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Sociability of Students in a Home-based
By Craig Butz
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Homeschooling is one of the fastest growing trends in American
education, with approximately two percent of school-aged children
in the United States being taught at home. The number of students
taught at home is growing at a rate of 15 to 40 percent per year
and is expected to double in the next five years (Lyman, 1998).
Homeschooling is defined as a learning/teaching situation
in which students spend the majority of the school day at their
home rather than in a traditional school with their peers, and
parents or guardians are the prime teachers of their children
(Martin, 1997). Because, home-schooled children are not in a
traditional classroom, one of the most common criticisms of home-based
education is that students do not have similar opportunities
that are available in the traditional educational setting for
socializing with peers and therefore do not advance socially
at a rate similar to students from a traditional school (Martin,
1997; Lyman, 1998).
Chatham-Carpenter (1994) found that although homeschooled
children had similarly sized social networks, they did not have
as many social interactions on a weekly basis as students in
traditional school settings. Socialization is believed to be
a very important aspect of traditional school experiences. Students
in traditional school attend classes together, eat lunch together,
play at recess together, and learn about individual differences
together. According to Lyman (1998), some critics state that
students who are schooled at home will grow into adults who are
incapable of coping with a world built upon diverse ideas, cultures,
morals, and values. These critics believe that homeschooling
will perpetuate insular thought, racism, intolerance, and societal
On the other hand, parents who teach their children at home
cite safety, academics, moral and ethical issues, and a desire
to build strong family bonds as the top four reasons for their
decision to educate their children at home (Lyman, 1998). Many
parents who home-school their children state that their children
actually have more opportunities for social activities than if
they were in traditional school because of the flexibility and
time that their daily schedules allow (Lyman, 1998). Sports,
scouts, family activities, playing with friends, traveling, and
church activities are typical of the activities that parents
feel they have more time for when students are not in school
all day and coming home with homework at night. Parents say that
socialization is preparation for adulthood, and children need
to learn social skills and norms in a secure setting like the
home with the parent as the guide (Tillman, 1995).
The type of socialization students may encounter in public
schools is a major concern for many parents who choose homeschooling.
In fact, 98% of parents surveyed in a study done in Kentucky
stated that they disliked the social influence of peer groups
in public schools (Grubb, 1998). According to Lyman (1998), children
who are home-schooled often have fewer behavior problems than
those schooled in traditional settings. Positive sociability
includes qualities like cooperation, helpfulness, and supportiveness
and it is strongly correlated to peer acceptance (Hanna, 1998).
One alternative that some families who have homeschooled in
the past are now choosing is home-based public charter schools.
In this type of school, children spend the bulk of their day
at home working on their educational program. Licensed teachers
who interact with the student either by phone, email, or in person
direct the education. When the teacher is not available, the
parent or guardian will supervise the day-to-day studying by
the student. Students who attend this type of school may have
the opportunity to participate in group activities organized
by the school to further their social opportunities. In fact,
Yarnell, (1998) writes that with the emerging role of the Internet,
homeschoolers have more opportunity for collaboration and socialization
with others. There are no studies at this time that examine the
sociability of students who attend an organized home-based public
charter school. This study investigates whether students who
have attended a home-based public charter school since the 1999-2000
school year will score as well in sociability ratings as students
who have been in a traditional school for that same time period.
This study also examines whether there are any gender differences
in sociability in students attending the home-based charter school
Participants and Setting
One hundred and two parents of students currently enrolled
in a home-based public charter school in a large western urban
city have volunteered to take part in this study. Students who
attend this school do the bulk of their schoolwork at home under
the supervision of their parents. Teachers from the school visit
each of their students once per week in the student's home to
check previous work, assign new work, and give direct instruction
in areas of need for the student. The students also have the
opportunity to interact with other students in twice-monthly
group classes, instructional field trips, and social activities
such as skate nights and holiday parties.
Parents of students who have been enrolled in the home-based
public charter school since its first year of operation in 1999
comprised one of the two groups, and parents of students who
have just started with the charter school for the 2001-2002 school
year and have attended traditional school settings for at least
the past two years were included in the second group. There were
28 students who have been in the school since its opening. Of
those 28, 18 were male and 10 were female. They ranged in age
from eight to fourteen. There were 74 students who were in there
first year in the school and had not been previously homeschooled.
All of the 74 students in this group had been in traditional
school settings for at least the previous two years. Of those
74, 41 were male and 33 were female. They also ranged in age
from eight to fourteen.
Scores for sociability were derived from a sociability index
questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 35 items from the
Personality Inventory for Children (PIC) (Lachar, Gdowski, &
Snyder, 1982). The questionnaire was modified from the true/false
format of the PIC to a five-point Likert scale with the answers
ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
A high score indicates high sociability. The PIC is an extensively
researched 600-item instrument that assesses behavior, affect,
cognitive status, psychopathology, and family functioning of
children 3-16 years old by having parents respond to brief statements
about the child. The scales were normed on a sample of 2,582
children who had no previous mental health contact and have had
excellent validity and reliability results in testing (Rohr,
1996). The PIC has been demonstrated to be an effective tool
for differentiating between children with Pervasive Developmental
Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and children with
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Jensen & Larrieu,
1997). The items for the sociability index scale were selected
because they reflect the social/emotional abilities of the individual.
Before data collection, the assigned teacher delivered a consent
form to each participant. The form described the purpose of the
study and asked the parents to participate in the study. Data
collection for this study took place in the participants' homes
during the weekly instructional visit with the home-based charter
school's teacher assigned to each individual. The 29 teachers
who work for the home-based charter school distributed the questionnaire
to the parents as a part of the weekly session. The investigator
entered the data as the questionnaires were returned to the school's
Results and Discussion
The sociability questionnaire was scored by averaging the
35 items to give a total possible score ranging between one and
five. Independent t-test was conducted to compare the group means.
Equality of variance was tested using Levene's test. The equality
of variance assumption was met, F (100) = 3.14, p > .05. The
students who have been in the home-based charter school since
its opening obtained statistically significantly higher sociability
scores (n = 28, M = 4.18, SD = .46) than the students who were
new to the school and previously attended traditional schools
(n = 74, M = 3.91, SD = .62), t (100) = 2.09, p < .05. There
was no statistically significant difference between the group
means of the male students' sociability (n = 59, M = 3.97, SD
= .60) and that of the female students (n = 43, M = 4.00, SD
= .57), t (100) = -.324, p > .50.
The results of this study indicate that students who are educated
in the home-based charter school are not adversely affected in
their socialization ability. The fact that students who have
been in the charter school since it opened scored higher than
those who have been in traditional schools shows that not attending
traditional school does not automatically mean students will
be less socialized. As with the students in the literature, (Chatham-Carpenter,
1994, Tillman, 1995, & Lyman, 1998), the students in the
charter school have other opportunities to interact with other
children and with adults other than just at school.
Although it was the original hypothesis of the study that
the two groups would have similar sociability scores, the students
who were new to the school had significantly lower scores. This
may have been a result of the type of student whose parents opt
out of traditional schools. It may be that these students were
having social difficulties in traditional schools, which lead
their parents to choose an alternative educational setting. It
is possible that these students would have remained in the traditional
school setting had they been in a comfortable social situation.
Future research may examine the long-term effect of being
in a home-based program. A longitudinal study that measures the
initial sociability of students who are home-schooled and the
sociability of the same students after many years could determine
if there was any change in sociability in the students. Comparing
students in the home-based charter school with students still
in the traditional school setting may be a better comparison
because the two groups would both be likely to be comfortable
in their settings.
Other future research could examine whether there are gender
differences in sociability of students who attend home-based
school programs, and whether there is any difference in the sociability
of students who spend the majority of their time with their mother
as compared with those who spend the majority of their time with
Proponents of home-based charter schools may want to continue
the research into sociability of students educated outside of
the traditional school setting. If data show students are not
adversely affected in their socialization by learning at home,
one of the most common criticisms of this program delivery model
will be weakened.
Chatham-Carpenter, A. (1994). Home vs. public schoolers: differing
Home School Researcher, 10(1), 15-22.
Grubb, D. (1998). Homeschooling: Who and Why?
Presented at the Mid-South
Educational Research Association Annual Meeting.
Hanna, N. (1998). Predictors of friendship quality and peer
group acceptance at summer camp.
Journal of Early Adolescence, 18(3), 291-319.
Jensen, V., & Larrieu, J. (1997). Differential diagnosis
deficit/hyperactivity disorder and pervasive developmental disorder-not
Clinical Pediatrics, 36(10), 555-561.
Lachar, D., Gdowski, C.L., & Snyder, D.K. (1982). Personality
Inventory for Children.
Western Psychological Services.
Lyman, I. (1998). Not Home Alone.
National Review, 50(17), 30-34.
Martin, M. (1997). Homeschooling: Parents' Reactions. (Report
No. 141) Washington, DC
U.S. Department of Education.
Rohr, M. (1996). Identifying adolescent runaways: The predictive utility of the personality inventory for children.
Adolescence, 31(123), 605-623.
Tillman, V. (1995). Home schoolers, self-esteem, and socialization.
Home School Researcher, 11(3), 1-6.
Yarnell, L. (1998, October 29). Where the Kitchen is in the Classroom
The New York Times, p.1.
- Books To Help You With Socialization
- A Path Rediscovered for Socialization, Education, and Family
- by Amy, Schechter Vahid and Frank Vahid
- This book explains why homeschooling can be a great path for socializing a child and for excelling academically in a 21st century world, why homeschooling is easier than most people think, and how homeschooling can lead to the tranquil close family life many people seek.
- But What About Socialization? Answering the
Perpetual Home Schooling Question: A Review of the Literature
by Susan A. McDowel
- This is a highly logical question with, perhaps unfortunately,
more than one correct answer.
- The Courage to Raise Good Men
by Olga Silverstein
- If mothers trusted their abilities to nurture their sons,
to help them become kinder, gentler people, the world would be
a better place, Silverstein argues.
- Protecting the Gift : Keeping Children and
Teenagers Safe (And Parents Sane)
- by Gavin De Becker
- My son read this book first, and then handed it to me and
said, "You really ought to read this, Mom." It deals
with a subject--violence against children--that most of us never
want to consider. But, as Gavin de Becker stresses, such situations,
though rare, can occur, so all parents must deal with the facts
in order to protect their children properly. Also available in
- What to Expect at a Play Date (What to Expect
- by Heidi Murkoff
- Playing with another child is always fun, but it isn't always
easy. Play dates provide a wonderful opportunity for small children
to practice their social skills, work on their p's & q's,
and learn how to be a good friend.
- Lives Across Cultures: Cross-Cultural Human
by Harry W. Gardiner, et al
- The primary goal of this book is to bring a cross-cultural
dimension to the study of human development across the lifespan.
For those who seriously wish to understand other cultures to
help explain these concepts to their children.