students.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 1998 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at http://www.washtimes.com.