Homeschooled But Not Lonely

For Karen Jetton of Apex, homeschooling her three children has always been the perfect situation. Teaching extends beyond the basic textbooks into the Triangle’s vast community of museums, parks and universities. And her children stay busy throughout the year with more traditional afterschool activities such as scouting, 4-H and sports.
Although some wonder about the socialization of homeschool students, local parents, homeschool leaders and a national educator agree that the vast majority of students excel due to broadened opportunities with both their peers and adults.

“People often make a big deal about the fact my children are not in class every day with other children,” says Jetton. “My children participate in mainstream activities just like everyone else. And they certainly know how to handle themselves and are incredible successful.”

Most homeschooling families agree that images of homeschool students sitting alone at the kitchen table with their mother day-in and day-out are far from complete. Today’s homeschool students, they say, are active in many community and recreational activities. Special homeschool groups also offer numerous athletic and academic programs and classes for students and parents alike.

Ernie Hodges, president of the North Carolinians for Home Education, believes many still question the socialization of homeschool students even though other educational and testing concerns have been proven invalid.

“We have seen that homeschool students can take the required standardized tests and get into major universities,” he says. “We have shown that homeschooling can work and students can succeed. Now, the only thing left to still question is the socialization issue.”
North Carolinians for Home Education, the state’s largest homeschooling organization with more than 5,000 families, sponsored the sixth annual North Carolina State Homeschool Basketball Tournament last February.

Numerous community organizations, such as the Cary Family YMCA, offer special athletic programs for homeschool students. Frequently, homeschool groups and area churches organize academic programs and special field trips.
Dr. Susan McDowell, a Nashville, Tenn.-based author and educator who has researched the issue of homeschooling and socialization, says homeschool students do successfully interact with other children and adults.

In her 2004 book But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question, McDowell uses research, facts and homeschoolers’ experiences to answer questions and counteract myths about homeschooling and socialization.
She based her overall conclusion on the combined results of 24 studies into the issue of socialization and homeschooling.

“Homeschool students are at least as social as their public school peers,” McDowell says of the research. “And, in the majority of the cases, their socialization skills exceed those of students educated in public schools. It is really a win-win conclusion for everyone.”
Jetton, the mother of three homeschool students, and Richard Bowden of the Cary Homeschoolers Group, certainly agree with the findings of McDowell’s research on the socialization of homeschool students.

Two of Jetton’s three children – Justin and Kate – are excelling as college students after being homeschooled for almost their whole childhood. Kate attended public high school for one semester, before returning to her home studies.
Justin, a junior at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, earned a college scholarship, studied in Italy last year and is working as a dorm resident advisor. Accepted at N.C. State University, he selected St. Andrews for its smaller campus and classes.

Kate is a sophomore at Queens College in Charlotte. Cameron, 16, is homeschooled, but also is taking a computer 3-D modeling class at Wake Technical Community College.
Among their many activities as homeschool students, they were volunteers at the N.C. Museum of Life and Science in Durham and active in several music and band programs.
“I have spent thousands of hours in the car making sure they have had numerous opportunities,” says Jetton. “Successfully homeschooling your children is a big commitment and really a lifestyle change for the entire family.”

Bowden’s two children, Andrea, 8, and Benjamin, 6, also stay active in the community with numerous special programs and events.
“Teaching your children at home is really customized education,” he says. “It is really the best kind of education for our children.”
The Bowdens are active in the Cary Homeschoolers, a social and educational group involving approximately 130 families in the Cary area. The group plans at least two activities each week. Bowden’s children also participate in soccer, football and baseball leagues and attended church camp this summer. They also have taken gymnastic classes at a local Cary facility.
“Our children are extremely involved and outgoing socially in a number of events,” he says. “They certainly are not lacking in their socialization skills or opportunities because they are homeschooled.”