What are the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life, compared to children who went through traditional schools? Many think there’s a lot of negative effects of home education – particularly in regards to socialization. Some think ‘homeschooling and social skills’ are two words that should not be used together. But, this wasn’t my experience and hasn’t been the experience for the vast majority of homeschoolers I know or have heard about anecdotally or in studies.
In this article, we’ll look at some statistics to find out if my experience was typical or atypical. Specifically, we’ll cover:
- Psychological Effects of Home Education Later in Life: My and Another’s Experience
- Positive and Negative Effects of Home Education on Socialization
- Positive Psychological Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life
- Negative Psychological Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life
Let’s get started!
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The first article that currently appears in google if you type in ‘psychological effects of homeschooling‘ is an article about the experience of a home educated girl who didn’t love homeschooling and who had a bad experience (it’s called, Socialization and Psychological Maltreatment: Isolating Children and Teenagers). In the article, the girl says:
‘Socialization” was a joke to my parents, as it was and is for many homeschooling apologists, but the different aspects of isolation are easily categorized as psychological maltreatment.’
This is really sad to hear because it seems that home education can offer a superior socializing experience if only parents value it enough. While I knew some home educating parents who didn’t value socialization very highly, most parents were acutely conscious of the socialization question (this was a significant barrier to them choosing to home educate in the first place).
What is more, I can find no evidence that the issue of socialization is ignored among many home education apologists. In fact, I’ve found the opposite.
Many of my homeschool blogging friends constantly publish articles about the importance of socialization in home educated families and the dangers of failing to do this! I myself have probably talked about this issue in most of my posts (and I am a very ardent apologist for this type of education).
How I Reacted to Being Home Educated
I completed three years of mainstream education in a Christian school and then homeschooled for the rest of my primary and secondary years. Compared to my school experience, I can see almost no negative sides to home education. These were the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life that I noticed for me:
- Boosted self-confidence as I avoided an environment where I felt unloved (school) and felt I had no friends (whether this was true or not).
- Better attention during work time as I wasn’t hung up on what my peers thought and how badly I was performing compared to them (this meant my test scores went from the bottom 10% in my classroom at school to the top 10% at university and assisted me to enter medical school).
- Gratitude towards my parents for pulling me out of school as I thoroughly disliked mainstream education as I felt rejected and unloved most of the time.
- Serenity and Hope – when at home, I was no longer stressed and I didn’t have to put on a fake face to fit in with my peers. I now had hope that life would be cheerful every day as I loved spending time with my new best friends – my parents and my brothers!
- Awe – working in nature more than the classroom rekindled my awe of God and His creation.
- Joy as I restarted my relationship with Jesus. Ironically, when I started attending the Christian school, I began walking away from anything to do with God because I was too distracted by everything around me.
- Love – through homeschooling, I relied on more emotions that can be encompassed by the word love. I loved others more. By comparison, my Christian school felt like a fight, and I constantly dealt with feelings of dislike and negative psychological effects as I struggled throughout the day.
When people ask me to summarize my experience, I say that homeschooling felt like stepping out of a dark, dreary box into a sunny, warm field of flowers.
Socialization: Positive and Negative Effects of Home Education
Some people believe homeschoolers have inadequate social skills. But, after closely examining the definition of socialization, I’m persuaded they have no worse social skills than traditionally schooled children.
Peabody researcher, Joseph Murphy wrote a book called Homeschooling in America, which was a result of a three-year-study into home education. In this book, Murphy disposed of the socialization argument, saying:
A common worry is that children who are home-schooled will not be socialized, but Murphy found that most of these [homeschooled] students have very rich social networks…“Homeschoolers are successful and they don’t perform worse than other students or seem to be disadvantaged in any way,” Murphy said. “If you have one teacher dedicated to one or two children, it’s a success equation, and so it doesn’t surprise me [home education] works.” [Source]
Other research says the effects of homeschooling leads to children who are well-adjusted and happy in their social lives.
Socialization in Homeschools – Positive Effects
If parents homeschool for the right reasons and if they do this because they love their children and want to improve their education, the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life can be amazing for the homeschoolers and their progeny. Statistics say homeschoolers:
- are generally well-adjusted and have high self-esteem.
- had a higher psychological self-concept than their public school peers.
- ‘are not isolated but active, contributing members of society, even in childhood. Ninety-eight percent are involved in weekly church meetings and other activities that require interfacing with various ages and settings.’ [Steven Kelly]
- are more mature and better socialized than those who are sent to school. [Steven Kelly]
- exuded 8 times less antisocial traits [compared to] their traditionally schooled counterparts. [CNB article now removed]
Home education seems to be able to provide an environment in which children flourish under the care and moral guidance of their parents.
Socialization in Homeschools – Negative Effects
If parents homeschool for the wrong reasons and if they only educate because they want greater control over their children and/or want to abuse them, the psychological effects of homeschooling can be disastrous for children and their progeny. Some problems I’ve heard about and seen include:
- Lack of motivation
- School withdrawals
- Parentified daughters
- Parent stress from lack of rest or breaks
- Loneliness (tied to a lack of socialization)
- Homeschooling becoming school at home (you can see these points enumerated on here)
This said these children are in a small minority (Penelope Trunk has said the bar is set so low in public schools that you don’t have to provide much more of a superior environment to beat public schools). I haven’t met many children who have disliked home education. The only common downside I have generally seen is that it’s frustrating when homeschoolers try to relate to schoolchildren on some topics, as they’re not always as versed in popular culture.
This may be an issue when home educated students attend college or high school later in their life. This funny homeschool video below exhibits the point.
However, I don’t see the failure to notice and relate to pop culture as an issue I would want to change in my children, as many of them experience this because their parents discern negative influences and keep their kids away from them by home educating.
Socialization in Public Schools – Should We Be So Keen on It?
In some ways, I’m really glad I didn’t go through socialization in a public school because here’s what the experts say the stages of socialization involves:
- Investigation – whereby an individual sizes up a group and tries to see if it will be a good fit for them. The group does the same. The end of this stage is when the group asks the new person into their group and the person accepts.
- Socialization – the new member accepts the group’s culture whether it’s good or bad! They assimilate into their desired group and adopt their values, norms, and beliefs (whether good or bad)
- Maintenance – the new member and the desired group negotiate what the group expects of the new member (i.e. the way they should act or otherwise contribute to the group). The individual can be ejected from the group if they don’t meet expectations, or they can renegotiate terms and come back into the group.
- Resocialization – depending on the outcome of the maintenance stage of socialization, the disgraced member will be received back into the groups fold and learn to act accordingly, or they will be thrown out indefinitely and have to learn to live outside the group.
- and Remembrance – ex-members recall their memories in the group. They make sense of their departure and figure out their reasons for leaving. [Source]
Personally, that sounds rough and mean. Do kids really need to go through that to be socialized? We should seriously question this.
Positive Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life
Some people will argue homeschooling is a bad idea on faulty evidence they’ve been given. They think home educators lack the ability to instil good social skills. But, many think this because they’ve been sold the lie that school is the only place that allows children to socialize properly, and with enough breadth. But, I believe the evidence shows there’s a lot of positive psychological effects people fail to account for that happens in a homeschool.
Academics: Positive Outcomes of Homeschooling
Academically, there have been so many positive psychological effects of homeschooling for me. When I went to school, I consistently scored badly and had a lot of social hang up as a result of the negative peer pressure around me. At school, I felt like I was an academic failure, and this seemed to be backed up by the constant testing we did.
When my parents homeschooled me, I didn’t feel pressured at all and I wasn’t competing with anyone. I only had to get my work done for the day. Consequently, I performed much better in my homeschool and was very motivated.
When I reached university, I found home education had helped me to motivate myself to study, and I excelled, despite not being the brightest in my primary school classroom. I soon scored in the top 10 percentile and ended up studying a medical degree for a year.
There’s also a lot of evidence home educated students academically do at least as well as traditionally schooled students in their studies, and in college.
The study most quoted on this topic is by Brian Ray, author of the Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling. The article says American homeschoolers perform on the 80th percentile, whereas their public school peers perform on the 50th percentile. And:
The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) A 2015 study found Black homeschool students to be scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015). [Source]
See this article on home educated students test scores vs public school students test scores for more information on academics.
Home Education Can Give Children Great Social Lives
My kids were much better at getting along with people of all ages when they were homeschooled and were able to be cheerful and outgoing in public and get along with their peers and friends. They learnt to interact with the world in a much more real way than being expected only to know how to communicate with other kids their age. [Why on Earth Homeschool]
General Negative Effects of Homeschooling Later in Life
My article The Potential Problems with Homeschooling currently ranks #5 around the world on this topic. The article is a well-thought-out blog on what can go wrong when parents abuse and neglect their children when home educating.
It is not about what is wrong in every household that tries to educate its children. On the contrary, I believe (from experience, and from the extensive amount of research I’ve done) these problems are present in very few homeschools. This seems to be backed up by a study from the National Home Education Research Institute:
“The limited evidence available shows that homeschooled children are abused at a lower rate than are those in the general public, and no evidence shows that the home educated are at any higher risk of abuse” (Ray, 2018; Williams, 2017) [Source]
However, the reason you hear people saying, ‘homeschooling messed me up,’ and ‘homeschooling ruined my life‘ is that these things happen in some homeschools because of:
- no deschooling plans
- legalism as opposed to gospel-centred approaches
- abusive or neglectful parents
- parents who don’t value socialization
Unfortunately, these things can result in:
- school withdrawals that are badly handled
- child loneliness (from lazy, fearful or rural home educating parents)
- lack of child motivation to do bookwork
- no sufficient break for parents, often because they feel like they need to do too much and they get burned out
- homeschools becoming like school-at-home – another thing that leads to home educator burnout
- parentified daughters – children (mostly daughters) who are leaned on so heavily by parents that they ‘lose their childhood.
Long-term studies suggest the psychological effects of homeschooling later in life are generally positive. Home educated students are doing well and are certainly no worse off compared to their public school peers. While some people may talk about homeschool neglect and abuse, statistics clearly don’t indicate anything of the sort. Far from it. My experience and the studies that I’ve read over many years which are recorded in my book show the opposite is true and homeschooled children are happy and well-adjusted individuals.