Category Archives: Homeschool

The Homeschool Socialization Myth

By Jeanne Crosbie

I Forgot to Socialize the KidsI am pretty sure that, as homeschool parents, we have all heard the question, “What about socialization?” And we have all probably found it odd because one of the reasons that we do homeschool is to avoid some of the issues surrounding socialization.

Dictionaries state that socialization is:  to teach one to behave in an acceptable way in society by learning and adapting our behaviour to society’s customs, attitudes and norms.  So then, the real question becomes, how does one become well socialized?

Socialization is done through training—interacting with and modeling the behaviour of others in one’s surrounding environment.  Others being adults and peers.  Children raised in a peer-dominant environment quickly begin to perceive the behaviours of the peer group as the accepted norm and model it themselves.  They falsely believe that more people act this way than is actually true.  (“But Mom, everyone else is doing it!”)

The institutional education system creates just such an environment.  Large groups of children  of the same age are placed together in a setting that has little discipline, accountability and few expectations.  Everything is provided, except responsibility, as they are trained to be passive and compliant while being passed on from year to year.  With the increase in single parent families and two parent income families, children spend more and more time in a peer dominant culture and their focus shifts from parents to peers.  (Wasn’t this the plot for Lord of the Flies? Remember how well that turned out?)

In a parent-dominated environment, children interact with adults who model good behaviour and have more meaningful conversations.  Knowing that they have caring adults in their lives that have certain expectations of them creates responsible and accountable youngsters.  Free to become independent thinkers not dependent on peer values, they can resist being influenced, and are better able to direct their own thoughts and actions.

And contrary to popular belief, homeschool families are actually average people from all walks of life.  On a regular basis, they leave their homes to participate in their communities just as fully as anyone else.  Opportunities are provided to interact with a wide variety of different people.

Many studies have been conducted that compare homeschool children to traditionally educated children.  None have shown homeschool in a negative light with respect to either academics or socialization.  In fact, most research shows homeschooled children to be more mature and have better social skills with fewer behavioural issues than their institutionally educated counterparts.

It would seem that the only thing homeschool children are lacking is the negative pressure to conform to the poor standards of peer group behaviour, making the argument that children must be around other children in order to be properly socialized, rather absurd.  In fact, one may wonder if the shift towards increased institutionalized care of our children at a younger and younger age might be the cause of many of society’s modern ills.

Sources:

“Social Behaviours: Public vs. Home Educated Children”, OFTP website

“Socialization: Homeschoolers Are in the Real World”, by Chris Klicka,                                        HS Legal Defense  Association Website

“Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts”, by Isabel Shaw,                                                                        homeeducation.com

Testing as Learning

By Jeanne Crosbie

   northumberland homeschool studying  I came across an interesting article in Scientific American (August 2015) titled “Building the 21st Century Learner”, which presented the most recent research on learning from the fields of cognitive science and psychology.  The findings are practical and easily implemented by any homeschooler.

               The article states that, when done right, testing, a much disparaged practise these days produces: i) a better recall of facts and, ii) a deeper more complex understanding.  Engaging in related learning activities before and after testing can further enhances these effects.

               Testing puts into play a process called retrieval practise.  It is not enough to merely read material, one must also in the course of studying be able to recall and present the studied material.  Every time we call up or “retrieve” knowledge from memory, our memory changes.  Mental representations become stronger, more stable, and more accessible.  Memories are altered in anticipation of future need or demand.  Calling up information from memory, versus rereading information, produces higher activity in certain areas of the brain improving the retention of related information through memory association.  Studies have proven this to be the best, most effective method of learning.  Retrieval has been proven to be superior to concept mapping, highlighting and reviewing notes, all of which have been shown to be the least effective ways to study.

               Using testing for retrieval practise involves presenting learning material, followed by recall by the learner, without access to the original material.  Recall may take the form of written notes for the older child or oral narration for the younger child.  Repeated at spaced intervals over the course of days, weeks or months ensures retention of knowledge.  Charlotte Mason, the beloved and still much followed 19th century British homeschool proponent, knew this. What she termed Narration, the assimilating of information followed by its retelling, required children to focus and then allowed their minds to classify and connect the information given.  In the act of retelling or “retrieving”, one’s mind acts on the material in an original way, choosing what to leave in or out.  And we cannot narrate what we do not know.  In another nod to past wisdom, flashcards, much maligned by modern educators as “kill and drill”, used in small doses, at spaced intervals, are also highly effective learning tools.  (Quick: what’s 9×7?!)

               Retrieval practise has also been shown to foster both Transfer and Metacognition. Transfer being the ability to take knowledge in a known context and apply it to another unfamiliar context, while metacognition is our ability to think about, and manage our own learning.  Feedback from tests and exams can provide valuable information to help us direct our own planning of how to best approach a given learning task, and evaluate our progress toward the achievement of that task, thus providing a much deeper learning experience.

               Testing done right can be much more than an assessment tool – it can boost learning too.