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Homeschooling - Family Connectedness And Relationships

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Homeschooling clearly puts fathers and mothers in a position of being connected to, responsible for, and having authority over their children. This is because homeschooling returns a critical social function—the education of children—to the family. A long and gradual history of social events and accepted conventions over the past 150 years, however, placed specially trained persons into the role of teachers of children. These events also drew many crucial educational functions out of the home environment, away from parents and into institutions, most state-controlled but some private. Allan C. Carlson, historian and organizer of the international World Congress of Families held in Switzerland, explains much of this in From Cottage to Work Station (1993) as he describes ". . . the steady dismantling of the home-centered economy . . ." (p. 17). Institutional schooling places institutionally trained teachers in authority over children and puts these teachers in loco parentis (i.e., in place of the parents). Children and youth in schools, therefore, ascribe to these teachers great prestige and influence in their own lives regarding matters of knowledge, values, beliefs, and worldview (Good and Brophy 1987; Blizek 2000; Brophy 1996).

Whereas historically children once accepted their parents as the primary authorities in their lives, increased institutional schooling shifted the locus of authority and control to state and private schools and personnel. Modern home-based and parent-led education reverses this trend because parents continue the education of their children under their own direction (or retrieve them from institutional schools where they had sent them). The parents, therefore, are able to select learning activities, curriculum materials, and community and social activities that are consistent with their own family's values and beliefs and what they think is best for the upbringing of their children. Research shows that institutional school children are more peer-dependent than are homeschooled children; that is, institutional school children exhibit a ". . . significantly greater focus on peers and nonfamily individuals than do the home educated" (Delahooke 1986, p. xiv). Research also indicates ". . . that there are stabilizing forces within home school family systems which allow most of these families to accommodate higher levels of both adaptability and cohesion than the population of families whose children are more conventionally schooled" (Allie-Carson 1990, p. 17).

Many professionals and laypersons today assume, without research evidence, that for normal social and psychological development, children need day-long interaction with same-age peers for five to six days per week. Modern homeschoolers, however, are providing evidence to the contrary and supporting centuries of social history. Research is revealing that due to the increased time together and sharing of experiences between parents and their home-educated children, their social capital (i.e., social relations such as trust and love) is increasing (Coleman and Hoffer 1987; Ray 1990). Their daily increased time, adult-child interaction, and opportunities to reach common goals allow them to establish stronger familial bonds, more trust, and enhanced communication into and through the years of young adulthood than would be possible if the children and youth spent less time with their parents and more with their peers (Allie-Carson 1990; Delahooke 1986; Wartes 1992).

In a similar manner, home-educated children spend more time with their siblings and therefore have more opportunity to develop close ties with them. Rather than focusing large amounts of attention on their nonfamily same-age peers, home-schoolers are able to learn with their brothers and sisters, teach and care for their younger siblings, model after their older siblings, and share in daily real-life experiences with one another. There is evidence that this is leading to stronger life-long bonds among siblings than is likely among siblings who spend about forty hours per week with non-sibling same-age peers (Ray 2002).

Many homeschool families are also integrating multiple generations into the education of the children. Education based at home and in the family increases the likelihood that grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other older community members will participate in the education of the children. The more organic and flexible time schedule and the inviting nature of the home environment are welcoming to extended family members to participate in the educational enterprise. The children and youth then learn from a wider variety of ages of family and local community members. Simultaneously the grandparents and others have an important role to play in the family and society during their senior years of life (Lowe and Thomas 2002; Sheffer 1995).

Finally, research indicates that the overall effect of homeschooling on children and youth is to prepare them for healthy and virtuous relationships within and outside of their families. The psychologist Richard G. Medlin stated in "Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization" (2000), a review of research to date, that several conclusions could be made about homeschooling and socialization, although many unanswered questions remain. The conclusions were, first, that homeschool children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. Second, they are not socially isolated and, in fact, associate with—and feel close to—many kinds of people. Third, home-school parents are concerned about their children's long-term social development and actively encourage their children to participate in social opportunities outside the family. Fourth, home-school children acquire the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes that they need for successful living. Fifth, they have healthy self-esteem and are likely to display fewer behavior problems than do those in institutional schools. Sixth, they may have better leadership skills and be more socially mature than others. Finally, they appear to be functioning effectively as members of adult society.

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