The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling
ISBN 978-1-60065-107-6 Mapletree Publishing Company
Whenever homeschooling is mentioned, one of the first questions we will often be asked relates to the socialisation of our children. How will we make sure that our children develop socially? Are you not harming your child by not allowing them to form peer-group friendships? What about their development of independence? Will you child really be able to cope in the ‘real world’ after such a ‘sheltered’ experience? I am sure you will have been asked similar questions, all surrounding the area of socialisation in the home educated child.
Admittedly, this has been one of my own concerns. Therefore I was motivated to read this book and find out more! Also, I sometimes find it hard to clearly articulate my views, especially when I feel the person I am speaking to is being critical or antagonistic; therefore I wanted to become more familiar with some of the evidence. I wanted to both come to an improved personal understanding of the issues involved, and also to be prepared to give balanced, logical answers to the questions (and at times criticism!) that I know will continue.
Rachel Gathercole writes from the perspective of a parent who has homeschooled her children for more than a decade, and who has also conducted detailed qualitative research among a diverse range of homeschooling families based in North America. Both parents and children are quoted throughout the book, illustrating their own experiences of the benefits of home education in the area of social development. This is not a book focussing on one specific benefit, for example the spiritual education and instillation of values in our children, but rather considers a wide range of situations, circumstances, and families.
I found her style of writing extremely helpful. Both evidence and anecdote are extensively quoted, and there is a very logical structure of presentation, focussing on several key themes. Following an introduction to the ‘socialisation question’, there are chapters discussing, ‘What do homeschoolers do?’; ‘What is good socialisation anyway?’; ‘Friends and peer contact’; ‘Independence and strong family relationships’; ‘Safety, adversity and bullying’; ‘Freedom and time to be a kid’; ‘Being “cool”’; ‘Relationships with other adults’; ‘Diversity and minority socialisation’; ‘Preparation for the “real world”’; ‘Citizenship and democracy’; ‘Teenagers, identity and sense of self’; ‘The homeschooling parent’s social life’ and ‘Socialisation and success’ followed by appendices containing practical suggestions and resources.
I was greatly encouraged and inspired through reading this book! As a family we had already considered many of the things mentioned, and reached similar conclusions. But I found seeing some of my own thoughts and ideas clearly spelled out gave me greater confidence. In fact, rather than even being a socially neutral process, I came to appreciate some of the immense benefits of home education as we prepare our children to become well-rounded and functional adults within our society.
I would highly recommend this book to those who are considering home education, but have concerns about the social aspects of this. I would recommend it to those who have already started, and may be facing negative reactions from friends and family. I would recommend it to those who have been home schooling for longer, as an encouragement regarding the multiple and diverse benefits of their dedicated investment in their children at a key time of life.